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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Canadian producer and citizen perspectives on farm animal welfare : identifying shared and differing values Spooner, Jeffrey Michael


While interest in the “proper” care of food animals dates to early Greece, 20th century cultural developments in the West brought about an explosion of policies and programs intended to ensure suitable care and handling practices for food animals. “Animal welfare”, however, is a complex term reflecting a wide range of elements. Hence, animal care policies often lead to confusion and disagreements. Given that animal welfare preferences tend to reflect fundamental values and attitudes, agreement on animal care practices are most apt to ensue if such practices reflect shared values and attitudes among vested stakeholders. In an effort to contribute to the development of broadly acceptable policies and practices, in-depth interviews were conducted with beef cattle producers (n=23), pig producers (n=20), and the public (n=24) in the quest for shared or overlapping values regarding farm animal welfare. Areas of agreement include: (i) the importance of humane handling plus good health and biological functioning, especially emphasized by producers; (ii) that consumers have considerable power to dictate preferred care practices and that producers are constrained by economic pressures in competitive markets; and (iii) that citizens lack sufficient understanding of contemporary production methods. Commensurate policy recommendations intended to build on areas of agreement include: (i) the promotion of shared terminology emphasizing animal care; (ii) incorporating elements of natural living into intensive production systems; (iii) promoting joint stakeholder pilot projects to test welfare-oriented production methods or prevent catastrophic animal care failures; (iv) facilitating a trustworthy system of product labelling; (v) encouraging transparent producer or industry driven, welfare-related initiatives; and (vi) encouraging stakeholders to use publicly trusted educational resources instead of marketing-oriented representations of animal care practices. Future research recommendations include: (i) more qualitative and empirical studies of consumers’ welfare-related purchasing practices; and (ii) exploring producer welfare concerns in the broader context of production or management priorities or values. Contributions to existing knowledge include the identification of shared and differing values among Canadian stakeholders, challenges to blanket welfare criticisms about commercial production, plausible paradigmatic differences between producers and citizens, and the potential impact of differing production systems on the welfare-related views of producers.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International