How does agriculture affect people and society?

Why society has a problem with farmers

The farmers feel attacked. There is friction with other people both in social media and in real life. They have a hard time doing this, because their critics are better positioned. Only ten out of 300 members came to the seminar of the Frankfurt Agricultural Association to discuss it.

If you ask farmers why that is, you get a whole phalanx of guilty parties. The press, social media, animal and environmentalists and a dangerous half-knowledge from Google and Co. Consumers and farmers distance themselves further and further, observes one participant.

The human-animal relationship is of particular importance

The philosopher Christian Dürnberger from the Institute of Technology-Theology-Natural Sciences at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich tried to shed light on the relationship. Regardless of all the problems, the farmer is still the third most important profession after doctors and teachers. However, for people under the age of 29, they fell to fifth place. Most people form their opinion on agriculture mainly through the regular media, but increasingly from the Internet.

Dürnberger sees particular importance in the human-animal relationship. With new knowledge about the mental abilities of the animal, the moral status of the animal also changes. In the past, an animal was seen as a pure thing. The recognition of the animal as a creature capable of suffering established the beginnings of animal welfare. From this thought the Five Freedoms arose, which animal rights activists and farmers still use today.

The five freedoms:
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst: Animals have access to fresh water and healthy food
2. Freedom from housing-related complaints: animals are appropriately housed.
3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease: Animals are cared for through preventive measures, rapid diagnosis and treatment
4. Freedom from Fear and Stress: Avoidance through process and management
5. Freedom to act out normal behavior patterns: animals have enough space, social contacts, etc.

The question of what the consumer wants is easy to answer: high-quality food that is not toxic and does not harm the environment during production. The philosopher confirms with study results that the price is only mentioned in third place. However, studies also show that willingness to pay varies. Most people are willing to pay more, but draw the line at double the price. How much the consumer is willing to pay also depends on the appearance of the end product. The less the animal can be seen, the less the buyer wants to pay.

The relationship with farmers used to be different. Dürnberger explains this with a change in feelings. Things to do with physicality, violence and death used to be much more accepted. That has changed. Today everything is considered improper that has to do with violence, corporeality and death. The consumer accepts the slaughter, but does not want to know about it. "It's not wrong, but unsavory," explains Dürnberger. Accordingly, people today are more offended by manure, slaughter and brutality towards animals.

However, Dürnberger expressly warns against seeing the consumer as unreflective or stupid. Because despite all the alienation, the consumer has a high need for information and that is fed by the mainstream media. And here farmers are in a very bad position. As a rule, they are related to scandals. The Viennese ethicist expressly warns against showing solidarity with uncovered black sheep. "There are already enough informers among the farmers, it is incomprehensible to me why farmers jump on the sinking ship." It is urgently necessary to distance oneself clearly from the causes of a scandal. What should a consumer think of an industry that ignores its grievances?

Even Dürnberger does not have a general recipe. However, he recommends expressing yourself clearly. Talking not only about numbers and dates, but also about your own values. People don't just want to know, they also want to understand. Farmers should seek conversation confidently but not arrogantly. You need to be open to questions and concerns from non-professionals. This is the only way to develop understanding among consumers.