Beliefs About Fishes and Chickens & Their Relation to Animal-Positive Behaviors in Canada
Animals raised for food generally receive significantly less attention and funding than companion animals (Faunalytics, 2019). In Canada, as in most countries, small-bodied animals like chickens and fish are killed in particularly massive numbers: Over 770 million chickens were slaughtered in 2019 and nearly 840 thousand tonnes of fishes were slaughtered in 2018 in Canada alone (Faunalytics, 2020). Unfortunately, the welfare of these animals is not well-protected by Canadian law. The federal government does not regulate farming practices to guarantee animal welfare, instead opting for a system of de facto industry self-regulation (World Animal Protection, 2020). Due to the resulting standards, Canada receives a “D” grade for its protection of animals used in farming from World Animal Protection.
Despite fishes and chickens constituting a huge proportion of farmed animals, little is known about public attitudes toward these animals in Canada. This study replicates our study of fish and chicken beliefs in the U.S. to illuminate which beliefs the Canadian public has about small-bodied animals, and 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. Answering these questions is a first step toward understanding beliefs and attitudes that drive pro-animal behavior in Canada. The findings presented in this report may also prove useful to animal advocates who are seeking to target a Canadian audience more effectively.
- People were more likely to sign the petition than to take the dietary pledge. People were more likely to sign a petition that calls for welfare reforms than to take a diet pledge to reduce their own consumption of fish or chicken. Fewer than half of people were willing to take any of these pro-animal actions.
- The beliefs that had the largest correlations with signing a pledge to reduce fish consumption were that fish can feel positive emotions like pleasure, that fish are loving, that big fish farms are gross, and that fish are more intelligent than they are given credit for. Focusing advocacy efforts on bolstering these fish-related beliefs may be the most effective way to obtain dietary pledges to reduce consumption.
- The beliefs that had the largest correlations with fish welfare petition signatures were that fish can feel positive emotions like pleasure and that fish can learn. 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 are loving, that chickens play, that chickens are beautiful, and that most chickens are raised inhumanely. 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 are more intelligent than people give them credit for and that chickens can bond with humans. 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, personality, intelligence, and socialness 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!
- 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., Brazil, 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 Canada. 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 small-bodied animals. For this project, we explored beliefs held by adults in Canada. 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 33 beliefs about fishes and 32 beliefs about chickens.
We surveyed 1,339 Canadian 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. The survey instrument can be found 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 verbatim references to the survey instruments, which used the plural “fish” because it is more common among the general public.
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.