Ethics of Animal Welfare

The subject of this Masterclass, animal welfare, sometimes leads to heated debates in society. Just think of how we deal with animal transport, the use of laboratory animals in the pharmaceutical industry or the confinement of animals for the production of meat and derived products.

This course, created in collaboration with Associate Professor of Ethics of Human-Animal Interactions Franck Meijboom, has a threefold aim. The first aim is to make you as a (future)professional in the field of animal care and management aware of the ethical dimensions of your dealing with animal (welfare) issues. The further aims are to offer knowledge and tools that enable you to deal with ethical questions on both a theoretical and a practical level.

Dr. F.L.B. (Franck) Meijboom
Associate Professor of Ethics of Human-Animal interactions, Utrecht University
Quick overview
  • 4 hours
  • Official Certificate
  • With closing virtual live Masterclass (2 hours) by Franck Meijboom
  • Continuous online course
  • English
€ 450,-
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Course description

The module uses four didactical methods:
– Virtual lectures that aim to raise awareness and transfer knowledge.
– Self-Directed learning that includes reading texts along the lines of small assignments.
– A discussion platform that enables participants to discuss with each other. The aim is to
improve the level of reflection and to use the input of other students in order to come to a
more in-depth understanding of the course material.
– Personal assignments. These are both aimed at (a) linking the course content to the practical professional situation of the student and (b) evaluating the level of knowledge and skills of the student.

For whom?
Veterinarians and scientists. Managers and policy officers dealing with animal welfare and social issues. For instance veterinarian working at group association or umbrella associations, industry or government (province, ministry). Professionals working in enforcement and supervision. Researchers and lecturers in green education/higher education.

Course structure

How is this course structured?
This online course is preparatory to an online live Masterclass that will be taught by Franck Meijboom. Make sure you have completed all four chapters of this course before you register for the Masterclass.

In activity 5.2, you have the opportunity to register for the Masterclass at a date that suits you. The masterclass takes place on: 22 February, 10 May, 20 September and 22 November 2023, from 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM. You can attend the online Masterclass in the same activity, where use will be made of an online conferencing tool.

In order to be well prepared to participate in the Masterclass, Franck Meijboom will take you through the following parts of this online course:

Chapter 1 – Introduction to applied ethics
You gain insight into the basic concepts of morality and some of the ethical theories that are used to explore, understand and analyse normative questions.

Chapter 2 – Why are animals morally relevant?
You learn more about different arguments for granting moral status to animals, and the practical consequences of these different approaches. You will be able to reflect on your own ethical assumptions with regard to the dealings with animals and how this affects your case-analysis. And you will be able to explain and use central concepts of animal ethics.

Chapter 3 – Beyond animal welfare 
You get an overview of the limits of animal welfare in ethics and will be able to show that arguments of animal rights of relational arguments play an essential role. The aim is to better understand how animal welfare can be used in ethical discussion and how it can be complementary or mutually exclusive to notions such as animal rights or relational arguments.

Chapter 4 – How to apply ethics? Tools and frameworks
You gain insight into how ethics relates to professional practices (especially politics and policy). You will be able to implement ethical reflection and debate within a professional/policy context. And you will understand the role of procedural measures in dealing with a plurality of (ethical) views. Last but not least you learn to use ethical tools to structure ethical analysis.

At the end of each chapter, you work on applying your knowledge to your own case example.

Virtual Live Masterclass
In the Masterclass, your questions will be answered and there is time to discuss a couple of case examples you or your peers worked on during this course. You can pose your questions for the Q&A part of the Masterclass in this document. In the document, you can also choose whether you would be comfortable discussing your case during the Masterclass or not.

Learning objectives

Specifically, after following this course you:

– Are aware of the ethical dimensions related to animal welfare and can recognise these in real-life situations.
– Are aware of the strengths and limitations of animal welfare in discussing ethical issues related to our human interactions with animals.
– Have knowledge of the theoretical background that is relevant to deal with the ethical questions of animal welfare.
– Are able to use tools and arguments to deal with real-life questions related to the ethical dimensions of animal welfare.


The total time investment of this course is about 6 hours, the online course is about 4 hours and the online Masterclass is about 2 hours. During this online course, you are asked to critically review the video lectures and answer the questions. There are 3 large assignments (in chapters 2, 3 and 4 respectively), which ask you to work out some assessments so you can discuss them during the Masterclass. There is no final exam,but you have to actively participate in the Masterclass.

If you have met all criteria mentioned, you receive a certificate of participation.

Requirements & material

To enroll in this course, you need:

• Sufficient proficiency in English reading and writing
• Access to an internet connection
• A BSc degree in a relevant field

“I was very happy with this online course. Especially the Virtual live Masterclass by dr. F.L.B (Franck) Meijboom was very nice. During this Masterclass I received enough personal attention and I was able to ask all of my questions. Franck went through everything carefully again. I was very pleased with it!"
Erin Langereis
Animal Health Inspector at the NVWA

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