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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Attitudes Changing Toward Animal Rights

Young child feeding pig in field on farm


A new survey by the University of Exeter published in Social Psychological and Personality Science shows that children differ dramatically from adults in their moral views on animals. Researchers asked a group of 479 children and adults ages 9 to 11, 18 to 21 and 29 to 59 about the moral status and treatment of farm animals (pigs), pets (dogs) and people. The youngest participants said that farm animals should be treated the same as people and pets, and think eating animals is less morally acceptable than do adults. The two older groups held more traditional views.

The findings suggest that speciesism, the moral imperative that gives different value to different animals, is learned as we become socialized. Dr. Luke McGuire says, “Humans’ relationship with animals is full of ethical double standards. Some animals are beloved household companions while others are kept in factory farms for economic benefit. Dogs are our friends, pigs are food.”

McGuire notes, “If we want people to move towards more plant-based diets for environmental reasons, we have to disrupt the current system somewhere. For example, if children ate more plant-based food in schools, that might be more in line with their moral values, and might reduce the normalisation towards adult values that we identify in this study.”