A Closer Look: BRIC Animal Welfare Attitudes
Despite a growing interest in farmed animal welfare, perceptions and laws vary across cultures. The “BRIC” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are rapidly increasing their production and consumption of animal products. In these emerging economies, studies suggest that consumers often value cost-friendliness over animal welfare.
This paper compared BRIC consumer attitudes on the trade-off between farmed animal welfare and cost. The authors aimed to inform global food and trade policies from a cross-cultural perspective, but the results can also inform global advocacy campaigns.
Data were obtained from four questions that were included in a 2018 Faunalytics study of attitudes towards farmed animals in the BRIC countries and the United States. Specifically, participants gave their individual attitude and the perceived attitude of other people from their country on the following statements:
- It is important that animals used for food are well cared for.
- Low meat prices are more important than the well-being of animals used for food.
The results showed similar trends in gender and age across cultures. Overall, women reported stronger pro-animal attitudes than men. Pro-animal attitudes tended to increase with age, and in general, younger people were more concerned about obtaining low-cost animal products than they were about farmed animal welfare. While the authors weren’t surprised by the gender differences in their findings, they noted that younger people tend to have a reputation for caring more about animals. Therefore, to rationalize their counterintuitive result, they pointed out that young people from the BRIC countries may not be able to afford higher-welfare products.
Despite being the world’s second-largest cow meat producer, Brazil showed the highest individual pro-animal attitudes. While Russian attitudes were slightly lower than those in Brazil, Russians reported the highest perceived national attitudes — in other words, Russian consumers tended to feel that other Russians cared deeply about animal welfare, even if they didn’t. One interesting finding was that youth in Russia tended to care more about animal welfare than older Russians, in contrast to the other countries.
India was the least supportive of animal welfare, and respondents valued low meat prices over animal welfare. Respondents in China were more neutral, and together with Indian respondents, they disagreed the most with the idea of increasing meat prices to benefit animals. However, there were prominent age differences in China — specifically, older Chinese respondents tended to be more supportive of animal welfare. While research has found that animal welfare knowledge is low in China, the authors made sense of India’s findings by pointing out that despite its cultural and religious traditions respecting animals, Western influence and a concern for human hunger may be shaping Indian attitudes.
In general, it appears that beliefs about farmed animal welfare vary among countries due to factors like cultural and religious differences, economic advances, and the state of animal welfare science. The authors argue that understanding these variations can help us establish more culturally-sensitive food and agricultural production laws. For advocates seeking to improve international animal welfare standards, it also helps to understand the sentiments of the consumers we’re trying to target — and to design campaigns that will meet each country where it’s at in terms of its animal welfare beliefs.