Animal Studies Bibliography

Bowd, Alan D. and Anne C. Bowd. 1989. Attitudes toward the treatment of animals: A study of Christian groups in Australia. Anthrozoos 3(1): 20-24.

Though the connection of religious attitudes and other social views have been much explored, the connection between religion and attitudes about the treatment of animals has not been addressed. This seems an important question since some animal rights activists make religious claims to justify their beliefs, and there has been some discussion of animal issues in the religious press. Historically, the major Christian churches have refused to support efforts to fight cruelty to animals. Humane activists have been more often from theologically liberal denominations. Allport's research suggests that the churchgoers likely to be liberal and socially activist are the intrinsic ones (people who go for the religion, not for social contacts, etc.). Other research shows that the church's theological position is also an important determinant of social attitudes, though sometimes only in connection with issues seen to be directly relevant to church practice. Kellert found that people who rarely attend church were more interest in and affectionate toward wildlife and protecting animals.

Hypothesis : More humane attitudes will be connected with more liberal theological positions.

Independent variables/operational definitions : religious denomination--Baptist, Roman Catholic, Anglican (Episcopalian), Uniting Church in Australia, Quaker (in order from most conservative to most liberal); sex, age, occupation, SES (based on standard 7-category scale of occupational ranking)

Dependent variables/operational definitions : attitudes about animal treatment, measured with the Scale of Attitudes Toward the Treatment of Animals (SATA)--30 Likert-type items measuring 4 areas: companion animals, animal in agriculture, wild animals, and animals in science

Findings : Low but significant correlation between gender and attitude (women expressing significantly more humane attitudes). No significant correlation between SES or age and attitudes. This finding replicates Kellert's and is unsurprising due to the homogeneity of the sample in these two variables. The hypothesis was supported--the more theologically liberal denominations had more humane attitudes toward animals, with Quakers the most humane and Baptists the least. Views expressed in the animals in science items alone confirmed the overall ranking. Neither the other 3 subgroups nor any individual items showed the same pattern as the overall data nor any significant differences. This is likely due to the homogeneity of the items and the small number of items. The relationship between the church's theological position and members' attitudes toward animals was not supported for the Uniting Church. This may be attributable to within-congregation variation or personality variables. The correlations found may be explained two ways. First, church doctrines may influence people's beliefs. Second, the social tradition of each church (cultural-historical traditions like the Anglican Blessing of Animals, e.g.) may influence attitudes as well. Further research should investigate a broader range of religions and more subjects to find a clear picture of this relationship.

Sample/population sampled : 187 churchgoers from 5 denominations (4 from a small Australian city, one from a larger such city), all middle-class congregations; response rate ranged from 34% to 53%, varying by denomination.


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