Livestock, pet or neither? Survey looks at consumer perceptions

Understanding consumers' views is an important step in facilitating constructive discussions of agricultural animal care, welfare and ethics

Understanding consumers’ views of different livestock species, their perceived obligations to animals and sources of relevant information is an important step in facilitating constructive discussions of agricultural animal care, welfare and ethics that incorporates layperson’s beliefs and values, according to M.G.S. McKendree of Purdue University.

At JAM 2013 in Indianapolis, Ind., McKendree reported on an online survey (n = 798) conducted with an objective of determining consumers’ classification of animal species, the relationship between classification and opposition to eating those species, and the relationship between pet ownership/crating and their perceived obligations to animals.

The survey collected information on household demographics, pet ownership and perceptions of pets, and perceptions of traditional and non-traditional livestock animals.

One interesting species classification was the horse, with 55% selecting pet, 27% livestock and 18% neither, she noted.

Respondent opposition to eating animals varied by animal species; 81 respondents opposed eating a beef cow while 151 opposed eating a dairy cow. Respondents opposed to eating certain animal species were less opposed to others eating them, McKendree said.

Tying classification with opposition to eating animals, those classifying a beef cow as non-livestock more often reported opposition to eating animals than those classifying a beef cow as livestock.

Sixty-six percent of respondents reported having at least one household pet. At the 95% confidence level, respondents with cats and/or dogs more frequently reported concern about livestock animal welfare than those without cats and dogs. Of those with cats and/or dogs, 20% reported using cages/crates. However, no statistical differences were found between those who used crates/cages and those who did not regarding their level of concern for pig housing and management practices (including gestation crates, farrowing crates, group housing, and indoor confinement), she said.

Dog and/or cat owners more frequently reported having a source for animal welfare information (51% of dog and cat owners vs. 32% without a cat/dog, McKendree reported.

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