Perspective: SocialLab - Animal husbandry in ...

SocialLab - Animal husbandry in the mirror of society

Federal Minister Julia Klöckner (left) with the partners of the "SocialLab" project at the BMEL in Berlin.
Federal Minister Julia Klöckner (left) with the partners of the "SocialLab" project at the BMEL in Berlin.

GERMANY, Berlin. The keeping of farm animals is increasingly being questioned critically by the public; social ideas and modern agricultural practice are sometimes far apart. The joint project "SocialLab" is located in this context.

Since 2015, an interdisciplinary scientific consortium led by the Thünen Institute has been investigating the social view of livestock farming. The aim was to obtain a differentiated picture of the development of perceptions and expectations and thus of existing social criticism.

With surveys, the analysis of purchasing data, eye-tracking, but also with innovative neuroscientific methods, they examined how the individuals perceive animal husbandry in agriculture and how the retail trade assesses the marketing situation.

The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) funded the three-year project with almost € 2.4 mill. The objectives of the project were:

  • differentiated analysis of the criticism of livestock farming by different social groups.
  • Outline of ways to regain social acceptance.
  • Support for the further development of livestock farming in Germany that is socially acceptable and economically viable.

The approach of the SocialLab is that it is fundamentally about better understanding. On the one hand, the scientists researched the question of how citizens perceive animal husbandry, on the other how farmers perceive their own animal husbandry and where criticism is expressed by both sides. The results of joint discussion rounds with consumers and farmers show that:

  • Consumers and, to a limited extent, farmers are willing to change their views if they learn the views of the other group.
  • Consumers change their perceptions much more than farmers do. Consumers are more open to new information and new arguments and tend to adapt their assessments - possibly also because the resulting consequences are not (yet) taken into account.
  • Farmers who are involved in their own business and are more interested in educating rather than learning from discussions with consumers.
  • Consumers, when given the opportunity to obtain information from farmers, ask questions to farmers.

SocialLab shows the need for a discussion format on questions of the market economy, social or political implementation of the further development of livestock farming from the point of view of various stakeholders. What is needed are discussion platforms for a participatory multi-stakeholder discourse that develops realistic perspectives for the development of socially acceptable livestock farming.

Source: BMEL


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