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A study to assess how to promote a duty of care to animals in young people - AW1404

As part of the Animal Welfare Act (2006), the concept of a ‘duty of care’ to animals (DOC) has been extended to all vertebrates managed, used and cared for by humans. The Act also emphasises the importance of promoting positive animal welfare in addition to preventing cruelty. As a greater proportion of people in the UK are now affected by this legislation due to their role as owners of domestic or companion animals, it is important to consider how the DOC concept can be effectively promoted in wider society.

Children and young people are particularly important target audiences for these promotion activities/strategies, as previous research has suggested that experiences we have early in life can have long-lasting effects on our attitudes and behaviour towards animals. However, it is also important not to view children solely in terms of their role as ‘future citizens’, but to also consider children’s interactions with animals in the here and now. At present, there is insufficient research to help guide promotion of a DOC towards animals amongst children and young people (defined here as <18 years of age) either within UK education policy or contemporary society.

This proposal is aimed at addressing this gap in the knowledge base. We will conduct a study aimed at scoping the promotion of a DOC to animals in young people using evidence from a number of scientific areas including human-animal studies, developmental psychology, childhood studies, and child and adolescent health. We will provide a database of relevant scientific work and also other activities (e.g. teaching courses, interventions) in the UK and abroad. We will provide guidance on future research requirements, and on potential interventions which may lead to changes in attitudes and behaviour to animals in the long-term, and constraints on taking these forward. We will explore the benefits that animals may have in the context of children’s health and well-being. We will also consider how the different stakeholders involved can constructively work together in promoting a DOC.

We have identified that there is very little understanding of children’s perspectives on animal welfare. How children view animal welfare will be critical to informing development of appropriate interventions to promote a DOC. We also recognise the importance of proposed interventions to promote a DOC being practical and realistic. The school is the most appropriate context for working with children to reveal their perspectives on animal welfare and it also appears to be the most appropriate context for applying interventions. We therefore propose additional phases where we would develop and then apply social science techniques for revealing children’s perspectives on animal welfare and also teachers’ attitudes to potential interventions to promote a DOC in schools. We would aim to integrate these social science methods with materials and approaches that have been developed within animal welfare science. We will use these additional studies to refine recommendations on potential school-based approaches to promoting a DOC to animals. (See also
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : AW1404 Final Report   (1364k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2008

To: 2012

Cost: £309,206
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Edinburgh, SAC Commercial Ltd
Animal Welfare              
Companion Animals              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare