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BIOETHICS SYMPOSIUM II: current factors influencing perceptions of animals and their welfare

By M. G. S. McKendree, C. C. Croney, N. J. O. Widmar

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To address escalating concerns about livestock animal care and welfare it is necessary to better understand the factors that may predispose people to develop such concerns. It has been hypothesized that experiences with, beliefs about, and emotional connections to animals may influence level of perceived obligation toward and therefore concern for animals. However, the extent to which people's classifications of animals and their status as pet owners may impact their views on food animal care and welfare practices remains unclear. An online survey of 798 U.S. households was therefore conducted in June 2012 to understand differences in consumer sentiment towards various animal species, classification of certain species (as pet, livestock or neither), and variations in food animal welfare concerns between dog and/or cat owners and those who do not own such species. Sixty-six percent of households in the survey owned at least 1 animal. Forty-eight percent owned dogs, 41% owned cats, 3% owned horses, and 10% owned other animals. As expected, dogs and cats were classified by most respondents (90%) as pets. Most respondents similarly categorized rabbits (58%) and horses (55%) as pets, although consensus was not found for horses with 27% classifying them as livestock animals and 18% as neither pets nor livestock. Over 80% of respondents classified beef cows, dairy cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys as livestock. The majority of survey respondents were opposed to eating cats and dogs followed closely by horses due to ethical and/or spiritual reasons. Dog and/or cat owners more often reported having a source for animal welfare information (68%) than those who did not own these species (49%). Additionally, dog and/or cat owners were more concerned about food animal welfare for both domestically raised food animals and those raised outside the United States (dog and/or cat owners mean level of concern was 3.88 for domestic animal welfare and 5.16 for those raised outside the United States compared with non-dog or -cat owners with means of 4.46 and 5.46, respectively). Although a causal relationship cannot be established, pet ownership and increased concern for food animal welfare appear to be correlated. These data suggest that increased interest in protecting food animals may stem from interactions with and emotional connections to pets, especially when combined with other factors such as having a source for animal welfare information, education level, age, and gender.

Publication Title Journal of Animal Science
Volume 92
Issue 5
Pages 1821-1831
ISBN/ISSN 0021-8812
DOI 10.2527/jas.2014-7586
Language English
Author Address Department of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Animal welfare
  3. APEC countries
  4. Attitudes
  5. Birds
  6. Bovidae
  7. Canidae
  8. Canine
  9. Carnivores
  10. Cats
  11. Cattle
  12. Classification
  13. Developed countries
  14. Dogs
  15. Domestic animals
  16. Education
  17. Emotions
  18. Ethics
  19. Events
  20. Fowls
  21. Horses
  22. Households
  23. Interactions
  24. Lagomorpha
  25. Leporidae
  26. Livestock
  27. Mammals
  28. Meat animals
  29. North America
  30. OECD countries
  31. peer-reviewed
  32. Pets and companion animals
  33. Pigs
  34. Poultry
  35. rabbits
  36. Ruminants
  37. Suiformes
  38. surveys
  39. turkeys
  40. ungulates
  41. United States of America
  42. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed