Ethics in Animal Welfare

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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.

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 

Course director
Franck L.B. Meijboom


Franck L.B. Meijboom studied theology and ethics at the Universities of Utrecht (NL) and Aberdeen (UK). As Associate Professor he is affiliated with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University, the Ethics Institute of Utrecht University (Faculty of Humanities) and the Adaptation Physiology group (ADP) of Wageningen University. Additionally he is head of the Centre for Sustainable Animal Stewardship (CenSAS). At the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine he is member of the Departmental Board (Population Health Sciences, manager research) and member of the Research Council.

In his work the link between ethical theory and moral practice plays an important role. For instance, a number of projects were initiated by or in close cooperation with the Dutch government, such as the drafting of a general ethical framework for biotechnology, the organization of a series of public debates on animal biotechnology, and a series of training in ethics for civil servants of the Ministry of Agriculture. Additionally, he performs and supervises projects with a strong interdisciplinary character. 

Target audience

For whom?
Vetenarians 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.

Aim of the course

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.

Study load

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: June 15, July 14, September 14 and November 16, 2022 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 an 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 an 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.

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.


- Continuous course

- Self-paced & 100% flexible

- Self-study (4 hours) with closing virtual live masterclass (2 hours) by Franck Meijboom

- Study online, anywhere and anytime

- 4 learning units


Course fee:
Fee covers
Course fee

Contact details

Enroll for this online course via the Ethics in Animal Welfare course page.

Do you have any questions about the contents, or do you require more information about the Ethics in Animal Welfare program? Feel free to contact



Application deadline: 
Registration deadline
11 July 2024