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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Public attitudes towards housing systems for pregnant pigs Ryan, Erin


Public concern for the welfare of farm animals is increasing. Formal methods of gathering public attitudes are important for the development of socially sustainable animal production practices. This study used an online survey to gather public attitudes towards the issue of housing pregnant sows in intensive systems (group housing versus gestation stall housing). Additionally, this research aimed to understand how participant’s stance changed when they were provided additional information on the issue, including two scientific papers, YouTube videos, Google images, and a frequently asked questions page. Initial attitudes (from responses to the first question) and changes in responses before and after accessing additional information were quantitatively analyzed from Likert-scale responses made by 268 participants. One-hundred-and-thirteen comments, written before accessing additional sources of information, were qualitatively analyzed to identify themes and understand reasons behind decisions. Forty-one pairs of comments were analyzed to understand the effect of information on attitudes. Quantitative results reveal that the majority of participants strongly supported group housing before the provision of additional information. Most participants maintained their stance even after accessing additional information; however, an effect of information was found, such that more people strongly supported stalls after the provision of additional information. Regardless of whether participants moderately supported groups or gestation stalls before the provision of additional information, almost half of the people in each of these groups abandoned their position after accessing additional information and shifted to strongly support group housing. Qualitative analysis showed that supporters of gestation stalls tended to focus on physical health, predominantly focusing on spread of disease and the elimination of aggression between animals. Supporters of group housing sows, tended to factor in other requirements for sow welfare, including the importance of social interaction and the ability to perform natural behaviours. With the exception of participants that strongly supported gestation stalls, numerous participants commented on the complexity of choosing one system over the other and described the effect that images had on attitudes. These results point to the importance of providing detailed descriptions, including imagery to the public in efforts aimed at gathering feedback for the development of socially sustainable practices.

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