Introductory animal science-based instruction influences attitudes on animal agriculture issues

  • Bobeck E
  • Combs D
  • Cook M
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Abstract

The demographics of incoming university animal science majors have shifted from students with a farm background to urban students with no history of direct livestock contact. Research completed before the Internet was a central source of information indicated that incoming urban students tend to express no opinion or a neutral opinion regarding livestock agriculture issues. Due to the changing background of incoming students enrolled in introductory university-level animal science classes, we sought to determine 1) if livestock background (self-identified as raised in a farm or urban setting), sex, or animal science career interest influenced the opinions of incoming students regarding critical issues involving livestock farming practices and 2) if 15 wk of introductory animal science instruction changed student opinions. A total of 224 students were given 2 identical anonymous surveys (start and end of 15 wk) with 5 demographic questions and 9 animal issue statements. For each statement, students marked their opinion by placing a vertical line on a continuous 130 mm horizontal line, where a vertical line placed at 0 mm = strongly agree and 130 mm = strongly disagree. Data were analyzed by ANOVA to determine any significant effects of instruction, background, sex, and future career preference on survey responses. Before instruction, urban students were less agreeable than farm students that animal farming was moral and humane and that farmers are concerned about animal welfare and livestock are of value to society (P ≤ 0.05). Urban students were more likely than farm students to purchase organic foods or food based on environmental/welfare standards (P ≤ 0.05). Introductory animal science instruction resulted in students becoming more agreeable that animal farming was humane, farmers are concerned about animal welfare, and animal agriculture is a value to society (P ≤ 0.05). Postinstruction, students were more likely to buy food products based on price (P ≤ 0.05). Males found farm practices more humane than females (P ≤ 0.05), but sex differences were not evident for other questions. Future professional career plans did not affect student opinions. Data showed that incoming urban students tend to be more neutral with regards to animal farming issues, and introductory animal science instruction fosters a more agreeable attitude towards animal farming practices, especially in students with urban backgrounds.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Animal agriculture
  • Career goals
  • Gender
  • Instruction
  • Opinion
  • University student

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Authors

  • E. A. Bobeck

  • D. K. Combs

  • M. E. Cook

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