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Husbandry practices are directly relevant to animal welfare. Perceptions of husbandry practices and animal welfare are therefore closely linked. Major public protests against factory farming in Germany began in the early seventies. Poultry keeping was of major concern to animal protectionists then. Mr. Grizmek coined the term „KZ-Hühner“8 for hens confined in cages without daylight.
To the knowledge of the authors, attitudes towards husbandry practices have not been looked at by German market research until the early eighties. Surveys covered the issue more often in the nineties. This might reflect how concerns of consumers, business and politics developed.
Does increasing concern mirror deteriorating husbandry practices with respect to animal welfare? This view is supported by an absolute majority of respondents in surveys of Kiel (1993) and the old counties of Germany (1997)9. Results are shown in Tab. 2.2.1 (a). In both years an absolute majority believed that “animals today are kept less appropriate than in former times”. Whether the perceptions are correct or just a romantic distortion of the past, must be left open here.
The two samples were drawn from different sample spaces. Therefore one cannot infer from the data that people in 1997 ( = sample of old counties) felt less bad about today’s agriculture than in 1993 ( = sample of medium size city Kiel). This critique should generally be kept in mind when results of surveys of different sample spaces are compared. Considering data presented in this paper, explanations other than a decline in consumer concern about animal welfare seem more likely. An alternative explanation is e.g. that rural and urban people have differing perceptions and experiences of husbandry practices.10
Factory farming („Massentierhaltung“), a term with negative connotations, is widely used to describe current husbandry practices. A clear bias in public opinion against factory farming is documented by the statements summarised in Tab. 2.2.1 (b): An overwhelming majority in 1984 and 1995 expressed moral reservations. In response to an open question in 1988 “inappropriate, unnatural” and “cruel to the animals” were the most important perceived public arguments against factory farming. Young people seem to have even stronger opinions than others: nearly 90% in a sample from 1990 regarded factory farming as “inappropriate” and thus saw animal welfare reduced. 45% of people in 1996 agreed to the statement, that factory farming is as bad as slavery.
Concern about animal welfare dominates attitudes about factory farming and large flocks, which in 1994 are not seen necessary to supply (inexpensive) animal products (see Tab. 2.2.1 (c)). At the same time self-interest is seen threatened: 64% of respondents in a survey in 1997 saw a link between poor animal welfare and BSE.
The German term “Massentierhaltung”12 implies that flock size is a critical point about modern farming. Views, however, are complex: a relative majority of 44% in 1997 did not see large flocks as a sufficient condition for poor animal welfare. Size nevertheless is an important point of criticism, as is established by other findings summarised in Tab. 2.2.1 (d). Interviewees admitted to „dislike growing size of flocks” in Kiel, 1994. EMNID (1992, 1997) suggest that criticism of large flock sizes increased in the nineties.
Views seem less clear in response to a more complex question posed by EMNID in 1982: „How should farmers act in order to supply food at acceptable prices and at the same time not pollute the environment or threaten human health etc.?“13 57% of the sample then suggested to keep large flocks. On the other hand, 80% wanted “lots of small family farms” and only 18% suggested “few industrially organised big farms”.
Fig. 2.2.1 shows which size of flocks for pigs and cattle is presumed too large in 1992 and 1997. People admit to slightly larger flocks for pigs than for cattle. Furthermore; it is suggested here, that criticism of large flocks increased more for cattle than for pigs. Yet, public perception seems quite in contrast to actual needs, since cattle prefer larger flocks more than pigs (given enough space).
Beyond which size are flocks presumed too large?
Source: EMNID (1992), n = 2058, EMNID (1997), n = 1919, representative samples of adult German population older than 14.
Poultry keeping has been a major subject in the German debate over intensive animal farming from the beginning. The earliest survey results are available for 1983, when people overwhelmingly agreed battery farming to be inferior to barn keeping in terms of animal health (Tab. 2.2.1 (e)). At the same time battery systems were supposed to be superior in productivity and hygiene. Fifteen years later, respondents in a survey of Kiel nearly unanimously believed hens on battery farms to suffer and to be permanently injured. The high degree of unanimity might be due to scandals over the large scale poultry farmer Anton Pohlmann. These received a lot of media attention in Germany after 1994.
A qualitative study conducted at Kiel by SIES (1997) (n = 30) employed various association-tests15 to assess people’s attitudes, thoughts and feelings undistorted of social answering effects (see also SIES/MAHLAU, 1997). The sample was selected to present a good variety of people.
People came up with only three positive associations in response to the neutral catchword “animal husbandry”. 40 out of 60 possible answers were clearly negative (Tab. 2.2.2). Nearly all of the negative associations were related to aspects of animal welfare. Results for the neutral catchword “poultry keeping” are similar. In a further test people were given two pictures, one showing crammed pig pens, another cows on a pasture (see the appendix). These results, too, indicate public disapproval of factory farming - not only rationally but also emotionally.
The bad image of factory farming and concern about animal welfare is directly reflected in an overwhelming support for the prohibition of factory farming in 1990 and 1992 (Tab. 2.2.3). Consumers of organically produced meat even almost unanimously support prohibition. This reflects how strong feelings are.
Results do not imply precise policy recommendations. Besides possible social response effects, trade-offs with other issues are neglected. Trade-offs might be important as suggested by a survey of Kiel in 1996 when respondents ranked eight out of ten political issues to be more important than animal welfare (compare section 2.4.1). Furthermore, since only fairly general political attitudes were measured in Tab. 2.2.3, the correlation with concrete political action, like voting, is likely to be low. This is suggested by the compatibility principle (AJZEN, 1988 and AJZEN, FISHBEIN, 1977 quoted in EAST 1997).
“Stricter surveillance of husbandry practices, animal transport, ...” and “compulsory labelling of battery eggs” receive only little less support than “prohibition”. This again indicates that people strongly feel “something ought to be done” rather than suggest a specific policy measure. At least it has so far not been strictly established, which of various policy options people prefer.
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