How Does Video Outreach Impact Pork Consumption?
Many animal advocacy groups educate the public about the horrors of factory farming through the use of video outreach. The goal, of course, is to change people’s attitudes toward eating animal products, and to spur them to reduce or eliminate those products from their diet. However, few organizations have rigorously tested their videos’ effectiveness in changing minds and behavior. Animal Equality and Faunalytics (with support from Statistics without Borders) have now conducted a study to do exactly that.
Over 3,000 people from Animal Equality’s typical college outreach audience participated: These were individuals on 35 US college campuses on the east and west coasts, many of them students. This study was a cluster randomized controlled trial (in other words, an experiment with a control group). Depending on the day they approached the Animal Equality booth on their campus, participants who agreed to complete the study either used a tablet to watch a video showing the day-to-day life of pigs in factory farms and slaughterhouses, watched the same video using a 360-degree, virtual-reality headset, or did not watch a video.
In all three conditions, participants then answered a short questionnaire that asked demographic questions as well as whether they think it is important to minimize pork consumption and whether eating pork contributes to the suffering of pigs. Most importantly, one month later, we re-contacted participants and asked them those same questions plus another one: how much pork they ate over the month since the study.
In a nutshell, the results presented a consistent picture of the two videos (360 and 2-dimensional) as effective advocacy tools. Compared to the control condition, participants who watched either video had stronger anti-pork attitudes immediately after watching and one month later. Most importantly, the videos had the desired effect on pork consumption: Relative to the control condition, participants who saw one of the videos ate marginally less pork. For example, 38% of people who watched the 360-degree VR video and 37% of people who watched the 2D video said they hadn’t eaten any pork at all in the last month, versus 33% of people in the control group.
The results support a likely process by which Animal Equality’s videos produce behavior change over time. Having more anti-pork attitudes right after watching a video was associated with eating less pork over the subsequent month. This suggests that watching a video about farmed pigs has the desired effect of making the average person’s attitudes more anti-pork, and that that attitude shift leads them to reduce their pork consumption.
It is important to note that the results described held true when we statistically controlled for socially desirable responding—people’s tendency to say what they think the researcher wants to hear. Therefore, we can be reasonably confident that the difference in pork consumption cannot simply be attributed to biased reporting. If you are interested in the study’s methodology, the full report (as well as the full dataset) provides more detail about social desirability concerns, as well as our other procedures, methods, and limitations.
A huge amount of work also went into designing and pilot testing the methodology and measures for this study. This involved the coordination of dozens of staff and volunteers from three organizations over more than a year. The details of that lengthy but rewarding process may provide valuable insight to other groups considering large-scale field studies. They are conveyed in our research design document, which was largely written and managed by Faunalytics’ former research director, Kathryn Asher. Please note that this is a legacy document, started when planning for the first pilot study began and last updated just prior to data collection for the main study.
In a related blog post, Faunalytics research director Jo Anderson describes the many challenges of this study, and passes on some key lessons learned.