Animal Welfare, Behaviour, Ethics and Law

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Animal Welfare, Behaviour, Ethics and Law at Winchester critically reflects upon contemporary uses of animals, and provides the academic skills and expertise needed to protect animals and advance their welfare. Winchester is a world leader in terms of the values held and discussed, such as compassion and social justice, which are central to the ethos of this course. 

Picture of a goat close up

Course overview

You consider animal rights and the ethics around using animals for food, sport, and scientific research. How should society reflect those rights and ethics in our law-making and public policies? We scrutinise the many forms of animal use in different settings, such as farming, transportation and slaughter, laboratories, homes, zoos and various other entertainment locales, and about free-ranging animals in natural environments. As you progress through the programme, you master the skills and knowledge involved in assessing and ensuring the welfare of animals using a range of data and sound scientific processes.

The course is different from other comparable programmes in part because of the range of animals covered, including wild, free-ranging animals, invertebrates, pest animals, and the welfare problems associated with them. You are encouraged to develop communication skills in a range of styles, including posters, blogs, and multimedia presentations, and to share ideas about animal welfare outside of the academic setting. 

What you need to know

Course start date



Distance learning

Course length

  • 1 year full-time


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Typical offer

A first or second-class honours degree


From £9,250 pa

Course features

  • Examine and communicate the importance of animal welfare to academic and other audiences
  • Programme partly based on the theoretical syllabus required for the European and US animal welfare speciality qualifications for veterinarians
  • Learn from highly qualified, enthusiastic and renowned teachers 
  • For veterinarians pursuing specialist qualifications in animal welfare, this programme is partly based on the theoretical syllabus required for the European and US qualifications.

Course details

Suitable for Applicants from: UK, EU, World with a first or upper second honours degree

Learning and Teaching.

Modules are taught using online core notes with additional readings, videos and lecture notes provided. Students may participate in online seminars, and are guided in the creation of communication media such as academic and popular publications, Powerpoint and poster presentations, and online blogs.

The academics involved in this programme possess specialist skills and knowledge in each of the realms of animal welfare science, animal ethics and animal law. Strengths include significant experience in examining and critiquing contemporary social uses of animals, through both academic and popular media, and in working within both Non-Governmental Organisations and professional realms such as veterinary and legal practice, to advance animal welfare within wider society. Tutorials and other support is offered by these highly qualified, enthusiastic and internationally renowned scholars.


Modules include: Animals and Society, Animal Issues, Animal Psychology and Behaviour, Research Methods, and a 10,000-word dissertation on your chosen topic. Classes are taught using the online virtual learning platform, in the form of core notes with additional readings, videos and lecture notes, making this course accessible to students anywhere in the world. 


Our validated courses may adopt a range of means of assessing your learning. An indicative, and not necessarily comprehensive, list of assessment types you might encounter includes essays, portfolios, supervised independent work, presentations, written exams, or practical performances.

Assessments include written assignments, Powerpoint and poster presentations, online blogs, participation in discussions, and a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of interest to the student, chosen in consultation with a supervisor.

We ensure all students have an equal opportunity to achieve module learning outcomes. As such, where appropriate and necessary, students with recognised disabilities may have alternative assignments set that continue to test how successfully they have met the module's learning outcomes. Further details on assessment types used on the course you are interested in can be found on the course page, by attending an Open Day or Open Evening, or contacting our teaching staff.


We are committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to you on your academic progress and achievement in order to enable you to reflect on your progress and plan your academic and skills development effectively. You are also encouraged to seek additional feedback from your course tutors.


Please note the modules listed are correct at the time of publishing. The University cannot guarantee the availability of all modules listed and modules may be subject to change. The University will notify applicants of any changes made to the core modules listed. For further information please refer to


Animals and Society

Animals occupy diverse social roles. They are variously companions, resources for food and fibre, laboratory tools, objects of entertainment, seen as ‘pests’, or as ‘wild’ animals, perhaps in need of conservation and protection – and in some cases, all at once! This module reviews the social positioning of different animals over time and in different cultures, and explores the rise of animal welfare and animal rights as major social concerns and controversies today. Students will develop a sound understanding of the main conceptualisations of animal welfare and ethics, and will gain skills to rigorously assess the latter. They will explore the interests and responsibilities toward animals of diverse stakeholder groups, and will develop an understanding of important associated legislation and policies that affect animals internationally and in key world regions. Guidance will also be provided about careers within the animal welfare sector, and about academic and popular communication modalities.

Animal Welfare Issues I

This module explores some of the most important animal welfare issues internationally, such as the intensive farming of chickens, pigs, and other species, and the welfare impacts experienced by high-producing animals such as modern dairy cows. Their transportation by land, sea and air are considered. We also explore the use of animals and alternatives within scientific research, pharmaceutical and product testing, and life and health sciences education, and as well as 3Rs alternatives strategies. The interests of various stakeholder groups are explored, as are the application of utilitarian and deontological methods to the formulation of relevant social policy.

Animal Welfare Issues II

This module explores a range of interesting and, in some cases, very controversial, animal welfare issues. Animals are pervasive throughout our societies as companions, where they may be much-loved. And yet, their welfare is often poorer than we realise. Students will also learn about animal neglect and abuse and the links between animal abuse and violence toward people. Students will also learn about the animal welfare concerns associated with the use of animals in zoos, exhibitions, circuses, competitions, fights, and other forms of entertainment, including hunting, angling and whaling. Finally, they will explore key global issues affecting animals, including climate change and biodiversity loss, and will also explore the adverse environmental impacts of the livestock sector, and strategies for mitigating those impacts.

Animal Psychology and Behaviour

How do we know fish feel pain? How do we know when animals are stressed? Questions like these are key to considerations of the moral status of animals, and to evaluations of their welfare. In this module students will explore in detail the mechanisms underlying pain perception in mammals and certain other species. They will gain an understanding of the variations that occur at certain life stages and in various pathological states. They will develop and understanding of the assessment of pain and stress, utilising a variety of physiological and behavioural indicators. They will explore considerations relating to affective states. They will also explore key concepts associated with motivation and behaviour, and will explore the causes of, and corrective strategies appropriate for, some common behavioural problems encountered in domesticated species.

Research Methods

This module is designed to ensure that students have a comprehensive knowledge of available research methods, coupled with an appreciation of current concerns associated with methodological approaches and research innovation within the fields of animal welfare and behaviour. The aim is to enable students to make an informed choice about the methodology and approach most suitable for their project. As the module progresses students will develop an understanding of a range of data collection and data analysis techniques and will consider the relationship between ethics and research. Being able to execute an effective piece of research is based in a robust research design which is informed by knowledge about various approaches and an engagement with previous research. Research design is a key element of the module. Transferable skills associated with engaging with, synthesising and offering a critique of information as well as communicating research effectively are essential to this module.


This module provides students with the opportunity to undertake in-depth, independent study in a topic of interest related to Animal Welfare, Behaviour, Ethics and Law. Apart from gaining considerable expertise in the chosen topic, students will develop and demonstrate skills in the conception and design of such a research project. Research may involve non-invasive empirical research on human or animal subjects following ethical approval, or may be based entirely on academic literature and appropriate other resources. Students will develop and demonstrate expertise in the systematic analysis of complex and potentially controversial issues, and in written communication in a format and style appropriate for publication within an academic journal. Students will receive guidance during the development of their project proposals, and the formulation of their dissertations. This is an Extended Independent Study module.

Entry requirements

A first or second-class honours degree

Normally a recent first or upper second-class Honours degree incorporating a related subject in the life or health sciences or humanities, or professional experience in the area of study (for example, within animal welfare charities, the veterinary profession, or as a Council Animal Welfare Officer).

If English is not your first language: IELTS 6.0 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in writing or equivalent.

Personal Computing Requirements.

Due to the Distance Learning deliverance of the course there are minimum personal computing requirements. Please view the Distance Learning Policy.


Applications need to be submitted before the deadline published on our website. Late applications can be accepted throughout the remainder of the application year, for more information see our How to Apply section.


If you are living outside of the UK or Europe, you can find out more about how to join this course by contacting our International Recruitment Team via our International Apply Pages.

2024/2025 Course Tuition Fees 

  UK / Channel Islands /
Isle of Man / Republic of Ireland


Full-time £9,250 £10,725
Part-time £4,625 £5,363
Total £9,250 £10,725

Additional tuition fee information

If you are a UK student starting your degree in January / September 2024, the first year will cost you £9,250**.

If finance is a worry for you, we are here to help. Take a look at the range of support we have on offer. This is a great investment you are making in your future, so make sure you know what is on offer to support you.

**The University of Winchester will charge the maximum approved tuition fee per year.

Additional costs

Additional costs

As one of our students, all of your teaching and assessments are included in your tuition fees, including, lectures/guest lectures and tutorials, seminars, laboratory sessions and specialist teaching facilities. You will also have access to a wide range of student support and IT services. 

There might be additional costs you may encounter whilst studying. The following highlights the mandatory and optional costs for this course:


Core Texts

Some Core Texts are available from the University Library; however some students prefer to purchase their own copies. Core Texts can be bought second hand, or as an ebook which can often reduce this cost. Indicative cost is £100-£250. 


Printing and Binding

The University is pleased to offer our students a printing allowance of £5 each academic year. This will print around 125 A4 mono pages. If students wish to print more, printer credit can be topped up by the student. The University and Student Union are champions of sustainability and we ask all our students to consider the environmental impact before printing. This printing allowance can only be accessed on campus.


We have a variety of scholarship and bursaries available to support you financially with the cost of your course. To see if you’re eligible, please see our Scholarships and Awards.


Graduates go on to work as animal behaviourists, within animal welfare and advocacy organisations, zoos, sanctuaries and other organisations requiring knowledge of animal management and welfare, with governmental departments working on animal issues, with agencies aiming to uphold welfare standards, and with commercial organisations seeking to introduce such standards to their agricultural suppliers.


Student with careers staff member
“I love the flexibility of distance learning on this course and how it allows me to connect with students from a broad range of backgrounds.” Leyla - MSc Graduate

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