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Heise, H., & Theuvsen, L. (2018). Citizens’ understanding of welfare of animals on the farm: An empirical study. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 21(2), 153-169.

Many people believe that welfare standards for nonhuman animals on farms need to be improved. However, the definition of farm animal welfare (FAW) remains unclear, as different disciplines have developed competing understandings of FAW. Some studies have investigated citizens’ understanding of FAW through quantitative surveys. This study combined both closed-ended and open-ended questions and compared the findings from the different types of questions. For the open-ended question, respondents mostly named criteria in the categories of “housing system” and “management practice”; however, for the closed-ended question, the category “animal health” was most important. These findings suggest that not only whom you ask determines what comprises animal welfare, but how you ask. These findings should be considered when developing new animal welfare programs to increase the likelihood that the new programs will be accepted by the broader public and meet its expectations. In particular, improvements concerning animal health need to be publicized and clearly communicated to citizens, as health-related aspects are important to many people even though those aspects may not be the first thing they mentioned when asked.

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