What Difference Does a Visit Make? Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Interested Citizens Tour a Dairy Farm

Beth Ann Ventura, Marina A. G. von Keyserlingk, Hannah Wittman, Daniel M. Weary - PLoS ONE

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

A really interesting paper on a topic that is becoming increasingly prominent - public perception of livestock industries. This could provide some information to help be on the front foot and contribute to public education about dairy farming.

What is the problem?

Animal welfare perception in the public is an increasingly important aspect of farming. Dairy in particular has certain expectations from the public about the standards and living conditions of the dairy cows, and these can sometimes be dismissed due perceptions of the public being ‘misinformed’. Researchers from the University of British Columbia used a small cohort to investigate public opinions of dairy, before and after a visit to a dairy farm.

What did the research involve?

A 5 to 10 minute ‘before’ survey was given to 50, non-dairy exposed participants in August 2014 in Vancouver. Questions included topics such as perceptions and understanding of dairy farming, and values the participants held to towards dairy farming. Participants then went on a self guided tour of the farm, and completed a similar 5 – 10 minute ‘after’ survey, to identify if any changes in attitude were noticed after exposure to the farm.

 

What were the key findings?

The visit apparently put some concerns at ease, while re-enforcing or creating others. The researchers state the values relating to animal welfare prior to the visit have a large impact on perceptions of the operation.

Final Comment

The education of the general public regarding dairy farming will likely improve outlooks, however deep seated, pre-existing values are unlikely to be influenced by exposure to farming practices.

2016 - Canada - Beth Ann Ventura, Marina A. G. von Keyserlingk, Hannah Wittman, Daniel M. Weary - PLoS ONE
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