Each year the Humane Research Council surveys the attitudes and behaviors of Americans toward animals. The results of this year’s Animal Tracker study, sponsored by Alley Cat Allies, American Anti-Vivisection Society, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare Trust, Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Society of the United States, Maddie’s Fund, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, & the Pettus Crowe Foundation, were recently released.
The news was good…… and not so good.
First, some good news.
Of those responding to the survey, 36% said they’d watched wildlife in the past year and 29% had consumed a meat or dairy substitute. Also, only 15% said they’d been hunting or fishing, 6% said they’d bought an animal, and 5% had been to a circus.
What actions are people taking on behalf of animals? Of respondents, 48% said that their concern for animals had led them to spay or neuter a pet, 29% bought products labeled, “not tested on animals,” and 25% signed a petition for animals.
What advocacy tactics do people support? Of all respondents, 70% support cruelty investigations, 70% support the use of media, 55% support speaking in schools, 48% support ballot initiatives, 47% support filing lawsuits on behalf of animals and 46% support lobbying government officials.
What about the not so good news?
Sadly, 26% of respondents reported having visited a zoo in the past year. Only 10% of respondents had donated to an animal group and only 2% had volunteered for an animal group. Also, only 11% voted for an animal-friendly candidate, only 17% had voted for an animal-friendly law, and only 11% had bought meat or dairy products labeled “Humane.” Only 25% of respondents felt that humane education was very important.
But, as disturbing as those statistics are, that’s not the worst news.
No, the worst news is that comparisons of 2008 and 2014 findings show a decline in support for animal protection. The number of people donating to animal groups is down 16%, and the number of those adopting animals is down 11%. The number of those reporting spaying/neutering pets was down 14%. Those purchasing products not tested on animals was down 12%. Those signing petitions was down 10%, and those voting for animal-friendly politicians was down 9%.
In 2008, 40% of respondents felt that humane education was very important. In 2011, that support dropped to 31%, and this year, it’s down to 25%. During that same period, those saying humane education was not at all important increased from 5% to 9%, and those not knowing it it’s important or not also increased from 5% to 9%.
So why the big drop in support for animal welfare?
I’m just speculating here, but part of it may coincide with the economic downturn and the corresponding polarization of the country’s views on a variety of topics.
In addition, public relations firms acting on behalf of puppy mills and animal agriculture have pulled out all the stops to change public opinion about animals. Despite the fact that dogs sell (hence the reason you see a dog in almost every commercial on television), there has also been an uptick in the number of commercials in support of animal agriculture. I mean, have you counted the number of ads touting the goodness of bacon? Practically every fast food chain has a burger with bacon they’re advertising.
So, what do you think is contributing to our declining interest in animal welfare?
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