Human-animal emotional relationships have a complicated interplay with public perceptions of the morality of animal use. Humans may build emotional relationships with companion species. These species are not usually intensively farmed in the United Kingdom, but they may be utilized during animal experimentation. From a relational ethical standpoint, the public may therefore perceive animal experimentation as being less acceptable than intensive farming. This study aimed to determine whether human-animal emotional relationships affect public attitudes regarding use of animals in intensive farming and research. Responding to an online questionnaire, British citizens (N = 85) rated their agreement with 20 statements relating to their acceptance of intensive farming and animal experimentation, scientific research involving a given species (e.g., an animal which either is or is not typically associated with the companion context), killing free-living animals, and consuming animals existing within companion and farming contexts. Positive correlations were found between public acceptance of intensive farming and animal experimentation, such that acceptance of animal experimentation corresponded with acceptance of intensive farming practices. This finding disproved our theory that the British public may perceive animal experimentation as less acceptable than intensive farming due to the use of companion species in scientific research. Public acceptance of animal experimentation also did not significantly differ between that involving companion or noncompanion species. However, respondents were more accepting of the consumption of a typical farmed animal raised for meat purposes than consuming an animal if it had been raised in a companion context or consuming a typical companion species raised in either a farmed or companion context. These findings illustrate that the human-animal relationship can influence (but only to a degree) public perceptions of the morality of animal use.
Cox, L., & Montrose, V. T. (2016). How Do Human-Animal Emotional Relationships Influence Public Perceptions of Animal Use? Journal of Animal Ethics, 44-53. https://doi.org/10.5406/janimalethics.6.1.0044