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Attitudes of Canadian citizens toward farm animal welfare: A qualitative study
- Spooner, Jeffrey M., Schuppli, Catherine A., Fraser, David
- Livestock science 2014 v.163 pp. 150-158
- advocacy, animal care, animal production, animal well-being, attitudes and opinions, children, education, ethics, family farms, farmed animal species, food animals, industry, interviews, issues and policy, organic production, profits and margins, rearing, stakeholders, Canada
- As part of a larger project to determine if there are animal-welfare-related values shared by some commercial food–animal producers and non-producers in Canada, open-ended, semi-structured interviews were conducted to elicit opinions about animal welfare among 24 urban and rural residents not involved in commercial animal production. All participants possessed a self-described interest in food animal well-being and were therefore assumed to represent the views of Canadian non-producers most apt to engage in efforts to shape the animal welfare policies of governments and businesses. Participants described animal welfare in moral or ethical terms, expressed virtually unanimous support for animals having access to “natural” living conditions, and (somewhat less often) linked animal welfare to positive affective states. Maintaining reasonable health and biological functioning was seen as important but was not to take precedence over the benefits of natural living. Participants favoured small family farms and unanimously objected to confinement housing. Participants did, however, offer qualified support for intensive practices and were unanimous in not assigning blame to producers, whom they regarded sympathetically. Predictably perhaps, given our sample, most were critical of industries preoccupied with profits and of consumers who unthinkingly seek cheap food. Recommended ways of improving welfare included instilling in consumers a greater appreciation for the intrinsic value of humanely reared animals, and better education of children regarding the connection between animals and food. Disagreements arose over the welfare implications of organic production and approaches to animal advocacy. Differing demographic backgrounds, experiential involvement with food animals and knowledge of food animal production practices may have influenced the nature or specificity of welfare concerns. Many participants admitted a lack of knowledge about contemporary production practices and some expressed an interest in obtaining additional knowledge. These findings contribute to a broader effort to identify shared values among different stakeholder groups as a basis for formulating widely acceptable, farm animal care and handling polices.