UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding industry and lay perspectives on dairy cattle welfare Ventura, Beth Ann


The welfare of dairy cattle is of rising concern in North America. This thesis explores how stakeholders relevant to dairy production—including those working within but also those external to the industry—interpret issues around dairy cattle welfare, with the aim to unearth the root of disagreements and identify common values between diverse groups. Chapter 1 begins by exploring the relevant literature and identifies important gaps. Chapters 2 and 3 describe multi-cohort focus groups of farmers, veterinarians, and other industry stakeholders. Chapter 2 investigates their interpretations of the priority welfare issues facing the dairy industry and demonstrates that these stakeholders hold a broad conception of animal welfare with the potential to link to values in broader society. Chapter 3 explores how these stakeholders perceive challenges to welfare and their desired solutions for change; it shows consensus for education, particularly in the form of peer-led extension strategies, to address low welfare knowledge among farmers and veterinarians. Chapter 4 describes a survey of non-farming citizens before and after touring a dairy farm and demonstrates that, as with industry stakeholders, citizens’ animal welfare values are diverse. Chapter 4 also shows that citizens respond differently to learning more about dairy farming, with some becoming more concerned and others less so. Chapter 5 then describes the use of an online engagement tool to explore in greater depth what appears to be one of the most contentious practices in dairy production—that of early separation of the dairy calf from the cow. It illustrates that support of this practice varies markedly among stakeholder groups, but that people are often concerned with the same issues regardless of their stance, providing paths for compromise on practice and policy. Chapter 6 concludes with a summary of findings and recommendations, including: 1) farmers should engage with veterinarians and researchers to help them adopt practices in better alignment with societal values (such as pain mitigation), 2) industry decision makers should commit to transparency but also be prepared to listen and adapt to informed critiques, and 3) researchers should explore engagement strategies to aid in conflict resolution between industry and lay citizens.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada