by SUSAN MANN
For consumers, animal welfare considerations are not just about the science, says University of Guelph Prof. Michael Von Massow.
Some consumers don’t necessarily care what the science says, he adds, noting animal welfare scientists will say a very humane way to euthanize a piglet is to grab it by the tail and “whack him on the concrete. It’s quick, painless and humane. But the average consumer doesn’t want to see that picture.”
Von Massow told delegates to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario annual meeting in Toronto last week “you can make the argument until you are blue in the face” that the approach is humane. But once consumers see it they don’t care about those scientific reasons. They’re just uncomfortable with that practice.
“The science tells us what we can do but it doesn’t tell us what we should do,” says Von Massow of the university’s college of management and economics.
Animal welfare isn’t “just about the science,” he notes. It is about managing consumers’ perceptions or making the case that “this is okay.”
Von Massow says consumers are becoming more interested in animal welfare but they don’t have a good understanding of farming practices “so there is this gap there right now. It’s important that we participate in that discussion” and inform consumers of how farmers do their jobs and “why it’s the right thing to do.”
But farmers shouldn’t just rely on falling back on the position that “the science says this works,” he explains. Consumers might just say they don’t care what the science says and that they don’t feel good “about that.” BF