Lesson plan; Animal welfare and human intervention

Fiona, a now-famous and once-lonely British sheep, is at the center of a social media frenzy as well as a local dispute. Farmers rescued her on Saturday by hoisting her up a hill after she spent at least two years by herself at the bottom of a Scottish cliff, snacking on grass and hiding from the elements in a cave. Source: The New York Times


  • Students will be able to discuss the ethical issues and perspectives related to animal welfare and human intervention, using the case of Fiona the sheep as an example.


    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Learning activities:

    • Warm-up: Show students a video of Fiona the sheep after being rescued and ask them to share their initial reactions and opinions


    • Reading: Have students read the article in pairs and answer 5 comprehension questions. They are listed below.
    • Discussion: Divide students into groups of 4: 2 students will argue in favor of rescuing Fiona and 2 will argue against it. Students on both sides prepare three main points and supporting evidence from the article or other sources. Then, have a debate first in the groups, later in the class moderated by the teacher.
    • Reflection: Ask students to write a short paragraph summarizing their own position on the issue and explaining why they agree or disagree with the other group. (5 minutes)

Comprehension questions

  • What is the name of the sheep that was rescued by a farmer in Britain?
  • How long was the sheep trapped in a ditch before being found?
  • What did the farmer do to help the sheep recover from its ordeal?
  • What is the name of the animal sanctuary that offered to adopt the sheep?
  • Why is the sheep considered to be one of the loneliest in Britain?

Articles about animal welfare

  • Animal welfare | EFSA – European Food Safety Authority: This article explains how animal welfare is related to food safety and the ethical responsibility of the EU and its Member States. It also provides an overview of the latest scientific opinions and recommendations by EFSA on various aspects of animal welfare, such as housing, transport, mutilation, and slaughter1
  • Positive Animal Welfare: Bridging the Gap or Raising Inequalities Worldwide?: This article discusses the concept and challenges of positive animal welfare (PAW), which focuses on providing animals with positive experiences and opportunities. It also explores the potential benefits and drawbacks of PAW for different animal production systems and cultural contexts, especially in low-income countries2
  • Animal welfare: What is it? – American Veterinary Medical Association: This article defines animal welfare as the state of the animal and the treatment that it receives. It also lists some of the factors that affect animal welfare, such as disease prevention, veterinary treatment, nutrition, humane handling, and humane slaughter3
  • What is animal welfare? – FAWEC: This article describes the concept of animal welfare as a combination of three elements: the animal’s normal biological functioning, its emotional state, and its ability to express certain normal behaviors. It also explains how animal welfare can be assessed and improved.

Essay questions

  • How does animal welfare affect food safety and human health? Explain the role and responsibilities of the EU and its Member States in ensuring animal welfare standards, using examples from EFSA’s scientific opinions and recommendations.
  • What are the main features and challenges of positive animal welfare (PAW)? Compare and contrast PAW with other approaches to animal welfare, such as animal rights and animal welfare science. Discuss the implications of PAW for different animal production systems and cultural contexts, especially in low-income countries.
  • How do you define and measure animal welfare? Identify and describe the three elements of animal welfare, according to FAWEC. List some of the factors that affect animal welfare, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Evaluate how animal welfare can be improved in different situations.



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