Public Opinion On Animal Farming Shows Half In U.S. Want An End To Slaughterhouses
Many of us in animal advocacy have seen society’s attitudes towards animal agriculture and animal products change over time. Sometimes, such changes in attitudes may even surprise us.
The Sentience Institute recently conducted a survey of 1,094 United States adults to determine how people in the United States feel about animal agriculture as of October 2017, with the hopes of re-conducting the survey every 2-5 years. The respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with various statements. Researchers made predictions of how these responses would turn out so that they could later compare their expectations to the reality. After all, advocates often make assumptions about how people feel about an issue when designing campaigns, so it is useful to test whether those assumptions are accurate.
What they found was surprising. In general, respondents were more against animal agriculture and more receptive to plant-based foods than expected. For example, 47.4% of respondents agreed with banning slaughterhouses, 33% agreed with banning animal farming altogether, and 66.9% of respondents agreed that people should eat fewer animal-based foods and more plant-based foods. These results indicate that animal advocates may be able to push for stronger proposals and still have public support.
However, 97.5% of respondents felt that their diet is a “personal choice” and that “nobody has the right” to tell them whether or not to be vegetarian. Additionally, 75.4% of respondents thought that the animals they consumed were “treated humanely.” Researchers speculate that this result could be due to a lack public awareness of how farmed animals are actually treated, or due to respondents not wanting to accept that they have supported inhumane treatment of animals (due to their own cognitive dissonance).
The cognitive gap between a large proportion of respondents wanting to ban slaughterhouses but simultaneously eating meat is a problematic one. Likewise, more research is needed to determine why so many respondents think that the animals they eat have been treated humanely despite evidence to the contrary. Future research can compare the results of this 2017 survey to the results of surveys conducted in upcoming years. Additionally, future research can try to determine whether focusing advocacy campaigns on “slaughterhouses” as opposed to “animal farming” would be more effective.