Glossary of terms

Definitions of key terms used within the toolkit

A glossary of terms

Term Definition
Animal cruelty

A term traditionally used to denote harm caused by humans to animals. In legal terms, emphasis is placed on actions that cause unnecessary suffering, or failure to take steps to prevent unnecessary suffering. Ascione (1993) defined it as “socially unacceptable behavior that intentionally causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress to and/or death of an animal” (p. 228). However, this is a highly nuanced area and the term ‘animal cruelty’ is interpreted and used in many different ways. There are also concerns about the concept of ‘intentional’ harm in relation to children (especially where childhood trauma is involved) and the potential risk of stigmatising children/young people. Accordingly, we recommend references to ‘cruelty’ are replaced with ‘harm’.

Animal minds

The idea that animals experience thoughts and feelings. This concept is linked with sentience and empathy (definitions provided later in this glossary).

Animal rights The idea that animals are worthy of consideration in the same way as humans and have the right to live free from human exploitation and abuse. It is an area of significant debate due to the wide range of ways in which animals are used for human purposes (for food, clothing and medicine). Animal rights supporters believe that it is morally wrong to use or exploit animals in any way.
Animal welfare

The physical and emotional health and wellbeing of an animal. It is a field of scientific study (applied biological sciences), an area of practice (veterinary and animal welfare organisations), and also an area of legislative protection of animals. Traditionally, there has been a focus on compromised welfare when animals’ needs are not met. However, there is growing recognition of the importance of positive welfare and providing enrichment experiences that enhance the quality of animals’ lives, ensuring they are happy and healthy.

Animal Welfare Act (2006)

This is a piece of UK legislation and a code of practice to help protect the welfare of pets and domestic animals. It places a legal duty of care on the owners or keepers of animals to provide for their welfare needs (see definition provided later in the glossary).

Animal welfare education

Teaching people how to understand & protect animals to ensure positive welfare/wellbeing.


An attitude has been defined as "a relatively enduring organization of beliefs, feelings, and behavioral tendencies towards socially significant objects, groups, events or symbols" (Hogg & Vaughan, 2005, p. 150). It has three components:

  • Affective (involving a person’s feelings about the attitude object – e.g., animals generally/harm to animals/human behaviour towards animals),
  • Behavioural (the way the attitude held influences how we act/behave or intend to act/behave), and
  • Cognitive (involving a person’s beliefs/knowledge about the attitude object). 
Behaviour The way in which a person or animal acts/responds when in a given situation, including how they react/respond to others.
Cognition/cognitive The mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and understanding. It includes thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving.
Compassion “A multidimensional process comprised of four key components: (1) an awareness of suffering (cognitive/empathic awareness), 2) sympathetic concern related to being emotionally moved by suffering (affective component), (3) a wish to see the relief of that suffering (intention), and (4) a responsiveness or readiness to help relieve that suffering (motivational)” (Jazaieri et al. 2012, p. 1117-1118).
Cruelty prevention

Represents a full spectrum of activities, from actions and educational activities to prevent harm being caused to animals in the first place (or stop further harm occurring), to public campaigns, policy, and legislation.


An ability to sense/feel the emotions of other, being able to put yourself in their place as if you were them. Three different types of empathy have been described:

  • Cognitive (or empathy by thought) - involves perspective-taking/understanding what someone else might be thinking or feeling by imagining oneself in the other person's situation,
  • Affective/emotional (or empathy by feeling) - when a person feels the other’s emotions alongside them, and
  • Behavioural/compassionate - sensing someone’s pain, and taking action to help.

Empathy towards other humans needs to be distinguished from empathy towards animals. It does not necessarily generalise.

Evaluation (in-house practice evaluation)

Systematic determination of how well a programme, a policy or project is working; what is going well and what is not. The aim is to gain insight into the value and effectiveness of prior or current initiatives to enable reflection and identify best practice for the future. It takes the form of routinely collected data, and is different to evaluation research.

Evaluation research A type of applied social science that uses standardised research methods for evaluative purposes, and/or as a formal assessment process. These studies involve gaining ethical approval and conducting formal statistical/qualitative data analyses.

A structured, planned, and integrated set of activities designed to have specific types of impact on the recipients. The activities are designed to impart specific types of knowledge, skills or ways of thinking, or change attitudes and/or behaviours.


A theoretical or practical understanding of a subject and associated concepts, acquired through experience or formal learning. Knowledge can be categorised into four types: (1) factual, (2) conceptual, (3) procedural, and (4) metacognitive (Krathwohl, 2002).

Logic model

A graphic representation of a hypothesis or ‘theory of change’ about how an intervention works. This includes inputs, mechanisms and outcomes that can be measured.

Outcomes The changes that result from a given piece of work or intervention. Anticipated outcomes are the changes that organisations want to see as a result of their work. In evaluation terms, this usually refers to expected changes in children and young people’s thinking, attitudes, behaviour, etc. as a result of participating in an intervention. Outcomes relate to the ultimate goals or desirable end results of an organisation’s work and the areas an intervention is targeting and trying to improve.
Qualitative data

Information that cannot be counted, measured or easily expressed using numbers (e.g., testimonials and quotes). Qualitative research tries to answer questions about how people interpret and feel about things that happen to them, or things they take part in. It is also useful for examining the actions people take and what motivates them to take those actions. From the perspective of animal welfare/humane education organisations, qualitative data can come from interviews, focus groups, open-ended survey responses, participant observation, social media posts, and case studies.

Quantitative data

Any data that can be counted or expressed numerically. Quantitative research tries to answer questions involving quantity, frequency, value, or size. With respect to evaluating interventions, it is used to assess differences (in attitudes, knowledge, behaviour, skills, etc.) before and after participating. Statistical analysis can establish the extent of any changes (e.g., a significant difference between pre- and post-intervention total or average scores). 

Self-evaluation This is the process of reflecting on your own work. It can refer to personal or organisational appraisal and can be informal or formal. It should be an integral part of any evaluation; an honest assessment of the methods, tools, or ways of working that have been successful and those that need to be improved.

The capacity to experience different feelings such as suffering or pleasure, and the ability to learn from experience and other animals, assess risks and benefits, and make choices (Broom, 2006).


A set of behaviours that reflect an ability to do something well; applying knowledge to practice and acting effectively.

'The Link/s'

This refers to the established link between acts of cruelty to animals and violence toward humans. This includes child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse and other violent behaviour. More information can be found at:       

What is the Link | National Link Coalition

Theory of change

A comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context, and why a particular way of working will be effective. It shows how change happens in the short, medium and long term to achieve the intended impact.

Welfare needs

The things an animal needs in order to experience a ‘good life’. The Animal Welfare Act (2006) outlines five welfare needs that owners have to provide for. A detailed description can be found on the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) website: Your pet's 5 Welfare Needs - PDSA, but these can be summarised as the need:

  1. for a suitable environment,
  2. for a suitable diet,
  3. to exhibit normal behaviour patterns,
  4. to be housed with, or apart, from other animals, and
  5. to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

If pet owners do not comply with the legislation, and fail to provide for their animals’ needs, they can be prosecuted and convicted of animal cruelty.

The ‘five domains’ framework (a reformulation of the ‘five welfare needs’ or ‘five freedoms’) (Mellor & Beausoleil, 2015) is viewed as a useful tool for understanding how to provide for everything an animal needs, moving beyond merely providing for physical needs with its greater focus on mental wellbeing. It provides a useful framework for developing animal welfare education materials.