Labels And The Treatment Of Animals
This study examines how attitudes toward the maltreatment of animals vary depending on the type of animal. The study is conducted using archival data of writings about animals in popular scientific venues, as well as an experiment in which respondents were asked to react to vignettes describing the maltreatment of different species of animals. The study finds that the species and label of an animal determines how people react to its mistreatment — less tolerance for maltreatment was accorded for companion animals and certain types of maltreatment were acceptable only for certain species (e.g. “hooking” was okay for fish but not birds, cats, or dogs).
“The proposition that sheer labels or categories are important in people’s reactions to the treatment of animals was supported by evidence from two sources. First, print archives showed that in the real world animals with a great deal in common such as (a) dolphins and tuna in the same nets; (b) cats and dogs, and pigs and goats in the same laboratories; and (c) native and feral species in the same parks are viewed or treated quite differently by humans. Second, original experiments were conducted wherein some hypothetical maltreatment of animals was held constant, but the animal label was varied over different respondents. Depending on the fictional maltreatment (hooking, shooting) and label (dog, cat, bird, fish, pig, goat) men and women respondents showed strong and systematic patterns of more or less tolerance for such treatment.”