A Beef with Meat : Media and Audience Framings of Environmentally Unsustainable Production and Consumption

Sammanfattning: The aim of this thesis is to identify potential routes of participation in environmentally sustainable changes of the Swedish meat production and consumption. Changes are needed as meat production and consumption have been linked to serious environmental problems, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and land use change. Scientists, international organizations, and Swedish government authorities have identified individual consumer responsibility as key in making that change happen. The public is to be informed and educated to make more environmentally sustainable choices as meat consumers, and become more supportive of policy instruments. This strategy, which mirrors the dominant approach to solving environmental problems, is suggested by government authorities despite their suspicion that media should have made most Swedes aware of the environmental impacts of meat.In this thesis potential participatory routes are identified through the analysis of Swedish news media and audience framings of meat production and consumption. Media framing is studied as an important source of information, and perhaps motivation, crucial in the individualized consumer responsibility approach. The media framing is studied through content analysis of mainstream and alternative radical newspapers. The audiences’ framing of meat may be influenced by media, but also by their everyday experiences, beliefs, values, and opinions. Focus group discussions with reception elements are the methods used for studying how audiences frame meat and use media in the process. The concept of participation is broadened to include passive and active forms to capture in which roles individuals consider to contribute to changing meat production and consumption. It is not self-evident that routes to change must include individual participation, since responsibility may be attributed to other actors, both by media and their audiences.The results imply only participatory route supported by media and audience framing. It is the one that mirrors the individualized consumer responsibility approach to solving environmental problems. The major barrier to the route is the audiences’ perceived inability to act. In an alternative route supported by both media and audience framing, state centered actors are made responsible for enforcing change. Here, the major barrier is the perceived unlikeliness of powerful actors assuming responsibility. Audiences construct no citizen roles for themselves to participate in. Neither does media, who only address audiences as consumers. Based on these findings it is suggested that the outlook for the individualized responsibility approach to making meat production and consumption environmentally sustainable is gloomy. At least if it the approach is to continuously rely on the information and motivation offered by media.

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