Human rights versus animal wrongs? It all depends....: Explaining disparate attitudes toward animals and how they are

Lead Research Organisation: University of Portsmouth
Department Name: Psychology


The use of non-human animals for human benefit (ie, ‘animal use’) is controversial, and practices such as cloning, farming methods and hunting for sport can provoke responses from the extreme to the indifferent. So what is it that determines different levels of approval for such practices? Previous research has mostly focused on variables such as gender and age in relation to people’s views on animal use; these account for a significant but small amount (5-10 per cent) of the variance in attitudes.

The aim of the present ESRC fellowship is to disseminate findings from a PhD project that took an alternative route to understanding differences in attitudes, inter- and intra- individuals and groups. A multi-method approach (including questionnaires, interviews and experimental methods) examined the views of laypersons, scientists involved in the use of animals for medical research, and animal welfare persons. Psychological factors representing beliefs about animals and animal use were found to be important, accounting for up to 65 per cent of the variance in attitudes, and a method for changing people’s approval of animal use was successful. An additional study that identified physical, psychological and social benefits of dog ownership (conducted by the award holder) will also be disseminated to various audiences.



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