Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

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

Mahon, N.; Holloway, L.; Clark, Beth; Proctor, Amy


N. Mahon

Profile Image

Professor Lewis Holloway
Professor of Human Geography. Associate Dean for Research and Enterprise, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Beth Clark

Amy Proctor


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.


Mahon, N., Holloway, L., Clark, B., & Proctor, A. (2023). The application of a sentiment analysis approach to explore public understandings of animal agriculture. Journal of rural studies, 103, Article 103127.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 16, 2023
Online Publication Date Sep 23, 2023
Publication Date Oct 1, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 18, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 26, 2023
Journal Journal of rural studies
Print ISSN 0743-0167
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 103
Article Number 103127
Keywords Consumers; Dairy farms; Farming images; Public perceptions; Sentiment analysis
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations