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Public attitudes to the welfare of broiler chickens

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Abstract:

This paper reports results from two workshops held in York, England that investigated public attitudes towards the welfare of broiler chickens. At the outset the majority of participants admitted that they knew little about how broiler chickens are reared and were shocked at some of the facts presented to them. Cognitive mapping and aspects of Q methodology were used to reveal the range of variables that participants believed affected chicken welfare, the causal relationships between those variables, and what variables were considered most and least important. While some participants focused on the importance of meeting basic needs such as access to food, water, light and ventilation, others highlighted the role of welfare regulations and public opinion. Factor analysis of the results from a ranking exercise identified two factor groups, 'Factor one; the bigger picture' and 'Factor two; basic animal needs'. The findings demonstrate that some members of the public are both interested in learning about how their food is produced and concerned about the conditions faced by broiler chickens. Some are able to see clear links between public opinion and the welfare of farm animals; an important connection if consumer behaviour is to contribute towards improving animal welfare.

Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; BROILER CHICKENS; COGNITIVE MAPPING; ENGLAND; PUBLIC ATTITUDES; Q METHODOLOGY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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