Values of Australian Meat Consumers Related to Sheep and Beef Cattle Welfare: What Makes a Good Life and a Good Death?

Food Ethics 8 (1):1-17 (2022)
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There has been growing global interest in livestock animal welfare. Previous research into attitudes towards animal welfare has focused on Europe and the United States, with comparatively little focus on Australia, which is an important location due to the prominent position of agriculture economically and culturally. In this article, we present results from qualitative research on how Australian meat consumers conceptualise sheep and beef cattle welfare. The study was conducted in two capital cities (Melbourne, Victoria and Adelaide, South Australia) and a much smaller rural centre (Toowoomba, Queensland) using focus groups (involving 40.9% of participants) and mall-intercept interviews (59.1% of participants), totalling 66 participants. Qualitative analysis highlights that participants had clear ideas of what it means for an animal to live a ‘good life’ and experience a ‘good death,’ with their beliefs strongly tied to their expectations and cultural understandings of what Australian agriculture ‘should be.’ In response to open-ended questions, participants expressed attitudes that relied on romanticised visions of the ‘rural idyll’ as seen in frequent discussions about what is ‘normal’ for sheep meat and beef production, and relatedly, what count as ‘natural behaviours.’ Many participants rejected anything associated with the ‘other,’ classifying it as not ‘normal’: we argue that which is not considered normal, including intensive production, foreign ownership, and halal slaughter practices, appear to place participants’ conceptualizations of an animal’s ‘good death,’ and in turn the potential for a ‘good life,’ at risk.



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Rachel Allyson Ankeny
University of Adelaide

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