Department Introduces New Animal Welfare Judging Team

The Department of Animal Science welcomes a new student team to its roster: the Animal Welfare Judging Team, which will compete at the Annual Intercollegiate Animal Welfare Judging and Assessment Contest (AWJAC), held every November at a new university around the country. The competition was founded in 2002 with the aim to provide students interested in the science of animal welfare with the opportunity to refine their assessment skills in a real-life context. Students learn to rapidly and critically assess data on housing, management, stockmanship, animal physiology and animal behavior in order to form sound evaluations of animal welfare rooted in science. Students then present their evaluations through the delivery of oral reasons in front of a judging panel. The contest ensures that tomorrow's leaders in the animal industries develop strong communication skills and acquire enhanced knowledge of animal welfare.

Each fall, up to 10 undergraduates and 5 graduate and veterinary students will meet twice weekly to train together in preparation for the contest. The competition chooses four new animal species each year, and students judge scenarios for those four species at competition, including one live assessment at an animal facility nearby. This year, the students are becoming experts on farmed fish, meat rabbits, racing greyhounds, and finisher pigs, before traveling to competition at Iowa State University in mid-November. 

Current students interested in joining the team can contact Dr. Beth Ventura at, once they have taken the prerequisite class in the spring (ANSC 2015: Animal Welfare Science and Ethics). To learn more about the competition, visit, and like the UMN Animal Welfare Judging Team on Facebook at