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Awareness of ag-gag laws erodes trust in farmers and increases support for animal welfare regulations


  • Robbins, J.A.
  • Franks, B.
  • Weary, D.M.
  • von Keyserlingk, M.A.G.


Hidden-camera investigations are becoming an increasingly popular means of raising public awareness about farm animal welfare. However, livestock industries claim they are deceptive. One strategy to curtail these investigations has been the introduction of so-called ag-gag legislation, which aims to restrict the flow of information coming out of farm facilities. Psychological research suggests that this approach may be counter-productive as reducing information flow often reduces feelings of trust. We sought to extend these findings by applying them to a real-world, timely example and to determine whether the perceived intention to obstruct access to information erodes feelings of trust. Accordingly, this study tested whether simply being made aware of ag-gag laws might have a negative impact on trust in farmers. Participants (n=716) were randomly assigned to either receive information about ag-gag laws or to a Control condition. We found that most people were unaware of ag-gag laws and that learning about them lead to a decrease in trust in farmers and an increase in support for animal welfare regulations. Interestingly, we also found evidence that awareness of ag-gag laws negatively impacted perceptions of the current status of farm animal welfare as well as the perception that farmers do a good job of protecting the environment. Through this topical example, this study demonstrates that even the intention to restrict access to information can undermine trust.

Suggested Citation

  • Robbins, J.A. & Franks, B. & Weary, D.M. & von Keyserlingk, M.A.G., 2016. "Awareness of ag-gag laws erodes trust in farmers and increases support for animal welfare regulations," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 121-125.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:61:y:2016:i:c:p:121-125
    DOI: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.02.008

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fisman, Raymond & Khanna, Tarun, 1999. "Is trust a historical residue? Information flows and trust levels," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 79-92, January.
    2. Sumner, Daniel A. & Matthews, William A. & Mench, Joy A. & Rosen-Molina, J. Thomas, 2010. "The Economics of Regulations on Hen Housing in California," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(03), pages 429-438, August.
    3. Antle, John M., 1999. "Benefits and costs of food safety regulation," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 605-623, December.
    4. Dutta, Sujay & Pullig, Chris, 2011. "Effectiveness of corporate responses to brand crises: The role of crisis type and response strategies," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 64(12), pages 1281-1287.
    5. Jiyun Kang & Gwendolyn Hustvedt, 2014. "Building Trust Between Consumers and Corporations: The Role of Consumer Perceptions of Transparency and Social Responsibility," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 125(2), pages 253-265, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gauly, Sarah & Müller, Andreas & Spiller, Achim, 2017. "New methods of increasing transparency: Does viewing webcam pictures change peoples' opinions towards modern pig farming?," DARE Discussion Papers 1705, Georg-August University of Göttingen, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development (DARE).
    2. Gauly, Sarah & Müller, Andreas & Spiller, Achim, 2017. "New methods of increasing transparency: Does viewing webcam pictures change peoples' opinions towards modern pig farming?," Department of Agricultural and Rural Development (DARE) Discussion Papers 260769, Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development (DARE).
    3. repec:ags:ijofsd:277721 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Von Hardenberg, Louisa & Heise, Heinke, 2018. "German Pig Farmers’ Attitudes Towards Farm Animal Welfare And Their Willingness To Participate In Animal Welfare Programs: An Empirical Study," 2018 International European Forum (163rd EAAE Seminar), February 5-9, 2018, Innsbruck-Igls, Austria 276867, International European Forum on System Dynamics and Innovation in Food Networks.


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