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School of Business | Department of Management Studies | MSc program in Management and International Business | 2016
Thesis number: 14619
How are the problems related to animal production discussed by NGOs? A critical discourse analysis on how NGOs talk about animal production in Finland
Author: Kärkkäinen, Moona
Title: How are the problems related to animal production discussed by NGOs? A critical discourse analysis on how NGOs talk about animal production in Finland
Year: 2016  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: MSc program in Management and International Business
Index terms: järjestöt; organizations; eläimet; animals; diskurssianalyysi; discourse analysis
Pages: 143
Full text:
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Key terms: non-governmental organization, NGO, discourse, critical discourse analysis, animal production, sustainability
This Master's Thesis studies how non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Finland talk about animal production and its problems. Because of the vast environmental problems, health concerns related to meat eating and the inhumane conditions to which animals are subjected, animal production is a hot topic and under criticism from several actors in society.

The objective of this study is to discover what kind of discourses NGOs use when addressing animal production, and whether the discourses can be considered to reproduce the dominant perception on animal production or to use more critical counter-discourses that oppose the oppressive language used to talk about animals. The main criticism in this study is directed to the use of discourse that reproduces the dominant power inequalities between humans and animals instead of trying to change them. Due to the linkage between discourse and society, discourse plays a role in changing not only the sociocultural structures (of how animals are perceived) but also the social acts (of how animals are treated).

The analysis is based on critical discourse analysis by Fairclough, focusing on the use of dominant and critical discourses. Through the language we use, we socially construct how animal production is understood and discussed in society. Combining discourses in new and creative manner is thought to result in social change, whereas more traditional combinations of discourses maintain the dominant discourse and social order.

The findings reveal that environmental NGOs use moderate messages and dominant discourses, whereas animal rights NGOs use more critical or mixed discourses. Most of the NGOs use discourses that fit with their core mission, although there are few exceptions. Despite of the health concerns of meat eating, the focus is rather on the 'normalization' of plant-based diets and not on highlighting the possible health benefits. The duality of discourse shows how the NGOs both sympathize with and blame different groups, mostly consumers, as if not wanting to take a too strong position.

According to Fairclough's theory, the more creatively mixed discourses are, the better chances they have on changing the dominant discourse. By using a variety of different discourses, even dominant and critical, may result in better audience reception, as the discourse appeals to a larger groups of people, even with different ideologies. This is why NGOs should use a mixture of several discourses, with a critical perspective, without being concerned about the strategic fit. Animalia, Maan Ystävät and Vegaaniliitto are considered more influential based on their critical heterogeneous discourses, whereas the environmental NGOs are considered to reproduce the dominant discourse and social practice of how animals are perceived. However, more research is needed to make a more reliable analysis on the the possibilities for NGO discourses to change the dominant discourse.
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