New research suggests that if people perceive the rise of vegetarianism as a threat to their way of life they are more likely to care less for some animals.
Researchers from the University of Kent in the UK and Brock University in Canada studied the impact of human supremacy beliefs and vegetarianism on whether people feel moral concern for animals, ranging from those normally considered to be pets, such as cats and dogs, through to those reared for eating, such as pigs and cows, and wild animals.
Moral obligation towards animals varies widely as a function of how an animal is perceived, its functional role in society, and its relationship with humans. The vast majority of respondents (90%) felt morally obliged to show concern for the welfare and interests of dogs (a companion animal), but only 51% felt the same about pigs (a food animal).
The study, involving participants in the US, found that both human supremacy beliefs and a perceived vegetarianism threat are important in explaining why some people morally exclude animals.
The results demonstrated that stronger human supremacy beliefs and vegetarianism threat predicted the inclusion of fewer animals in individuals' moral circles over a reasonably large time interval.
More specifically, human supremacy beliefs predicted moral exclusion of all animal categories under investigation. That is, the stronger the dominance beliefs the more likely appealing (e.g., chimps) and unappealing (e.g., snakes) wild animals, companion animals (e.g., dogs), and food animals (e.g., pigs) would be morally excluded.
However, the effects of vegetarianism threat were more specific and only emerged for certain animal categories. Stronger vegetarianism threat predicted lesser moral inclusion of food animals, but not of companion animals and unappealing animals.
Longitudinal Effects of Human Supremacy Beliefs and Vegetarianism Threat on Moral Exclusion (vs. Inclusion) of Animals (Ana Leite, Kristof Dhont - University of Kent; Gordon Hodson - Brock University, Canada) is published in the journal European Journal of Social Psychology. See: https:/
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Notes to editors
The study saw 219 people take part in two waves of a 16-month longitudinal online study. All the participants were in the US, with 76 per cent reporting as meat eaters. The researchers investigated, for the first time, how the role of ideologically motivated beliefs relate to human-animal relations in predicting moral exclusion of distinct animal categories over time.
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It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and 25th in the Complete University Guide 2018, and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, it is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.
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