Animals, Food, and Technology Survey 2020
The Sentience Institute has release the 2020 update of its Animal, Food, and Technology (AFT) survey. The nonprofit Institute researches long-term social and technological change, with the intended focus of expanding our moral circle. The concept of a “moral circle” comes from philosophy and refers to the imaginary boundary we draw around those we consider worthy of moral consideration. The Institute envisions a future in which sentience, and thus the ability to suffer, is the only criterion for moral worth. To that end, the Institute conducts research such as the AFT survey and shares the results with other interested parties.
The 2020 update is the third iteration, tracking U.S. attitudes towards animal farming and alternatives to animal foods. The Institute first conducted the survey in 2017 and repeated it in 2019. The 2020 respondent profile of 1,113 U.S. adults matched the U.S. census demographics for age, gender, region, ethnicity, and income. Survey topics included:
- Discomfort with the animal agriculture industry
- Treatment of animals on factory farms and their ability to feel pain
- Importance of factory farming as a social issue
- Support for a ban on animal farming
- Willingness to help farmed animals either financially or through legislative support
- Beliefs about and support for plant-based foods
Consistent with prior results, 71.5% of survey respondents feel some discomfort with industrial animal agriculture. Nine out of 10 (91.7%) believe animals feel pain in roughly the same way as humans. Just under half (48.5%) view animal farming as one of the most important social issues today. Indeed, a slight majority (50.7%) support radical policy changes such as banning factory farming, and 35.6% would like to see an end to all animal farming..
Unfortunately, other results highlight how disconnected the public is with the realities of animal agriculture. Participants thought that only 68.7% of animals come from factory farms (the actual figure is closer to 99%). Almost two-thirds (62.2%) believe that animals are treated well. And eight out of 10 (80.1%) reported that the meat and dairy they consume came from humanely treated animals. At the same time, two-thirds (65.6%) say that people should consume fewer animal products. Perhaps most discouragingly, almost all (95.5%) believe that eating animals is a personal choice.
Younger and more left-leaning respondents, along with those identifying as veg*n reported greater animal farming opposition (AFO) and animal farming alternative support (APS). Women also reported more AFO but not APS. And education and income were positively associated with AFS but not AFO.
Obviously, there are a lot of contradictions in the data, and people are still woefully uninformed about the realities of animal agriculture. Perhaps animal advocates can take heart from the fact that over 70% of participants are uncomfortable with animal farming, and two-thirds think we should eat more plant-based foods. While it’s clear we are reaching people, we still have a long way to go to bridge the gap between changing hearts and minds and changing behavior.