Why Do Right-Wing Adherents Engage in More Animal Exploitation and Meat Consumption?
Even though a number of studies have established a link between right-wing ideology and meat-eating, there is a dearth of literature addressing why those with right-wing beliefs are more likely to consume animals. Recognizing the gap, this study of Dutch and Belgian adults begins to address the question of why, and finds that people with right-wing beliefs tend to staunchly oppose any movement that threatens traditions, or perceived human superiority. Though it is only an initial foray into right-wing psychology and its tendency towards animal exploitation, the authors establish a strong link between the two and encourage further inquiry.
When it comes to right-wing ideology, past research has identified two “dispositional dimensions” that are the primary lenses through which adherents see the world: Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA), defined by a strong belief in cultural traditions, submission to authority, and aggression towards disobedience; and Social Dominance Orientation (SDO), a desire for your group to be dominant, and belief that there is a fundamental inequality among social groups. At the beginning of their paper, the authors note that “Few studies have investigated relations between social-ideological orientations and exploitative attitudes and behaviors toward animals. […] Yet existing evidence reveals positive associations between right-wing ideologies such as RWA and SDO, and attitudes toward the exploitation of animals as objects for human benefit.” Even though it is established that having a right-wing orientation means that a person is more likely to self-identify as a meat eater and consume meat in their daily life, there is little evidence as to why this is the case. In this study, researchers hypothesized that the link between meat-eating and right-wing beliefs is caused primarily by “a sense of threat from increasingly popular non-exploitive ideologies toward animals (i.e., veg(etari)anism),” as well as “human supremacy beliefs.”
Conducting two separate surveys with Dutch and Belgian adults respectively, researchers established the link, finding that “those higher (vs. lower) in RWA or SDO demonstrate greater acceptance of animal exploitation and greater animal consumption.” However, more importantly, they were able to “reveal that right-wing ideologies predict animal exploitation and consumption through two psychological processes: the perceived threat that animal-rights ideologies pose to the dominant carnist ideology, and the belief in human superiority over animals.” Even when researchers replicated their first study with a second group, sampling a greater proportion of non-meat eaters, and controlling for the possibility that meat-eaters simply like the taste of meat, researchers still found that the basis of meat-eating for right-wing respondents was ideological in nature. Again, they found that for right-wingers, meat-eating behavior was “clearly ideological in nature, referencing power, might, and greater ‘rights’ over animals, plus an active push-back against movements advocating for the under-powered (i.e., non-human animals).”
Through this study, the authors hope to inspire further inquiry and note that their work indicates that it is “increasingly clear” that right-wing thought has “much broader implications” for the propagation of meat-eating. Given the strength of ideological beliefs, it might be wise for animal advocates to undertake further research into how their messages target and impact right-wing adherents. Furthermore, if right-wing ideology is such a strong predictor of a steadfast belief in the rightness of consuming animals, it may be more effective to target meat-eaters who do not disagree with veganism/vegetarianism on such fundamental, visceral grounds.
Despite the well-documented implications of right-wing ideological dispositions for human intergroup relations, surprisingly little is understood about the implications for human–animal relations. We investigate why right-wing ideologies – social dominance orientation (SDO) and right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) – positively predict attitudes toward animal exploitation and meat consumption. Two survey studies conducted in heterogeneous community samples (Study 1, N=260; Study 2, N=489) demonstrated that right-wing ideologies predict greater acceptance of animal exploitation and more meat consumption through two explaining mechanisms: (a) perceived threat from non-exploitive ideologies to the dominant carnist ideology (for both SDO and RWA) and (b) belief in human superiority over animals (for SDO). These findings hold after controlling for hedonistic pleasure from eating meat. Right-wing adherents do not simply consume more animals because they enjoy the taste of meat, but because doing so supports dominance ideologies and resistance to cultural change. Psychological parallels between human intergroup relations and human–animal relations are considered.