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Type: Thesis
Title: Australian meat consumers’ understandings of farm animal welfare
Author: Buddle, Emily Anne
Issue Date: 2019
School/Discipline: School of Humanities : History
Abstract: This dissertation investigates Australian meat consumers’ understandings about farm animal welfare and explores their underlying values associated with meat production. Focus groups and interviews were the primary sources of data used to capture how Australian meat consumers conceptualise the issue of farm animal welfare. A total of sixty-six meat consumers across Australia participated in interviews and focus groups, facilitating the documentation of how their values are enacted through their understandings of farm animal welfare. While extensive research into perceptions of farm animal welfare have been undertaken in other developed countries, this thesis is the first to explore Australian meat consumer views on these issues using qualitative research methods. Popular understandings of an issue, and the associated values, are shaped by a variety of sources including the media, popular culture, education, religion and socioeconomic status. Two key influences associated with shaping consumer understandings of farm animal welfare are news media and the work of animal welfare activists. Due to the extensive involvement of the media in communicating about the issue of farm animal welfare in Australia, a framing analysis of Australian print press articles was undertaken as part of this dissertation. This analysis allowed the issue of farm animal welfare to be positioned within the broader social and cultural discourse within Australia. Alongside the changing media landscape, the adoption of social media has changed how animal welfare activists communicate with the public. There is anecdotal evidence of concern from the livestock industry about the role that animal welfare activists have on public understanding of farm animal welfare, and the use of animals in agriculture more generally, particularly since the rising popularity of social media in disseminating news and information. Thus this research also explores participant opinions of farm animal welfare activism, specifically online activism. This research demonstrates that public understandings of farm animal welfare extend far beyond the ways in which an animal is treated on farm or within the meat value chain. This dissertation highlights that concerns about farm animal welfare are related to the quality of life experienced by the animal. Ideas about ‘natural’ and ‘traditional’ production were found to be blurred in the Australian context as, collectively, they were considered to be representative of what participants considered to be ‘normal’ in relation to livestock production. These production methods were understood by participants to provide livestock animals with a better quality of life. In contrast, despite an appreciation for affordable and abundant protein, participants rejected intensive production methods which provided such protein as they were viewed as having negative impacts on animal quality of life. Thus, intensively raised meat is a site of tension, with conflict between participant values of abundant affordable protein and animal quality of life. Furthermore, this research highlights that concerns for animal quality of life are not only related to an animal’s emotional state but are associated with concerns about food safety and quality. Using a ‘risk’ framework, findings are summarised to argue that farm animal welfare is an issue of increasing concern in Australia because modern livestock production practices impact animal quality of life, and in turn place meat quality at risk. These findings have implications for future research into attitudes of other meat value chain participants and communication strategies to generate constructive dialogues with consumers to ultimately re-build trust in meat producers and others in the value chain amongst meat consumers and the broader community.
Advisor: Ankeny, Rachel
Bray, Heather
Pitchford, Wayne
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2019
Keywords: Animal welfare
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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