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The effects of a socially acute question on the evolution of the biological sciences curricula: the case of farm animal welfare

Abstract : Farm animal welfare (FAW) has been the subject of heated debate in European societies since the 1960s, in particular, the acceptability of intensive (or industrial) livestock farming. The European Commission gave educating breeders and citizens a central role in the actions to improve FAW set out in its strategic plan 2012-2015. The concept of animal welfare is complex and interdisciplinary with disciplines originating in the biological sciences such as anatomy, physiology, neurosciences, ethology, animal husbandry but also other disciplines originating in humanities and social sciences such as ethics, economy…The knowledge is under construction and the controversies are acute both between and at the heart of each of the disciplines. In France the BEPA (a national vocational certificate) in animal production qualifies the student to become a stockman and the Bac Pro CGEA (a vocational baccalaureate in farm management) provides access to the position of breeding manager. These two qualifications carry increasingly large stakes within a political context in which the onus is on developing alternative breeding practices focusing much more on the question of animal welfare. Each curriculum has been regularly updated since 1985. Our research focuses on how the socially acute question of FAW has been progressively introduced (or not) into the curricula of these two vocational qualifications. We firstly carried out a socio-epistemological study of animal welfare in order to identify the different aspects present in the process of knowledge construction. These results have enlightened our analysis of the evolution of animal welfare in the curricula of the vocational baccalaureate (Bac pro) and the national vocational certificate (BEPA). Our results reveal the progressive introduction, since 1992, of animal welfare into the curricula. At first, it was an educational/political question only present in the vocational section of the curricula (describing the occupations targeted by the qualifications) from 2008 onwards. Knowledge relating to animal welfare is progressively fleshed out as the curricula are updated but even today the concept remains largely simplified. It only concerns two vocational disciplines and the scientific knowledge is far from explicit. Indeed, the question is still presented in a neutral fashion; the controversial aspects are totally overlooked. Thus, it is left up to the teacher to decide which scientific, social and vocational knowledge to teach in order to help students design ways of incorporating the notion of animal welfare into their breeding practices. The prescriptions do not incite teachers to clarify their ethical stance, which is nevertheless pivotal when teaching socially acute questions.
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Amélie Lipp, Laurence Simonneaux. The effects of a socially acute question on the evolution of the biological sciences curricula: the case of farm animal welfare. EUROPEAN RESEARCHERS IN DIDACTICS OF BIOLOGY (ERIDOB), 2014, Haïfa, France. ⟨hal-02089723⟩

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