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The application of a sentiment analysis approach to explore public understandings of animal agriculture

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Beth ClarkORCiD, Dr Amy Proctor



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2023 The Authors. Ideas about farming are important components of consumers' value judgements about the foods they purchase and consume. Nevertheless, a divide exists between public perceptions and the realities of agricultural practices. We take a novel approach, using sentiment analysis, amongst other methods, to explore what consumers think about farming and how the visual elements of agricultural images might contribute to these perceptions. Data were drawn from responses to questions about three photographs of contemporary UK dairy farms, part of an online survey (n = 521), exploring public perceptions of food and farming. Sentiment and content analysis, descriptive statistics and Spearman's rank correlations were used to analyse the data. Participants thought good animal farming involves an evaluation of both farmers' skill and the relative ethical correctness of certain farming practices. Dirt and untidiness were linked with an increased likelihood of animal disease, and cleanliness and tidiness with a decreased likelihood. According to respondents, keeping cattle inside was problematic, whereas keeping animals outside is more appropriate, linked to their ability to graze in fields and the perceived goodness of a grass-based diet. Respondents discussed the need for farmers to be qualified, passionate and care for their animals. The paper concludes by reflecting on the use of images and sentiment analysis in this type of research, suggesting that along with certain benefits there are limitations to these methods.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mahon N, Holloway L, Clark B, Proctor A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Rural Studies

Year: 2023

Volume: 103

Print publication date: 01/10/2023

Online publication date: 23/09/2023

Acceptance date: 16/09/2023

Date deposited: 03/10/2023

ISSN (print): 0743-0167

ISSN (electronic): 1873-1392

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2023.103127


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Funder referenceFunder name
Wellcome Trust