Activists and Animal Welfare: Quality Verifications in the Canadian Pork Sector


  • Adrian D. Uzea,

  • Jill E. Hobbs,

  • Jing Zhang

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    •  Adrian D. Uzea is an M.Sc. graduate, Jill E. Hobbs is a Professor and Jing Zhang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioresource Policy, Business & Economics at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada. E-mail: for correspondence. Funding for this research was provided by the Consumer and Market Demand Network ( and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments received from two anonymous referees and the JAE editor.


Animal welfare is an emotive topic. Although most governments legislate against outright animal cruelty, animal welfare organisations have actively lobbied for more stringent farm animal welfare regulations. Food retailers and restaurant chains have faced pressure from animal welfare organisations to implement more stringent animal welfare requirements for their suppliers. Is the demand for more stringent farm animal welfare protocols primarily determined by a subset of consumers with very strong preferences or does it signal a more fundamental underlying change in societal preferences? Given the credence nature of farm animal welfare, whom do consumers trust for credible quality assurances? This article analyses the role of quality verification in a market characterised by consumers with heterogeneous preferences for animal welfare. Of particular interest are the relative strength of preferences for humane animal treatment assurances and the credibility of these quality claims. Using data from a Canadian survey targeted at two distinct samples – a general population group and members of animal welfare organisations – a discrete choice experiment is used to assess consumer attitudes towards animal welfare assurances for pork products. The credibility of quality verification by public sector, private sector and third party agents is assessed. Evidence confirms that consumer preferences for farm animal welfare assurance and the source of verification are indeed heterogeneous. Although a portion of consumers remain largely indifferent to pork products with animal welfare assurances, a group of highly motivated consumers exist with an economic incentive to lobby for tougher animal welfare standards.