Farmed Animal Suffering: How Do Brazilian Consumers Feel?
Connecting The Dots From Food To Farmed Animal Suffering
A rise in undercover reports, investigations, and scientific studies means that people around the world are more exposed to the cruelties of animal farming. However, these reports often focus on the factory farms themselves, rather than the food companies, supermarkets, and other companies that profit from animal agriculture.
Although some organizations and reports measure the animal welfare performance of food companies — such as the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare — many people are still unaware of, or disregard, the relationship between the food businesses they patronize (such as supermarkets) and the suffering of animals who make up the products they are consuming. This may be due to a range of reasons, including the misconception that animals raised on farms have no consciousness or sentience, or the distance between the processed animal product they’re consuming and the living being it came from.
To complicate things further, the price of animal products from farms that carry out the worst practices tends to be lower, which attracts the interest of consumers, especially in low-income countries such as Brazil. To understand the state of affairs in Brazil, a recent study conducted by the Datafolha Institute at the request of the non-profit organization Fórum Nacional de Proteção e Defesa Animal measured Brazilian consumers’ interest in farmed animal welfare — and whether supermarket brands should commit to offering products from farms that adopt measures to reduce animal suffering.
What Do The Results Suggest?
The results showed that nearly nine out of 10 Brazilians (88%) over 16 years of age care, to a greater or lesser extent, about the suffering of animals on farms. Of the 2,073 people included in the study, 64% indicated they care a lot, while 24% stated they care a little.
The study also found that the percentage of people who care about farmed animal welfare increases among the youngest of those surveyed — between 16 and 24 years of age (93%) — as well as among those who have higher education levels (90%) and fall into Brazil’s highest gross monthly income bracket (89%). Among those who said they don’t care about animal welfare (only 9% of the total sample), the majority were people aged 60 or over (14%), as well as those with an elementary school education (13%) and residents of the southern region of the country (13%).
Conducted between September 8-11, 2021, the questionnaire was answered by residents from all regions of the country, and initially selected those who usually shop at a supermarket. According to the study, 84% of respondents said that if they knew that an establishment sold products whose raw material came from a farm that mistreats animals, they would choose to shop elsewhere, as shown in the chart below.
This result reinforces the importance of public animal welfare commitments made by supermarkets. When consumers were asked about supermarket chains that do not yet have animal welfare commitments, 51% or more of consumers in every region of Brazil responded that they supported such chains making animal welfare commitments in the future.
Digging Into The 88% Who Care About Farmed Animal Welfare
The 88% of people who care about farmed animal welfare are mostly people between the ages of 16 and 43, women, and people who have completed high school. There is a common misconception that those who are financially disadvantaged do not have the means to purchase products that incorporate higher animal welfare — but people who earn lower incomes do not always choose the cheapest products. From this perspective, there is no excuse for wealthier individuals to avoid products that guarantee the welfare of animals.
Brazil Is A Large Meat Consumer. How Can We Explain This Paradox?
Meat consumption in Brazil follows cultural norms, with an average of 97.27 kg of meat per capita (excluding seafood and fish) consumption per year. While there is a growing awareness and concern about animal welfare, cultural norms are difficult to overcome.
As with many changes in habits, people often change their diet slowly: they may remove certain animals from their plate and, little by little, they begin to realize that their protein does not necessarily need to be of animal origin. However, even if habits start to change, agribusiness in Brazil has a great power to influence politics because many of the largest meat and egg producers also hold political positions, while other politicians receive major donations from donors linked to the farming industry. This helps factory farming executives get space in Brazilian media such as on television and radio channels, where they are able to deceive consumers with images of free animals and humans who work on family farms, not showing the reality in which the vast majority of farmed animals are kept and exploited.
How Can The Situation Improve?
People should have the opportunity to learn about the realities of animal breeding, rearing, and slaughter. Government agencies should encourage people to learn about the food they consume and where it comes from — with that, it will be possible to make Brazilian consumers aware that producers’ profits are not more important than the lives of the animals being exploited. Humane education that encompasses environmental and animal education should be mandatory in Brazilian schools, to help make people aware of the impacts of their eating habits early on in life. Governments, non-profits, academics, and responsible business leaders should come together to create measures that encourage the consumption of food from higher welfare operations, and from companies that recognize their responsibility to the planet, to humans, and to animals.
By pushing for these changes, animal advocates can help encourage a cultural shift where eating protein is not synonymous with eating animals — and where consumer decisions reflect the fact that animals feel pain, fear, and other emotions. Since it is not possible to change Brazilian diets overnight, our aim should be to make sure that farmed animals are at least guaranteed better lives in the meantime.
This research project sends an important message to Brazilian supermarket chains about consumer opinions and decision-making when it comes to animal welfare, especially in the egg and pork production chain specifically. Almost all respondents (95%) said they go to the supermarket from time to time — a finding that was slightly lower in the Northeast region (90%), among people who achieved an elementary school education (90%), and those in lower-income brackets (90%).
A majority of Brazilians said they care about the suffering of animals on farms, and many even stated that they would consider changing supermarkets if they became aware that their usual shop had no commitment to animal welfare. Brazilians from all regions stated that the supermarket brands presented in the survey should be committed to selling only products from farms that adopt measures to reduce the suffering of animals. This is a major step forward in a country where eating massive amounts of meat remains entrenched as a cultural norm.