Introduction: Research on animal welfare education for children has tended to focus on pets. Yet, in the UK, many acts of cruelty by children focus on wild animals. Furthermore, it is important to provide children with knowledge of farm animal welfare to support the development of informed consumer choices. The current study evaluated two novel animal welfare educational iPad games for children:'Farm Animal Welfare' and 'Wildlife Welfare'.
Methodology: The ‘Farm Animal Welfare’ and ‘Wildlife Welfare’ games teach children about animal sentience (beliefs in animal minds), animal welfare needs and the impact of human behaviours on animal welfare. The ‘Farm Animal Welfare’ evaluation included 91 Scottish children divided into intervention and control groups (girls = 50, boys = 41; ages 6–9 years, n = 27; ages 10–13 years, n = 64). The ‘Wildlife Welfare’ evaluation included 27 Scottish children divided into intervention and control groups (66.7% male, 11-12 years, M=11.22, SD=.424). In both studies the evaluation method involved children being placed in either an intervention or control group (receiving the intervention after the study). A pre-test, intervention, post-test design was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions, which were delivered class, during school hours. Self-report questionnaires including key animal welfare knowledge scales were used as evaluation tools. ‘Farm Animal Welfare’ data were analysed using parametric statistics and ‘Wildlife Welfare’ data were analysed using non-parametric tests of difference.
Main Findings: Farm Animal Welfare: Children in the intervention group increased significantly more than control group children in terms of: knowledge of sentience (F(1,119)=17.0, p=.0001, η²=.13), knowledge of welfare needs of chickens (F(1,118)=6.15, p=.015, η²=.05), and understanding of the impact of farming systems on animal welfare (F(1,115)=8.81, p=.004, η²=.071). Wildlife Welfare: The intervention generated statistically significant median increases in knowledge of sentience (Child-BAM Swan, z=4.047, p=.0001, Child-BAM Hedgehog, z=4.650, p=.0001), and understanding of the impact of human behaviour towards wild animals (z=3.256, p=.001). There was limited change in knowledge of wild animal welfare needs.
Conclusions and Implications for the Field: These linked studies demonstrate the effectiveness of iPad games for teaching children about animal welfare. The results reveal increases in children’s knowledge of sentience and welfare needs, and a greater understanding of the impact of human behaviour on animal welfare. The games will be included in the Scottish SPCA ‘Prevention through Education’ programme reaching 300,000 children annually.