Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Streamed Videos Not Panacea

Feedstuffs recently ran a nice story about an interview with Temple Grandin, where Temple argues for live-stream videos of farms to mitigate concerns about farm animal cruelty.

However, most of the concerns about farm animal welfare regard matters that such videos will not address. People are concerned about outright cruelty, such as throwing baby pigs around and kicking chickens, but such behavior is rare and people know it. The support for HSUS's recent intiatives have to do with animal housing, and videos of the typical farm would only garner MORE opposition to conventional housing.

My own research shows that when you show people how layers and hogs are raised they are not pleased. When I show pictures of the typical confinement farm, the majority of Americans express disapproval. Showing videos in addition to pictures will only make this disapproval worse.

The pursuit of public approval is not going to be achieved by bringing Americans into the typical confinement facility. All they will see are animals confined to cramped cages in an unenriched environment, and my survey and experimental work reveals that Americans are strongly opposed to such conditions.

Instead, if PR is all that matters, I would encourage farms to run videos and stories concentrating on the improvements they are making. Americans understand tradeoffs, and they respect efforts to improve animals' lot. Even if these improvements are made on a very small scale, it will make a much better impression on the consumer than showing them videos of layers and hogs in a cage just slightly larger than the animal itself. Then communicate to the consumer that these improvements will require their help (in the form of higher prices, but you don't need to say that, consumers know it). This makes the consumer an accessory to the current system, and consequently, more accepting to the system. Again, this is assuming only PR matters and animal industries do not want to improve animal welfare.

But if you start running videos of layer and hog facilities, you might as well send donations to HSUS as well.