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An exploration of the drivers to bio-security collective action among a sample of UK cattle and sheep farmers

Heffernan, C., Nielsen, L., Thomson, K. and Gunn, G. (2008) An exploration of the drivers to bio-security collective action among a sample of UK cattle and sheep farmers. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 87 (3-4). pp. 358-372. ISSN 0167-5877

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2008.05.007


At present, collective action regarding bio-security among UK cattle and sheep farmers is rare. Despite the occurrence of catastrophic livestock diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and foot and mouth disease (FMD), within recent decades, there are few national or local farmer-led animal health schemes. To explore the reasons for this apparent lack of interest, we utilised a socio-psychological approach to disaggregate the cognitive, emotive and contextual factors driving bio-security behaviour among cattle and sheep farmers in the United Kingdom (UK). In total, we interviewed 121 farmers in South-West England and Wales. The main analytical tools included a content, cluster and logistic regression analysis. The results of the content analysis illustrated apparent 'dissonance' between bio-security attitudes and behaviour.(1) Despite the heavy toll animal disease has taken on the agricultural economy, most study participants were dismissive of the many measures associated with bio-security. Justification for this lack of interest was largely framed in relation to the collective attribution or blame for the disease threats themselves. Indeed, epidemic diseases were largely related to external actors and agents. Reasons for outbreaks included inadequate border control, in tandem with ineffective policies and regulations. Conversely, endemic livestock disease was viewed as a problem for 'bad' farmers and not an issue for those individuals who managed their stock well. As such, there was little utility in forming groups to address what was largely perceived as an individual problem. Further, we found that attitudes toward bio-security did not appear to be influenced by any particular source of information per se. While strong negative attitudes were found toward specific sources of bio-security information, e.g. government leaflets, these appear to simply reflect widely held beliefs. In relation to actual bio-security behaviours, the logistic regression analysis revealed no significant difference between in-scheme and out of scheme farmers. We concluded that in order to support collective action with regard to bio-security, messages need to be reframed and delivered from a neutral source. Efforts to support group formation must also recognise and address the issues relating to perceptions of social connectedness among the communities involved. (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Farm Management Unit
Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
ID Code:8642
Uncontrolled Keywords:Bio-security, Cognitive dissonance, Collective behaviour, ATTITUDES, BIOSECURITY, EMERGENCE, BEHAVIOR, CRISIS, FOOT

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