Attitudes of consumers towards the welfare of farmed animals

By the European Commission - This survey focus's particularly on the attitude of consumers to the welfare and protection of farmed animals. The survey has been carried out by TNS Opinion & Social, interviewing 24 708 citizens in the 25 Member States of the European Union between 9 February and 20 March 2005.
calendar icon 19 July 2005
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Table of contents


Click here to read the full PDF The welfare of farmed animals
  1. Knowledge of farms where animals are reared
  2. Opinion on the protection of farm animals
    1. Laying hens
    2. Dairy cows
    3. Pigs
  3. Species to be protected as a priority
Purchasing behaviour and farmed animal welfare
  1. Thinking about animal welfare when purchasing
  2. Identification of rearing systems
  3. Buying
  4. Impact of purchasing behaviour on animal welfare
  5. Are consumers prepared to pay more for a better welfare for laying hens?
Animal welfare at the European level
  1. Perceptions of existing legislation
    1. The transport of farmed animals
    2. The slaughter of farmed animals
    3. The conditions under which animals are kept on farms
  2. Comparative perceptions of animal welfare
  3. The welfare and protection of farmed animals in the European Union
Conclusion Annexes
Technical specifications


European Union policy for food safety aims, among other things, at ensuring a high level of food quality, animal health as well as animal welfare and protection. The Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force in May 1999, establishes new fundamental rules for the European Union's animal protection measures in the "Protocol on protection and welfare of animals". It officially recognises that animals are sentient beings and requires the European Institutions and Member States to give full regard to the welfare requirements of animals in formulating and implementing Community legislation.

The new Treaty establishing a Constitution for the European Union, signed on 29 October 2004 by the heads of States and Governments of the 25 Member States as well as the three candidate countries, also undertakes to ensure the protection of animals.

That is the background against which this survey, focusing more particularly on the attitude of consumers to the welfare and protection of farmed animals, was commissioned by the European Commissionfs Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General. The survey has been carried out by TNS Opinion & Social, interviewing 24 708 citizens in the 25 Member States of the European Union between 9 February and 20 March 2005. The methodology used is that of Eurobarometer surveys as carried out by the Directorate General for Press and Communication (Unit for Opinion Polls, Press Reviews, Europe Direct). A technical note on the manner in which interviews were conducted by the Institutes within the TNS Opinion & Social network is in the annex of this report. This note indicates the interview methods and the confidence intervals.

This report tackles the following themes in turn:

  • the welfare of farmed animals,
  • purchasing behaviour and the welfare of farmed animals,
  • and animal welfare at the European level.
For each of these points, we analyse the results in terms of the European average and we then consider the breakdown of results by country and by socio-demographic variables1 .

Furthermore, we have systematically cross-analysed the responses to all the questions with additional classification variables, i.e.:
  • question 1, on the frequency with which respondents purchase food for the household,

  • question 2, regarding the frequency of meat consumption,

  • question 3, on the frequency with which meat is purchased with animal welfare in mind.

  • question 4, on the frequency of visits of animal rearing farms,

  • question 5, concerning farm animals for which the welfare should be most improved,

  • question 6, regarding the identification on the label of the animal welfare friendly production systems,

  • question 7, concerning the impact of buying animal welfare friendly products on the protection/ welfare of farm animals,

  • question 8, more specifically, on the rating of the welfare of laying hens, dairy cows and pigs,

  • question 9, the source of eggs,

  • question 10, concerning the price premium the respondent would be willing to pay for eggs sourced from an animal welfare friendly production system.

1 All the tables can be found in the annexes. New rounding methods were adopted during this survey, the figures shown may differ by a point with the sum of individual cells. It is should also be noted that the total percentages given in the tables to this report may exceed 100% where respondents were able to give several responses to a single question.

1.2.3. Pigs: Less clear-cut opinion on the welfare of pigs

The analysis by country also reveals contrasting opinions about the welfare of pigs, although these are less clear-cut than in the case of the other two animal species. In 10 Member States, a majority of respondents think that the welfare and protection of bred pigs is good (very good and fairly good). The Maltese (62%) and Finns (61%) seem to be the most optimistic in this respect. However the Danes (63% with negative opinions) and Slovaks (62%) are particularly critical on this subject.

The non-response rate is high in many countries. It is over 25% in Latvia (33%), Ireland (27%) and Lithuania (26%). We could presume that this is due to a lack of awareness about the real conditions in which pigs are reared. Yet it is worth recalling that the frequency of farm visits in the Baltic States was above the EU 25 average.

Q8.3 In general, how would you rate the welfare/protection of the following farmed animals?

1.3. Species to be protected as a priority Source: question 5

After measuring the perceptions of respondents regarding the welfare of certain species, this third point aims to identify the farmed animals for which respondents thought that welfare and protection should be most improved.

The level of welfare of laying hens and broiler chickens to be improved as a priority

More than four in ten citizens of the European Union mention laying hens and chickens kept for meat production among the three species most needing improvements in terms of welfare and protection. Concerning the laying hens, this result is a logical consequence of the very critical perception that Europeans have regarding the welfare of this animal.

Pigs are mentioned in third place and dairy cows in fifth place by respectively 28% and 17% of respondents. These results seem, therefore, to confirm those analysed at point 1.2., i.e. the perceived better rearing conditions of these last two species.

On the whole, we can also note that 58% of the respondents cited three species while 12% mentioned two species and 8% cited one. It is also noteworthy that 12% of respondents stated that the welfare of all the species mentioned needed to be improved.

Q5 In your opinion, from the following list, for which three farm animals should the current level of welfare/protection be improved the most? (MAX. 3 ANSWERS)

The other species seem to concern respondents very little. Nevertheless, some exceptions exist: 28% of Slovenians and 26 % of Germans cited turkeys; 38% of Belgians mentioned ducks; 36% of Greeks stated farmed fish while 29% cited sheep; 44% of Poles mentioned horses (for more details please see table in the annex). We could imagine that these results are linked to country-specific factors, the lower consumption rates for these animals or their products, to their corresponding degree of rearing systems or to a lesser knowledge of these rearing systems.

The analysis by country (see graphs on next page) for the three species whose welfare and protection European Union citizens consider should be improved as a priority highlights significant differences in the rates at which this was mentioned in the different Member States.

c. Pigs

While pigs are mentioned appreciably less frequently than the two preceding species, they are nevertheless mentioned by a majority of Danes (60%), Dutch (52%) and Greek (50%) respondents. Fewer than one respondent in five in the United Kingdom (19%) and Italy (17%) mentioned pigs.

Further Information

To continue reading this report, please click here (138 page PDF)

Source: European Commission - June 2005

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