Animal Studies Bibliography

Plous, S. 1991. An attitude survey of animal rights activists. Psychological Science 2(3): 194- 196.

Purpose : Popular perceptions of animal rights activists include characterizing them as terrorists, fanatical, militant, and dangerous, in favor of eliminating all animal research, considering animal welfare more important than human welfare, and being vegetarian and avoiding leather. This survey aimed to assess the validity of these perceptions and to describe animal rights activists and their views.

Operational definitions : Rs were considered animal rights activists if they met 4 criteria: 1) self-identified as such; 2) self-identified as participant in the animal rights movement; 3) indicated they believed in animal rights philosophy; 4) traveled from another state specifically to attend the March

Findings : Nearly all activists were white, 80% were female, and the average age was 34. 78% of non activists supported animal rights philosophy. Education was not measured but other research suggests animal rights activists are more likely to have college and graduate degrees than the general public. Average length of movement involvement was over 6 years, and 1 in 5 reported more than 10 years. 18% ( vs. 0% of nonactivists) were vegans, 45% (vs. 6%) vegetarians, 28% (vs. 37%) semi-vegetarian, and 9% (vs. 57%) non-vegetarian. 61% (vs. 15%) never bought leather products. Choosing their desired highest priority of the animal rights movement, more than half chose things other than ending animal research, though 85% said they would end all animal research if they could (vs. 17% of nonactivists). 7% said nonhuman life was more important than human life (vs. 0%), 15% (vs. 69%) said human life was more important, and 78% (vs. 31%) valued human and nonhuman life equally. Female activists had longer associations with the movement, were more likely to value nonhuman life equally or above human life, more likely to be vegetarian or vegan, and more likely to choose animal research as the most important issue and to desire its elimination. These results indicate that popular perceptions about activists are incorrect on most counts and that there is substantial variation of views within the movement. Looking separately at activists focused on eliminating animal research produces some differences. These animal research activists were more likely to value nonhuman life equally with or above human life, to support eliminating all animal research, to consider lab break-ins effective, to believe all animals feel pain like humans, and to give higher pain ratings to various groups of animals (for how much pain that type of animal could feel). Most activists of both groups were critical of animal researchers, believing they did not care about their animals. Nonactivists were less critical but still not very positive about animal researchers, and female activists were the most negative. 61% of the activists supported break-ins (vs. 14% of nonactivists), with 23% undecided (vs. 39%). Female activists were significantly more supportive of break-ins, a surprising result considering women's general reluctance to support illegal activities. Activists were more likely than nonactivists to see psychological research as as damaging to animals as medical research, but both groups agreed that medical research was more useful and that it was more important to eliminate psychological research. Activists' view are thus significantly different from nonactivists' views, but there was also much variation among activists in opinion and behavior.

Sample/population sampled : 574 (96% response rate) people walking toward a large animal rights rally in D.C. filled out the survey after being approached. 402 were classified as activists, and 54 were nonactivists who happened to be in the area.



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