Animal welfare (AW) is a growing concern worldwide and veterinary students are expected to demonstrate a high degree of professional interest in the welfare of animals. However, previous studies have highlighted gaps in the teaching of AW teaching in different countries, possibly impairing veterinary competency in the area. This survey aimed to assess the opinions of Italian veterinary students towards AW, as well as their knowledge on the issue. Questions were divided into different sections, investigating the definition of, and information on, AW, knowledge about AW legislation, and the level of tolerance towards AW in regard to the use of animals for different purposes. Results showed that behaviour was the most frequently used word to define AW. Italian students considered their own level of knowledge on AW as good, relying on their university training, websites and television. They requested more AW legislation, but when questioned on specifics of the current legislation, there was a general lack of knowledge. Although poultry, pigs and rabbits were considered the species experiencing the worst management conditions, the species that raised the most AW concerns were companion animals and cattle. Results from this investigation may allow the development of tailored actions aimed at appropriately implementing educational strategies, at national and international levels, to improve the role of future veterinarians as leaders in AW.
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