The Animal Rights Debate - Public Opinion

animals gallup organization support

In May 2003 the Gallup Organization conducted a poll to determine Americans' opinions regarding animal rights issues. The results are based on telephone interviews with 1,005 adults aged eighteen and up.

As shown in Figure 2.1, 25% of those asked believed that animals deserve the same rights as people. A large majority (72%) said that animals deserve some protection, but can still be used to benefit people. Only a tiny percentage (3%) felt that animals do not need much protection from harm and exploitation. Support for animal rights was much higher among women (33%) than among men (17%).

The respondents were also asked whether they supported or opposed four specific proposals concerning the treatment of animals. (See Figure 2.2.) More than 60% favored passing strict laws regarding the treatment of farm animals. Nearly 40% favored a ban on all product testing performed on laboratory animals. Around one-third favored a similar ban on medical research testing. Support was far lower (22%) for a total ban on hunting.

FIGURE 2.1
Public opinion on animal rights, May 2003
SOURCE: Adapted from David W. Moore, "Opinion of Treatment of Animals," in Public Lukewarm on Animal Rights, The Gallup Organization, May 21, 2003, http://www.gallup.com/poll/content/default.aspx?ci=8461 (accessed March 11, 2005). Copyright © 2003 by The Gallup Organization. Reproduced by permission of The Gallup Organization.

Examination of these results by gender, age, and political affiliation reveals far more support for these proposals among women than from men. Support was also significantly higher from Democrats and Independents than from Republicans. No significant differences were found between age groups.

Degrees of adherence to the animal rights philosophy varied. Some of the people who said they supported animal rights did not want to eliminate all of the practices in which animals are killed or harmed. (See Figure 2.3.) More than half of those who supported animal rights were opposed to banning hunting. Nearly 45% of them did not want to ban medical research on laboratory animals. About 40% did not want to ban product testing on animals, and more than 20% of them opposed passing strict laws concerning the treatment of farm animals.

These answers are somewhat puzzling. Gallup reporter David Moore suggested that the people indicating support for animal rights had pets in mind when they answered that question. Later, when asked about the specific proposals (hunting, research, product testing, and farm animals), these same people may have envisioned different animals. It is also possible that people do not have a clear idea of the concept of animal rights or what the philosophy means in practice.

FIGURE 2.2
Public opinion on specific proposals concerning the treatment of animals, May 2003SOURCE: Adapted from David W. Moore, "Summary Table: Animal Rights Issues," in Public Lukewarm on Animal Rights, The Gallup Organization, May 21, 2003,http://www.gallup.com/poll/content/default.aspx?ci=8461 (accessed March 11, 2005). Copyright © 2003 by The Gallup Organization. Reproduced by permission of The Gallup Organization.

FIGURE 2.3
Opinion of those who said they support animal rights, May 2003
SOURCE: Adapted from David W. Moore, "Support for Animal Rights Proposals," Public Lukewarm on Animal Rights, The Gallup Organization, May 21, 2003, http://www.gallup.com/poll/content/default.aspx?ci=8461(accessed March 11, 2005). Copyright © 2003 by The Gallup Organization. Reproduced by permission of The Gallup Organization.

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