A public perception survey of livestock industries and its welfare practices paints a positive picture of how the country sees its farmers.
And the perception has changed for the good more than any other industry in New Zealand in the past three years, the Research First survey shows.
“The sheep and beef and dairy sub-sectors saw a significant increase in positive perception and no significant change to negative perception,” Research First’s Liz Morley said.
The results are from an online survey of 380 New Zealanders. The research included other industries, among them healthcare, tourism, construction and retail.
“We’re now seeing farmers and growers with the highest proportion trending to the positive.”
Digging deeper into the data shows even more positive results for farmers.
Three quarters of people trust farmers to properly care for their animals and three quarters of people rated the welfare of animals in the dairy and sheep and beef sub-sectors “good” or “very good”. Only 11% had a level of distrust.
“Typically, this type of research would measure the proportion of the population that hold a positive view. We thought we would push past just a positive or negative call, instead looking at where those public perception trends are heading and what is driving them,” Morley said.
On the question “How would you rate the welfare of the following NZ livestock animals?”, wool-producing sheep had the highest level of positive respondents at 78%, dairy cows were next with 76%, beef cattle were 75%, sheepmeat farming was 73% and deer were 66%.
Rounding out the bottom were layer hens and broiler chickens at 52% and 40% respectively.
The survey asked respondents to rate how much they trusted people involved in the livestock industry to properly care for their animals.
On the statement “I trust farmers to properly care for their animals”, 28% strongly agreed and 46% agreed.
On a similar question regarding transport operators and abattoir workers, 18% strongly agreed and 42% agreed for both.
The respondents were asked the extent to which they trust information regarding farm welfare in New Zealand.
Animal welfare organisations fared best, with 15% completely trusting them and 47% having some trust. Farming industry bodies and government press releases were almost even in second place with industry bodies completely trusted by 9% of those surveyed, and 38% somewhat trusting them. Eight percent of those surveyed completely trust government press releases and 41% somewhat trust them.
Faring worst in the trust stakes were celebrity chefs, where 4% trusted and 28% somewhat trusted them, and supermarkets, where 5% of those surveyed trusted and 33% of those somewhat trusted them when it came to information regarding farm welfare.
Beef+Lamb NZ chief insights officer Julian Ashby said the research is in line with BLNZ’s public perception surveys.
“It’s great to see the public recognise the hard work farmers are doing to look after their animals and their land.
“It shows New Zealanders are supportive of sheep and beef farmers and demonstrates the resilience of the red meat sector to the challenges it’s faced over the last three years.”