Animal Welfare Training in China

ACTS was given the opportunity to provide a basic laboratory animal science course at the Shanghai College of Agriculture and Forestry to 3rd year Animal Science students.  Our training focused primarily on commonly used animals/mammals in research (rodents, rabbits, dogs and nonhuman primates).  The logistics to actually get us to China and provide this training were monumental and could not have been accomplished without the heroic efforts of Jayne Mackta at GR8 and all of the organizations that support her endeavors.


What may have been a fairly routine training program here in theUSturned out to be much more complex when transported toChina.  There were so many questions unanswered that at times we wondered how this would ever work.  How many students will be in the class? Will any of them understand our English? If we get our training materials translated, will the translation be accurate?  What will the lab space look like?  Where will the animals for the labs come from and in what condition will they be?  Will our supplies arrive in time and will they be able to get the anesthetic drugs we need for the lab?  Did I mention if the students will understand our English?


The good thing about having the distraction of developing and coordinating this training program is that we never had a chance to over think the reality of spending almost 3 weeks in a hotel on a college campus 40 minutes south of Shanghai, China with little Western influence.


Now that it’s all behind us, there are a few reflections we feel worth sharing.


There are many in China that are passionately committed to promoting  animal welfare training at all levels of animal care; from the classroom to the laboratory to the board room -  people are talking about animal welfare.


The students were extremely interested in learning the basics of laboratory animal science.  Without exception, each of the students demonstrated a greater understanding of animal welfare by the end of the course.  As is the case with any school, there will be some in the course that may not go on to a career in laboratory animal science. But for those that do, we were able to provide a foundation of understanding as well as basic technical competence that can be taken to the next stage in their career.


The surface of opportunities for collaborating in teaching and training has just barely been scratched.  Our program was able to touch the lives of 23 students, 4 assistant trainers, 2 translators and several faculty and staff at the college.   We are excited at the prospect of going back and providing more focused training for the faculty at the college so that our efforts there will be sustainable over time as the faculty eventually take over the administration of this laboratory animal science program.   We were reminded that this is just one school out of many that can and will benefit from such a program.


Animal welfare is important inChinaand without exception the people we worked with were eager to do their best in demonstrating this fact.  Like the US with its varied views on how animals are valued, China is a big country with lots of people also demonstrating varying ideas on the value of animals in their society.  On our last day inChina, we had a large celebratory meal with senior administration from the college and leaders from local animal research institutions.  We all expressed our joy for the success of the program and the future of laboratory animal care and welfare inChina.  I couldn’t help but notice that the center piece of this lavish table was three fish bowls. (Much of the discussion was in Mandarin, so I had plenty of time to take-in my surroundings). The center most bowl, and largest of the three, had a dead fish floating at the water’s surface.  One of the smaller bowls had a few fish that were clearly on “their last leg/fin”.  Penetrating all ofChinawith this important message of promoting animal welfare is overwhelming.  So we will do our part with the people we can influence, and hope their influence will be much further reaching than ours.  And just maybe on our next visit, we will be able to report that even the fish are alive and well.