Academic Article Examines Social Media Response to News Articles on Animal Welfare in Australia

Abstract: Animal welfare legislation in Australia is influenced by “community expectations.” Given a major source of publicly available information on animal welfare law is that from media articles, it is likely the information discussed online could be influencing public opinion and consequently shaping animal welfare legislation reform efforts. This study examined the social media discourse in response to news articles on animal welfare law in Australia. A content analysis was applied to Facebook comments from posts originating from a formal news agency discussing animal cruelty and penalties over a six-month period between 1 June 2019 to 1 December 2019. All posts were screened against eligibility criteria and imported into NVivo for inductive coding. A total of 24 Facebook posts with an accumulative 1,723 comments were coded and thematically analyzed. Six primary themes were generated from the analysis: (1) failure of the court system; (2) failure of the legislation; (3) failure of the government; (4) emotive reactions; (5) risk of violence; and (6) mistrust in the media. The social media discourse was scathing of the legal system, with a particular focus on failings of the animal welfare law justice system. It is likely that this type of discourse surrounding animal law enforcement could be playing an influential role over the “expectations” influencing animal welfare legislation reform in Australia.