Animal Studies Bibliography

Galvin, Shelley L. and Herzog, Jr., Harold A. 1992. Ethical ideology, animal rights activism and attitudes toward the treatment of animals. Ethics and Behavior 2(3): 141-149.

Multiple studies have show that demographically, animal rights activists are disproportionately female, white, well-educated, middle to upper middle class, politically liberal, and childless (141). Although many portray animal rights activists as crazy, few researchers have investigated the psychology of these activists.


Hypothesis : Animal rights activists will be disproportionately absolutist in ethical orientation. Also, the standard EPQ might be interpreted by activists as speciesist and might therefore underestimate the prevalence of idealist attitudes.

Independent variables/operational definitions : Animal rights activist (approached at March for Animals, 1990) or non-activist (college students in psych. class)

Dependent variables/operational definitions : Ethical ideology, which has two aspects: relativism (extent to which the person believes moral decisions should be based on universal principles) and idealism (extent to which person believes that moral behavior always has positive results). These 2 dimensions, measured by the EPQ (Ethics Position Questionnaire) allow us to classify people into four ethical types: situationists (high relativism, high idealism--there are no universal moral principles, but can get good results by cost-benefit analysis of each separate case); absolutists (low relativism, high idealism--following universal principles will have good results for all); subjectivists (high relativism, low idealism--no universal principles, and not necessarily good results from good acts); and exceptionists (low relativism, high idealism--there are universal principles but they won't necessarily produce good results, so exceptions may be okay). To test whether activist would interpret questions differently, a modified EPQ was distributed to some in which being replaced people in 4 of the 20 items, with being defined as including human and nonhuman animals. (For example, The dignity and welfare of people [beings] should be the most important concern in society.)

Findings : Activists who had the modified EPQ had higher idealism scores than activists with the regular form, as expected. Activists did not vary on the relativism dimension based on which version of the questionnaire they took. Neither idealism nor relativism scores differed by type of questionnaire among college students (non-activists). Thus we can conclude that the activists and nonactivists interpreted the idealism scale wording of the EPQ differently. There was a statistically significant difference in ethical type between activists and non-activists using both the original and modified questionnaire versions. More activists than students were absolutists, and more students than activists were subjectivists. Although one might assume that this ethical absolutism among activists comes from fundamentalist religious beliefs, the demographic data showed that only 34% belonged to mainstream denominations. It is possible, though, that there may be some other religious aspect to animal rights activism--for example, some have suggested that the activism parallels a religious conversion. Any study that places people into a typology is limited, but these results are supported by qualitative studies of the activists and other surveys done at the march. The study would be stronger, however, if we could find a relationship between EPQ scores and attitudes toward animal use among nonactivists.

Sample/population sampled : 600 questionnaire packets (400 modified, 200 regular EPQ) were given on an ad hoc basis to participants at a pre-march rally before the March for Animals. Less than 10% (estimated) refused to take the packet. A 26% return rate was achieved--103 modified form responses and 54 original form responses. Volunteers in introductory psychology courses at Western Carolina University were given the forms, (half original, half modified), and 101 original and 97 modified were returned (74% response rate).


Purpose : Examine relationship between ethical type and attitudes about animals among non-animal rights activists. Assess the independent contributions of EPQ type and gender (shown as important by other literature) toward animal attitudes.

Independent variables/operational definitions : Gender; EPQ subscale scores (relativism and idealism)

Dependent variables/operational definitions : Attitudes about treatment of animals--slightly modified version of Herzog et. al.'s (1991) Animal Attitude Scale, on which higher scores indicate greater concern for animals' welfare.

Findings : Idealism scores were highly and positively correlated to animal attitudes, while relativism scores were not correlated with animal attitudes. In multiple regression, gender and idealism, and not relativism, were significant predictor variables that contributed independently to attitudes about animals. One possible explanation of this finding may be found in Gilligan's ethic of care. Most animal rights activists are women, and are according to Gilligan more likely to make moral decisions based on caring rather than on justice. This idea is supported by Shapiro's (1992) analysis of activist leaders' autobiographical accounts. The ethical idealism measured in the EPQ may be related to empathy and caring. Forsyth et. al. (1987) did find that ethical absolutists (the category in which activists trump students) scored highest on measures of caring.

Sample/population sampled : 112 women and 57 men in social psychology and experimental psychology courses at the U. of Tennessee received extra credit for responding to the EPQ and animal attitude survey.

These two studies suggest that further research is needed to study whether an individuals' ethical beliefs cause or prohibit participation in social movements. Further, people classified as absolutist tend to take strong social stands and to judge others harshly for moral failures, and the prevalence of absolutism among animal rights activists may explain the impasse in the debate. Research comparing the activists' ethical views with those of animal researchers would be interesting in answering this question.


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