Public Concern with Farm-Animal Welfare: Religion, Politics, and Human Disadvantage in the Food Sector


  • Funding for this study was provided by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, project number 2006009. We thank Larazus Adua, Grahame Coleman, Maurice Eastridge, and Jeff Sharp for analytical comments. We also gratefully acknowledge three anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions that improved the manuscript.


The welfare of farm animals has become a continuing source of controversy as states seek greater regulation over the livestock industry. However, empirical studies addressing the determinants of public concern for farm-animal welfare are limited. Religion and politics, two institutional bases of attitudes, are rarely explored. Nor have sociologists responded systematically to the popular charge that people concerned with animal welfare care less about human well-being. This study builds from sociology's stratification literature to address new questions about farm-animal welfare. Using a range of animal-welfare attitudes and samples drawn from a statewide and a national population in 2007, we find support for the religious and political bases of farm-animal-welfare attitudes. Frequent church attendance is related to less concern with animal welfare. However, we also find that religious beliefs can be a source of support for animal welfare. Political orientation as reflected by desire for more economic equality and greater tolerance of outgroups is also related to concern for farm-animal welfare. Formal political partisanship and denomination have weaker effects. Concern with farm-animal welfare is consistently related to greater concern with human welfare in the food sector.