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Brussels, 8 June 2005

Consumer attitudes to animal welfare: Main findings of the Eurobarometer survey

Factors influencing attitudes to animal welfare

Visits to farms appear to heighten awareness of and concern for animal welfare. The majority of those surveyed had visited a farm that rears animals at least once, with the highest proportion being in Scandinavia (90%) and the lowest in Portugal (29%) and Greece (34%).

There is a strong link between the frequency of farm visits and acceptance of price increases due to improved animal welfare. Of the respondents who said they were willing to accept a price increase of at least 25% for animal welfare reasons, 54% had visited a farm at least 3 times.

Views on the protection of farmed animals, by species

Laying hens: On average, 58% of respondents rated the welfare of laying hens as “fairly bad” or “very bad”. The Dutch and Danish (77%) surveyed were the most critical, followed by the Germans and Belgians (73%). At the other end of the scale, over 2/3 of Maltese questioned had a positive view of the protection of laying hens.

Dairy Cows: In 21 out of 25 Member States, the majority of respondents had a positive view of the welfare and protection of dairy cows. Optimism was highest in Finland (85%), the Netherlands (83%) and Sweden (82%) and lowest in Greece (42%), Latvia (43%), Portugal (46%) and Slovakia (48%).

Pigs: Views on the level of welfare and protection for pigs were mixed. In 10 Member States, pigs were generally thought to be well protected, with the most positive responses in Malta (62%) and Finland (61%). On the other hand, over 60% of those surveyed in Denmark and Slovakia had a negative view of the welfare of pigs.

Species to be protected as a priority

When asked which animals should be given priority in improving welfare conditions, respondents gave a clear first place to laying hens (44%), followed by broiler chickens (42%).

Respondents from Sweden (73%), the Netherlands (66%), Germany (65%) and Belgium (62%) were most vocal on the need to improve the welfare conditions of laying hens.

Pigs (28%) were also highly ranked as animals that need further protection. Respondents from Denmark (60%) were the strongest advocates for more protection for pigs.

Dairy cows (17%) were in fifth place, and calves (14%) in sixth place, which confirmed that bovine animals are perceived to have better rearing conditions, as was found earlier in the survey.

Purchasing behaviour and the welfare of farmed animals

A slight majority of EU citizens (52%) said that they did not take animal welfare considerations into account when buying meat. However, there were large disparities between Member States on this issue.

In all of the new Member States, except for Cyprus (38%), the majority said that animal welfare did not influence their purchasing behaviour. The figure was more than two thirds in the Czech Republic (74%), Slovakia (73%), Estonia (69%) and Poland (68%).

At the other end of the scale, 67% of Swedes, 66% of Greeks and 64% of Luxembourgers surveyed said that they did take animal welfare into account when buying meat.

With regard to eggs, almost 4 in 10 respondents said that they buy eggs from free range or outdoor reared hens. Swedish (63%), Luxembourg (61%) and UK (61%) consumers surveyed expressed the strongest preference for purchasing free range eggs. Respondents in Spain and Slovakia (12%) expressed the lowest propensity to buy free range eggs.

Over three quarters of those surveyed believe that they can influence animal welfare conditions by their purchasing behaviour (i.e. by buying animal welfare friendly products). This opinion was strongest in Sweden (94%) and Cyprus (90%), whereas it is less certain in Lithuania (56%), Estonia (57%) and Portugal (62%).

However, 51% said that they could never or very rarely identify products sourced from animal welfare friendly production systems. This figure was higher in the new Member States, exceeding 80% in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland.

Willingness to pay more for better animal protection

A majority (57%) of EU citizens surveyed stated that they would be willing to pay more for eggs produced in good animal welfare conditions.

A quarter of respondents said they would be willing to accept a 5% price increase on eggs if there was better animal protection, 21% would pay a price increase of 10% and 11% would be willing to accept a price increase of 25% or more (a total of 57%).

The Scandinavian and Dutch respondents were most willing to accept price increases on eggs produced under good animal welfare conditions (over 70% indicated that they would accept a price increase).

The majority of Hungarians (57%), Slovaks (57%) and Lithuanians (53%) surveyed were not willing to pay extra for eggs from an animal welfare friendly source.

Perceptions of animal welfare policy in the EU, compared to other countries

A majority of EU citizens surveyed (55%) believe that insufficient importance is given to animal welfare in national agriculture policies. This view was strongest in Greece (73%), Czech Republic (65%) and Slovenia (65%), but less widely held in Finland (40%), Estonia (43%) and Spain (44%).

Only 7% of respondents believed that animal welfare is given too much weight in national policies.

79% of those surveyed deemed the protection of animals in the EU to be about the same or better than in other parts of the world, with 45% believing that animal welfare standards were higher in the EU. This belief was strongest among those surveyed in Belgium (61%), Germany (61%) and Finland (60%).

See also IP/05/698.

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