The impact of social media on attitudes towards farm animal welfare
Social media may enhance attitude change through social influence, repeated exposure and persuasion, and can easily influence public opinion if uninformed. No current research has identified the effects of social media on attitudes towards farm animal welfare (FAW), despite animal issues being the most posted and discussed non-profit issue on Facebook and Twitter. The identification of effects may benefit producers and organizations and improve FAW, as consumers determine standards; this is particularly relevant due to the potential effects of veganism, Brexit and the growing population. An anonymous survey covering social media use, FAW views and demographics was produced on Google Forms and shared via Facebook, email and Survey Tandem. Responses (n=180) were transferred to Microsoft Excel and SPSS for graphs, mode, Spearman’s rank correlation, Pearson’s chi-square test of independence, and linear-by-linear association, and comments were categorized in Microsoft Word. A Spearman’s rank correlation found a moderate positive correlation between frequency of seeing posts and interest in improving FAW (P=0.001) and most participants saw more negative posts (66.7%). More participants followed or liked animal groups (28.3%) than farming groups (7.8%) and most participants mainly found information through social media posts (43.9%). However, a linear-by-linear association showed no significant association between finding information mainly through social media and FAW familiarity (P=0.062), suggesting those who obtained information this way felt equally knowledgeable. Greater social media presence could increase interest in FAW, especially important for farming groups because of their lower popularity, and positive or educational posts could be more beneficial than negative ones. Moreover, the public should be made aware of issues with relying on social media for information, and of different sources available. Further research could investigate specific social media platforms or other animal welfare contexts.