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European citizen/consumer views and concerns about farm animal welfare.

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Presentation on theme: "European citizen/consumer views and concerns about farm animal welfare."— Presentation transcript:

1 European citizen/consumer views and concerns about farm animal welfare

2 The Welfare Quality® Project Welfare Quality is an EU funded project (Framework 6) about the integration of animal welfare in the food quality chain Main Goal: Integrate knowledge from science and society to improve the welfare of farm animals (pigs, cattle, chickens) 39 institutes and universities representing 13 European countries The project started in May 2004 and will take five years to complete.

3 Research on citizens’ views by the Welfare Quality® project In addition to conducting scientific research about the welfare of farm animals, the Welfare Quality® project has also undertaken social-scientific research about the views and opinions of various stakeholder groups (such as farmers, retailers and consumers). Researchers from the Welfare Quality® project used two different methods to understand European consumers/citizens’ views about farm animal welfare.

4 (1) A telephone interview survey (2005) This consisted primarily of short answer questions. It was carried out in seven European countries: France, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden There were 1500 respondents from each country

5 This consisted of small group discussions, in which participants talked about their views and concerns about farm animal welfare The focus group discussions were carried out in the same 7 countries as the telephone interviews Within each country there were at least six different discussion groups, including those consisting of: urban mothers; rural women; seniors; young singles; politically active and vegetarian consumers; and people who were married but without children living at home. (2) Focus group research (2005)

6 Citizen or consumer?

7 The terms citizen and consumer are used often used inter-changeably But they refer to very entities Citizen: 1. A person owing loyalty to and entitled by birth or naturalization to the protection of a state or nation. 2. A resident of a city or town, especially one entitled to vote and enjoy other privileges there. Consumer: One that consumes, especially one that acquires goods or services for direct use or ownership rather than for resale or use in production and manufacturing.”

8 Citizen or consumer? In terms of animal welfare By addressing the citizen we ask about animal welfare as a public good. What is ‘acceptable’ should be decided through political and social debate By addressing the consumer we ask about animal welfare as a private good. What is ‘acceptable’ is decided on the market Unfortunately we can’t separate ‘citizen’ from ‘consumer’ views neatly.

9 Respondents were asked how important farm animal welfare was to them on a scale of 1-5 Results below show the percentage of respondents who answered very important (blue) and important (red). In the Italy 87% of respondents thought that animal welfare was either very important or important. Key results from the telephone survey:

10 Respondents were asked what they thought were the current welfare conditions experienced by animals in their country Results below show the percentage of citizens who thought that the welfare conditions were either very poor or poor. In the Italy 50% of respondents thought that the welfare conditions for chickens were either poor or very poor. Concerns about the welfare of farm animals

11 The results below show the differences between the percentage of people who thought that animal welfare was important (in general) and the percentage of people that thought animal welfare was important when shopping for food. In Italy 87% of respondents said the AW was important but only 54% thought about animal welfare when shopping for food. Do consumers think about animal welfare when shopping for food?

12 Key results from focus group research 1.What citizens understand by farm animal welfare 2.The link between production system and animal welfare 3.The link between animal welfare and food quality 4.The importance of already existing food labels 5.Perceived advantages/disadvantages of welfare-friendly products. 6.Consumers’ information expectations

13 (1) What citizens understand by farm animal welfare Research confirms that many contemporary European consumers are detached from the realities of modern farming, that they are poorly informed about specific issues of animal biology and farming practices. However, the research also shows that many consumers possess detailed understandings of the ethical issues behind farm animal welfare. Results from the focus group discussions

14 Consumers’ welfare concerns are ideologically diverse They cover issues of animal health, animal behaviour/emotion and naturalism. This has parallels with differences between ‘biological functioning’, ‘affective states’ and ‘natural living’ approaches within welfare science. However, whilst the natural living approach is more peripheral to scientific concerns the desire for naturalism is more central to consumers’ views. Whilst certain elements of this naturalistic view appear to be naïve

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16 Concerns TOTAL N=42 Outdoors/outdoor access/open air 30 Natural environment for a given species 16 Protection from the outside elements 2 Protection from predation2 Appropriate animal breed/origin7 No ‘extreme’ breeds3 Able to express natural habits/behaviours/instincts 17 Keeping babies/young with their mothers 10

17 (2) System type and animal welfare – the dislike of intensive systems Many focus group participants talked about animal welfare in terms of farm type, rather than in terms of animal-centred aspects of welfare such as disease, injury and behaviour. Many participants believed that it was possible to make a 2-way distinction between ‘factory farms’, which were perceived to provide animals with very low levels of welfare and alternative systems (such as organic, free-range, outdoor access, traditional, small scale, local etc.), which were perceived to offer higher levels of welfare

18 “The view is less clear with battery farming. A farm with 300 cows is easier to oversee. A farmer does not walk between his hens daily. He should, but that is just not possible.” (The Netherlands, Senior) “I don’t see how this [normal/natural social behaviour] could be assured in mass production farming.” (Hungarian consumer)

19 (3) The link between animal welfare and food quality Consumers are closer to the fork than the farm Many consumers do not have everyday direct experiences of farm animals but they do have a direct relationship with animals-as-food and it is this intimate connection that helps to shape their views of welfare. Many focus group participants believed that there was a strong connection between food quality/safety and farm animal welfare. They believed that what goes into the animal also enters their body when they consume the animal. More specifically, participants believed that factors such as the overuse of medicines and chemicals, stress and inappropriate (unnatural) feed had a negative impact on both animal welfare and food quality. This view has been reinforced by recent food scares such as BSE.

20 Concerns Total N=42 Quality of food37 Appropriate/natural species- specific diet 31 No food additives (chemicals)15 No GM food5 Anti the (over) use of specific drugs e.g. steroids, growth hormones, anti-biotics 22 Hygienic/clean environment29

21 (4) The importance of already existing food labels. Focus group participants associated a range of already existing certified/assured products with higher animal welfare standards, including; organic products, free range products, outdoor access products, and quality assured products.

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23 Organic

24 Retailer brands

25 Traditional products

26 (4) The importance of already existing food labels. Focus group participants associated a range of already existing certified/assured products with higher animal welfare standards, including; organic products, free range products, outdoor access products, and quality assured products. Product labels were often cited as an important source of general information about farm animal welfare, specifically by participants in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. These labels and the alternative approaches to animal farming that they represented were helping to form the very definition of what animal welfare might be within participants’ understandings. Many focus group participants equated ‘organic’ with high animal welfare and drew on ideas about organic farming (e.g. relating to feed, outdoor access and naturalism) when discussing animal welfare.

27 (5) Perceived advantages/disadvantages of welfare-friendly products. Perceived advantages (i) Health Animal welfare friendly products were consistently seen as healthier products. Healthier, less stressed animals = healthier products. Often coincided with ’organic’ and lack of antibiotics and growth promoters, and natural feed. (ii) Taste Products that come from animals that have had a better life are seen to have a better taste.

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29 Perceived disadvantages (i)The price of the products. This is the main barrier for buying animal welfare products across the seven countries. In Italy for example, the current cost of organic products, for example, is considered too high, and for some consumers it does not reflect the quality of the product in terms of taste. It is seen as less of problem in eggs, where price differences are relatively small. (ii) Convenience Consumers don’t have time to read labels, or to find more animal-friendly products. (iii) Limited product range There just aren’t the products on the shelves. This was commented upon in both Italy and Norway (iv) Lack of information This was commented on in all countries. Italy - The lack of adequate information and awareness is considered one of the obstacles to the choice of products during shopping.

30 Traceability – many consumers wanted information about product provenance. Either in terms of ‘country of origin’, which functioned as a proxy for welfare standards or in terms of establishing a more direct link with the producer. Details about farming practices. As is now the case for eggs in EU Credible information – The claims made should be sensible and verifiable. A labelling system should be supported by a monitoring programme that would verify claims. Practical - Information about animal welfare should be clear, simple “You need three PhD degrees to decipher what they say.” (6) Consumers’ information demands

31 Summary Consumers are concerned about farm animal welfare They have diverse understandings of what farm animal welfare means But most converge on the idea of natural living: access to outdoors, natural feed, no routine antibiotics/growth promoters, no ‘extreme’ breeds It is generally believed that welfare friendly products (ie. from less intensive farming systems) also taste better and are healthier.

32 Summary However, we know that consumers’ concerns do not match their food choices In Italy 87% of respondents said the AW was important but only 54% thought about animal welfare when shopping for food.

33 Summary Possible explanations 1) Lack of market transparency what is a welfare-friendly product? Many studies report that consumers lament the lack of correct information; Many consumers believe that there is insufficient information to decide what is a welfare friendly product

34 Summary Possible explanations 2) Competing priorities Cost and convenience may be more important when it comes to actual shopping

35 Summary Possible explanations 3) Consumers versus Citizens Concerns belong to the person in her/his role of Citizen, and food preferences belong to the person in her/his role of Consumer. Farm animal welfare is not a matter of food preference but rather is a matter of political debate. Many consumers throughout our study, including the Italian focus group felt that minimum legal standards should reflect an ‘acceptable’ level of welfare. This was felt not to be the case at the moment


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