What kind of nature we are talking about? How animal and agricultural science experts assess consumer demand for more connection with nature in German dairy farming

Angelika Dauermann, Helena Karatassios, Ines Kleuter, Matthias Kussin


Dairy farming has been the subject of public debate on animal welfare for a number of years now. Animal welfare discussions on dairy farming often include the demand for more nature connectedness in this area. This study focuses on the divergent perspectives of consumers and scientists on the importance of more nature connectedness for animal welfare strategies in German dairy farming. Within Europe, Germany is the main producer of cow’s milk and an important industry in many rural areas in Germany is dairy farming. The insights presented are based on qualitative interviews with dairy farming and livestock researchers from Germany and Austria. A key finding of this study is that we need to look more closely at the actual content of nature claims in animal welfare debates. The scientists interviewed tend to see idealized conditions in animal welfare discussions with images of nature which in fact seldom lead to improved conditions in dairy farming and, even then, only to a limited extent. The scientists interviewed rate calls for more nature connectedness in dairy farming from the nonagricultural public as anti-modern, complexity-reducing, and normative. Nevertheless, some of the scientists interviewed did have valuable insights into the nonagricultural public’s criticism of dairy farming practices. These scientists argued, however, that animal welfare needs to differentiate between nature connectedness and the innate needs of cattle when it comes to animal welfare strategies. An important conclusion of the study is that more discussion formats are needed to promote the exchange of ideas between different social groups attempting to understand animal welfare in dairy farming.


Animal welfare; natural living strategies; German dairy farming; expert interviews

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.18461/ijfsd.v14i2.F7

ISSN 1869-6945


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License