Veterinary students at two British universities in their first preclinical, first clinical and final years of study, completed questionnaires designed to assess their attitudes towards the welfare of animals. These attitudes were divided into their two constituent components: emotional (emotional empathy with animals) and cognitive (belief in the sentience of animals). Analyses of variance revealed that the year of study was significantly related to the perceived sentience of dogs, cats and cows, with students in their later years of study rating them as having lower levels of sentience. The female students rated themselves as having significantly higher levels of emotional empathy with animals than did the male students. There was also a significant interaction between sex and year of study, the female students maintaining relatively high levels of empathy throughout the three years, whereas the male students showed lower levels of empathy in their later years.