Do citizens and farmers interpret the concept of farm animal welfare differently?

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Animal welfare is of increasing importance in livestock production and consumption debates. However, discordance exists between citizens' and farmers' perception of animal welfare. Since the search for, and the realization of improvements towards farm animal welfare is strongly driven by citizen expectations, it is of utmost importance to better understand this perceptual discordance. A quantitative study was done in Flanders, Belgium during 2006, including citizens as well as farmers, to obtain a detailed insight in the way the multi-dimensional concept of farm animal welfare is valued. This allowed to discriminate between issues of agreement and disagreement. In general, a similar interpretation of farm animal welfare in terms of animal welfare related aspect's ranking was found. Differences were mainly related to aspects dealing with the ability to engage in natural behaviour on the one hand and with production process-related aspects on the other hand. Citizens evaluate the current state of animal welfare as rather problematic, while farmers report a more satisfactory evaluation of the present condition of farm animal welfare. Especially differing opinions regarding the ability to engage in natural behaviour, together with aspects related to pain, stress and the availability of space seem to contribute to the discordance between farmers and citizens in terms of evaluative beliefs.