November 29, 2021

Can you hear me now? How to improve animal welfare communication

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — When communicating about animal agriculture, you need to be aware of misinformation, where people get information, personal ethics and social dynamics, said Candace Croney.

Croney, director of the Center for Animal Welfare Science at Purdue University, was a keynote speaker at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Virtual Stakeholders Summit.

“Part of the problem is we have scientists competing with other sources of information, not all of which is good,” she said. “So, there’s a lot of misinformation out there.

“We’re also faced with the problem of polarization. Many people will have their own biases, their own information, their own experience that they’re bringing to a topic.”

Many in animal agriculture have made significant investments on this topic over the last few years, Croney said.

Despite investments, visibility and credibility on animal welfare seem questionable.

“We published a study several years ago on where people in the U.S. go to get information on animal welfare,” Croney said. “The majority of people told us they had no source they could identify on the topic.”

There are a number of credibility deficits and disconnects that we have to overcome in animal agriculture when we’re talking about welfare, she said.

“When we talk about animals, we’re often talking about care practices,” she said. “That’s husbandry. What people are looking for us to address is caring about, specifically, the animals and the experiences they’re having. This is a wonderful opportunity to talk about ethics and empathy. But it’s one we sometimes drop the ball on.”

The majority of people in the American public eat animal products and want to continue to eat animal products, Croney said.

What they want to know, at the end of the day, is have those animals had a good life?

Are they happy and comfortable? Are they healthy? Are they pain free? Are they treated well?

“People don’t care how much you know about the topic until they know how much you care,” Croney said. “We need to show why it matters how we treat animals, outside of production practices and benefits.”

Connections with consumers should start with shared values that conversations about welfare can be built off of, she said.

Main Takeaways

How can you communicate effectively on animal welfare?

• Share your vision and values.

• Empower people to act.

• Address credibility and trust deficits.

• Connect the dots on animal welfare tradeoffs.

• Bridge disconnects on notions of animal welfare.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor