The challenges and future development of animal welfare education in the UK

Janine Claire Muldoon, Joanne M Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At present, UK schools are not required to teach children about animal welfare. This undoubtedly contributes to widespread deficiencies in knowledge, and misconceptions about animals’ needs, likes, and dislikes. Aware of the issues at hand, animal welfare organisations create their own materials for teachers to use and/or deliver educational programmes directly to children and young people. As the design, content, processes and outcomes associated with these interventions are rarely documented publicly or systematically evaluated, there is little evidence to guide the development of animal welfare education. A three-stage online Delphi study was used to identify who current interventions target, what delivery methods are being used, and how expert practitioners describe priorities and challenges in the field. 31 experts participated in Round 1, with 84% of the sample (n=26) also taking part in Round 2.Qualitative analysis revealed passionate accounts about the far-reaching potential of educating children about animals. However, we also identified ambiguities and tensions that could thwart the future development of effective animal welfare education. Alongside the production of a web-based framework and evidence-based toolkit to support practitioners,findings will be used to encourage animal welfare professionals to work towards producing shared terminology, definitions, and outcomes frameworks; focusing on positive education and the idea of harm as opposed to cruelty. This should facilitate collaboration with schoolteachers and education policy makers to assess the ways in which animal welfare might be successfully incorporated within formal education in the future. The data suggest many potential avenues for inclusion, although a holistic approach emphasising the links between humans, animals and the environment, within the context of young people’s recent activism and contemporary health, societal and environmental issues, may be most successful.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-209
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Welfare Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


  • animal welfare education
  • children
  • cruelty prevention
  • Delphi
  • evaluation
  • intervention
  • animal welfare


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