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Today’s Western societies are often called affluent. Still, the fundamental human condition of scarcity is binding. Resources like money and time do not suffice to fulfil all needs and desires. As basic needs are satisfied others come to mind. Priorities still need to be set, both by consumers and politics. Therefore, it is to be expected, that if consumer concerns are relevant to purchase behaviour, it will be more in line with relative than absolute (isolated) importance attributed to them. In spite of this, priorities have largely been neglected in this paper so far and generally in attitude-behaviour-modelling (FREY / STAHLBERG / GOLLWITZER, 1992, p. 392).
This chapter presents surveys which look at priorities for issues related to animal welfare in chronological order. Section 2.4.1 reports available results for areas like „food shopping“28, „politics“ and „tasks for agriculture“. Section 2.4.2 does not so much look at conscious priorities, but rather at topical issues (i.e. what people talk and think about most at a given time). Questions used in section 2.4.2 are open and inquire into what people remember about food and agriculture. In contrast to section 2.4.1 animal welfare is not mentioned as an issue to interviewees in section 2.4.2.
In 1994 the SAMPLE INSTITUTE surveyed (n = 1300) how much the statement “I do not care how they keep the animals, what counts is the taste of it.” reflected priorities of people.29 On average respondents disagreed (average score 2,1). Only 15% agreed (scores 4 and 5). The starkest contrast showed up between those with elementary/primary education and higher education, new and old counties and non-buyers and buyers of organic meat.30
Figure 2.4(a): General priorities for food shopping - Kiel, 1996
Question: Please imagine a typical shopping situation and tell me how important the following items are for your decision to buy food.
Source: ZIEHLBERG/ALVENSLEBEN (1998), p. 203; random sample drawn from the directory of Kiel, summer 1996, n = 387, multiple answers possible
A wider set of given issues is considered in a survey of Kiel. Results are presented in Figure 2.4(a), which shows how people in Kiel prioritise items relevant to food-shopping, shortly after a major scandal over battery eggs in 1996. Animal welfare as represented by “appropriate husbandry” is rated highest. However, relevance of these data for shopping behaviour needs to be questioned, since social responses appear important. This is indicated by e.g. the low priority given to ”brand name” (ZIEHLBERG/ALVENSLEBEN, 1998, p. 203).
What role does animal welfare and agriculture play in people’s political priorities? Results from the mentioned survey in Kiel, 1996 are displayed in Figure 24(b). Among a set of ten political issues, only development aid was regarded as less urgent than animal welfare31 and agriculture. On the other hand, „animal welfare“ received about half the points of “immigration”, a problem which stirred up much of German politics in recent years (but which might now be perceived as solved to some extend).
Figure 2.4(b): Priorities for political action - Kiel, 1996
Question: I am presenting you cards with important political problems in our society. (...) Please select and rank the five most important problems. Aggregation of answers: the first priority of each person received 6 points, the second 4, the third 3, the fourth 2 and the fifth 1. For each of the ten items figure 2 shows the share of total points given.
Source: unpublished results of INSTITUT FÜR AGRARÖKONOMIE; LEHRSTUHL FÜR AGRARMARKETING (1996), Kiel, summer 1996, n = 387.
Finally, data on stated priorities for agriculture are available (Fig.2.4(c)). EMNID (1997) asked a sample to judge importance of the following given tasks for agriculture:
1. deliver regional products to people,
2. appropriate husbandry (rearing and feeding),
3. environmentally friendly production of agricultural produce like wheat, potatoes and sugar-beet.
Figure 2.4(c): Important tasks for agriculture
Source: EMNID (1997), table 8, p. 121, representative sample (n = 1919) of German population;
numbers refer to the percentage of individuals who regard an item as “very important”.
„Appropriate husbandry“ was seen to be most important, no major differences between new and old counties were found. Compared to men, women felt the issue to be more important, which also holds for people aged 30 - 44. The ordering of items is interesting as all items might be positively biased by social answering to some degree.
Under conditions of low involvement and information overload, consumers might not consciously and laboriously evaluate their priorities in a shopping situation. They will behave more habitually or spontaneously. Thus conscious priorities could loose and simple topicality might gain importance (KROEBER-RIEL, 1993). What ,then, is the relative topicality of animal welfare related issues in the context of husbandry and agriculture?
A comparison of findings by INFRATEST (1973, sample of old counties) and ALVENSLEBEN/WERNER (1980, sample of Hannover) gives some indications. Both inquired into what people recollected from what they had recently seen or heard about German agriculture (open questions, multiple answers). Whereas in 1973 problems like “factory farming and agrochemicals” were quite unimportant, 14% of respondents mentioned these in 1980. Likewise, more people in 1980 (73%) than in 1973 (27%) came up with an agricultural item.
The general trend is confirmed by MTC semi-structured interviews undertaken with German meat-eating women aged 25-55 (n = 300) in 1982: 88% stated to have come across information on rearing and keeping animals. Only 2% interpreted these in a positive way (although meat itself was then still perceived positively). Some women gave very emotional accounts of cruel practices.
ZIEHLBERG/ALVENSLEBEN (1998) asked people in Kiel in summer 1996 what they had heard about food in the media.33 92% remembered “BSE or swine fever”, 58% “appropriate husbandry” and 49% “health issues” related to genetic engineering, salmonella and hormones. In a sample by EMNID (1997, n = 1919, Germany, given answers) 81% of interviewees stated to have repeatedly come across information about “cruel animal transport” (West: 82.6%, East: 75.2%; men: 78.9%, women 83.1%).
All this suggests, that awareness and concern about animal welfare issues has risen over the past 25 and especially during more recent years. Women seem more aware than men, people in the West more than people in the East. Like in the theory of agenda setting, the media and especially media coverage of certain scandals appear to be important for determining topicality of specific issues. Awareness of agricultural issues as a whole has risen. Animal welfare issues within agriculture are more clearly perceived.
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