Quantifying Attitudes Towards Animal Welfare
One of the biggest problems with educating people about the way their food is produced is finding a starting point. There is a deep disconnection between how people view agriculture – based on media and marketing – and how farmers and animals view it. In some ways, this disconnection has led to a blind faith in marketing claims that animal welfare is a top priority. In other ways, it’s led to a consumer distrust of commercial food production. In response to both, a growing number of people are taking an interest in where their food comes from.
The purpose of this study was to better understand how people on a large scale think about animal welfare issues and to see how they could be educated about agricultural practice. In this case, the bias was slanted towards the meat industry: the case study was based on a Massive Open Online Course entitled “The Meat We Eat,” which was delivered to over 20,700 students from 169 different countries. The bias in the course was evident in its description, to “create a more informed consumer about the quality, safety, healthfulness and sustainability of muscle foods,” with a secondary purpose of “improving the transparency of meat animal agriculture in the U.S. and internationally.” According to the researchers, the lectures “covered all aspects of muscle food production,” as well as nutrition and “issues which contribute to consumers limiting or eliminating meat from their diets.”
Students who took part were asked to complete a survey before and after the course, meant to gauge their general knowledge, their attitude toward the meat industry, slaughter, the need for slaughter transparency, and perceptions of the meat industry’s transparency. The results show that this type of online learning can have “exceptional impact on the attitudes of consumers worldwide.” In this case, the course seemed to improve people’s opinions of meat, but animal advocates should take note of this strategy and look into ways Massive Open Online Courses can be used as a tactic.