9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Nature Protection and Social Perception of Animals Building I, 1E6

Animal-farming practices and consumer trust in Finland

Sustainable consumption has become a core policy objective in national and international arenas even though its definition is not precise. It is ordinarily defined as the consumption of more environmentally efficiently produced goods, but there is a continuing need to learn more about consumer behaviour and to promote public trust in food issues. Animal welfare is a central issue in the politicisation of food consumption, and there has been considerable increase in demand for "animal friendly" products such as organic products.

The main interest of this paper is if developments in social practices are leading to a broad greening of food consumption, following a same kind of greening path as the organic production has done, for instance. We explore, firstly, the European trajectories of meat consumption. It is found that the meat consumption per person in Finland is low when considered in the EU context. The Nordic countries are typically known as high-trust societies in terms of food issues. This refers to trust in food safety, but also in public authorities and consumer organisations. Interestingly, in Finland the concern for farm animal welfare is the lowest and the trust to institutions and legislation promoting farm animal welfare is the highest in the EU25 countries. Secondly, we therefore examine the Finnish case on trust and animal welfare by using survey material related to consumer perspectives of meat and meat products. Thirdly, we aim to combine the citizen and the consumer perspectives on farm animal welfare by discussing how consumers understand and give meanings to animal welfare.

We make conclusions regarding the interest in animal welfare in the Finnish society by discussing the politicisation of food consumption, various positions of the citizen-consumer and the social institutions that may be required to facilitate more sustainable choices. The paper is based on a research project aiming to clarify the effect consumer trust in animal-farming practices has on the legitimacy of food policy.