Phillips CJC, Çöl R, I Zmirli S, Verrinder JM. Comparison of the Moral Sensitivity, Judgment, and Actions of Australian and Turkish Veterinary Students in Relation to Animal Ethics Issues. J Vet Med Educ. 2020 Feb;47(1):8-17

PMID: 31009292


Veterinarians regularly face animal ethics conflicts, and research has identified the moral reasoning methods that they utilize to solve these. It is unclear whether students' sensitivity to animal ethics conflicts influences their reasoning methods, and the recent development of appropriate tests allows this to be assessed. We compared the moral reasoning methods, intended action and sensitivity of 112 first-year veterinary students in two contrasting veterinary schools, in Australia and Turkey. Students were presented with two animal ethics issues: breeding blind hens to address welfare concerns in intensive housing, for moral reasoning evaluation; and a video of a lame dairy cow walking, for sensitivity assessment. The sensitivity score was not related to the principal moral reasoning methods, which are Personal Interest (PI), Maintaining Norms (MN), and Universal Principles (UP). However, less sensitive students were more concerned about professional criticism of emotional reactions when addressing the hen scenario. Turkish students, mostly males, used more MN reasoning when deciding the hen dilemma. Australian, mostly female, students did not. Overall, female students were more likely to consider the universal moral principles in moral reasoning than male students and were more likely to recommend against breeding blind hens. This suggests that females are more likely to consider the ethical implications of their actions than males. This study demonstrates relationships between ethical sensitivity (ES) and moral reasoning, and cultural and gender effects on moral action choices. Students placing greater importance on professional criticism about having an emotional reaction are more likely to be those who have less ES.