This blogpost was written by Jasmine Muszik
The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) 21st annual Animal Welfare Assessment Contest happened at the end of November. This competition challenges undergraduate, veterinary, and graduate students, to use objective and ethical reasoning to judge the welfare of 3 different species. This year's contest focused on boar studs, pet parrots, and cats used for research. In a typical year, this contest is held in-person and includes the assessment of a live scenario at an operating facility for one of the chosen species. Participants are given time to prepare and present the positive and negative aspects of the facility, along with recommendations on how to improve the welfare of the animals involved. Following the live scenario, students are also shown PowerPoint presentations that include the health, nutrition, housing, enrichment, etc., of two different fictitious facilities for the other 2 species. After viewing the PowerPoints, students are given time to evaluate and develop a 3-minute presentation for each scenario outlining which facility they believed provided better welfare for the animals.
This year, the “live scenario” was virtual and included videos, pictures, voice recordings, and other documents from a boar stud facility. Participants could present as an individual or as a team for this portion of the competition. A record 269 people from 28 countries were registered for this year’s contest, including; 87 undergraduate students, 38 veterinary students, and 38 graduate students. I was honoured to be the sole representative for McGill at this year’s contest and was awarded first place as the top scoring individual for the live scenario in the graduate student division. I also received a one-on-one meeting with an animal welfare expert for having the second highest participation score (full contest results found here).
Not only does this contest improve critical thinking and presentation skills, but also aims to increase participant’s knowledge of animal welfare. There are also multiple opportunities for networking through an event night and discussions on poster submissions, along with educational seminars on topics ranging from the dairy industry to wildlife species. I highly encourage anyone involved in an animal related industry to participate in this competition. Being involved has helped me to gain valuable insight into new species of animals that I had no prior experience with, as well as having the opportunity to hear from and speak with world-renowned animal welfare experts. This year’s competition was an exciting event and I look forward to participating in next year’s contest, virtual or in-person!