, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 645-658
Date: 21 Jul 2010

Farmer’s Response to Societal Concerns About Farm Animal Welfare: The Case of Mulesing

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Abstract

The study explored the motivations behind Australian wool producers’ intentions regarding mulesing; a surgical procedure that will be voluntarily phased out after 2010, following retailer boycotts led by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Telephone interviews were conducted with 22 West Australian wool producers and consultants to elicit their behavioral, normative and control beliefs about mulesing and alternative methods of breech strike prevention. Results indicate that approximately half the interviewees intend to continue mulesing, despite attitudes toward the act of mulesing being quite negative. This indicates that attitudes alone are unlikely to be good predictors of this goal directed behavior. Most respondents believed mulesing was more effective and involved less cost, time, and effort than the currently available alternatives to prevent breech strike. Further, they felt relatively little social pressure, as they believed few consumers were concerned about mulesing. However, they noted that if consumer sentiment changed they would likely change their practices. Thus, attitudes are likely to be only one of several factors influencing intentions to change farm practices to address societal concerns about animal welfare. Further, mulesing appears to be goal-directed behavior, suggesting that other factors depicted by the Model of Goal-directed Behavior (MGB; Perugini and Bagozzi In: Br J Soc Psychol, 40: 79–98, 2001) may be worth exploring in this context. Finally, these results provide insight into how policy makers may influence farmers to change practices in response to societal pressure for improving farm animal welfare.