ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Citizens' concerns about farm animal welfare are often dismissed on the assumption that they are not well informed about farming practices. We conducted exploratory surveys of interested citizens (n = 50) before and after a self-guided tour of a 500-head dairy farm. 'Before' survey questions explored perceptions, concerns, and values about dairy cattle farming and welfare, in addition to a short knowledge-based quiz on dairy cattle husbandry. An 'after' survey explored the extent to which these constructs shifted after the tour. Before, most participants correctly answered quiz questions about general feeding and housing practices, but scores were low on questions about specific practices such as cow-calf separation. Participants considered several elements as necessary for a 'good' life for dairy cattle: fresh food and water, pasture access, gentle handling, space, shelter, hygiene, fresh air and sunshine, social companions, absence of stress, health, and safety from predators. These elements reflect a diverse conception of animal welfare that incorporates values for physical and mental well-being, natural living, and humane care. The visit had a mixed effect on perceptions of whether dairy cows had a 'good' life, improving perceptions for a quarter of participants, worsening perceptions in a third, with no shift in the remaining participants. The visit appeared to mitigate some concerns (e.g., provision of adequate food and water, gentle humane care) while reinforcing or eliciting others (e.g., lack of pasture access, early cow-calf separation). Moreover, animal welfare-relevant values held by participants (e.g., natural living, care) appeared to play an important role in influencing perceptions of farm practices. These results suggest that education and exposure to livestock farming may resolve certain concerns, but other concerns will likely persist, especially when practices conflict with deeply held values around animal care.
Content may be subject to copyright.
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
1 Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 2 Centre for
Sustainable Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Citizens concerns about farm animal welfare are often dismissed on the assumption that
they are not well informed about farming practices. We conducted exploratory surveys of
interested citizens (n = 50) before and after a self-guided tour of a 500-head dairy farm.
Before survey questions explored perceptions, concerns, and values about dairy cattle
farming and welfare, in addit ion to a short knowledge-based quiz on dairy cattle husbandry.
An after survey explored the extent to which these constructs shifted after the tour. Before,
most participants correctly answered quiz questions about general feeding and housing
practices, but scores were low on questions about specific practices such as cow-calf sepa-
ration. Participants considered several elements as necessary for a good life for dairy cat-
tle: fresh food and water, pasture access, gentle handling, space, shelter, hygiene, fresh air
and sunshine, social companions, absence of stress, health, and safety from predators.
These elements reflect a diverse conception of animal welfare that incorporates values for
physical and mental well-being, natural living, and humane care. The visit had a mixed
effect on perceptions of whether dairy cows had a good life, improving perceptions for a
quarter of participants, worsening perceptions in a third, with no shift in the remaining partic-
ipants. The visit appeared to mitigate some concerns (e.g., provision of adequate food and
water, gentle humane care) while reinforcing or eliciting others (e.g., lack of pasture access,
early cow-calf separation). Moreover, animal welfare-relevant values held by participants
(e.g., natural living, care) appeared to play an important role in influencing perceptions of
farm practices. These results suggest that education and exposure to livestock farming may
resolve cert ain concerns, but other concerns will likely persist, especially when practices
conflict with deeply held values around animal care.
Animal agriculture has come under increasing criticism with respect to farm animal welfare,
but these critiques are sometimes dismissed by people working in agriculture on the basis that
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 1/18
Citation: Ventura BA, von Keyserlingk MAG,
Wittman H, Weary DM (2016) What Difference Does
a Visit Make? Changes in Animal Welfare
Perceptions after Interested Citizens Tour a Dairy
Farm. PLoS ONE 11(5): e0154733. doi:10.1371/
Editor: Edna Hillmann, ETH Zurich, SWITZERLAND
Received: September 7, 2015
Accepted: April 18, 2016
Published: May 31, 2016
Copyright: © 2016 Ventura et al. This is an open
access article distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original author and source are
Data Availability Statement: All data are available in
Figshare public data repository (
Funding: Funding for this study was provided by the
University of British Columbia, together with the
Animal Welfare Program and its donors. BV was
supported through the University of British Columbia
Four Year Doctoral Fellowship Program. The funders
had no role in study design, data collection and
analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the
public concerns are misinformed [13]. The idea that public criticisms are based on misunder-
standings of the true nature of specialized practices is known as the knowledge deficit model of
public understanding. One implication of this model, also referred to as the knowledge gap,
informational deficit, or cognitive deficit [4,5], is that concerns can be corrected through edu-
cation to bring public opinions into line with those of experts (see [6] for a detailed exploration
of the assumptions and limitations of the knowledge deficit model).
In addition to differences in knowledge between people within and outside the livestock
industries, people may differ in their values [6,7]. Values are desirable, trans-situational
goals...that serve as guiding principles in peoples lives, [8], and as such are fundamental in
both belief and attitude formation [9,10]. With respect to agricultural systems and animal wel-
fare, values also function as criteria that people use to evaluate methods of production [11,12].
Concerns are then elicited when an individual encounters something in conflict with their val-
ues. Since both knowledge and values contribute to concerns [13], it is important that both be
incorporated into research seeking to understand public concern about farm animal welfare.
European research indicates that many citizens do indeed lack knowledge of, and experience
with, livestock production [12,14,15], but there has been little relevant work to date on North
Americans. Similarly, the Welfare Quality
projects have begun to examine values relevant to
farm animal welfare among European citizens, but except for market surveys [16,17] and quan-
titative surveys on consumer preferences [18], few North American studies have examined
what citizens know and value about farm animal welfare [1921]. In light of concerns that citi-
zens are ignorant of livestock farming, there have been calls for studies based on real-life expe-
rience, for example, once citizens have been introduced to farm life in person. Except for two
Dutch studies with dairy cattle and pigs [12,22], respectively, we are not aware of any research
that has exposed non-farming citizens to operating farms and gauged their responses.
The aims of the current study were first to describe existing animal welfare perceptions, con-
cerns and values within a group of interested lay citizens before their visit to a working dairy
farm, and secondly, to determine how their concerns and values, together with performance on
a knowledge-based quiz, shifted after visiting the farm. We focused on dairy because this indus-
try has thus far received less attention in relation to animal welfare than some of the other ani-
mal industries [15,23,24].
To provide a strong, positive test of the knowledge deficit hypothesis we recruited partici-
pants who were engaged in issues around food, but who were not affiliated with the dairy
industry, and we selected a farm that was recognized by the dairy industry as achieving high
welfare and production standards [25]. We predicted that performance on the quiz, and partic-
ipant perceptions and concerns, would shift after touring the farm, but that animal welfare-rel-
evant values, as relatively stable constructs, would not shift.
We conducted surveys before and after members of the non-dairy farming public self-toured a
working dairy farm in summer 2014 in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. The University
of British Columbia Dairy Research and Education Centre (hereafter the farm) operates as
both a working dairy farm and a research site for the university. The herd consists of approxi-
mately 500 Holstein cattle, around 230 of which are milking at any time. Included on the tour
were the calf barn, in which participants observed calves housed in individual stalls as well as
in small groups, and the main barn, referred to as a freestall, where cows were housed in groups
of 12 to 24 in pens where they were able to move around freely. The pens contained one lying
stall (cubicle) per cow and a minimum of 60 cm of feed bunk space per cow. Cows were pro-
vided free access to a mixed diet consisting of forages and concentrates formulated to meet the
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 2/18
Competing Interests: The authors have declared
that no competing interests exist.
needs of cattle for their stage of development and production. These conditions follow the stan-
dards required by Canadas National Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cat-
tle [26]. Pasture was available adjacent to the barns, but cows were housed indoors during the
tour. This project received research ethics board approval from the University of British
Columbia under certificate number: H14-01689.
Survey description
The study took place in August 2014 during the annual Slow Food
bicycle tour, during which
members of the public toured various crop and livestock farms along a predetermined route.
Visitors were invited to participate in a short survey before and after visiting the farm. Before
touring the farm, participants completed a 5 to 10 minute survey (before survey, see Table 1)
incorporating both quantitative and qualitative questions. Questions were structured to gauge
participants baseline perceptions (both general [i.e. top of mind associations] and specific [i.e.
assessment of whether cattle have good or poor quality lives]), concerns and values relating to
dairy cattle welfare. Because the before survey took place before participants toured the farm,
these questions all pertained to dairy cattle in general. As animal welfare tends to be an emotive
topic, the survey was designed to avoid leading questions. For example, the term animal wel-
fare was not used to prevent participant bias. Question valence was also balanced through the
survey, for example through inclusion of questions about the good life (positive) vs. questions
about concerns (negative).
Participants also completed a five-question quiz (before quiz). As the tour took place in the
province of British Columbia (Canada), these questions were meant to capture common prac-
tices in this province relevant to animal welfare debates and around which there are common
misconceptions. As such, we did not consider the answers to reflect a complete depiction of all
possible knowledge relevant to dairy cattle welfare.
Participants then embarked on a self-guided tour through the farm. The tour included eight
stations positioned throughout the main animal facilities. These stations addressed calf man-
agement and housing, Canadian guidelines for on-farm animal care, a day in the life of the
dairy cow, and cow health, feeding, reproduction and general behavior. Graduate students
staffed each station and were available to answer questions. Participants were free to visit any
stations they wanted and were later asked to indicate which stations they had visited. There
was no time limit to the tour. Upon completion of the tour, participants compl eted a 5 to 10
minute after survey designed to capture shifts in perceptions, concerns and values. The after
questions focused on participants reactions to this specific farm. Participants were also asked
to again answer the same quiz questions presented before they toured the farm (referred to as
the after quiz).
Participant sample
Recruitment of participants from a Slow Food
-sponsored activity was intentional, as people
with high levels of engagement in food and agriculture issues tend to be early participants in,
and sometimes disproportionately shape, discourse on contentious issue s. We were aware that
these individuals would likely be more interested in and knowledgeable about livestock farming
than other lay (non-dairy farming) citizens in the population.
A total of 50 participants completed both before and after surveys and were included in
the analysis (see Table 2 for participant demographics). Of these, 30 participants were female,
27 people were between the ages of 35 and 54 with an additional 30% above the age of 55, most
(n = 30) had a bachelors degree or higher, and the majority had lived most of their lives in
urban or suburban settings (n = 40). Of the four people who indicated that they had grown up
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 3/18
on a farm, none indicated that they had lived or worked on a dairy farm. Half of the partici-
pants indicated that they were not knowledgeable about dairy farming, with an additional 22
people indicating that they were somewhat knowledgeable. All participants lived in Canada at
the time of the survey and all but two consumed dairy products; those who did not consume
dairy indicated that they were lactose-intolerant.
Qualitative analysis. Content analysis was used for the qualitative responses [27]. This
process involves a thorough reading and re-reading of the generated text, with the researcher
(s) noting emerging patterns and assigning themes and sub-themes to related sections of text.
Table 1. Overview of farm tour survey
on citizen perceptions, values, concerns and knowledge rela-
tive to dairy cattle welfare.
Construct Before’‘After
Perceptions General perceptions: (Free association) Write
up to ve (5) words that come to mind when
you think of dairy farming. (QL
Now that youve toured the farm, write up
to ve (5) words that come to mind when
you think about dairy farming. (QL)
Animal welfare-specic perceptions: How
condent are you that dairy cows generally
have a good life
? (QT)
What, if anything, surprised you about the
way animals are cared for on this farm?
Fill in the blank: In my opinion, the animals
on this farm have (better, about the same,
worse, or unsure) lives than animals on
other dairy farms in British Columbia. (QT)
Values In your opinion, what does a dairy cow need
in order to have a good life? (QL)
Do you feel that animals on this farm have a
good life? Why or why not? (QL)
What (if any) concerns do you have regarding
the quality of life for dairy cattle? (QL)
Now that youve toured this farm, please
share any concerns about the quality of life
for dairy cattle, in general or on this farm.
Please rank up to three (3) of your top
concerns, and indicate why they concern you.
A dairy cow needs to have a calf to keep
producing milk. (True/False)
All questions asked again.
Dairy cows in British Columbia are routinely
tied in their stall in the barn. (True/False)
All dairy cows in British Columbia are allowed
access to pasture. (True/False)
How many days after birth does the dairy calf
typically stay with its mom? A) 0 days B) 1
week C) 1 month D) never separated
Which best describes what most adult cows
are typically fed on dairy farms? A) milk B)
grass C) pre-mixed feed
The before survey was framed to elicit responses regarding dairy farming in general, as participants
completed the survey upon arrival at the farm and before they entered the dairy barn. Once the participants
had completed their tour of the farm they completed the after survey. These questions were all worded to
elicit responses specic to the farm they had just toured.
QL = open-ended qualitative response, QT = Quantitative, Likert-scale response.
As a reection of attitudes, concerns shed light on underlying values.
Quiz questions were asked twice, on both the Before and After surveys. Quiz question order was
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 4/18
Comments were read with the goal of identifyin g perceptions, concerns and values with respect
to the dairy industry and animal welfare. The lead author (B.A. Ventura) coded the data, with
an additional researcher trained in qualitative analysis independently coding a subsection of
the data to strengthen the robustness of the codes. Agreement between initial coding lists was
very high; codes were then discussed until mutually agreed upon schemes were reached, result-
ing in fully consistent coding by the two coders.
Two main schemes were developed to describe participants baseline perceptions and values
before the farm visit: 1) industry perceptions to describe general perceptions of the dairy
industry and 2) FAW values to describe values around farm animal welfare (FAW), including
what participants valued as part of a good life for dairy cows and their resulting concerns. The
Table 2. Description of participants who completed both 'before' and 'after' surveys for the dairy farm
visit (n = 50).
Variable n
Female 30
Male 20
1934 7
3554 27
>55 15
Prefer not to say 1
Country of residence
Canada 50
Where have you lived most of your life?
Urban 22
Suburban 18
Rural, not on a farm 6
Rural, on a farm
Education level
Vocational/apprenticeship 4
High school diploma 14
Undergraduate degree 12
Graduate degree 12
Professional (e.g. MD, DVM) 07
Other 1
Do you consume dairy?
Yes 48
No 2
Knowledge of dairy farming?
Very knowledgeable 3
Somewhat knowledgeable 22
Not knowledgeable 25
Condence that dairy cattle generally have a good life?
Condent or very condent 21
Neutral or unsure 15
Somewhat or not condent 14
Farms other than dairy cattle farms.
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 5/18
industry perceptions scheme was derived largely from participants free association (i.e. gen-
eral question about dairy farming, see Table 1) responses.
As part of the coding process for FAW values, Fraser et al.s[7] description of animal wel-
fare in terms of biological functioning (e.g. physical condition and health), natural living (the
degree to which an animal can live a nat ural life), and affective states (how an animal feels)
was used as a starting point to organize comments, but the final coding scheme was expanded
beyond this framework based on participants responses.
Particularly demonstrative responses are quoted below to illustrate the themes, followed by
participant number in brackets (e.g. [P23] to designate Participant #23).
Quantitative analysis. Although this was a primarily qualitative study and so not designed
to predict effects of measured variables on before- and after-visit responses, we did check for
the relationship between the perception shift upon visiting the farm and demographics (sex,
age, education level, rural/urban status, self-reported knowledge, and before confidence in cat-
tle welfare), the before quiz score (out of 5), before confidence, and the FAW value expres-
sion and range. The relationship between self-reported knowledge and before quiz scores was
also assessed (see Table 3 for explanation of variables).
We used χ
tests to test for rel ationships between categorical variables, Spearman rank cor-
relation to test for relationships between two continuous variables, and Kruskal-Wallis tests for
relationships between categorical and continuous variables. To test if changes in responses to
the quiz questions differed from chance, we compared the direction of the change relative to
chance expectations using a binomial test. For example, for the true false questions, the null
hypothesis was that as many participants would switch from true to false as vice versa. Alpha
was set at 0.05 for all tests. Unless otherwise stated, relationships between variables were not
Table 3. Description, type and levels of demographic and response variables included in analysis of citizen responses before and after visiting
the dairy farm.
Variable Description Type Variable levels
Sex Demographic Categorical Female or Male
Age (yrs) Demographic Continuous 1924, 2534, 3544, 4554, 5564,or65+
Education Demographic Categorical Vocational/apprenticeship, High school diploma, undergraduate
degree, graduate degree, professional,orother
Demographic Categorical Rural or urban: where rural = (rural not on a farm + rural on a farm)
and urban =(urban + suburban) responses.
Subjective self-assessment of general knowledge
of dairy husbandry
Categorical No knowledge, At least some knowledge: Only three people self-
reported as very knowledgeable so these were re-categorized as
At least some knowledge
Before quiz
Objective score on the before quiz on dairy
Continuous 0, 1 , 2, 3,4or5 (out of a total of 5 possible) correct responses.
Blank responses were incorrect.
Before visit condence about how good of a life
dairy cattle have
Continuous Condent, neutral, not condent: Created by collapsing ve to
three levels for analysis as we were primarily interested in valence
of condence.
FAW value
Before response: was each animal welfare value
criterion as determined from the qualitative analysis
Categorical Yes or No: for each of biological functioning, natural living,
affective states, humane care, drugs and respect for life.
FAW value
Before response: number of FAW value criteria
Continuous 0, 1 , 2, 3, 4, 5,or6 values expressed
Perception shift After response: Shift in individuals perception of
the level of animal welfare after farm visit
Continuous Positive shift, no,ornegative shift: Created by comparing before
condence against after responses on whether cows had a good
life. Positive shift = improved view of FAW after visit, no =no
change, negative shift = worsened view of FAW. This approach
was designed to mitigate repetition and participant drop-out.
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 6/18
Responses before visiting the dairy farm
General perceptions of the dairy industry. Both positive and negative perceptions of the
dairy industry were evident in participants’‘before responses, with a total of seven themes
identified (Table 4). Positive associations with the dairy industry were classed as follows: (1)
Dairy farming as an enterprise that entails hard work (n = 7 of 50 participants): i.e. top of mind
responses of a lot of work
, labour intensive
and dedicated farmers
, that refer-
enced the long hours and labour involved in dairying and often associated with respect for the
farmers involved; and (2) dairy farming as an idyllic, important activity (n = 4), i.e. generalized
notions of dairying as a wholesome, family-friendly pursuit with a distinct place in the rural
landscape, e.g. good way of life, essential for our area
, wholesome country
, and
enjoyable environment for family life,
The most predominant theme (n = 29) describing perceptions of the dairy industry referenced
(3) dairy products (e.g. nice good food
and cheese, milk, ice cream
). Arguably this
theme could reflect positive associations with the dairy industry by way of the pleasure derived
from consumption of its products, or alternatively, indicate that the participant had hitherto
given little to no thought to dairy production. Because of this ambiguity, we did not assign a
valence to this theme. Eight participants also gave responses that indicated (4) sensory associa-
tions with the dairy farm, most notably by referencing the smells of the farm environment.
This theme was likewise not assigned a valence due to ambiguity of participant responses.
Table 4. Description of industry perception (IP) and FAW value themes and the percentage of participants referencing each theme before visiting
the dairy farm.
Theme Participants
(n = 50)
Theme description
IP (+)
Hard work 7 Acknowledgement of the hard work of dairying and respect toward farmers
Idyllic &
4 Agrarian views of dairying as wholesome, idyllic and positive for family and community
IP (ambiguous)
Dairy products 29 Associations of dairying with its end products (e.g. milk and ice cream) and references to wholesomeness and
Sensory 8 Visceral, sensory responses to dairying, e.g. references to smells of the farm
IP (-)
Industrial 7 Mechanization and industrialization of dairying as harmful, particularly for animals
Prot-oriented 4 Prioritization of economic goals over animal welfare
Big = bad 3 Growth and size of dairy farms as bad for cows
FAW values
Biological 36 Reference to feed and water (resources), physical health, hygiene, shelter
Natural living 33 Reference to allowing animals to lead natural lives, e.g. pasture and/or outdoor access, space, freedom, social
and individual behaviors
Affective states 11 Reference to animals experiencing peace, quiet, happiness, and freedom from pain, discomfort and stress
Humane care 28 Reference to gentle treatment and attention to individual animals; routine management duties (e.g. regular
milking) and good stockmanship; avoidance of abuse
Drugs 11 Concerns about administration of drugs, e.g. antibiotics and/or hormones
Respect for life 5 References to end of life and short lifespan; killing of bull calves
The sum of n does not equal 50 within each category as participants often referenced multiple themes, and some participants did not reference any
themes within a category.
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 7/18
Negative associations with the dairy industry included: (5) dairy farming as industrial
(n = 7), involving objections to intensification, industrialization, mechanization...killing
and to factory like conditions that are not humane,
. Four participants also perceived
dairy farming as (6) profit-oriented and so made objections about the prioritization of produc-
tion and economic earnings over attention to animals, e.g. Its a business. I dont think people
take the time...they are just pushing them through the turnstile,
. Finally, embedded within
three participants comments were notions that (7) big = bad, suggesting that larger farms were
worse for animal welfare: large commercial farms seem to have more emphasis on production
[than] animal welfare,
Animal welfare-specific perceptions, concerns and values. Before visiting the farm, par-
ticipants were divided in their assessment of the overall quality of life for dairy cattle: 21
respondents were at least confident that dairy cattle generally had a good life, but 15 were neu-
tral and 14 were not confident.
Participants considered the following elements as necessary for dairy cattle to have a good
life (in decreasing order of frequency, n = 50): fresh food and water (n = 35), pasture and/or out-
door access (n = 28, often with specific mentions of fresh air and sunshine), gentle and humane
care (n = 28), space and freedom to perform behaviors (n = 24), hygiene (n = 10), shelter
(n = 9), absence of stress (n = 6), social companions (n = 5), health (n = 5) and safety from pred-
ators (n = 3). These elements were organized into the following FAW value criteria (Table 4):
1. Biological functioning emphasized provisions for the health and physical condition of the
animal (e.g. fresh food and water, shelter, hygiene, health and safety), as indicated by
requirements for a good life like, food, water, adequate sleep, safe environment (no preda-
tors), adequately hygienic,
2. Natural living emphasized an animals ability to live as natural[ly] as possible,
. Partici-
pants articulated different elements of natural living. These included: exposure to pastur e
and other outdoor elements such as fresh air and sunshine, normal social interactions with
other cattle, space to carry out natural behaviors, and access to foods deemed natural. For
example: pasture with a variety of plant life, some budd[ies], sun and shelter
3. Affective states focused on the animals mental well-being and included references to peace
and quiet, happiness, comfort and an absence of stress and pain, e.g. keep their stress level
4. Humane care emphasized the care and attention provided by humans, with participants
mentioning compassionate attention at the level of the individual animal, gentle handling
techniques, and consistent and predictable management. For example some felt that cows
needed human kindness
or even love
, while others focused on more practical
aspects of management like regular milking.
5. Drugs condemned the overuse of antibiotics and hormones, e.g. adding growth hormones
to increase production
. While this theme surfaced mainly as a specific concern about
cattle quality of life, for some participants this concern was also associated with effects on
the environment and human health.
6. Respect for life included concerns about the culling of bull calves and the end of life and lon-
gevity of the cow, e.g. I feel bad that their life is shorter than a natural lifespan,
which seemed to relate to fundamental concerns about lack of respect for animal life.
Biological functioning and natural living were the most commonly expressed FAW values,
with 35 and 33 participants incorporating these values into their responses, respectively. These
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 8/18
were followed by humane care (n = 28), affective states and drugs (each at n = 11), and respect
for life (n = 5). Most participants included more than one FAW value in their responses, with a
median value range of 2.5 (range: 05). For example, the comment food, water, shelter, regu-
larly milked, space
referenced values for biological functioning (food, water, shelter), natu-
ral living (space), and humane care (regularly milked). Although not categorized as a FAW
value, seven participants also acknowledged that FAW is variable among farms and is affected
by multiple factors, e.g. I think it depends on the farmers husbandry skills,
Not surprisingly, participants concerns about dairy cattle welfare typically reflected uncer-
tainty about whether they believed these value criteria were being met on dairy farms. Before
FAW concerns thus included the following issues: (1) insufficient, biologically inappropriate,
unnatural feed, (2) lack of pasture access and indoor confinement (with related concerns about
overcrowding and behavioral restriction) and (3) abusive treatment of cattle. In addition, nine
respondents indicated that they did not have any concerns about the welfare of dairy cattle, evi-
dent through responses such as, generally I feel that most dairy cattle would have a good qual-
ity of life
or more simply, dont have any [concerns],
Knowledge and quiz scores. We did not find any relationship between self-reported
knowledge and before quiz scores. Although most participants indicated that they were either
somewhat (n = 22) or not (n = 25) knowledgeable about dairy farming, before scores on
the dairy husbandry quiz were fairly high, with a median correct response rate of 3 out of 5
questions (2.9±1.1 [mean±SD], range: 15).
Even before touring the farm, many participants scored well on questions about basic dairy
cattle feeding and housing practices: 37 of the 50 participants answered the diet question cor-
rectly, and the majority indicated that dairy cows in British Columbia were not routinely
tethered in their stalls (n = 36) and that pasture acces s was not mandatory (n = 30). Most par-
ticipants (n = 29) correctly answered that dairy cattle must give birth to a calf to give milk, but
only 13 people correctly answered that calves were separated from the dam immediately after
Relationship between demographics and before survey responses. Sex, age, education,
rural-urban status, and self-reported knowledge were not associated with FAW value expres-
sion or range, other than a relationship between age and expression of the FAW value around
drugs (χ
= 4.2, df = 1, p = 0.04). This relationship was driven by no respondents under the age
of 34 referencing this value versus nearly half (n = 20) of participants aged 45 and older who
We likewise did not detect any relationship between self-reported knowledge and FAW
value expression or value range. However, before quiz scores were related to expression of the
FAW value for biological functioning (χ
= 9.2, df = 1, p = 0.024) such that participant s with
higher before scores were also more likely to incorporate the biological functioning value into
their responses (e.g. around half of participants with scores of 1 or 2 referenced this value, ver-
sus most of those scoring 3 and 4 and every person scoring 5).
We also found a relationship between before confidence in the welfare of cattle and expres-
sion of the FAW value for natural living (χ
= 8.20, df = 1, p = 0.0042). A lower confidence that
dairy cattle had good lives was associated with expression of the value, with an overwhelming
majority of non-confident and neutral participants expressing the value for natural living vs.
less than half of confident participants.
Responses after visiting the dairy farm
Perceived representativeness of the toured farm. The after survey was generally worded
to elicit participants perceptions regarding the farm they had just visited, but it also included a
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 9/18
question for participants about their perceptions of conditions on the toured farm relative to
other dairy farms in British Columbia. Most participants perceived conditions on the farm to
be better than (n = 31) or about the same (n = 11) as other British Columbia dairy farms, with
the remaining eight participants uncertain about how the farm compared to the broader dairy
industry. No participant considered the observed conditions to be worse than other dairy
farms in British Columbia.
Shifts in quiz score. Median quiz score after the farm visit was 4 out of 5 questions (4.0
±0.8 mean±SD), indicating that participants answered over 1 additional question correctly
after the farm visit. The frequency of participants with correct responses improved for each of
the quiz questions (Fig 1). Of the 14 individuals who changed responses after the tour to the
question about pasture access, 13 changed in the right direction (i.e. now responding that pas-
ture access was not required; p<0.001). Of the eight respondents who changed their answer to
if the cow needs to have a calf to keep producing milk, six changed in the right direction (i.e.
now responding that calving was required; p = 0.05). Of the 27 people who changed their
answer to the question about cow calf separation, 23 changed in the right direction (i.e. now
responding that separation happened on the day of calving; p<0.0001). Changes in responses
to the two other questions were not above the level expected by chance.
Fig 1. Frequency of participants with correct responses on dairy husbandry quiz questions, before and after the dairy farm visit.
Milk Q = A dairy cow needs to have a calf to keep producing milk.
Tie stall Q = Dairy cows in British Columbia are routinely tied to their stall in the barn. Pasture Q = All dairy cows in British Columbia are
allowed access to pasture.
Separation Q = How many days after birth does the dairy calf typically stay with its mom? Diet Q = Which best describes what most adult
cows are typically fed on dairy farms?
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 10 / 18
Shifts in perception. Participants qualitative responses to the after questions of whether
they thought cattle had a good life on the farm and whether they had any remaining concerns
were coded into three categories (Table 5):
1. Confident indicates individuals (n = 14) who, after the farm visit, gave an unequivocally
affirmative answer to the question of whether dairy cattle had a good life on this farm, such
that only positive attributes and no concerns were mentioned. Examples included: It was
better than I expected...I was expecting more crowding than what I saw at this farm,
Yes, plenty of food-unlimited milk for calves, yee haw!
and Great life, the owners/
workers actually care for the animals. This farm is great to all of the animals,
2. Nuanced indicates participants (n = 27) who mentioned both positive and negative attri-
butes after the farm visit. Many individuals in this category suggested that the dairy cattle
generally seemed to have a good life, but they also raised specific concerns, e.g. Fairly fair
life for a cow [but] I am sure they would love to be outdoors,
, I guess so. They are
healthy, they have some freedom of movement, they can eat and drink as much as they
want...[but] it would be nice if they could go outside more often
, and yes [they have a
good life] but I would still prefer to see animals grazing in the fields, eating the grass and
calves not separated so quickly from mothers,
3. Not confident indicates those (n = 9) who after touring the farm indicated that the dairy cat-
tle did not have good lives. These individuals made no mention of any positive attributes.
Examples included: Cows do not have a good life! Very little space to roam and are kept in
unsanitary conditions ...the fact that they are always indoors and standing in their own feces
concerns me,
and No, conditions are poor. Industry is profit driven and animal welfare
falls second to profit margins,
Shifts in perceptions. We then compared these after visit perceptions with before confi-
dence levels about cattle welfare to determine whether participants experienced a positive, neg-
ative, or no shift in perception relative to dairy cattle welfare (Table 5 ). For example, a positive
perception shift would describe an individual who, before touring the farm, indicated that they
were not confident about cattle welfare, but after the tour, indicated that cattle on this farm had
a good life. In contrast, someone who initially expressed confidence but indicated concerns
Table 5. Citizens' perceptions in response to the question, "Do dairy cattle have a good quality of life?" before and after visiting the dairy farm
Condent (14) Nuanced (27) Not condent (9)
Condent (21) 9 10 2
BEFORE VISIT Neutral (15) 1 10 4
Not condent (14) 4 7 3
Before categories indicate condence level (condent, neutral, not condent) of whether dairy cattle have good lives before visiting the farm. The after
visit category of condent indicates participants with afrmative answers that dairy cattle had a good life on the farm with no expressed concerns;
nuanced indicates participants who mentioned concerns as well as positive attributes; and not condent indicates participants with negative answers
and no mentions of positive attributes. The bracketed numbers adjacent to or below possible response categories indicate the total participants within the
respective row or column (out of 50). The number in each cell indicates the number of participants expressing each pair of perceptions before and after
the farm visit. Cells outlined in bold (n = 22) indicate participants whose perceptions did not appear to shift in valence (no shift), the cells in the upper right
(n = 16) indicate participants whose perceptions of the level of FAW became more negative (negative shift), and cells in the lower left (n = 12) indicate
participants whose perceptions became more positive (positive shift).
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 11 / 18
after the tour would characterize a negative shift. This approach to determining shifts in the
valence of perception was designed to mitigate participant frustration in the after survey, as
repetition could lead to dropout or careless responses.
We found that a minority of participants experienced a full reversal in the direction of their
perceptions of cattle welfare: just two participants started confident but ended negative, and
just four initially non-confident participants ended positively with no concerns. However, gen-
eral shifts in perception were distributed fairly evenly among the participants such that 16 par-
ticipants (approximately one-third) negatively shifted their perceptions, 12 positively shifted
their perceptions (approximately one-quarter), and 22 did not shift (Table 5).
Concerns behind the perception shifts. There were no significant relationships between
demographics and perception shift, or between before expression of FAW values and percep-
tion shift. Thus it did not appear that expression of any particular FAW value, for example,
was associated with whether or how an individual shifted their perception after touring the
Qualitative analysis of the after responses nonetheless identified some characteristics of
those who shifted their perceptions positively or negatively. Those for whom the farm visit
improved their perceptions of dairy cattle welfare (n = 12 of 50) cited th e following attributes:
the high level of care given to cattle by farm workers, plentiful food and water, a hygienic barn
environment, and adequate space allotted to cattle. For example, one participant initially com-
mented that they were concerned about humane treatment, cramped living conditions, and
access to grazing, but after touring the farm remarked that they had no concerns because the
animals seem to be well cared for...the practices on this farm seem very ethical,
. Indeed,
the quality of care was perceived to be positive regardless of whether participants came away
from the visit with an improved perception of dairy cattle welfare overall: no participant
responded that individual care toward animals was poor and many commented positively on
the level of staff attention to animals.
In contrast, those for whom the farm visit negatively affected their perceptions of cattle wel-
fare (n = 16 of 50) commented again on existing concerns or shared new concerns. The most
prevalent of these new concerns was early separation of the calf from the cow, reflected in an
additional 23 participants scoring correctly on the question relating to cow-calf separation
after the visit. Individuals who negatively shifted their views also commented on barn space
and hygiene, but in contrast to the positive shifters, negative shifters perceived the barns to be
cramped and dirty rather than spacious and clean (prompting one individual to suggest,
maybe wash the floor more often?
). The most prominent complaint was the lack of pas-
ture and outdoor access. For example, one participant who initially never had any concerns
was disappointed by the farm: Its not ideal...Im sure the cows would rather be in a
field...cows should have a larger freedom area,
. Indeed, nearly every participant who
commented on pasture or calf separation, regardless of whether that participant ultimately
shifted their perception, expressed disappointment about the lack of pasture and outdoor
access and surprise at cow-calf separation.
To our knowledge, no other study to date has examined concerns and values related to dairy
cattle welfare among the North American general public, or exposed citizens to a working live-
stock farm and gauged their responses. This study explored how a select sample of interested
citizens perceived dairy farming and its effects on animal welfare. As such, survey questions
were focused on peoples ideal visions of how dairy cattle should live, thus engaging notions
of how society in general should operate in relation to animal welfare in the dairy industry.
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 12 / 18
By focusing on people participating in a Slow Food
tour, our sample was likely engaged in
issues around food and arguably more likely to be involved as shapers of social opi nion about
animal welfare and other issues associated with food production. However, readers should be
cautious in generalizing our results to other populations and other on-farm experiences.
Rather, our approach was to provide a strong positive test of the knowledge deficit hypothesis
by confronting engaged participants with one specific farm perceived to be good by industry
standards. Indeed most participants perceived the farm to have equivalent or better conditions
than other dairy farms in the region. We encourage constructive replication of this study to
consider other types of visitors and other farms.
Existing FAW concerns and values
Although participants varied in their expression of FAW values in that some peoples concep-
tions were broader than others (i.e. greater range of expressed FAW values), participants
collectively expressed multi-dimensional and nuanced understandings of animal welfare.
Our findings align with existing evidence that natural living tends to figure strongly in what
citizens believe is necessary for farm animals to live a good life [19,21,28]. As with earlier
research with non-farming citizens, participants ascribed import to: animals freedom to move
and fulfill natural motivations [13,19,29,30], performance of natural behaviors [3,18,19,22,31 ],
access to increased space (which is intimately connected to notions of freedom [3,21,22,31],
outdoor access [3,18,19,21,31], and daylight [3,19,22]). Likewise and as with past research
[21,24], our participants objected to early cow-calf separation, in part because it was perceived
to be unnatural [32].
Participants also valued aspects related to biological functioning (particularly nutrition and
hygiene) to the extent that this was the most frequently expressed FAW value in th e current
study. For example, providing dairy cattle with unrestricted access to biologically appropriate
feed and clean, fresh water were among the most frequently cited requirements for a good
life, a finding that again aligns with other research on lay citizen values for animal welfare
[18,22,31]. As biological functioning is also highly valued by farmers and others connected to
the livestock industries in Europe [13,3335] and North America [2,3638], these findings sug-
gest that the values of industry and non-industry stakeholders may overlap in the area of ani-
mal health and functioning.
Regarding citizen values around affective states, most research suggests that imposing pain
and other negative affective states on animals is unacceptable. For example, US surveys show
that the majority believe that farm animals should be protected from pain [39
] and work in
Canada and the US has shown that citizens object to the perform ance of routine painful proce-
dures (e.g. tail docking and dehorning) without pain relief [20,40,41]. In our study, just under
one quarter of participants made direct references to affective states in dairy cattle, including
happiness and an absence of pain and stress. The lack of comments may relate to our framing
of the survey questions, as asking about a good life may prime responses related to elements
external to the cow rather than to the cows internal affective state. Therefore, inferences
regarding how much participants valued this aspect of FAW should be made with caution.
Interestingly, participants values for FAW also extended beyond the three spheres frame-
work (biological functioning, natural living and affective states). Notably, over half of the
respondents also saw the welfare of dairy cattle as intertwined with the actions and attitudes of
humans charged with their care. Others have also noted the relevance of farmer-animal con-
tact, gentle handling, and humane care to citizens perceptions of FAW [19,21,24]. While
human actions are obviously associated with (and directly affect) biological functioning, natu-
ral living and affective states in animals, it is important to specify that the need for cattle to
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 13 / 18
have attentive and loving caretakers seemed to be treated as distinct from these other three
Effects of the farm visit
In general, the types of FAW values expressed by participants did not correlate with their per-
formance on the knowledge-based quiz, or with their perception shifts of dairy cattle welfare
after visiting the farm. The one exception to this finding was that participants with higher
before quiz scores were more likely to include biological functioning in their FAW value
expression, an association which may be similar to the emphasis on biological functioning by
farmers [13,31].
The ways in which perceptions, concerns and quiz performance shifted after touring the
farm suggest that what participants know about animal welfare and what they value about it
may be relatively independent. Hansen et al. [6] addressed how and why peoples evaluations
of situations are affected by factors beyond their knowledge, and how deeply embedded values
are in these processes. On the surface, it seems intuitive that familiarity breeds content and
unfamiliarity, suspicion: we know, for example, that people who work within the livestock
industries are more accepting of contentious practices and less concerned about animal welfare
than are people unaffiliated with these industries [31]. However, emerging work suggests that
learning about livestock practices fails to improve acceptance for many people, and in some
cases may decrease acceptance. For example, Ryan et al. [42] found that citizens were less likely
to support gestation housing for commercial sows after being exposed to various sources of
information including scientific articles, images, and videos.
In the present study, performance on the quiz questions relating to basic dairy husbandry
practices was variable among participants, with knowledge of some practices fairly low. For
example, few respondents appeared initially knowledgeable about cow-calf separation and pro-
tocols for hormone usage in dairy cattle (the latter evident in concerns about the use of growth
hormones among some participants: the relevant hormone in this case, recombinant bovine
somatotropin or rBST, has never been approved for use in Canadian dairy cattle).
A key finding was that participants quiz performance improved after the farm visit, but this
improvement was not accompanied by an improvement in perceptions of dairy cattle welfare.
If we look to the divergence in confidence in cat tle welfare among participants before visiting
the dairy farm (21-15-14 confident-neutral-not confident, respectively) versus after the visit
(12-22-16 positive-no-negative shift, respectively), it would seem that the farm visit did not
result in an overall increase in confidence, as would have been predicted by the knowledge defi-
cit model of public understanding [4,5]. Although the farm visit improved perceptions in 12 of
the 50 participants, the majority experienced no shift or became more critical.
Boogaard et al. [24] wrote that, concerns about modern animal farming will only be allayed
when information...addresses the more fundamental values that shape [public] concerns,
(p. 281). Notably, the farm visit failed to meet the natural living criterion for most participants,
particularly with regards to pasture access and cow-calf separation. Given the importance
many placed on natural living, it seems that people wished to see evidence that dairy cows were
kept in ways that allowed them to engage in natural behavior. In light of participants concerns
about space allocated to cattle, future research may want to investigate whether increasing
space per animal within current barn environments might mitigate public concern about zero
The problem of cow-calf separation will be more difficult to resolve. This practice illustrates
how the interplay of knowledge and values inform acceptance, as this issue was not cited before
people became aware of this routine practice during the tour. Early cow-calf separation is
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 14 / 18
considered objectionable for a number of reasons, including concerns about the health of the
cow and calf, the emotional life of both, and because it prevents both mother and calf from
engaging in natural behavior [32]. One participant in the present study commented that they
were relieved to see calves housed in groups and provided a high level of attention. The litera-
ture is generally consistent in showing the benefits of group housing on welfare outcomes for
dairy calves [43]; something as simple as raising calves in small groups, as opposed to single
housing, may help meet the concerns of those objecting to early separation out of concern for
the calf, though this warrants further study.
Considerations for further study
Past studies have estimated citizen knowledge of livestock farming through proxy questions on
rural-urban background [22]. However, there is reason to question self-reports as an effective
barometer of citizen knowledge: for example, though citizen participants in one study reported
low familiarity with pig husbandry, many of their spontaneous welfare concerns (e.g. tail dock-
ing and teeth clipping, limited space, injured legs and joints) indeed were common issues on
some pig farms [3].
To our knowledge, this study was the first attempt to gauge citizen knowledge of dairy live-
stock production practices through direct application of a knowledge-based quiz. We suggest
that this approach provides a more accurate picture of knowledge compared with self-reports,
but also acknowledge that our approach requires refinement. We did not measure confidence
in answers and so cannot account for participant guessing. However, we are cautiously opti-
mistic that the quiz yielded some useful insight into participants knowledge about relevant
dairy husbandry practices, particularly in the case of shifts in quiz performance in a positive
direction after touring the farm.
Other critiques could include our usage of the term cows rather than cows and calves in
the survey, which may have biased participants to issues associated with adult animals rather
than calves. Our reasoning for using the term cows was that in our experience, people with
little cattle experience (our intended audience) use the term cows to refer generally to all
dairy cattle, even bulls. Our results are consistent with this interpretation, as participants indi-
cated concerns related to calves as well as cows in response to these questions.
Additionally and given the constraints associated with longer surveys (e.g. participant inat-
tention, drop-out, frustration, [44]) we were limited in the number of questions we could ask.
We made every attempt to construct quiz questions that anyone with working knowledge of
dairying could answer. We also acknowledge that the present study was not designed to deter-
mine the persistence over time of any changes in knowledge, perceptions or concerns examined
here. We recommend that future studies incorporate follow-up questionnaires to explore how
a farm visit may influence perceptions beyond the day of the visit.
Conclusion and implications
This study was the first to explore perceptions, knowledge, and values of animal welfare among
North American citizens in the context of a farm visit. The people surveyed held nuanced con-
ceptions of animal welfare that extended beyond those traditionally referenced in the literature.
Allowing citizens to tour a dairy farm improved their performance in a knowledge-based quiz
of dairy husbandry practices, but did not improve perceptions of dairy cattle welfare for most
participants. Shifts in perception appeared to be primarily rooted in whether various values for
animal welfare were satisfied; the tour appeared to satisfy values around humane care, but
failed to meet values for natural living. The implication is that the livestock industries cannot
expect one-way education efforts (even immersive experiences such a farm tour) to resolve
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 15 / 18
societal concerns about animal welfare. Rather, engagement between the livestock industries
and the public should be two-way such that industry stakeholders strive to hear, and respond
to, concerns that result from increased transparency. This type of communication might allow
industry stakeholders to better identify welfare concerns in society and to highlight shared val-
ues (such as with good animal health), providing a foundation to resolve more contentious
The authors extend our deepest appreciation to our participants. Special thanks to N. Dinn and
J.R. Thompson at the University of British Columbia Dairy Education and Research Centre for
allowing us to conduct this project. We are grateful to G. Busch at Georg-August-University
Göttingen for her assistance in data coding and analysis. Thanks also to K. Knowlton at Vir-
ginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for her assistance in data collection, and to D.
Fraser for providing feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript. The University of British
Columbia, together with the Animal Welfare Program and its donors, provided the funding for
this study. B. A. Ventura was supported through the University of British Columbia Four Year
Doctoral Fellowship Program.
Author Contributions
Conceived and designed the experiments: BV DW. Performed the experiments: BV. Analyzed
the data: BV. Wrote the paper: BV MK HW DW. Provided input on project design and analy-
sis: DW MK HW.
1. Hubbard C, Bourlakis M, Garrod G. Pig in the Middle: Farmers and the Delivery of Farm Animal Welfare
Standards. Br Food J. 2007; 109: 919930. doi: 10.1108/00070700710835723
2. Spooner JM, Schuppli CA, Fraser D. Attitudes of Canadian beef producers toward animal welfare.
Anim Welf. 2012; 21: 273283. doi: 10.7120/09627286.21.2.273
3. Benard M, de Cock Buning T. Exploring the Potential of Dutch Pig Farmers and Urban-Citizens to
Learn Through Frame Reflection. J Agric Environ Ethics. 2013; 26: 10151036. doi: 10.1007/s10806-
4. Wynne B, Irwin A. Misunderstanding Science? The Public Reconstruction of Science and Technology.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1996.
5. Einsiedel EF. Understanding publics in the public understanding of science. In: Dierkes M, Grote C v,
editors. Between Understanding and Trust: The Public, Science and Technology. Amsterdam;
2000. pp. 205216.
6. Hansen J, Holm L, Frewer L, Robinson P, Sandøe P. Beyond the knowledge deficit: Recent research
into lay and expert attitudes to food risks. Appetite. 2003; 41: 111121. doi: 10.1016/S0195-6663(03)
00079-5 PMID: 14550309
7. Fraser D, Weary DM, Pajor EA, Milligan BN. A scientific conception of animal welfare that reflects ethi-
cal concerns. Anim Welf. 1997; 6: 187205.
8. Seligman C, Olson JM, Zanna M. The Psychology of Values: The Ontario Symposium, Vol. 8. The
Ontario Symposium on Personality and Social Psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum; 1996.
9. Rokeach M. The Nature of Human Values. New York: Free Press; 1973.
10. Schwartz SH. Are there universal aspects in the structure and content of human values? J Soc Issues.
1994; 50: 1945.
11. Schwartz S. A Theory of Cultural Values and Some Implications for Work. Appl Psychol. 1999; 48: 23.
doi: 10.1080/026999499377655
12. Boogaard BK, Oosting SJ, Bock BB. Defining sustainability as a socio-cultural concept: Citizen panels
visiting dairy farms in the Netherlands. Livest Sci. 2008; 117: 2433. doi: 10.1016/j.livsci.2007.11.004
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 16 / 18
13. Te Velde H, Aarts N, Van Woerkum C. Dealing with ambivalence: Farmers and consumers' percep-
tions of animal welfare in livestock breeding. J Agric Environ Ethics. 2002; 15: 203219. doi: 10.1023/
14. Boogaard BK, Oosting SJ, Bock BB. Elements of societal perception of farm animal welfare: A quantita-
tive study in The Netherlands. Livest Sci. 2006; 104: 1322. doi: 10.1016/j.livsci.2006.02.010
15. Ellis KA, Billington K, McNeil B, McKeegan DEF. Public opinion on UK milk marketing and dairy cow
welfare. Anim Welf. 2009; 18: 267282.
16. Pirog R. Consumer perceptions of pasture-raised beef and dairy products: An internet consumer study.
Ames, Iowa; 2004.
17. AWI. Consumer Perceptions of Farm Animal Welfare. Washington, DC; 2011.
18. Prickett RW, Norwood FB, Lusk JL. Consumer preferences for farm animal welfare: results from a tele-
phone survey of US households. Anim Welf. 2010; 19: 335347.
19. Spooner JM, Schuppli CA, Fraser D. Attitudes of Canadian citizens toward farm animal welfare: A quali-
tative study. Livest Sci. Elsevier; 2014; 163: 150158. doi: 10.1016/j.livsci.2014.02.011
20. Robbins JA, Weary DM, Schuppli CA, Von Keyserlingk MAG. Stakeholder views on treating pain due to
dehorning dairy calves. Anim Welf. 2015; 24: 399406. doi: 10.7120/09627286.24.4.399
21. Cardoso CS, Hötzel MJ, Weary DM, Robbins J, von Keyserlingk MG. Imagining the ideal dairy farm. J
Dairy Sci. American Dairy Science Association; 2015; 99: 19. doi: 10.3168/jds.2015-9925
22. Boogaard BK, Boekhorst LJS, Oosting SJ, Sørensen JT. Socio-cultural sustainability of pig production:
Citizen perceptions in the Netherlands and Denmark. Livest Sci. 2011; 140: 189200. doi: 10.1016/j.
23. Mench JA. Farm animal welfare in the U.S.A.: Farming practices, research, education, regulation, and
assurance programs. Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2008; 113: 298312. doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.01.009
24. Boogaard BK, Bock BB, Oosting SJ, Wiskerke JSC, van der Zijpp AJ. Social acceptance of dairy farm-
ing: The ambivalence between the two faces of modernity. J Agric Environ Ethics. 2011; 24: 259282.
doi: 10.1007/s10806-010-9256-4
25. Da Silva S. Dairy Farmers of Canada Announces the 2015 Dairy Farm Sustainability Award Finalists.
In: Dairy Farmers of Canada [Internet]. 2015. Available:
Accessed 2015 Dec 19.
26. NFACC. Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle. Ottawa; 2009.
27. Coffey A, Atkinson P. Concepts and coding. In: Coffey A, Atkinson P, editors. Making Sense of Qualita-
tive Data: Complementary Research Strategies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage; 1994. pp. 2653.
28. Harper GC, Makatouni A. Consumer perception of organic food production and farm animal welfare. Br
Food J. 2002; 104: 287299. doi: 10.1108/00070700210425723
29. Lassen J, Sandøe P, Forkman B. Happy pigs are dirty!conflicting perspectives on animal welfare. Liv-
est Sci. 2006; 103: 221230. doi: 10.1016/j.livsci.2006.05.008
María GA. Public perception of farm animal welfare in Spain. Livest Sci. 2006; 103: 250256. doi: 10.
31. Vanhonacker F, Verbeke W, Van Poucke E, Tuyttens FAM. Do citizens and farmers interpret the con-
cept of farm animal welfare differently? Livest Sci. 2008; 116: 126136. doi: 10.1016/j.livsci.2007.09.
32. Ventura BA, von Keyserlingk MAG, Schuppli CA, Weary DM. Views on contentious practices in dairy
farming: the case of early cow-calf separation. J Dairy Sci. Elsevier; 2013; 96: 610516.
33. Bock BB, Van Huik MM. Animal welfare: the attitudes and behaviour of European pig farmers. Br Food
J. 2007; 109: 931944. doi: 10.1108/00070700710835732
34. Hubbard C, Scott K. Do farmers and scientists differ in their understanding and assessment of farm ani-
mal welfare? Anim Welf. 2011; 20: 7987.
35. De Greef KH, Stafleu FR, de Lauwere CC. A simple value-distinction approach aids transparency in
farm animal welfare debate. J Agric Environ Ethics. 2006; 19: 5766. doi: 10.1007/s10806-005-4527-1
36. Heleski CR, Mertig AG, Zanella AJ. Assessing attitudes toward farm animal welfare: A national survey
of animal science faculty members. J Anim Sci. 2004; 82: 28062814. PMID: 15446498
37. Heleski CR, Mertig AG, Zanella AJ. Results of a national survey of US veterinary college faculty regard-
ing attitudes toward farm animal welfare. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2005; 226: 15381546. doi: 10.2460/
javma.2005.226.1538 PMID: 15882007
38. Spooner JM, Schuppli CA, Fraser D. Attitudes of Canadian Pig Producers Toward Animal Welfare. J
Agric Environ Ethics. 2014; 27: 569589. doi: 10.1007/s10806-013-9477-4
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 17 / 18
39. Rauch A, Sharp J. Ohioans Attitudes about Animal Welfare. A topical report from the 2004 Ohio Survey
of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Issues. Columbus, OH; 2005.
40. Rutgers. New Jerseyans opinions on humane standards for treatment of livestock. Rutgers, NJ; 2003.
41. Weary DM, Schuppli CA, von Keyserlingk MAG. Tail docking dairy cattle: Responses from an online
engagement. J Anim Sci. 2011; 89: 38313837. doi: 10.2527/jas.2011-3858 PMID: 21666003
42. Ryan EB, Fraser D, Weary DM. Public attitudes to housing systems for pregnant pigs. PLoS One.
43. Costa JHC, von Keyserlingk MAG, Weary DM. Invited review: Effects of group housing of dairy calves
on behavior, cognition, performance, and health. J Dairy Sci. 2016; 99: 115.
44. Maniaci M, Rogge R. Conducting research on the internet. In: Reis H, Judd C, editors. Handbook of
Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press; 2014. pp. 443470.
Changes in Animal Welfare Perceptions after Touring a Dairy Farm
PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154733 May 31, 2016 18 / 18
... There are also concerns regarding the potential exposure of calves to environmental pathogens and the limited ability to manage calf-dam pairs on farms (Vasseur et al., 2010;USDA, 2014;Busch et al., 2017;Beaver et al., 2019). Evidence from multiple countries indicate that whilst public awareness of the practice is low , the public generally opposes the practice (Boogaard et al., 2008;Ventura et al., 2016;Busch et al., 2017). A significant aspect of the public's opposition relates the perceived unnaturalness of the practice (Boogaard et al., 2008). ...
... Approximately 60% of the sample of respondents reported being unaware (46%) or vaguely aware (15%) of the practice. Our results are consistent with previous studies which found that 65-67% of respondents in other countries reported being unaware of the practice (Ventura et al., 2016;Cardoso et al., 2017;. The lack of awareness provides a justification for testing the effects of additional information. ...
... This implies that exposure to imagery led to stronger opposition to the conventional practice of early calf-dam separation. This outcome is consistent with previous literature (Ventura et al., 2016; that showed increased awareness of calf-contact practices led to stronger public opposition. The results further infer that the impact of information is stronger for urban dwellers and Note: *P < 0.1, **P < 0.05, ***P < 0.01. ...
Full-text available
In recent decades, there has been an increase in public concerns about the animal welfare impacts of many farm practices. The transition to systems that are perceived to increase animal welfare is however, hampered by the lack of transparency regarding farming practices, information gaps and poor value signaling. Using the case of milk choice, this study investigates US consumer (N = 1020) preferences for systems that allow for additional calf-dam (mother) contact, dehorning and the role of different formats of information (i.e., text and images). The study applies a multi-profile (Case 3) best-worst scoring approach. Data were analyzed using mixed logit and latent class models. The results indicate that consumers signal significantly higher values for production systems that allow for more calf-dam contact. These preferences differ by consumer segments. Consumers also expressed positive values for dehorning with pain mitigation. The results further show that a seemingly small addition to textual information treatment, i.e., providing consumers with pictures associated with calf-dam contact practices generates statistically significant premiums. Sensitivity to additional information was high amongst female and urban consumers. The findings of this study highlight the demand incentives for the creation of niche markets for calf management practices in the dairy industry.
... Consumers' awareness, willingness and dietary change regarding animals and animal agriculture have been studied with participants from several countries in North and South America (Canada [86][87][88], U.S. [86,87,[89][90][91][92][93][94][95][96][97][98][99][100][101][102][103][104][105], Mexico [106,107], Argentina [108], Bolivia [108], Brazil [71,72,[109][110][111][112][113][114][115], Chile [108,116], Colombia [108], Ecuador [108], Peru [108]), Western and Eastern Europe (Belgium [109,[117][118][119][120], Denmark [117], Finland [121][122][123], France [115,119,124], Germany [117,119,123,[125][126][127][128][129][130][131][132][133][134][135][136], Italy [119], Ireland [137,138], Netherlands [75,119,133,[139][140][141][142][143], Norway [119,138,144,145], Portugal [119], Spain [106,123], Sweden [119], Switzerland [119], U.K. [98,[146][147][148][149][150], Scotland [137], Bosnia [79,151], Bulgaria [79,119], Croatia [79,119,151], Czech Republic [79,119,138,151], Hungary [151], Macedonia [79,138,151], Poland [79,117,119,123,151], Slovakia [79,151], Slovenia [119,151] and Ukraine [79,119,151]), and Australia [72,[152][153][154][155][156][157][158][159][160][161][162]. ...
... Consumers tend to associate confinement and intensive farming with animal suffering [88,100,132]. For instance, 79% of Brazilian participants considered farmed animals in production systems as not being well treated due to restriction of movements, and for 39% farm animal welfare was a major concern [111]. ...
Full-text available
Planetary and human health depend on Westerners' ability to reduce meat consumption. Meat production degrades the environment while excessive meat intake is associated with cancer and cardiovascular disease, among others. Effective reasons and motivations are needed for consumers to change their diet. The fact that modern animal agriculture inflicts a great deal of pain on animals from their birth to their slaughter, animal welfare/suffering may drive consumers to curtail their meat consumption. This systematic review examined a total of 90 papers to ascertain consum-ers' awareness of the pain animals experience in animal agriculture, as well as consumer attitudes towards meat reduction due to animal welfare. Results show that consumers have low awareness of animal agriculture. Awareness of animal agricultural practices and animal sentience is associated with increased negative attitudes towards animal suffering. Animal suffering due to farming practices , transportation, slaughter, and animal sentience are factors that may encourage a reduction in meat consumption, and even dietary change in the short term. There is also evidence that animal suffering may be a more compelling motivation for consumers' willingness to change their diet than for health or environmental reasons. Therefore, increasing consumers' awareness of animal suffering in meat production is paramount to contributing to reduced pressure on the environment and improved human health.
... The survey used a combination of open and closed questions (multiple choice and scales), previously used in studies of Mexican and Spanish consumers (Estévez-Moreno et al., 2021), European (European Union, 2016), and Canadian citizens (Ventura et al., 2016). The final version of the survey consisted of three sections. ...
Full-text available
Introduction. Research focused on listening and understanding public attitudes towards farm animal welfare is proliferating globally. Objective. To determine how consumers in Colombia perceive the welfare of farm animals and socio-demographic factors associated with such perceptions. Materials and methods. A descriptive and analytical epidemiological study was done through the implementation of a cross-sectional national online survey, conducted from September to October-2021, to obtain information on the knowledge and attitudes of consumers (≥18 years) in Colombia regarding farm animal welfare, as well as socio-demographic characteristics (sex, age, education, occupation, location, growing-up environment, level of contact with livestock farms, and diet). Logistic and multinomial logistic regression models were used to evaluate associations of demographic factors with the level of importance given to animal welfare (AW), perceptions about needs, behavior, and sentience in farm animals, and perceptions about the state and promotion of AW in Colombia. Results. Responses from 798 participants were included in the analysis, 85.57 % saw AW as a concept that refers to how to treat animals and improve their quality of life. The level of importance given to AW was 9.78±0.85 (scale from 0 to 10) and was associated with words such as health, food, caring, respect, and comfort. Sex, age, education, level of contact with a farm, and growing-up in rural areas significantly influenced the opinions regarding the concept of AW and the promotion of farm animal welfare in Colombia. Conclusion. The participants showed concern about farm animal welfare. The differences found associated with the different socio-demographic factors can be used as a basis for formulating education and empowerment strategies that help modulate changes in the way animals are seen, and what welfare means and what it implies.
... Consideration of stakeholder opinions, including all purchasers of dairy products such as dairy companies, retailers, and consumers is thus important when setting welfare thresholds as much of the assessment is targeted at the social licence to farm. However, including consumers in the process is likely to significantly increase the variability in what is considered to be acceptable and the potential identification of different areas of concern [9][10][11] making the process of deciding thresholds and identifying areas of concern more complex and time consuming. ...
Full-text available
This study assessed a new time-limited protocol developed for pasture-based cows across 23 dairy farms. The process started prior to milking with a questionnaire, followed by an assessment of resources (16 farms only) and behavioural observation of cows at pasture. Remaining animal-based measures were assessed during milking, usually by two assessors (one parlour based and one outside). The protocol proved to be practical and feasible with limited changes needed, except for the assessment of water availability and behaviour. As most cows could access only one water trough, distance between troughs was not a measure of water availability, while the observation of a large numbers of cows at pasture for 30 min resulted in few observations and an uncertain denominator (effective number of observed cows). Further research is needed to determine the best way of assessing water availability and cow behaviour in a time-limited assessment of pasture-based cows. Three animal-based measures (broken tails, dirtiness, and coughing) had mean values higher than the author-determined acceptable thresholds, while <50% of farms met trough cleanliness and track condition targets, and none met the criteria for shelter and shade. This was a sample of farms based on convenience, so more data are required to establish the representativeness of these results. Such testing should involve assessment of the repeatability and reliability of the measures in our protocol.
... Heleski and Zanella [18] reported perception differences between varying species in a survey of undergraduate students; to illustrate, students perceived that horses could feel pain and experience boredom in ways similar to humans more than other agricultural species (i.e., poultry, cattle, sheep, and pigs). Additionally, a multitude of work in this space has discovered that a variety of stakeholder groups, including animal science students and faculty, veterinarians, and consumers, perceive welfare more positively and express greater comfort with less intensive production systems (e.g., beef and sheep systems) compared to more intensive systems (e.g., layers, poultry, and swine systems) [3,4,15,19]. Studies have also found that a positive, hands-on learning environment and competencies in animal welfare can strengthen empathy towards animals [20]. ...
Full-text available
Animal welfare is an increasingly important topic across multiple academic disciplines; however, few studies have investigated student perceptions of animal welfare outside of veterinary medicine. The objective of the study was to evaluate animal science students’ perceptions of animal welfare to determine if perceptions differ across animal categories. An online survey was distributed to animal science programs at institutions across the United States. Quantitative and qualitative analyses were performed on 624 responses. Almost all respondents agreed welfare was important for all animal categories (≥97%). The survey asked respondents to rate the level of importance of 12 welfare parameters and there was evidence that the level of importance differed by animal category (p < 0.0001), e.g., fewer respondents indicated having positive interactions with humans was important for agricultural animals. In a subset of questions about agricultural animals, fewer respondents agreed that swine (325, 52.1%) and poultry (268, 43.0%) are raised with an appropriate level of welfare compared to dairy (425, 68.1%) and beef cattle (421, 67.5%). Four free-response questions asked respondents to report their general perceptions of welfare. Thematic analysis identified multiple themes, such as basic needs and human interaction, with most responses (75%) including two or more themes.
... Some data already indicate a growing momentum for a new generation of farmers, who leave their urban, non-agrarian lives to engage in agricultural production [105]. Other studies support the idea that consumers who recognize the problems of confinement systems and have direct interaction with farmers are more willing to negotiate the development of farming methods that address common concerns [106,107]. ...
Full-text available
Since the 1960s, the European Union (EU) has made efforts to ensure the welfare of farm animals. The system of EU minimum standards has contributed to improved conditions; however, it has not been able to address the deeper factors that lead to the intensification of animal farming and the consolidation of the processing sector. These issues, along with major competitive pressures and imbalances in economic power, have led to a conflict of interest between animal industries, reformers, and regulators. While the priorities of the European Green Deal and the End the Cage Age initiatives are to induce a rapid phasing out of large-scale cage-based farming systems, the industry faces the need to operate on a highly competitive global market. Animal farmers are also under pressure to decrease input costs, severely limiting their ability to put positive animal-care values into practice. To ensure a truly effective transition, efforts need to go beyond new regulations on farm animal welfare and address drivers that push production toward a level of confinement and cost-cutting. Given the right socio-economic and policy incentives, a transition away from intensive farming methods could be facilitated by incentives supporting farm diversification, alternative technologies, and marketing strategies.
... Questo crea movimento nei prospetti e suggerisce una delle possibili strategie compositive che possono essere utilizzate dai progettisti per integrare meglio gli edifici con il contesto . Le aperture continue sui fronti permettono libertà di movimento e accesso al paddock (Ventura, 2016;Broom, 1993), spazio fondamentale per il benessere animale, dove i bovini possono esprimere le loro naturali dinamiche comportamentali e "sociali". Un altro aspetto importante riguarda la gestione ordinaria della stalla, le operazioni di pulizia degli spazi ed eventuali interferenze con la vita del bestiame. ...
Full-text available
New agricultural structures, especially those for cattle farming, have an undeniable impact on the landscape. The main problem is due to the size of the livestock buildings, which depends on the number of animals. The stables of the traditional rural complexes were mostly of limited size and often also integrated, in an almost complementary way, into residential buildings. The number of animals was very small, as they were only intended for family subsistence. Today, a cattle farm requires a much larger number of animals to be sustainable and, consequently, sufficient space for the welfare of the animals and to improve the quality of the final product. The impact on the landscape becomes a fundamental issue that the project must address consciously, together with the other aspects that increasingly characterize this type of architecture. The Department of Architecture and Design of the Polytechnic of Turin, the Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Piedmont, Liguria, and Valle d’Aosta, with the collaboration of the “La Granda” consortium, conducted a research study aimed to define the characteristics of a stable for Piedmontese cattle breeding by translating the needs of animal welfare, environmental sustainability and integration with the surroundings into an architectural model.
... welfare point of view (see review by Placzek et al., 2020). Relevant studies in this respect were executed in, for example, the Netherlands (Boogaard et al., 2011), Germany (Busch et al., 2017), the United States of America (Ventura et al., 2013), Canada (Ventura et al., 2016) and Brazil Hötzel et al., 2017). At least among the respondents that were consulted in these surveys (from several hundred to more than a thousand), a substantial part expressed concerns and objection to the absence of cow-calf contact in conventional calf rearing practices. ...
Full-text available
Divergence in opinion over how farm animals should be cared for is creating a disconnect between livestock farming and the public that risks a loss of “social license” to farm. One proposed solution for the dairy farming community is to engage more constructively with the public to develop a shared vision of the industry's future; however, farmers and veterinarians remain reluctant to validate public opinions on farm animal care, in particular, often viewing them as naïve or impractical. Understanding the interpretive frames through which people make sense of dairy farming could help the dairy farming community engage more constructively with public opinion, thereby reducing conflict and providing opportunities to change communication or practice. Hence, frame analysis was conducted on transcripts of 60 face-to-face interviews with members of the UK public, first defining frames using reflexive thematic analysis, then considering the effect of these frames on those holding them. The results showed that dairy farming was mainly characterized by two entities: the cow and the farmer. Three frames were developed for the cow: she was perceived as i) enduring, which induced a sense of moral responsibility for her well-being among participants; ii) a fellow or companion, which led to feelings of a shared or parallel life with her; and iii) a force of nature, where the cow's connection with the natural world and “otherness” was appreciated, or even longed for. These connections were unexpectedly widespread within the sample, with many participants simultaneously holding two or even three frames. The farmer was seen through two frames: i) traditional; or ii) modernizing, but both frames had positive and negative narratives depending on the perceived care of the cow, causing confusion or even conflict about the care the farmer actually delivered. These findings provide new insights into the interpretive lenses through which the public makes sense of the dairy cow and her care, not least the bond the public themselves feel with the animal. They offer fresh opportunities for the dairy industry to improve engagement through more reflexive communication or modification of farming practices to better fit societal expectations about dairy cow welfare.
Full-text available
Temperature variability resulting from climate change poses challenges around the world for livestock production and the welfare of the animals in these systems. As animal industries attempt to combat these challenges, it is vital to understand how potential changes implemented by farmers resonate with societal values. The aims of this study were to determine how different proposed changes to mitigate heat stress in dairy cattle influence public perceptions toward Australian dairy farm systems, including perceptions of (1) cow welfare, (2) confidence in the industry, and (3) trust in farmers. Participants were presented with 1 of 4 treatments representing a potential solution to mitigate heat stress in dairy cattle: (1) indoor system (a fully indoor barn), (2) choice system (cows have agency to choose to be indoors or outdoors), (3) gene edition + pasture (cows are genetically modified to become more resilient to heat stress), and (4) pasture (outdoor system that is currently used in Australia, but the farmer plants more trees). Participants were then asked to respond to questions on a 7-point Likert scale. Questions were about cow welfare (3 questions), confidence in dairy industry (4 questions), and trust in farmers (9 questions), with each section followed by an open-ended question for participants to explain their answers. Participants perceived cow welfare to be the lowest in the indoor system (2.80 ± 0.10), followed by gene edition + pasture (4.48 ± 0.11), with choice and pasture systems being the highest but not different from each other (5.41 ± 0.11 and 5.32 ± 0.11, respectively). Confidence in the dairy industry was lower among participants in the indoor (4.78 ± 0.08) compared with participants assigned to the choice (5.28 ± 0.08) or pasture (5.25 ± 0.08) systems. Confidence was also lower among participants in the gene edition (4.95 ± 0.08) compared with the choice system. Trust in farmers was similar across all treatments. Our results provide the first evidence that the Australian public may be reluctant to accept heat stress mitigation strategies that either do not allow cows to have access to pasture or those that include gene-editing technologies.
Full-text available
This paper presents a theory of potentially universal aspects in the content of human values. Ten types of values are distinguished by their motivational goals. The theory also postulates a structure of relations among the value types, based on the conflicts and compatibilities experienced when pursuing them. This structure permits one to relate systems of value priorities, as an integrated whole, to other variables. A new values instrument, based on the theory and suitable for cross-cultural research, is described. Evidence relevant for assessing the theory, from 97 samples in 44 countries, is summarized. Relations of this approach to Rokeach's work on values and to other theories and research on value dimensions are discussed. Application of the approach to social issues is exemplified in the domains of politics and intergroup relations.
Full-text available
Standard practice in the dairy industry is to separate the calf and dam immediately after birth and raise calves in individual pens during the milk-feeding period. In nature and in extensive beef systems, the young calf lives in a complex social environment. Social isolation during infancy has been associated with negative effects, including abnormal behavior and developmental problems, in a range of species. Here, we review empirical work on the social development of calves and the effects of social isolation in calves and other species; this evidence indicates that calves reared in isolation have deficient social skills, difficulties in coping with novel situations, as well as specific cognitive deficits. We also review the practices associated with group housing of dairy calves, and discuss problems and suggested solutions, especially related to cross-sucking, competition, aggression, and disease. The studies reviewed indicate that social housing improves solid feed intakes and calf weight gains before and after calves are weaned from milk to solid feed. Evidence regarding the effects of social housing on calf health is mixed, with some studies showing increased risk of disease and other studies showing no difference or even improved health outcomes for grouped calves. We conclude that there is strong and consistent evidence of behavioral and developmental harm associated with individual housing in dairy calves, that social housing improves intakes and weight gains, and that health risks associated with grouping can be mitigated with appropriate management.
Full-text available
Practices in agriculture can have negative effects on the environment, rural communities, food safety, and animal welfare. Although disagreements are possible about specific issues and potential solutions, it is widely recognized that public input is needed in the development of socially sustainable agriculture systems. The aim of this study was to assess the views of people not affiliated with the dairy industry on what they perceived to be the ideal dairy farm and their associated reasons. Through an online survey, participants were invited to respond to the following open-ended question: "What do you consider to be an ideal dairy farm and why are these characteristics important to you?" Although participants referenced social, economic, and ecological aspects of dairy farming, animal welfare was the primary issue raised. Concern was expressed directly about the quality of life for the animals, and the indirect effect of animal welfare on milk quality. Thus participants appeared to hold an ethic for dairy farming that included concern for the animal, as well as economic, social, and environmental aspects of the dairy system.
Full-text available
Understanding concerns about the welfare of farm animals is important for the development of socially sustainable production practices. This study used an online survey to test how views on group versus stall housing for pregnant sows varied when Canadian and US participants were provided information about these systems, including access to scientific papers, YouTube videos, Google images, and a frequently-asked-questions page (S1 Appendix). Initial responses and changes in responses after accessing the information were analyzed from Likert scores of 242 participants and from their written comments. Participants were less willing to accept the use of gestation stalls after viewing information on sow housing. For example, initially 30.4% of respondents indicated that they supported the use of gestation stalls; this declined to 17.8% after participants were provided additional information. Qualitative analysis of comments showed that supporters of gestation stalls expressed concern about the spread of disease and aggression between animals in less confined systems, whereas supporters of group housing placed more emphasis on the sow’s ability to interact socially and perform natural behaviors. These results point to public opposition to the use of gestation stalls, and indicate that the more that the public learns about gestation stalls the less willing they will be to accept their use.
Full-text available
A common and painful management practice undertaken on most dairy farms is dehorning young calves (also called 'disbudding' when done on calves less than about two months of age). Despite much evidence the practice is painful, and effective means available to mitigate this pain, it is frequently performed without pain relief. The overall aim of this study was to describe different stakeholder views on the use of pain mitigation for disbudding and dehorning. Using an interactive, online platform, we asked participants whether or not they believed that calves should be disbudded and dehorned with pain relief and to provide reasons to support their choice. Participant composition was as follows: dairy producer or other farm worker (10%); veterinarian or other professional working with the dairy industry (7%); student, teacher or researcher (16%); animal advocate (9%); and no involvement with the dairy industry (57%). Of 354 participants, 90% thought pain relief should be provided when disbudding and dehorning. This support was consistent across all demographic categories suggesting the industry practice of disbudding and dehorning without pain control is not consistent with normative beliefs. The most common themes in participants' comments were: pain intensity and duration, concerns about drug use, cost, ease and practicality and availability of alternatives. Some of the participants' reasoning corresponded well with existing scientific evidence, but other reasons illustrated important misconceptions, indicating an urgent need for educational efforts targeted at dairy producers and dairy industry professionals advising these producers.
As animal industry and animal advocacy groups debate how farm animals should be treated, little research has focused on the attitudes of consumers in the United States. This study utilises results of a representative telephone survey to measure consumer attitudes towards farm animal welfare, and investigates how these attitudes vary across individuals. The survey finds that consumers desire high standards of animal care, even if it raises food prices and involves government regulation. Support is particularly strong from females, Democrats, and residents of the Northeastern United States. To provide high standards of animal care, consumers as a whole perceive allowing animals to exhibit natural behaviours and exercise outdoors to be more important than protection from other animals, shelter, socialisation, and comfortable bedding. Consumers vary in their perceptions though, and are divided into three classes: Naturalists, Price Seekers, and Basic Welfarists. Naturalists place great importance on allowing animals to exhibit natural behaviours and exercise outdoors, and comprise 46% of the sample. Price Seekers, comprising 14% of the sample, are primarily concerned with low prices. Basic Welfarists make up 40% of the respondents, and value animal welfare but perceive it can be achieved by simply providing food, water, and treatment for injury and disease. This last group perceives amenities, such as access to outdoors and ability to exhibit natural behaviours, unimportant for the well-being of farm animals.