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Animals 2019, 9(3), 91; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9030091

The Development and Evaluation of ‘Farm Animal Welfare’: An Educational Computer Game for Children

1
Psychology, School of Media, Culture and Society, University of West Scotland, Paisley PA1 2BE, UK
2
Scottish SPCA, Kingseat Road, Halbeath, Dunfermline, Fife KY11 8RY, UK
3
Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 February 2019 / Revised: 5 March 2019 / Accepted: 8 March 2019 / Published: 13 March 2019
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Simple Summary

The aim of this study was to design and evaluate a new digital game ‘Farm Animal Welfare’ to teach children about farm animal welfare. The game focuses on chickens and cows, and children played the game on touchscreen netbooks. To evaluate the game, we measured children’s knowledge, attitudes, compassion, and beliefs about whether farm animals have emotions and feelings, both before and after the game, using a child-friendly questionnaire. We found that the new game led to increases in children’s knowledge about animal welfare, knowledge about welfare in different farming systems (such as caged hens vs. free range), and children were more likely to believe that farm animals can feel emotions. The game did not seem to impact children’s attitudes about cruelty or compassion towards farm animals. The new game shows promise, and to improve children’s understanding of animal welfare, we recommend further research on digital animal welfare education interventions for children.

Abstract

Many children growing up in urban areas of Western countries have limited contact with and knowledge of farm animals and food production systems. Education can play an important role in children’s understanding of farm animal welfare issues, however, most education provided focuses on pets. There is a need to develop new farm animal welfare interventions for young children. This study examines the process of designing, developing, and evaluating the effectiveness of a new theoretically-driven digital game to teach children, aged 6–13 years, about farm animal welfare. ‘Farm Animal Welfare’ aimed to promote children’s knowledge about animal welfare, promote beliefs about animal sentience, and promote positive attitudes and compassion. A quasi-experimental design was carried out, using self-report questionnaires that children (n = 133, test = 69, control = 64) completed in the classroom. Test and control groups were from different schools and the control group did not engage in the intervention. Findings indicate a positive impact on beliefs about animal minds, knowledge about animal welfare needs, and knowledge about welfare in different farming systems, but there was no change in compassion or attitudes about cruelty. This study presents the first evaluation of a digital animal welfare education intervention for children, demonstrating the benefits of incorporating ‘serious games’ into farm animal welfare education. The findings will inform future practice around farm animal welfare education interventions for primary school children. View Full-Text
Keywords: children; farm animals; animal welfare; education; technology children; farm animals; animal welfare; education; technology
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Hawkins, R.D.; Ferreira, G.A.R.M.; Williams, J.M. The Development and Evaluation of ‘Farm Animal Welfare’: An Educational Computer Game for Children. Animals 2019, 9, 91.

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