Beliefs About Fishes and Chickens & Their Relation to Animal-Positive Behaviors in India
Animals raised for food generally receive significantly less attention and funding than companion animals (Faunalytics, 2019). In India, as in most countries, small-bodied animals like chickens and fish are killed in particularly massive numbers: Over 2.5 billion chickens and over five millions tonnes of live fishes were slaughtered in India in 2018 (Faunalytics, 2020). Although the Constitution of India and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 contain language that recognizes animals’ ability to suffer and calls for compassion for all creatures, farmed animals are not well protected by the law (World Animal Protection, 2020). For instance, there are no bans on cage systems for egg laying hens, nor are there limits on stocking densities for broiler chickens. For reasons such as these, India receives an “E” grade for its protection of animals used in farming from World Animal Protection.
Despite fishes and chickens constituting a huge proportion of farmed animals, little is known about public attitudes toward these animals in India. This study replicates our study of fish and chicken beliefs in the U.S. to illuminate which beliefs the Indian public has about small-bodied animals, and how these beliefs are related to animal-positive behaviors. Specifically, we examined the relationships between various beliefs and a willingness to reduce consumption of chickens or fishes and to sign a petition calling for improved living and slaughter conditions. Answering these questions is a first step toward understanding beliefs and attitudes that drive pro-animal behavior in India. The findings presented in this report may also prove useful to animal advocates who are seeking to target an Indian audience more effectively.
- Over 70% of people took diet pledges and signed welfare petitions. A large majority of participants were willing to reduce their consumption of chicken and fish, and were also willing to sign petitions calling for welfare improvements. Advocates who are aiming to secure commitments to a more animal-friendly diet may find success even with little belief-specific messaging.
- Animal-related beliefs are not strongly correlated with pro-animal actions. We found very few significant correlations between beliefs and consumption reduction pledges or welfare petition signatures. Advocates may wish to evaluate their own successes to determine which approaches have the greatest impact while also keeping in mind that many people are already willing to take pro-animal actions when asked.
- Many pro-animal beliefs are not especially common. Although some beliefs, such as chickens’ and fishes’ ability to experience pain, were held by large majorities, many beliefs were held by less than two-thirds of the people we surveyed. For example, less than 60% of people believed that chickens and fishes need room to explore and exercise. While some beliefs do not require more information, advocates who are interested in raising awareness of facts may wish to focus on messages about fish and chicken experiences, personalities, and intelligence.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. These findings suggest that the Indian public is already open to taking consumption reduction pledges and signing petitions for improved animal welfare. You may see a significant amount of pro-animal behavior simply by asking if people would consider it.
- Try stacking your asks. If you have interest in both outcomes, try asking for one pro-animal action after a person has already agreed to another. This may help increase pro-animal behavior due to something known as “behavior consistency”—people generally want to be consistent in what they do, so following one successful ask with another related ask may increase uptake. Be careful to avoid overloading people with requests, though.
- Explore the results from other countries and check back for more recommendations as our program of research focusing on chickens and fishes continues. We have also examined these beliefs in other countries, including the U.S., Brazil, Canada, and China. Advocates especially interested in exploring the effects of specific beliefs could consider utilizing the strongest cross-country beliefs from these reports. We will also be using experimental research to provide stronger recommendations about how these beliefs can be leveraged to alter behaviors. Although we have provided preliminary recommendations in this report, an experimental comparison of the most common and strongly associated beliefs is needed to see which can be used most effectively. This research will focus on the U.S., but may have implications for future research in India. Stay tuned for more from our line of research into small-bodied animals!
This project is a collaboration between researchers at Faunalytics and Mercy For Animals (MFA): namely, Zach Wulderk, Jo Anderson, and Tom Beggs of Faunalytics and Courtney Dillard, Walter Sanchez-Suarez, and Sebastian Quaade of MFA. We are indebted to Meredith Hui, Rashmit Arora, Diogo Fernandes, and Vitor Clemente for their assistance with linguistic and cultural translation, and to Cristina Mendonça, Meredith Hui, and Nikunj Sharma for their invaluable feedback.
We’d like to thank the CEA Animal Welfare Fund, the Culture and Animals Foundation, and an anonymous donor for funding this work, and the Tipping Point Private Foundation for funding the report translations.
This research is a replication of Faunalytics’ 2020 report Beliefs About Fish and Chickens & Their Relation to Animal-Positive Behaviors, which focused on U.S. adults’ beliefs about small-bodied animals. For this project, we explored beliefs held by adults in India. We examined 7 categories of beliefs: about emotions, suffering, personality, intelligence, socialness, consuming the animal, and an “other” category. There were several beliefs in each category, meaning the full list consisted of 33 beliefs about fishes and 32 beliefs about chickens.
We surveyed Indian adults and, after data cleaning, were left with 881 responses. More information about our data cleaning process can be found in the Supplementary Materials. Participants were randomly assigned to either the fish or chicken version of the survey. We then asked them to rate their level of agreement or disagreement with each of the beliefs for their assigned animal. Because India does not have a single language spoken by the vast majority of the population, researchers always have to decide which language(s) to use in a survey. In consultation with an Indian researcher, we elected to conduct the survey in English, which is spoken by a large proportion of the population, and a more geographically diverse one than Hindi. Some research suggests that the English-speaking segment of the Indian population tends to have a higher level of income and education. Some random error may also exist as a result of varying degrees of English comprehension among participants. All results should be interpreted with this in mind. The survey instrument can be found in its original language on Open Science Framework.
We examined two key outcome measures in order to understand how much each belief was associated with important behaviors related to the welfare of each animal: willingness to take a “diet pledge” and willingness to sign a “welfare petition.” For the diet pledge outcome, each participant was asked if they would pledge to reduce their consumption of their assigned animal. For example, participants assigned the fish condition were shown a prompt that read, “In recent years, many people have begun to reduce how much fish they eat, a pattern that is expected to continue. Will you pledge to reduce your own fish consumption?” Those who agreed were then asked to specify the amount they would limit themselves to and to provide a digital signature for their commitment.
For the petition outcome, each participant was asked if they would sign a petition to improve the welfare of their assigned animal. For example, participants in the chicken condition were shown a prompt that read, “We would like to give you the opportunity to sign a petition that would encourage legal reforms to improve the lives of farmed chickens. Specifically, the petition is designed to build support for regulations that would ensure that chickens raised on farms would have improved living and slaughter conditions. Would you be willing to sign this petition?” Participants were able to respond with “yes please” or “no thanks.”
The diet pledge and petition questions were presented at the end of the survey, where they saw a prompt reading, “Great, thank you! Before you finish, we have a couple of quick requests for you. You don’t have to agree to either, but please answer each question.” We specified that respondents’ participation incentive did not rely on them committing to the diet pledge or signing the welfare petition. The two outcome measures were counterbalanced, meaning that half of the participants saw the diet pledge first and half saw the welfare petition first.
Throughout this report, we use the plural “fishes” rather than “fish” in order to acknowledge that we are discussing a collection of individuals. Exceptions are made for verbatim references to the survey instruments, which used the plural “fish” because it is more common among the general public.
All top-line descriptive statistics were calculated using data weighted to match population values for gender, age, race/ethnicity, and region. However, as the differences between the weighted and unweighted data were not large, inferential statistics were calculated using unweighted data to avoid introducing additional sources of variance. Additional information on participant traits can be found in the Supplementary Materials.