Beliefs About Fishes and Chickens & Their Relation to Animal-Positive Behaviors in Brazil
Animals raised for food generally receive significantly less attention and funding than companion animals (Faunalytics, 2019). In Brazil, as in most countries, small-bodied animals like chickens and fish are killed in particularly massive numbers: over six billion chickens and over 700,000 tonnes of fishes were slaughtered in Brazil in 2018 alone (Faunalytics, 2020). The Brazilian government has enacted a number of progressive protections for domesticated and wild animals, but has not passed legislation that lays out protections specific to egg-laying hens, broiler chickens, or fishes raised for food (World Animal Protection, 2020). As a result of the lack of detailed regulations, Brazil receives a “D” grade for its protection of animals used in farming from World Animal Protection.
While a number of studies show that many Brazilians have a preference for farm production systems that give animals greater freedom, less is known about the relationship between beliefs about farmed animals and willingness to take pro-animal actions (Yunes et al, 2017; Vargas-Bello-Perez et al, 2017). This study replicates our study of U.S. beliefs about fishes and chickens to better understand which beliefs the Brazilian public has about small-bodied animals, as well as how these beliefs are related to animal-positive behaviors. Specifically, we examined the relationships between various beliefs and a willingness to reduce consumption of chickens or fishes and to sign a petition calling for improved living and slaughter conditions. Documenting these associations is a first step toward understanding beliefs and attitudes that drive pro-animal behavior in Brazil. The findings presented in this report may also prove useful to animal advocates who are seeking to target a Brazilian audience more effectively.
- About 70% of people signed a fish or chicken welfare petition. Advocates may find that many people are willing to provide their signature for improved conditions without needing to be convinced of the initiative’s importance. People were also slightly more willing to sign a welfare petition than to pledge to reduce their fish or chicken consumption.
- A majority of people committed to reduce their consumption of fish or chicken, with more people taking the fish diet pledge. More than 60% of people pledged to eat less fish and just over half pledged to eat less chicken. These findings suggest that advocates seeking dietary change may have considerable success even with limited messaging highlighting the benefits of such a change.
- Some pro-animal beliefs are already common, but there is room for raising awareness on other topics. For example, large majorities recognize the importance of air and water quality to chickens and fishes. However, less than half of people recognized that fish are capable of positive emotions, and nearly three out of four people believed that chickens act mostly out of instinct. More commonly held beliefs likely do not require more information and can be invoked as necessary, but additional advocacy focused on less commonly held beliefs could increase the frequency of pro-animal beliefs among the public.
- Several fish-related beliefs were identified as potentially effective targets for advocates working on dietary pledges to reduce fish consumption. The beliefs that had the largest correlations with signing a pledge were that many fish farms have horrible living conditions, that fish can feel pain, and that fish can feel negative emotions like fear. The belief that fish have no personality was associated with less likelihood of taking the pledge.
- The beliefs that had the largest correlations with fish welfare petition signatures were that fish can feel pain, that fish need room to explore and exercise, and that fish can feel positive emotions like pleasure. Advocates working on petitions for fish welfare may want to incorporate these themes in their messaging and presentation.
- The beliefs that had the largest correlations with signing a pledge to reduce chicken consumption were that chickens need room to explore and exercise, that most chickens are raised inhumanely, that chickens can bond with humans, and that many chicken farms have horrible living conditions. Those trying to get people to reduce their consumption of chicken may wish to focus on these themes.
- The beliefs that had the largest correlations with chicken welfare petition signatures were that chickens need room to explore and exercise and that most chickens are raised inhumanely. Advocates working on corporate campaigns may find messaging around these beliefs leads to an increase in petition signatures for chicken causes.
- Try messaging around the top beliefs to see if you can improve your advocacy efforts. Based on these findings, messaging around emotions, suffering, and personality will likely lead to the best results, even outside the context of diet pledges and welfare petitions. Slightly different beliefs were also important for each animal and each outcome. Therefore, we’d suggest focusing on the strongest messages in each group of beliefs, trying them out, and keeping track of their effectiveness in order to get the best results!
- Don’t be afraid to ask. These findings suggest that the Brazilian public is already fairly open to taking consumption reduction pledges and signing petitions for improved animal welfare. You may see a significant amount of pro-animal behavior simply by asking if people would consider it.
- Try stacking your asks. People were more likely to agree to sign a petition than to take a diet pledge to reduce their consumption. If you have interest in both outcomes, try asking for the petition signature first, and then go for a diet pledge after they’ve signed the petition. This may help increase diet pledges due to something known as “behavior consistency”—people generally want to be consistent in what they do, so following one successful ask with another related ask may increase uptake. Be careful to avoid overloading people with requests, though.
- Explore the results from other countries and check back for more recommendations as our program of research focusing on chickens and fishes continues. We have also examined these beliefs in other countries, including the U.S., Canada, China, and India. We will also be using experimental research to provide stronger recommendations about how these beliefs can be leveraged to alter behaviors. Although we have provided preliminary recommendations in this report, an experimental comparison of the most common and strongly associated beliefs is needed to see which can be used most effectively. This research will focus on the U.S., but may have implications for future research in Brazil. Stay tuned for more from our line of research into small-bodied animals!
This project is a collaboration between researchers at Faunalytics and Mercy For Animals (MFA): namely, Zach Wulderk, Jo Anderson, and Tom Beggs of Faunalytics and Courtney Dillard, Walter Sanchez-Suarez, and Sebastian Quaade of MFA. We are indebted to Meredith Hui, Rashmit Arora, Diogo Fernandes, and Vitor Clemente for their assistance with linguistic and cultural translation, and to Cristina Mendonça, Meredith Hui, and Nikunj Sharma for their invaluable feedback.
We’d like to thank the CEA Animal Welfare Fund, the Culture and Animals Foundation, and an anonymous donor for funding this work, and the Tipping Point Private Foundation for funding the report translations.
This research is a replication of Faunalytics’ 2020 report Beliefs About Fish and Chickens & Their Relation to Animal-Positive Behaviors, which focused on U.S. adults’ beliefs about these small-bodied animals. For this project, we explored beliefs held by adults in Brazil. We translated Faunalytics’ previous survey for use with a Brazilian audience, and confirmed with experts that the questions were culturally relevant. On the advice of cultural advisors, we added two belief questions that were not part of the U.S. survey: “Fish/Chickens are easy to raise yourself” and “Fish/Chickens are aggressive.” These were added to reflect potential beliefs arising from the more common experience of raising chickens at home in Brazil. We examined 7 categories of beliefs: about emotions, suffering, personality, intelligence, socialness, consuming the animal, and an “other” category. There were several beliefs in each category, meaning the full list consisted of 35 beliefs about fishes and 34 beliefs about chickens.
We surveyed 1,126 Brazilian adults and randomly assigned them to either the fish or chicken version of the survey. We then asked them to rate their level of agreement or disagreement with each of the beliefs for their assigned animal. These surveys were conducted in Brazilian Portuguese, but results will be presented in English for consistency across reports. The survey instrument can be found in its original language on Open Science Framework.
We examined two key outcome measures in order to understand how much each belief was associated with important behaviors related to the welfare of each animal: willingness to take a diet pledge and willingness to sign a welfare petition. For the diet pledge outcome, each participant was asked if they would pledge to reduce their consumption of their assigned animal. For example, participants assigned the fish condition were shown a prompt that read, “In recent years, many people have begun to reduce how much fish they eat, a pattern that is expected to continue. Will you pledge to reduce your own fish consumption?” Those who agreed were then asked to specify the amount they would limit themselves to and to provide a digital signature for their commitment.
For the petition outcome, each participant was asked if they would sign a petition to improve the welfare of their assigned animal. For example, participants in the chicken condition were shown a prompt that read, “We would like to give you the opportunity to sign a petition that would encourage legal reforms to improve the lives of farmed chickens. Specifically, the petition is designed to build support for regulations that would ensure that chickens raised on farms would have improved living and slaughter conditions. Would you be willing to sign this petition?” Participants were able to respond with “yes please” or “no thanks.”
The diet pledge and petition questions were presented at the end of the survey, where they saw a prompt reading, “Great, thank you! Before you finish, we have a couple of quick requests for you. You don’t have to agree to either, but please answer each question.” We specified that respondents’ participation incentive did not rely on them committing to the diet pledge or signing the welfare petition. The two outcome measures were counterbalanced, meaning that half of the participants saw the diet pledge first and half saw the welfare petition first.
Throughout this report, we use the plural “fishes” rather than “fish” in order to acknowledge that we are discussing a collection of individuals. Exceptions are made for English translations of survey questions, which use the plural “fish” to reflect its usage by the majority of the English-speaking public. The appropriate Brazilian Portuguese wording was used for the survey when it was administered.
All top-line descriptive statistics were calculated using data weighted to match population values for gender, age, race, and region. However, as the differences between the weighted and unweighted data were not large, inferential statistics were calculated using unweighted data to avoid introducing additional sources of variance. Additional information on participant traits can be found in the Supplementary Materials.