Jane Goodall gets a clue
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, August/September 1996:
RIDGEFIELD, Connecticut––Vegetarianism is rapidly
gaining among the young, suggest findings by the polling firm Smith
& Co., in a market research report prepared for the Roots & Shoots
environmental education project of the Jane Goodall Institute.
The pollsters also found that attitudes of youth toward laboratory
use of animals are increasingly skeptical, while broad attacks
on zoos, aquariums, and circuses on general principle may be foredoomed
to failure because the abolitionist perspective contradicts animal
lovers’ direct experience.
The Goodall Institute, based in Ridgefield, Connecticut,
hired Smith & Co., of nearby Monroe, to survey 396 students in the
sixth, seventh, and eighth grades within 12 local school districts.
The area is reasonably representative of the U.S. as a whole in
urban/suburban/rural population balance and income level, and is
historically associated with both biomedical research and the rise of
the animal rights movement. Both Friends of Animals and U.S.
Surgical Corporation are headquartered just outside the survey area,
as was The Animals’ Agenda magazine from 1981 to 1993. Other
major biomedical research firms are within commuting distance.
The Goodall Institute did not focus on animal issues per se,
but rather sought to “identify use of leisure time” by middle schoolers,
“determine their attitudes toward the world and their community,”
find the sources most influencing “feelings regarding the community,”
and “distinguish attitudes on key environmental issues.”
In findings of import to animal protection:
• 81.3% reported having a house pet, consistent with 1984
American Veterinary Medical Association findings that 75% of
homes with children also have at least one dog or cat.
• 21.4% belong to a club or organization that is interested
in animal welfare. Although direct mail experts commonly estimate
that one U.S. household in four donates to animal protection, ANIMAL
PEOPLE does not have hard data directly comparable to the
Goodall Institute findings on file.
• 31.1% said their attitudes toward animals were most
influenced by family; 22.7% said their attitudes were most influenced
by their teachers; 21.2% said their attitudes were most influenced
by their friends; 20.2% said their attitudes were most influenced
by the media; and just 1.5% said their attitudes were most
influenced by religious belief. However, the Goodall Institute found,
“When looking for guidance regarding animals, 46.7% of those who
live in rural areas refer to family, whereas 30.8% of the sixth graders
look to teachers.” A third of children from one-child homes put
media first, markedly more than children from multi-child families.
• 61.1% disagreed that, “Using wild animals for entertainment
purposes is appropriate,” but “entertainment purposes” was not
further defined, so could have included everything from hunting to
zoo-going. Overall, 37.4% of the children strongly disagreed that
using wild animals for entertainment is appropriate. However, students
who had no pets were 19% more likely to oppose the use of
wildlife in entertainment than students with pets. Since the uses of
wildlife in entertainment with the highest profile are zoos, aquariums,
circuses, and films or videos, this finding may offer a hint as
to why despite the broad public appeal of campaigns on behalf of specific
captive animals in bad situations, like the orca Willy/Keiko and
the gorilla Ivan, campaigns aiming at a general shutdown of zoos,
circuses, and marine mammal parks haven’t captured public interest.
Apparently young petkeepers do not perceive cruelty in situations
analagous to petkeeping.
• 96.9% agreed that, “Animals can exhibit human-like
emotions,” and 63.4% agreed strongly, markedly more than the 47%
who agreed that animals “are just like humans in all important ways”
in a December 1993 Los Angeles Times poll of 1,612 adults.
• 71.7% agreed that, “Animals have the same right to exist
as humans,” comparable to the 67% who agreed in a 1995
Associated Press poll of 1,004 American adults and the 32% of adults
who disagreed with the statement that “humans are morally superior
to other species of animals” in a 1990 Denver Post/News 4 poll of
512 Coloradoans, but slightly less that the 75% of 532 Wisconsin
residents who agreed in a 1990 Milwaukee Journal poll that animals
do have rights. The latter finding is generally considered anomalous
because of the failure of the pollsters to inquire as to the extent and/or
nature of animals’ rights.
The questions about animals’ emotions and rights rated first
and second in strength of views expressed, among a battery of questions
about other ethical issues. Protecting the rainforest ranked third.
The sharpest divisions of opinion concerned vegetarianism and the
use of animals in biomedical research.
Question Agree Agree Disagree Disagree
Closest precedent survey strongly some some strongly
I consider myself a vegetarian 10.6% 16.4% 17.2% 53.0%
Associated Press, 1995 (adults) 2% 6% 21% 71%
Health Focus, 1995 (adults) 3% 7% 17% 73%
Despite the division of opinion, Roots & Shoots respondents
are two to three times more likely to be vegetarians or “meat
avoiders” than Americans at large.
Animals must be used in biomedical/industrial research:
9.3% 14.9% 22.2% 52.3%
AP, biomedical, 1995 8% 62% 15% 14%
American Medical Assn., 1989 36% 28% 23% 8%
AP, product safety, 1995 2% 29% 21% 25%
Post/News 4, product safety, 1990 38% 5% ––––49%––––
The markedly stronger opposition to laboratory use of animals
among the Roots & Shoots respondents may not reflect an actual
difference in attitude from the general public. Rather, it could reflect
more awareness of the product testing issue, via well-publicized consumer
boycotts, than of the biomedical research issue; it could also
reflect an equation of biomedical research with classroom dissection.
Unfortunately, the Roots & Shoots survey did not ask separate questions
about the different laboratory uses of animals. Despite that
shortcoming of the data, it appears from the shifts of opinion found
in the various polls since 1989 that the trend toward skepticism of
animal research is likely to continue for at least another generation.