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Using grounded theory to examine people's attitudes toward how animals are used

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This study uses qualitative methodology to examine why people have different attitudes toward different types of nonhuman animal use. Seventeen participants took part in a semi-structured interview. The study used Grounded Theory to analyze the interviews and developed a model that consists of 4 major themes: (a) attitudes toward animals, (b) knowledge of animal use procedures,(c) perceptions of choice,and (d) cost-benefit analysis.The findings illustrate that cognitive processing, characteristics of the species of animal being used, and the type of animal use can all influence attitudes toward animal use. Because previous research has focused on participant variables such as age and gender to explain variance in attitudes toward animal use (Furnham & Pinder, 1990; Kellert & Berry, 1981) and measured attitudes toward animal use in general (rather than distinguishing between different types of use) (Armstrong & Hutchins, 1996), these findings can add to knowledge of people's views on animal use. This paper discusses how such views may be justified and maintained. The present study used in-depth interviews that allowed participants to explore their views with greater freedom than is possible in questionnaire studies, in order to address why people have different views toward different types of nonhuman animal use. Animal use refers to a range of practices that involve humans using nonhuman animals, such as cosmetics testing on animals, hunting animals for sport, and farming. Yet, while people often hold different views toward different types of animal use (Knight, Vrij, Cherryman, & Nunkoosing, 2003; Plous, 1993), research has continued to measure attitudes toward animal use in general (Armstrong & Hutchins, 1996; Matthews & Herzog, 1997), that is as one uni-dimensional construct rather than distinguishing between different types of animal use. Furthermore, while most studies have focused on participant characteristics (gender and age) to explain variations in attitudes (Furnham & Pinder, 1990; Kellert & Berry, 1981), we argue that factors relating to the species of animal and type of animal use also might influence people's views on this subject. For although people often may express generalized attitudes about whole classes of things, people, places, and events, they also modify these attitudes (and their accompanying behavior), according to specific contexts as demonstrated in the classic LaPiere (1934) study. Thus, animal use is not a unitary concept because it relates to many different aspects of human lives and their relationships with animals. A vegetarian with diabetes may still rely on insulin made from animal sources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-327
Number of pages21
JournalSociety and Animals: Journal of Human-Animal Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003

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