Scientists and Dutch Pig Farmers in Dialogue About Tail Biting: Unravelling the Mechanism of Multi-stakeholder Learning

  • Marianne Benard
  • Tjerk Jan Schuitmaker
  • Tjard de Cock Buning


Pig farmers and scientists appear to have different perspectives and underlying framing on animal welfare issues as tail biting and natural behaviour of pigs. Literature proposes a joint learning process in which a shared vision is developed. Using two different settings, a symposium and one-to-one dialogues, we aimed to investigate what elements affected joint learning between scientists and pig farmers. Although both groups agreed that more interaction was important, the process of joint learning appeared to be rather potentially dangerous for the farmer–scientist relationship. During the symposium, farmers were only moderately open for scientific knowledge and the issue of tail biting had the tendency to run into a deadlock. The setting was an influencing element for the degree of success, because the dialogues did lead to improved mutual trust and understanding of each other’s framing and context. Another element was the degree of usability and absoluteness of scientific facts. They were frequently not concrete enough, too uncertain or not relating to the context of the farmers. In addition, some scientific facts were not recognized by the farmers. Both groups appeared to react and argue from their praxis, including their local environment, way of living, handling and understanding their environment. These praxises appeared to function as a filter, influencing the way of observing the environment, inducing ‘blind spots’ and misunderstandings. Stepping in each other’s praxis might provide concrete and fusing insights, required to realize joint learning processes.


Science communication Social learning Dialogue Animal welfare Perceptions Conflict 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marianne Benard
    • 1
  • Tjerk Jan Schuitmaker
    • 1
  • Tjard de Cock Buning
    • 1
  1. 1.Athena Institute for Research on Innovation and Communication in Health and Life Sciences, Faculty of Earth and Life SciencesVrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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