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STUDY: Images Of Farmed Animals And Human Perception

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The study suggests that setting strongly influences our perception of farmed animals. A happy pig in a slat-floor pen looks worse-off to us than an unhappy pig on straw.

ANTONIA SHANN: Studies have shown that the background of an image impacts our perception of the subject. If we see an image of an animal in the wild, for example, we draw more positive associations than if we see that same animal in a zoo. But is the same true of farmed animals? To answer this question, researchers asked members of the public to assess four photoshopped images.

The images were created by combining two different farm settings (backgrounds) and two different pigs, who were the subjects of the photographs. One setting showed a pen strewn with straw, and the other showed a pen with a slatted floor; one of the pigs looks happy, and the other looks sad… During the study, participants were shown a total of six images: the four photoshopped pictures, and two images of either just the background, or just the pigs…

The results of the study suggest that setting strongly influences our perception of farmed animals. Whether the pig looks happy or sad is also an important factor, but less so than the setting. A happy pig in a slat-floor pen looks worse off to us than an unhappy pig on straw, and irrespective of the pig’s emotional state, a slat-floor pen is always rated more poorly than one with straw… In addition to the content of the images, participants’ backgrounds and beliefs shaped their reaction to the pictures…

They found that someone with a connection to agriculture – who grew up on a farm, for instance – was less likely to react negatively to farm settings. Believing that pigs experience emotions and are conscious also impacted how participants reacted to the images. Notably, the majority of participants believed that pigs have emotions (86%); over half (58%) thought that pigs are conscious of what happens to them; and almost half (46%) agreed that pigs can solve problems and make decisions.  SOURCE…

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