Animal-rights groups have their eyes on Nebraska and a recent survey reports nearly 70 percent of rural Nebraskans would define animal welfare in similar terms used by advocacy groups. However, the Nebraskans did not support the idea of increased regulation of the state’s livestock practices.

In its 16th annual Nebraska Rural Poll, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln survey asked participants questions about animal-welfare issues. For starters, 95 percent of rural residents surveyed agreed that animal welfare means providing adequate food, water and shelter to farm animals. More significantly, 69 percent agreed it also means providing adequate exercise, space and social activities for the animals.

“That’s significant because it largely coincides with the ‘Five Freedoms’ promoted by the Animal Welfare Council in England,” says Randy Cantrell, Nebraska Rural Initiative sociologist. It says that more than just the animal’s physical health is important to its overall welfare.

Some of the results include:

• 62 percent of respondents said they were familiar with current animal-care practices used to raise livestock and poultry.

• 84 percent believe livestock farmers and their veterinarians know how best to care for their animals.

• 74 percent believe animal welfare is better protected on “family farms” than on “large corporate farms.” Cantrell points out that there’s a belief that “corporate farms” don’t have the same attachment to animals as “family farms” do.

• 57 percent of respondents agreed that increased regulation of Nebraska’s livestock practices would raise production costs and, ultimately, food costs.

The survey also asked about the adequacy of current regulations or the need for more regulations on livestock practices. Nearly one in five respondents said more regulations were needed, while slightly more than two in five said current regulations were adequate. Almost two of every five people were uncertain or had no opinion on the matter.

That undecided group is always the focus in pursuing regulatory and legislative efforts. Some notable demographic differences also surfaced in the study. This year’s Nebraska Rural Poll response rate was about 39 percent. Complete results are available online at http://tinyurl.com/3mvbmnt.