How Conflicted Are Farmers About Meat? Livestock Farmers’ Attachment to Their Animals and Attitudes About Meat
Livestock farmers depend on animal slaughter for their livelihood while also being responsible for their animals’ welfare. This study explored how farmers psychologically manage this ambivalent relationship with their animals. Seventy-two meat-eating livestock farmers participated, as well as 99 meat-eating and 103 meat-avoiding, non-farmer pet owners, living in the UK. Participants were assessed on their attachments to their pets and farmed animals (the latter for farmers only), the perceived cognitive abilities of cows (relative to dogs), their degree of conflict about meat and the perception of viable alternatives to meat. Farmers exhibited the lowest levels of meat conflict and perception of alternatives to meat. They were less attached to their farmed animals than their companion animals, and farmed animal detachment correlated, albeit weakly, with lower conflict. Farmers did not attribute more mental capacities to cows than non-farmers. Overall, denial of mind to cows and denial of alternatives related to lower levels of meat conflict. These findings suggest that farmers do not experience much conflict about meat and this lack of conflict is sustained through a combination of dissonance-avoidance strategies, including detachment, denial of mind, and denial of choice.