Animal welfare judging has emerged as one of the newest ways for Texas A&M University-Commerce students to pursue their interest in animal science. The A&M-Commerce Animal Welfare Judging Team has already experienced success in its first year at the university.
The team was formed for the Fall 2021 semester with just three students upon the hiring of Dr. Jared Mumm, who serves as an instructor of animal science and judging team coordinator at A&M-Commerce. Mumm carried over his love for the relatively new discipline of animal welfare judging from his graduate studies at Kansas State University.
“I don't think many people here knew about animal welfare judging as it's something I first became familiar with at Kansas State University,” Mumm said. “Animal welfare judging competitions only started in the 1990s. When you think about animal welfare as a studied discipline, that didn't begin until about the 1960s. The field is in its infancy.”
Many may wonder what exactly goes on during an animal welfare judging competition. As Mumm explains, the competition is divided into two phases.
In the first phase, team members compete separately as individuals. The competitors are shown photographs of two of the same species, and based on visual evidence, the competitor must accurately judge which of the two animals has received better care, adequate habitat and overall better welfare. They then must explain their answer to a panel of judges, who score the participants not only on their correct answers but on their explanations.
In the second phase, the teams are taken into a live environment to assess the welfare of animals in an animal shelter, farm or other setting. The team then must make a presentation to a judging panel on their findings.
Mumm stated that the scope of the competition helps students strengthen many different skills.
“Animal welfare judging gets students involved in performing unique research to learn the signs of what makes a particular animal appear to have a higher quality of life,” Mumm said. “It also develops teambuilding skills as well as public speaking skills.”
The A&M-Commerce judging team seems to have a knack for this type of competition already, as they finished fourth overall in their division in the annual competition held last year in November 2021. Their top-five finish came in a field where 269 competitors from 28 different universities entered.
The team consisted of Samuel Suh, a sophomore, Lauryn Rader, a junior, and Lucero Osornio, a junior. All three are majoring in animal science with an emphasis in pre-veterinary medicine. Suh also had the distinction of finishing fourth individually in the competition. All three students are returning to compete in the fall.
Osornio said that animal welfare judging is helping to prepare her for her chosen career.
“A lot of the time, we assume that as long as we provide some food and water, animals will make it through. This misinformation leads to a lot of tragic situations regarding the life that these creatures are forced to live,” Osornio said. “By competing in animal welfare judging, I am expanding my knowledge in this area of the animal industry in hopes that I can play an important role in properly educating society as a veterinarian.”
Suh said that he is looking forward to their next competition.
“[At our first competition] We never expected to place so high as it was our first time participating and we were there solely for the experience,” Suh said. “I am extremely excited to face upcoming challenges, compete in-person, research as a team and obtain many more valuable experiences through this upcoming competition.”
There is only one competition in animal welfare judging each year, organized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The last two year's competitions were virtual, but the 2022 competition will once again be in-person, scheduled for November 18-20 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
(Pictured from left are Dr. Jared Mumm, Samuel Suh, Lauryn Rader, Lucero Osornio and Dr. Amy Delisle.)