Defra-funded animal care study could impact future food shopping habits

A £479,000 Defra-funded research project is seeking teenagers’ views on how they care for animals, with a link to how such attitudes may affect future shopping habits in relation to “high welfare” products.

The research is being led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), working in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, the University of St Andrews and the University of Hertfordshire, with the next step focusing on an online survey to measure “how much our teens care about animals, both domestic and wild”.

“This is vital work because it will encourage more responsibility and care among pet owners and those who work with animals, and raise awareness of the importance of ‘duty of care’,” said SRUC Researcher Melanie Connor.

“Furthermore, as future consumers, teenagers need to be able to make informed decisions about their shopping habits. But to work out how to encourage them to make ‘good’ or ‘responsible’ food choices, like buying high welfare products, we need to understand what motivates them. To do this we need as many teenagers to take part in this survey as possible so we can get the best data.”

The current research programme follows on from a previous Defra-funded project which revealed that children have positive attitudes towards animals but lack the knowledge of how best to care for them.

In now moving on to teenagers, the research team’s aim is to reach a point where they are able to design “educational materials” for use in schools, and with other groups working with young people. They are also keen to assess teenagers’ feelings towards animals at this stage in life, where they believe “intervention could make a real long-term difference”.

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