Citizen engagement on issues around farm animal welfare is important for the livestock industries to sustain their social license to produce. One barrier to this engagement is that non-farming citizens are sometimes perceived as ignorant of farming practices and their views are dismissed. Despite recent interest in understanding citizen views on farm animal welfare in Europe, little is known about North Americans' views. We surveyed the views of 67 citizens before and after a self-guided tour of a working 500-head dairy farm in Agassiz, British Columbia. The mixed-methods survey used quantitative and qualitative questions designed to explore the range of perceptions and concerns about dairy cattle welfare. Of those who responded, 60% were female, 96% consumed dairy products and 93% reported themselves as either somewhat or not knowledgeable about dairy farming. Content analysis revealed that, before visiting the farm, participants considered the following elements (in decreasing frequency) as necessary for dairy cattle to have a good life: fresh food and water, pasture access, gentle human care, space, shelter, cleanliness, fresh air and sunshine, social companions, absence of stress, health, and safety from predators. In general, the farm visit appeared to mitigate some concerns (e.g. provision of adequate food and water, gentle human care) while reinforcing others (e.g. lack of pasture and outdoor access, early cow-calf separation). These results illustrate a multi-dimensional conception of animal welfare that links with values of other livestock industry stakeholders. The results also indicate that efforts to educate citizens may address some concerns but are also likely to create awareness of other issues relating to the welfare of farm animals.
- Animal welfare