Understanding animal protection in ‘sustainable’ food policy: A victim-based approach

Grantham Scholar Frances Payne researches ideas around victims and power in farmed and wild animals, with a focus on Scottish salmon farming. 

The Project

Despite the growing discourse of “sustainability”, meat consumption and animal production are rising rapidly. Globally, industrial seafood farming is increasing – in the name of species conservation. Aquatic animals are protected by significantly lower standards of welfare than land animals, but the Scottish Government seeks to increase intensive salmon farming while Spain is soon to launch the first intensive octopus farm. These moves are expected to garner support due to claims that seafood farms will reduce pressures on “wild stock”.

Species conservation is of vital importance to the goal of preserving biodiversity. But it is not always beneficial to the wellbeing of individual animals. Indeed such policies can sometimes be directly inimical to the interests of individuals. An example of this is the culling of so-called invasive species. As the drive for “sustainability” in the agri-food system increases, a rich understanding of the “socio-cultural” problem is crucial to achieving a truly sustainable food future.

My research investigates how victim conceptualisation and power relations influence how the protection of farmed animals and “wild” animals are prioritised in sustainable food policy. In light of the Scottish Government’s plans to “protect” wild salmon by expanding intensive salmon farming, I focus on the case of Scottish salmon farming.

I will look at the following questions.

(1) Exactly how and why are different victim types conceptualised in “sustainable” food policy development?

(2) Whose interests are being prioritised and whose are being excluded? And why?

(3) What impact are victim conceptualisation and protection narratives having on “sustainable” food policy development?

(4) What alternative victim-based model might improve the way we protect food animals?


In 2022, Frances co-organised the annual symposium ‘ShARC Tales’ for Sheffield Animal studies Research Centre (ShARC).

Frances Payne on social media

You can find Frances on Twitter.

And you can connect on LinkedIn.


Professor Alasdair Cochrane

Department of Politics and International Relations


Professor Rosaleen Duffy

Department of Politics and International Relations