Taiwan’s first survey of attitudes towards the welfare of animals used for food production has found eight in ten people believe standard industry practices cause animals to suffer, while more than 80% of people believe there are links between animal welfare and food safety or zoonotic diseases.
The survey of 1,074 respondents was conducted by the Election Study Center at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in July 2022 and commissioned by the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST). It explored public attitudes towards battery cages, sow stalls, fish binding, and dairy farming practices.
The survey revealed that while only a minority of people are aware of the four animal welfare issues described in the survey, at least 79% of people believe such practices result in animal suffering, rising to 89% for sow stalls (summary of results Table 2.9). Additionally, upwards of 58% of people believe Taiwan’s government should intervene to protect the welfare of animals used for food, indicating existing laws and regulations have failed to keep pace with public expectations (Table 5.5).
Notably, the survey also revealed significant concern for the welfare of fish. 86% of those surveyed believed fish binding causes animals to suffer, ranking second among the issues surveyed (Table 2.9).
“This poll shows that public consciousness of animal issues in Taiwan is no longer confined to companion animals and extends to animals used for food” expressed Wu Hung, chief executive of EAST.
Animals on intensive farms live under constant distress with widely-documented misuse of prophylactic antibiotics. The survey found more than four in five people in Taiwan believe antibiotics and veterinary drugs linked to poor conditions affect product quality, with milk products attracting the greatest concern (Table 3.5).
“The survey reveals considerable levels of public support for the welfare of food-producing animals” said Su-Feng Cheng, principal investigator of the survey and research fellow of the Election Study Center at NCCU. “The phone surveys took longer than usual to complete because respondents paused to think carefully about the questions before responding, which is quite unlike political opinion surveys. However, a clear majority believe the practices described result in suffering to animals.”
“I sense the concepts of animal-friendly, sustainable food and corporate social responsibility are gradually being adopted by the public, who believe this is the right direction for Taiwan” said Ching-Hsin Yu, director of the Election Study Center at NCCU.
Professor Jia-wei Liu of the Department of Public Administration and Policy, National Taipei University and co-investigator of the survey described the results as an “accumulation of knowledge,” and said the survey was a “rare opportunity to augment international research and understand public attitudes in Taiwan.”
The survey also highlighted growing consumer expectations of corporate responsibility and a willingness to support animal-friendly companies. An overwhelming majority of respondents believe that animal welfare needs to be included in assessments of corporate social responsibility (Table 6.1), while more than 80% agree that companies willing to enact animal welfare are better placed to attract support from consumers (Table 6.2). Consumers are also willing to put their money where their mouth is, with more than 70% willing to purchase products carrying animal welfare certifications – even when they are more expensive (Table 4.3).
In Taiwan, household names including IKEA, Carrefour, KFC and Pizza Hut have already embraced animal welfare by committing to sourcing exclusively cage-free eggs. Animal-friendly companies are poised to reap economic rewards: sales of cage-free eggs at Carrefour have risen more than fivefold since the retailer first announced its cage-free policy, with cage-free options now accounting for nearly three quarters of all private label egg sales.[i]
Internationally, the European Union began phasing out battery cages in 1999, followed by a phase out of sow stalls starting 2001. Last year, the European Commission announced it intends to introduce legislation to ban all forms of cage farming by 2027.[ii]
In nearby South Korea, the government’s comprehensive animal welfare certification encompasses seven species and currently covers more than 15 million farmed animals.[iii] Further, South Korea enacted regulations requiring all cages for laying hens provide at least 750cm2 of space per bird by 2025 in an effort to address insecticide contamination and avian influenza outbreaks.[iv]
In contrast, Taiwanese authorities have been sluggish. According to a survey commissioned by the Council of Agriculture last year, 41% of egg farmers are unaware of Taiwan's guidelines, and 60% do not know the government offers low-interest loans for facilities that fulfil the guidelines.[v] [vi]
Earlier this year, Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-Chung frankly admitted that the government “has not done enough on animal welfare” at the inaugural Animal Welfare and Food Transition Forum. The Minister also suggested animal welfare should follow the path of organic agriculture and threw his support behind specific legislation to promote animal welfare.
Legislator Chen Ting-fei said the results of the survey showed the Council of Agriculture is out-of-step with public expectations. In 2021, legislator Chen called on the authorities to establish an animal welfare and has proposed regulations to advance animal-friendly practices in the livestock and aquaculture sectors.
Research by Ling-Ching Fu, legal scholar at National Chengchi University, backs the idea, finding specific laws to promote welfare-friendly farming are needed in accordance with the principles of legal reservation and equality.[vii]
View the English summary of the survey results here.
Fang Chu Chune, Researcher
Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST)
Mobile: 0923 177 193
Office: (02) 2236 9735
The study surveyed Taiwanese adults of 20 years of age and above over landline and mobile phone. The survey was conducted using independent sampling by the National Chengchi University Election Study Center between July 13 and July 17, 2022.
[i] Hsieh, A. (2022, January 5). 請讓雞離開籠子！家樂福邀請Z世代從飲食選擇改善動物福利 [Let chickens leave cages! Carrefour appeals for Gen Z to improve animal welfare with their food choices]. foodNEXT. www.foodnext.net/news/industry/paper/5234664206
[ii] European Commission. (2021, June 30). European Citizens' Initiative: Commission to propose phasing out of cages for farm animals. ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_3297
[iii] As of November 2022, there were 416 farms certified under South Korea’s official animal welfare certification raising a total of 15.2 million animals. Retrieved November 22, 2022: www.animal.go.kr/front/awtis/certification/certificationList.do
[iv] Korea to beef up hygiene regulations on poultry farms. (2018, January 29). The Korea Herald. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20180129000668
[v] Same as 1
[vi] Regulations Governing Policy-Oriented Special Agricultural Loans. (2022). Article 7, Clause 4. https://law.moj.gov.tw/LawClass/LawAll.aspx?pcode=M0070066