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Animal welfare: the attitudes and behaviour of European pig farmers

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into the behaviour and attitudes of European pig producers towards animal welfare. It looks at the relationship of these factors with farmers' understanding of good farming and production logic, together with national characteristics of production, and market and policy arrangements. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This article synthesises the results of six national studies in which circa 360 pig farmers were interviewed. It compares the differences in attitudes and behaviour of farmers across different countries forming quality-assurance schemes. This allows for an understanding of how participation in different types of schemes affects farmers' definitions and practice of animal welfare and how this is embedded in specific national contexts. Findings ‐ Farmers' readiness to implement stricter animal welfare regulations and their belief in animal-friendly production differ according to their definition of animal welfare and the importance they attach to it, but are also linked to their participation in schemes. In general two groups of farmers can be distinguished. Farmers participating in basic or top quality-assurance schemes define animal welfare in terms of animal health and production-performance. By contrast, farmers who participate in organic or specific welfare schemes emphasise the animals' opportunity for expressing natural behaviour. These different attitudes towards the animal welfare issue are underpinned by differences in farming style, or production logic. Originality/value ‐ The article provides insights into how pig farmers across Europe perceive and construct animal welfare. By relating these factors with farmers' understanding of good farming and production logic and national characteristics of production, market and policy arrangements, it contributes to the scientific understanding of animal welfare attitudes and behaviour. It provides insights into the factors that influence farmers' readiness to engage in animal-friendly production, which may be of use to policymakers.
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Keywords: Agriculture; Animal husbandry; Europe

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-10-30

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