What's the beef?: debating meat, matters of concern and the emergence of online issue publics

Maye, Damian ORCID: 0000-0002-4459-6630, Fellenor, John, Potter, Clive, Urquhart, Julie ORCID: 0000-0001-5000-4630 and Barnett, Julie (2021) What's the beef?: debating meat, matters of concern and the emergence of online issue publics. Journal of Rural Studies, 84. pp. 134-146. doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2021.03.008

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A number of recent scientific publications have called for significant reductions in meat consumption in order to mitigate the negative impacts of the food system on the planet. Public debate around this issue is not straightforward, however, with plant-based and alternative-protein narratives contested by an agro-ecological narrative. These competing narratives are being played out in both scientific and public discourses, with social media emerging as an important vehicle. Seeking to understand the nature of the ‘online issue publics’ forming around this issue, the paper draws on an analysis of Twitter data to assess ‘sustainable meat’ narratives as ‘matters of concern’ (Latour, 2004, Latour, 2018), rooted in the discrepant views, disputes and disagreements that typically coalesce around such issues. To this end, #sustainablemeat AND #ethicalmeat, and #eatlessmeat hashtags, respectively, were compared, as examples of debating meat. Two key insights emerged. Firstly, there is limited evidence of an encompassing debate on Twitter; #eatlessmeat tweets generated more frequent mentions and greater heterogeneity of content than #sustainablemeat tweets. Secondly, the prominence of commercially invested users using Twitter for marketing purposes; #sustainablemeat tweets were orientated toward promoting a business or the production of meat, whereas #eatlessmeat tweets showed a greater association with planetary issues and an evolution of the ‘vegan’ narrative. Individuals and organisations who are already invested in an issue use specialist hashtags. Specific ‘sustainable meat’ narratives on Twitter signal the multiplicity of debates that currently surround this contested issue which, as ‘matters of concern’, is still in the early stages of development.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > Countryside and Community Research Institute
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Rhiannon Goodland
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2021 09:58
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 04:15
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/9523

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