Attitudes Towards Animal Welfare: Comparing Cultures
Measuring attitudes towards animal welfare is one of the key ways that we can understand how the general public feels about animals, but there is not just one “general public.” An advocate in the United States, for example, may face different challenges than advocates in a country like Spain, and what’s more, the way that attitudes are measured may be different as well, and lead to different conclusions. Trying to standardize how we measure attitudes towards animals in different countries and across different cultures could be very valuable: being able to see how one context differs from another, and to have a reasonable certainty that those comparisons are accurate, could have a huge implications for advocacy. To that end, researchers recently developed a new questionnaire to measure attitudes towards animals, and then used it to compare responses from two “culturally different” European countries Cyprus and the United Kingdom, to test the generality of the application.
The idea here was that Cyprus has a long-shared history with the U.K., but the country’s culture has been influenced by South-Eastern Europe and Western Asia, leading to “disparate attitudes towards animals” that make it a “strong test of the validity” of the questionnaire. After designing a questionnaire, researchers distributed it to 332 respondents from Cyprus and 191 people from the U.K. of all ages. The survey addressed 57 items including “general attitudes toward animal welfare, types of abuse, the function of abuse, and responsibility for actions,” and respondents’ beliefs about farmed, companion and wild animals. Interestingly, the survey found that people in Cyprus have “more positive attitudes toward animals, possibly owing to the fact that Cyprus is a smaller country than the UK, more rural, and developed far later than the UK.” The researchers speculated as to whether the Cypriots’ increased contact with animals in day to day life may have also contributed to this disparity. It is also interesting to note that there didn’t appear to be any age differences in attitudes towards animals, but this could potentially be a consequence of the sample size.
Ultimately, the researchers felt that their approach was validated, and presented a final “Animal Welfare Scale,” which is quick and simple, and “could be practicable for research conducted using mobile and smart phones, which are common even in poorer demographic groups.” For animal advocates of all kinds, the study shows is a promising step forward in “our understanding about whether the treatment of animals follows a universal pattern or is specific to the culture under question.”