Attitudes of Canadian Pig Producers Toward Animal Welfare
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As part of a larger study eliciting Canadian producer and non-producer views about animal welfare, open-ended, semi-structured interviews were used to explore opinions about animal welfare of 20 Canadian pig producers, most of whom were involved in confinement-based systems. With the exception of the one organic producer, who emphasized the importance of a “natural” life, participants attached overriding importance to biological health and functioning. They saw their efforts as providing pigs with dry, thermally regulated, indoor environments where animals received abundant feed, careful monitoring and where prospective disease outbreaks could be minimized and controlled. Emphasis was also placed on low-stress handling and agreeable working conditions which were believed to promote good animal care. The fact that pigs tend to respond to such conditions with steady growth reinforced the belief that good welfare was provided. Participants supported the use of sow gestation stalls, but with some reservations, and expressed concern about welfare problems that could occur if sows were grouped. Invasive procedures (castration, tail-docking, teeth clipping) were recognized as painful but were accepted because they were seen as: (1) necessary for sales or management; (2) satisfactory trade-offs to prevent worse welfare problems such as injury or infection; or (3) sufficiently short-term to be relatively unimportant. Participants were adamantly opposed to animal neglect and some welcomed actions of animal protectionists that expose poor care. Producers also welcomed natural-science-based approaches to improving animal welfare. The findings contribute to a broader effort to identify overlapping values among different stakeholder groups as a basis for formulating mutually agreeable, farm animal care and handling polices.
KeywordsAnimal welfare Canada Attitudes Pigs Qualitative research Values
Funding for this study was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Animal Welfare Program and its donors. Valuable support and contacts were provided by Dr. Melody Chan, Dr. Egan Brockhoff, Dr. Chris Byra and Catherine Scovil. We also thank Dr. Tim Blackwell, Dr. Harold Gonyou, Dr. Tina Widowski, Bernie Peet, Barb Kosak, Don Davidson, Mark Fynn, Linda Kalof, Lorna Michael Butler and Robert Irwin. We also thank our anonymous reviewers for your valuable comments and suggestions. Special thanks to all participants who cannot be named for reasons of confidentiality but whose openness and warm hospitality made the study an enjoyable as well as an informative experience.
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