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Animals 2018, 8(12), 232;

Reducing the Consumer Attitude–Behaviour Gap in Animal Welfare: The Potential Role of ‘Nudges’

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3RG, UK
Received: 29 October 2018 / Revised: 23 November 2018 / Accepted: 3 December 2018 / Published: 5 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Cattle)
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Simple Summary

Many members of the public express a desire for farm animals to have a good quality of life. Yet, when it comes to purchasing higher welfare products which would support this, many consumers do not ‘walk their talk’. This paper introduces the concept of ‘nudging’ as a means to help consumers align their actions with their intentions and support their desire to engage in pro-animal welfare behaviours. ‘Nudging’ is a collection of behaviour change tools designed to hint to, or suggest, a choice most closely aligned with an individual’s self-interests or intentions. Their purpose is to simplify the decision-making environment by working in concert with the behavioural flaws known to influence human decision-making. Four specific behavioural ‘nudges’ are outlined: self-nudges, choice architecture, social norms and pre-commitments, along with examples of how they can be applied to animal welfare. Inspired by effective applications of ‘nudging’ to close the consumer attitude–behaviour gap in other relevant domains, this paper seeks to highlight how similar initiatives might be applied to better support higher welfare choices amongst consumers and in turn, enhance the lives of farm animals.


Citizen concern for the welfare of farm animals is well documented. However, there is a notable gap between people saying they want improved farm animal welfare and how they actually behave as a consumer. This is known as the citizen–consumer attitude–behaviour gap. As improvements in farm animal welfare can be affected by market demand, the choices consumers make become important. This paper introduces the concept of ‘nudging’ and discusses how it could be applied to reduce the attitude–behaviour gap amongst consumers. By designing the choice environment to better reflect the behavioural biases known to impact human decision-making, ‘nudge’ tools function to prompt individuals to make choices that are aligned with their stated intentions. Four ‘nudge’ tools: self-nudges, choice architecture, social norms and pre-commitments are discussed. The behavioural rationales for their use are reviewed and examples of how they might be applied to animal welfare provided. Improved farm animal welfare arguably requires improved pro-welfare consumer behaviour. This paper highlights how this might be encouraged by: self-nudging the salience of an ethical self-image; altering the choice architecture to influence decision-making; articulating social norms to impact behaviour; and using pre-commitment devices to overcome self-control issues. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; behaviour change; behavioural economics; nudge; choice architecture; social norms; pre-commitments animal welfare; behaviour change; behavioural economics; nudge; choice architecture; social norms; pre-commitments
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Vigors, B. Reducing the Consumer Attitude–Behaviour Gap in Animal Welfare: The Potential Role of ‘Nudges’. Animals 2018, 8, 232.

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