Animal welfare and ethics paramount in the Aeres education program


Aeres is an important player in the Netherlands in training people in the green domain. To be able to take that role seriously, our teachers must keep up with their professional field. They need to know about current developments and their significance for future education.

One of the ways in which they do this is by regularly taking part in teacher days. The teacher days produce results that we see reflected in our education, results from which our students reap the benefits.

Team leader Rik Meerema of Aeres MBO Almere organised a teacher day on animal welfare and ethics with Loes Spit of Aeres University of Applied Sciences Dronten. These topics are considered important by a growing number of people. In the public and political debate, the question of how we deal with animals is increasingly being asked. According to Meerema, our perception of what an animal actually is is changing. "You can see it happening around you. More and more political parties are therefore putting the subject on the agenda. This different ethical view applies both to the animals we use for food production and to animals for recreational use."


Rapidly changing society

Meerema believes it is important that these types of questions, the debate about them and the answers that they provide are ultimately incorporated in the education programs. "We live in a rapidly changing society. People hear and read many different answers to the questions that society asks about this subject. But Aeres thinks it is important for teachers to think about the answers themselves. We do that during the teacher days. With the knowledge and experience we have gained, we activate our own thinking."


Cute, cuddly piglet

For Meerema, it must be self-evident that teachers ask themselves how to deal with changing thinking about animal welfare and ethics in education. "We cannot let the dog sleep in bed at home or bring a cute, cuddly pig into the house, and at the same time look away from critical questions about the bio-industry. Aeres uses teacher days to find out how we can embed the social debate in the way we train our pupils and students."


During the Aeres animal welfare and ethics teacher day, guest speaker René ten Bos, a well-known Dutch philosopher, used the example of the Oostvaardersplassen horses. According to Ten Bos, you can let nature take its course, but the animals would die of starvation. If you intervene and cull animals, a group of people will consider this inhumane. Ten Bos sees the different positions on this issue as sides of the same coin because the arguments in favour of all these positions can be valid.


Fresh ideas

Aeres teachers from departments such as green space, horticulture or applied biology come together three or four times a year to see how mutual cooperation can be improved and how Aeres can continue to respond to significant trends. For teachers of Aeres VMBO, MBO and HBO, the exchange of knowledge is also an important objective. In practice, it appears that not only new ideas are emerging, but also insights into how some issues can be tackled in a practical way.



Rik Meerema mentions the recreational animal industry as an example. "We found out that we actually do not know enough about that industry, in particular about its size and commercial and financial importance. Aeres students later become employees at shops, kennels or zoos, in practice often traditionally small-scale businesses. However, little is known about the exact figures, numbers or specific wishes of consumers. More research into this would, therefore, be highly desirable. Aeres can then incorporate the results of that research into its education programs. This is very relevant for students who end up running a shop after completing their studies or who are going to work in middle management of large companies. During previous similar research projects, Aeres MBO students took on the executive side, and our HBO students were responsible for setting out the frameworks and criteria. As a result, research has become part of the MBO curriculum at Aeres."

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