Dairy consumers care about themselves, not welfare: vet

An American veterinarian says attitudes by many ‘all-about-me’ consumers only care about getting their food cheap

Dairy farmers and the industry overall were told recently that consumers care more about themselves than animal welfare.

Delegates at the World Dairy Summit in Belfast were told Nov. 1 that most consumers couldn’t care less about the condition of the cow that produces their fresh milk, or the conditions in which the animals are kept.

U.S. veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Walker shocked the room when she made the claims that “consumers only cared for themselves and how cheap they could buy food.”

Even though it is more widely recognized that animal welfare issues are of major importance to some consumers and to the dairy industry’s reputation, the vet said the issue was becoming serious that consumers don’t care.

Walker, who oversees an animal welfare program for dairy farmers supplying Dean Foods in Dallas, Texas, said: “We all place great importance on animal welfare, both farmers and vets. Farmers strive to create the best conditions for animals to live in and vets observe the animal’s health, which is an indicator of welfare standards.

“However, it is becoming increasingly more apparent that today’s consumers are more interested in themselves with an ‘it’s all about me’ attitude,” she said.

The top vet also believed consumers are being confused with so many food assurance schemes.

“All these food quality assurance schemes and their relative symbols are causing chaos and confusion among consumers.

“Nowadays, I think the trend is shifting and people are more concerned about themselves rather than animals. They simply just want cheaper food and not too worried about the conditions in which the animals are kept which produced that food.

“It is our duty, as influencers in the industry, to change that mind-set to be one that does take animal health and welfare into consideration,” she said. “We have to tell consumers it’s really not all about you and it is about the animals, before it gets out of hand.”

During the summit, dairy industry leaders also highlighted the importance of communicating with consumers who are looking for reassurance on the integrity and quality of dairy foods at a time when anti-dairy activism is on the rise.

Paul Vernon, chair of Dairy UK and chief executive officer of Glanbia Cheese, said the dairy industry needed to ensure consumers were getting the right message.

“Dairy is a superfood and we need to ensure that message is heard loud and clear by consumers who are under a constant barrage of misleading and ill-informed messages about dairy.”

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