Brazilian Citizens’ Opinions and Attitudes about Farm Animal Production Systems
Received: 2 September 2017 / Revised: 22 September 2017 / Accepted: 25 September 2017 / Published: 28 September 2017
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The inclusion of societal input is needed for food animal production industries to retain their “social license to operate”; failure to engage with the public on this topic risks the long-term sustainability of these industries. The primary aim of this study was to
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The inclusion of societal input is needed for food animal production industries to retain their “social license to operate”; failure to engage with the public on this topic risks the long-term sustainability of these industries. The primary aim of this study was to explore the beliefs and attitudes of Brazilians citizens not associated with livestock production towards farm animal production. A related secondary aim was to identify the specific beliefs and attitudes towards systems that are associated with restriction of movement. Each participant was shown pictures representing two of five possible major food animal industries (laying hens, beef cattle, pregnant sows, lactating sows, and poultry meat). Participants were presented a six pages survey that included demographic questions plus two sets of two pictures and a series of questions pertaining to the pictures. Each set of pictures represented a particular industry where one picture represented a housing type that is associated with behavioural restrictions and the other picture represented a system that allowed for a greater degree of movement. Participants were asked their perceptions on the prevalence of each system in Brazil, then their preference of one picture vs. the other, and the reasons justifying their preference. Immediately following, the participant repeated the same exercise with the second set of two pictures representing another industry followed by the same series of questions as described above. Quantitative data were analysed with mixed effects logistic regression, and qualitative responses were coded into themes. The proportion of participants that believed animals are reared in confinement varied by animal production type: 23% (beef cattle), 82% (poultry), 81% (laying hens), and 60% (swine). A large majority (79%) stated that farm animals are not well-treated in Brazil. Overall, participants preferred systems that were not associated with behavioural restriction. The preference for free-range or cage-free systems was justified based on the following reasons: naturalness, animals’ freedom to move, and ethics. A minority of participants indicated a preference for more restrictive systems, citing reasons associated with food security and food safety, increased productivity and hygiene. Our results suggest that the majority of our participants, preferred farm animal production systems that provide greater freedom of movement, which aligned with their perception that these systems are better for the animal. Our results provide some evidence that the current farm animal housing practices that are associated with restriction of movement, which are gaining traction in Brazil, may not align with societal expectations.