Thursday, January 7, 2016

More people concerned about animal welfare

Three times as many Canadians are concerned about animal welfare compared with two years ago, and they are more deeply disturbed than they used to be, says University of Guelph researcher Michael von Massow. report that he was “stunned” by his research results.

“Two years ago, animal welfare registered with only a small number of people, and most people said they didn’t consider it an issue,” said von Massow, an associate professor in the College of Business and Economics.

“Now, more people care…and they care more than they used to.”

Von Massow’s research involves about 2,000 people, and is carried out with support from the Tim Horton’s Sustainable Food Management Fund at the university.

Companies have been launching promotion campaigns based on hot-button topics such as hormones, steroids, sow gestation crates and cages for egg layers.

“Consumers inherently trust farmers, but they have no idea what farmers do on the farm,” he says.

“So, if consumers see a picture or a video of a certain farming practice that they don’t like, or something like animal abuse, that becomes their reality.”

Mercy for Animals has gained widespread publicity for underground videos it has prepared from footage captured by members who get hired by farmers.

In Canada, that has included the largest dairy located in British Columbia and global turkey-breeding company Hybrid Turkeys of Kitchener, Ont.

People are telling researchers such as von Massow and the rest of the farming industry that they want more information about agriculture and production practices, but they don’t know where to get it.

It is, in fact, easily available from Farming and Food Care which posts information and videos of modern farming setups on its website.

Yet reports on its website that “a huge opportunity exists for someone or some group to step forward and fill that void.”