Societal concern related to stocking density, pen size and group size in farm animal production

Filiep Vanhonacker*, Wim Verbeke, Els Van Poucke, Stephanie Buijs, Frank A M Tuyttens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Farm animal welfare has become increasingly important and relevant from the societal point of view throughout the livestock production chain, with space allowance for farm animals being one of its most topical and vividly debated sub-matters. Anticipating on the increasing power of the citizens' voice in Western society, this study focuses on societal concerns related to space allowance in Flemish animal production. This paper reports a quantitative analysis of cross-sectional surveys conducted among citizens of Flanders during 2000-2002 (n = 521) and during 2006 (n = 459). Compared with other animal welfare aspects, the survey participants perceived stocking densities and pen sizes as very essential for attaining an acceptable level of farm animal welfare. In addition, they evaluated stocking densities and pen sizes in current Flemish animal production as inadequate. Combined these results indicate that societal concern, defined as the difference between perceived importance and evaluative belief, is very high for stocking density and pen size, though less for group size. Societal concern about stocking density was found to be higher among younger people and households without children, while societal concern was not significantly associated with living environment (rural versus urban). Gender (higher concern among women in dataset 2006) and educational (higher concern among higher educated people in dataset 2000-2002) differences were not consistently significant in all datasets. The findings from this study suggest that larger gains in terms of animal welfare image among the public can be realised from providing farm animals with more space relative to reducing animal group size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-22
Number of pages7
JournalLivestock Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


  • Animal welfare
  • Citizen
  • Flanders
  • Group size
  • Pen size
  • Stocking density


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