A recent Ohio State University survey found that 92% percent of Ohioans say they agreed or strongly agreed that it is important for farm animals to be well cared for. Eighty-five percent said the quality of life for farm animals is important even when they are used for meat.
In addition, 81% agreed that "the well-being of farm animals is just as important as the well-being of pets," and 75% agreed with the statement that "farm animals should be protected from feeling physical pain."
Respondents with a more rural background were more utilitarian in their view of animals, weighing costs and benefits, while others gave more weight to emotional, moral and ethical concerns. Because larger proportions of Ohioans now live in urban areas, this finding could have consequences for the meat production industry, the researchers said.
More than half of survey respondents said they would pay more for meat, poultry, or dairy if it were labeled as coming from humanely treated animals. Of those, 43% said they would pay 10% more, and 12% said they would pay 25% more.
"As people become more aware of food issues, this is something the livestock sector needs to think about," said Jeff Sharp, a rural sociologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension. Changes in consumer attitudes could have economic consequences.
"The bottom line is that we may have a ways to go before we've figured out how to optimally balance consumer concerns and production demands to meet everyone's needs," Sharp says.
Despite strong support for animal welfare in general, respondents were divided on how they felt about using animals for some purposes. Survey results showed that 57% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that "Humans should be able to use animals for any purpose," with 22% agreeing with that statement and 21% undecided.
Public perception of animal role in organ transplants divided
Respondents were even more ambivalent when asked specifically about using animals to grow organs for human transplants. Forty percent were undecided on whether "it is acceptable to use animals to grow organs for humans." One-third agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, and 27% disagreed or strongly disagreed.
Currently, heart valves from pigs are routinely used in human heart surgeries. But the technology to allow full organ transplants from animals, such as livers from genetically modified pigs, is beginning to make headway.
"This is such a new concept, people haven't been able to determine how they feel about it," said Holli Kendall, a rural sociology doctoral student who is helping analyze survey results.
In addition, Sharp said that a majority (54%) of Ohioans said they were very concerned about the genetic modification of animals. Only 33% expressed a strong concern about the genetic modification of plants.http://www.agriculture.com/ag/story.jhtml?storyid=/templatedata/ag/story/data/agNews_050509crOHIO.xml