Justifying attitudes toward animal use: a qualitative study of people's views and beliefs

Sarah Knight, Louise Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


“Animal use” is a contentious topic that refers to practices involving the utilization of non-human animals by human beings. These practices often evoke strong and emotional reactions from opposing parties, and individuals can hold incongruent views concerning different ways in which animals are used. Yet previous research in this area has tended to portray attitudes toward animal use as uni-dimensional (rather than distinguishing between different types of use), and the field has been dominated by quantitative approaches that focus on participant characteristics such as gender, age, and so on, in order to explain variance in people's views on this topic. The present study assumed that attitudes are not uni-dimensional and applied Grounded Theory Methodology in order to determine psychological factors that underlie people's views concerning animal use issues. Eight participant-led interviews explored the factors that people consider when rationalizing their attitudes toward the use of animals, and interview transcripts were analyzed with an aim to understanding why attitudes vary depending upon the type of animal use in question. Three key themes were identified, labelled as “type of animal used,” “purpose of animal use,” and “knowledge of animal use.” These represent beliefs concerning animals and animal use, and help explain why people can support some animal use practices whilst opposing others. We conclude that taking a psychological approach in order to further examine the beliefs that underlie attitudes provides a way forward for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-42
JournalAnthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


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