Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Keeping it ‘inside the fence’: an examination of responses to a farm-animal welfare issue on Twitter

E. A. Buddle A B C , H. J. Bray A and W. S. Pitchford B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A The University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, North Terrace Campus, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

B The University of Adelaide, School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Roseworthy Campus, Roseworthy, SA 5371, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: emily.buddle@adelaide.edu.au

Animal Production Science - https://doi.org/10.1071/AN16634
Submitted: 22 September 2016  Accepted: 17 August 2017   Published online: 23 November 2017

Abstract

Social media sites have become common sources of information about current affairs, and animal-activist organisations, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), use these networks as campaign tools to raise awareness against animal agriculture. The aim of the present study was to understand how an animal-welfare issue was discussed in Twitter, in Australia. Twitter Application Programing Interface data featuring keywords and hashtags were initially collected between April and May 2014 to examine tweets on animal-welfare issues in the absence of a triggering event. In July 2014, PETA released footage portraying ill-treatment of sheep in Australian shearing sheds, generating 9610 tweets in 7 days, including themes such as disgust, condemnation of the cruelty, and calls to boycott the wool industry. PETA’s social-media campaign began 24 h before comment in conventional news media online, highlighting the role of social media in leading conventional media campaigning. Associated Twitter activity from the wool industry was limited. It is concluded that Twitter is not currently an effective medium for conversations between producers and the community about farm-animal welfare, despite encouragement from industry. While there are positives for producers and industry to be on Twitter, including the promotion of their business and communication within their micro-publics, Twitter as a platform may not be ideal for generating a dialogue between producers and the community. Further research into how people engage with the content, not just through the study of retweets and amount of traffic, is required to understand whether social media has potential to change attitudes towards animal production.

Additional keywords: activism, livestock, social media.


References

Ahmed S, Jaidka K (2013) The common man: an examination of content creation and informaiton dissemination on Twitter during the 2012 New Dehli gang-rape protest. In ‘Proeedings of the international conference on Asia-Pacific digital libraries’. (Eds SR Urs, J Na, G Buchanan) pp. 127–131. (Bangalore, India)

Ankeny A (2012) Food and ethical consumption. In ‘The Oxford handbook of food history’. (Ed. JM Pilcher) pp. 461–480. (Oxford University Press: New York)

Barbour L, Farley E (2014) ‘Welfare group targets abuse in Australian shearing sheds.’ Available at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-10/peta-sheep-campaign/5587216 [Verified 24 February 2016]

Barbour K, Marshall PD, Moore C (2014) Persona to persona studies. M/C Journal 17 [Online]. Available at http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/841 [Verified 19 June 2017]

Bettles C (2014) ‘Shearers back PETA: no excuse for cruelty.’ Available at http://www.farmweekly.com.au/news/agriculture/sheep/general-news/shearers-back-peta-no-excuse-for-cruelty/2704965.aspx [Verified 24 February 2016]

Bochenski N (2014) ‘Twitter. 2.8 million users in Australia.’ Available at http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/twitter-28-million-users-in-australia-20140804-1009op.html [Verified 8 December 2014]

Bonilla Y, Rosa J (2015) #Ferguson. Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American Ethnologist 42, 4–17.
#Ferguson. Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States.CrossRef |

Boyd D, Crawford K (2012) Critical questions for big data. Information Communication and Society 15, 662–679.
Critical questions for big data.CrossRef |

Braun V, Clarke V (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3, 77–101.
Using thematic analysis in psychology.CrossRef |

Bray HJ, Ankeny RA (2017) ‘Happier chickens lay tastier eggs’: motivations for buying free-range eggs in Australia. Anthrozoos 30, 213–226.
‘Happier chickens lay tastier eggs’: motivations for buying free-range eggs in Australia.CrossRef |

Brumby S, Eversole R, Scholfield K, Watt L (2010) ‘Rural youth and multimedia: an interagency approach.’ Available at http://acys.info/data/assets/pdf_file/0016/47005/pp29_36_brumby.pdf [Verified 8 December 2014]

Bruns A (2017) ‘Australian Twitter is more diverse than you think.’ Available at https://theconversation.com/australian-twitter-is-more-diverse-than-you-think-76864 [Verified 27 June 2017]

Bruns A, Burgess J (2011) The use of Twitter hashtags in the formation of ad hoc publics. In ‘Proceedings of the European Consortium for Political Research conference’, Reykjavik, Iceland. Available at http://snurb.info/node/1533 [Verified 31 November 2015]

Bruns A, Burgess J (2012) Researching new discussions on Twitter: new methodologies. Journalism Studies 13, 801–814.
Researching new discussions on Twitter: new methodologies.CrossRef |

Bruns A, Liang YE (2012) Tools and methods for capturing Twitter data during natural disasters. First Monday. Peer-reviewed journal on the internet. Available at http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3937 [Verified 30 November 2015]

Bruns A, Moe H (2013) Structural layers of communication on Twitter. In ‘Twitter and society’. (Eds K Weller, A Bruns, J Burgess, M Mahrt, C Puschmann) pp. 15–28. (Peter Lang Publishing Inc.: New York)

Bruns A, Stieglitz S (2012) Quantitative approaches to comparing communication patterns on Twitter. Journal of Technology in Human Services 30, 160–185.
Quantitative approaches to comparing communication patterns on Twitter.CrossRef |

Burgess J, Galloway A, Sauter T (2015) Hashtag as a hybrid forum: the case of #agchatoz. In ‘Hashtag publics: the power and politics of discursive networks’. (Ed. N Rambukkana) pp. 61–76. (Peter Lang Publishing Inc.: New York)

Chorley MJ, Mottershead G (2016) Are you talking to me? Journalism Practice 10, 856–867.
Are you talking to me?CrossRef |

Coleman GJ (2010) Educating the public: information of persuasion? Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 37, 74–82.
Educating the public: information of persuasion?CrossRef |

Coleman GJ, Jongman E, Greenfield L, Hemsworth P (2016) Farmer and public attitudes toward lamb finishing systems. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 19, 198–209.
Farmer and public attitudes toward lamb finishing systems.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BC28Xislyis7k%3D&md5=94732523fa370e8d6f3cb962e883f7a7CAS |

Creswell J (2013a) ‘Qualitative inquiry and research design. Choosing among five approaches.’ 3rd edn. (SAGE: Thousand Oaks, CA)

Creswell J (2013b) ‘Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches.’ Fourth edn. (SAGE: Los Angeles, CA)

Four Corners (2011) ‘A bloody business. Australia.’ (Australian Broadcasting Commission)

Four Corners (2012) ‘Another bloody business.’ (Australian Broadcasting Commission)

Glenn CL (2015) Activism of ‘slacktivism?’: digital media and organizing for social change. Communication Teacher 29, 81–85.
Activism of ‘slacktivism?’: digital media and organizing for social change.CrossRef |

Gunderson R (2013) From cattle to capital: exchange value, animal commodification and barbarism. Critical Sociology 39, 259–275.
From cattle to capital: exchange value, animal commodification and barbarism.CrossRef |

Hawksey M (2013) ‘Twitter archiving Google spreadsheet TAGS v5.’ Available at https://mashe.hawksey.info/2013/02/twitter-archive-tagsv5 [Verified 18 October 2014]

Hoban TJ, Kendall PA (1994) The consumer connection: what biotechnology needs to succeed. Food Processing 55, 79–85.

Jooste J (2016) ‘Animals Australia ready to launch new advertisments calling for ban on live exports, after complaints about previous campaign dismissed.’ Available at http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-15/live-export-animals-australia-advertising-complaint-dismissed/7168534 [Verified 24 February 2016]

Kuntsman A (2012) Introduction: affective fabrics of digital culture. In ‘Digital cultures and the politics of emotion: feeling, affect and technological change’. (Eds A Karatzogianni, A Kuntsman) pp. 1–17. (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, UK)

Kwak H, Lee C, Park H, Moon S (2010) What is Twitter; a social network or a news media? In ‘Proceedings of 19th world-wide web (WWW) conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA’. Available at http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1772751 [Verified 18 October 2014]

Lewis P, Ockenden W (2013) ‘Farming groups angered as Coles supports Animals Australia fundraising campaign.’ Avaliable at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-04/coles-raises-funds-for-animal-activists/4732532 [Verified 24 February 2016]

Mark G, Semaan B (2008) Resilience in collaboration: technology as a resource for new patterns of action. In ‘CSCW ‘08: proceedings of the ACM 2008 conference on computer supported cooperative work’. pp. 137–146. (ACM: New York, USA)

McAloon C (2014) Australia debates ‘ag-gag’ laws. Available at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-05/nrn-ag-gag-debate/5430240 [Verified 24 February 2016]

McKendree M, Croney C, Widmar N (2014) Effects of demographic factors and information sources on United States consumer perceptions of animal welfare. Journal of Animal Science 92, 3161–3173.
Effects of demographic factors and information sources on United States consumer perceptions of animal welfare.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BC2cXhtFyrt73K&md5=3fb7a812489cb65fc0357409f8c97cabCAS |

Meat and Livestock Australia (2014) ‘Telling your story.’ Available at http://www.mla.com.au/Cattle-sheep-and-goat-industries/Producer-advocacy/Social-media-tips-and-tools/2-Telling-your-story [Verified 26 May 2015]

Monaghan F (2014) Seeing red: social media and football fan activism. In ‘The language of social media’. (Eds P Seargent, C Tagg) pp. 228–254. (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, UK)

Moore C, Barbour K, Lee K (2017) Five dimensions of online persona. Persona Studies 3, 1–11.

Munro L (2014) The live animal export controversy in Australia: a moral crusade made for the mass media. Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest 14, 214–229.

National Farmers Federation (2013) ‘The blueprint for Australian agriculture.’ Available at www.nff.org.au/blueprint [Verified 28 May 2015]

Olynk NJ, Wolf CA, Tonsor GT (2009) Labeling of credence attributes in livestock production: verifying attributes that are more than what meets the eye. Journal of Food Law 5, 182–200.

Onderstall C (2012) ‘Understanding the news cycle.’ Available at http://fleishman.co.za/2012/12/understanding-the-news-cycle [Verified 18 October 2015]

PETA (2014) ‘Sheep punched, stomped on, cut for wool.’ Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zHjY9Pc0Nk [Verified 30 August 2014]

Phelps M (2011) Growing enthusiasm in rural industries. Queensland Country Life.

Rawles K (2010) Developing ethical, sustainable and compassionate food policies. In ‘Meat crisis: developing more sustainable production and consumption’. (Eds J Webster, J D’Silva, AJF Webster) pp. 209–226. (Earthscan: London, UK)

Rikken M (2013) Campaigning in a changing media environment: the public as a creator, consumer and distributor of information. PhD Thesis, The Univeristy of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA.

Rodan D, Mummery J (2014) Platforms and activism: sharing ‘My make it possible story’ narratives. In ‘Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association annual conference’, Melbourne, Australia. Available at www.anzca.net/conferences/past-conferences/2014-conf.html [Verified 22 June 2017]

Rothgerber H (2015) Can you have your meat and eat it too? Conscientious omnivores, vegetarians and adherence to diet. Appetite 84, 196–203.
Can you have your meat and eat it too? Conscientious omnivores, vegetarians and adherence to diet.CrossRef |

Schoenmaker S, Alexander D (2012) Live cattle trade: the case of an online crisis. Social Alternatives 31, 17–21.

Statista (2017) Number of monthly active Twitter users worldwide from 1st quarter 2010 to 1st quarter 2017. Available at https://www.statista.com/statistics/282087/number-of-monthly-active-twitter-users/ [Verified 22 June 2017]

Sutton J, Palen L, Shklovski I (2008) Backchannels on the front lines: emergent uses of social media in the 2007 southern California wildfires. In ‘Proceedings of the 5th international conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management’. (Eds F Fiedrich, B Van de Walle) pp 624-631. (ISCRAM: Washington, DC.

Taylor N, Signal TD (2009) Willingness to pay: Australian consumers and ‘on the farm’ welfare. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 12, 345–359.
Willingness to pay: Australian consumers and ‘on the farm’ welfare.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD1MXht12qs7bF&md5=92721ec325ce8415f8fc4b287f63d211CAS |

Tiplady CM, Walsh DB, Phillips CJC (2013) Public response to media coverage of animal welfare. Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics 26, 869–885.
Public response to media coverage of animal welfare.CrossRef |

Tonsor GT, Olynk NJ (2011) Impacts of animal well-being and welfare media on meat demand. Journal of Agricultural Economics 62, 59–72.
Impacts of animal well-being and welfare media on meat demand.CrossRef |

Twitter (2014) Available at www.twitter.com [Verified 2 September 2014]

Verbeke W, Viaene J (2000) Ethical challenges for livestock production: meeting consumer concerns about meat safety and animal welfare. Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics 12, 141–151.
Ethical challenges for livestock production: meeting consumer concerns about meat safety and animal welfare.CrossRef |

Verbeke W, Perez-Cueto FJA, de Barcellos MD, Krystallis A, Grunert KG (2010) European citizen attitudes and preferences regarding beef and pork. Meat Science 84, 284–292.
European citizen attitudes and preferences regarding beef and pork.CrossRef |

White S (2011) Each Tuesday night several dozen people get together via their computer keyboards and the social media platform, Twitter. The Land.



Export Citation