Natural behavior, animal rights, or making money – a study of swedish organic farmers' view of animal issues

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 17 (2):157-179 (2004)
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Abstract

A questionnaire study was performed among Swedish organic livestock farmers to determine their view of animal welfare and other ethical issues in animal production. The questionnaire was sent to 56.5% of the target group and the response rate was 75.6%. A principal components analysis (exploratory factor analysis) was performed to get a more manageable data set. A matrix of intercorrelations between all pairs of factors was computed. The factors were then entered into a series of multiple regression models to explain five dependent variables. Respondents were well educated and had long experience of farming. 81% were full-time farmers. They generally had a very positive attitude towards organic animal husbandry. They considered allowing animals their natural behavior a central aim, which is in accordance with organic philosophy. Farmers tended to be less approving of concepts like animal rights, dignity, and intrinsic value. When analyzing correlations between the factors, two groups of farmers emerged that were only partially correlated, representing different attitudes and behavioral dispositions. These may be interpreted as two subpopulations of organic livestock farmers in Sweden: those who saw organic farming as a lifestyle (``pioneer attitude'''') and entrepreneurs, who considered making money and new challenges more important. Their view of animal welfare differed. While the pioneers considered natural behavior a key issue, this was less important to the entrepreneurs, who also had a more approving attitude towards invasive operations such as castration and were more critical of the organic standards.

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