Gender Difference In Attitudes Towards Animal Exploitation
A growing body of research suggests that gender influences attitudes toward the treatment of non-human animals. Results show that, generally, women are more engaged in environmental issues, have more positive attitudes towards animals, and a greater concern over animal suffering. The current study adds to this body of literature and provides evidence that differences in attitudes towards animals are linked to how humans treat and interact with each other.
The authors of the study distributed online surveys to a group of over 1,000 people from Portugal, most of whom were young (average age of 26) and educated. The participants were asked a range of questions concerning two attitudes towards non-human animals: 1) speciesism, which is the belief that human superiority justifies animal exploitation; and 2) human supremacy, or the belief that humans are distinct from and superior to other animals.
Participants were asked their opinion about six statements regarding speciesism and human supremacy, such as “animals are inferior to humans” and “I think it is perfectly acceptable for cattle, chickens, and pigs to be raised for human consumption.” The results showed that women were less likely than men to agree with statements that promoted speciesism and human supremacy.
The authors then asked participants questions about their attitudes toward other humans. The questions related to social dominance orientation, or SDO, and empathy, both of which are correlated to men and women’s attitudes toward speciesism and human supremacy. SDO, the subject of other articles in the Faunalytics’ research library, is that attitude that superior groups of people should dominate inferior groups of people. The authors of this study found that fewer women than men possess this attitude. They also found that women have higher levels of empathy towards other humans than men.
Overall, women scored lower in SDO than men and were less likely than men to support speciesism and human supremacy. This, coupled with higher levels of empathy, demonstrate that a greater number of women possess genuine concern for the well-being of animals.
The broader implications of this research suggest that by changing our attitudes towards each other, we may be able to engender compassion towards animals. Importantly, what we teach children and how we socialize them can impact their attitudes toward non-human animals. For example, girls are often encouraged to be caring, concerned about others, and emotionally expressive, which could lead to a stronger sense of empathy towards animals. Boys, on the other hand, are more susceptible to messages that condone dominance, competition, and utilitarianism, all of which may hinder the development of compassionate feelings towards animals.
For animal advocates, these findings suggest that campaigns targeted at women should appeal to their tendency for greater empathy and compassion towards others. Likewise, campaigns targeted at men should either challenge the view that they are less empathetic or appeal to other aspects of their personalities.