A survey of the relationship between animal related cultural beliefs and practices and the attitudes of Veterinary Students at Makerere University towards animals as sentient beings
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A study was done to document some of the animal related cultural beliefs and practices among veterinary students in Uganda, assess their attitudes towards animals as sentient beings and then determine if there was a relationship between their attitudes and their respective animal related cultural beliefs and practices. Veterinary students at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (COVAB) Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, completed questionnaires designed to assess the relationship of their animal related cultural beliefs and practices on their attitudes towards animals as sentient beings. These attitudes were divided into two components; emotional empathy with animals and belief that animals are sentient beings. Existing animal related cultural beliefs and practices were also documented to determine any correlations with the students’ attitudes. Male students were predominant over females. Majority of Veterinary Students were from the central and western regions of Uganda making clan totems the predominant cultural practice. Students showed a very good attitude towards animals as sentient beings with 98% acknowledging that animals are able to express emotion with cattle, goats and sheep scoring higher than rabbits and fish. They also scored tail docking to inflict more pain to farm animals than identification and battery cage systems. Empathy of students towards animals was above average. Higher percentage (81%) of the students reported training as the best treatment of pets who disobey their owners, 82% treat animals as members of the family and 79% disagree with animal sacrifice. Students had a good attitude towards animals as sentient beings irrespective of whether they had cultural beliefs and practices or not. The good attitude of students towards animal sentience can be utilized by encouraging them to be advocates of animal welfare.