24 November 1995

Caution expressed over animal image

MEAT and Livestock Commission officials are wary over attempts to raise public awareness about the link between animals and meat.

MLC research suggests consumers interest in meat begins and ends at the meat counter, says David Bowsher, MLC marketing officer. Only a minority are interested in animal welfare or animal husbandry. Most are uncomfortable with images of cattle and meat shown together, and dont want to be reminded of the link, he said.

MLC research, begun in 1979, suggests meat buying is influenced by appearance, fat content, and value for money, "the things that are practical to the housewife," Mr Bowsher added.

"Our basic research shows that a fairly well developed series of mental shutters can come down when you start talking to most people about the link between meat and animals," he said.

The Countryside Movement is planning to include two advertisements, as part of its education and recruitment drive, addressing animal welfare and the link between food and livestock.

One will show a picture of a slaughterman with the caption: "George Roberts, head slaughterman and animal lover." The other shows a picture of a chicken and egg with the words, never mind which came first, many children cant even see the connection.

Unwilling to listen

Mr Bowsher said he would be wary about making any positive or negative points about livestock welfare because consumers were unwilling to listen. "If we were putting a campaign like that together then we would want some reassurance that we are not going to strike that mental resistance," he said.

"We would want to get a hell of a lot of questions answered behind the scenes before we embarked."

Welfare assurance schemes allowed retailers and producers to respond to consumer concerns, that did not mean you had to wear your heart on your sleeve.