Emotional response to pictures of farm animals: Influence of picture content and recipient characteristics

Iris Schröter, Marcus Mergenthaler


Pictures play a dominant role in communication about livestock farming. They are used by competing lobby groups not only to inform their audience cognitively but also to target emotionally. However, few studies have looked at the effects pictures from livestock farming have on recipients. In this study, we used an online survey to investigate the emotional response in the dimensions pleasure and arousal to pictures showing farm animals of the animal classes fish, birds, and mammals in different circumstances. The results show that pictures depicting farm animals in an outdoor environment led to high pleasure and low arousal. Looking at pictures showing animals kept indoors led to less pleasure and higher arousal, a response that was further intensified when recipients were confronted with pictures of suffering animals. While the recipients’ characteristics investigated in this study, i.e. professional background, belief in animal mind and personality traits, had no influence on emotional response to pictures showing farm animals outdoors, they affected emotional response to pictures depicting farm animals indoors and suffering. We discuss how awareness of the individuality of emotional response and reflection on one’s own emotional states related to livestock farming might lead to more animal and human welfare and a more respectful dialogue between opposing groups.


Pleasure; arousal; indoor husbandry; outdoor husbandry; suffering animals

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.18461/ijfsd.v14i2.F4

ISSN 1869-6945


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License