Animal Advocates and Indigenous Peoples: The Survey Results

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  June 2003:

Animal Advocates and Indigenous Peoples:  The Survey Results
by Lee Wiles

In a survey conducted during the winter of 2002-2003, 1,000
randomly selected U.S. readers of Animal People were asked various
questions about, among other things, their attitudes toward
indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada, indigenous
peoples’ use of animals, and the animal advocacy movement’s
interactions with indigenous peoples.  A total of 358 ANIMAL PEOPLE
readers responded.
The survey discovered that approximately equal numbers of
animal advocates are sympathetic and unsympathetic toward the
indigenous rights movement. This split appears to be due to the
ambivalence many animal advocates feel toward indigenous peoples
after several disputes over hunting and trapping.

Respondents revealed in other parts of the questionnaire that
they overwhelmingly oppose the use of animals by indigenous peoples
for purposes other than survival.  Even when asked if killing animals
was acceptable for subsistence,  only 15.5% of animal advocates
replied in the affirmative.  A much smaller percentage said animal
usage was justifiable for money or “cultural survival.”
Since subsistence hunting is often thought to be done for
survival,  we must ask why animal advocates oppose it.  Although the
questionnaire did not specifically ask if killing animals is
acceptable for a human’s survival,  many write-in responses suggested
that a substantial percentage of animal advocates do believe so.
However,  a large number of respondents also said it is no
longer necessary to     use animal products anywhere because the
global market has expanded to reach everyone,  and non-animal
products are readily available.
Thus,  they believe hunting and trapping for subsistence has become a
cultural preference,  rather than a matter of legitimate need,  and
it is therefore not justified.
Consistent with these positions,  82.8% of respondents agreed
that the animal advocacy movement should try to prevent the
“exploitation” of animals by indigenous peoples.  However,  almost
60% added that it is the responsibility of animal advocates to assess
the impact of their actions on indigenous peoples,  implying that
attempts to protect animals should also be culturally sensitive.
A majority of animal advocates agreed that plant-based
agriculture (77.8%), importation of goods (68.8%), the tourism
industry (65%), college education (56.6%), and wage labor (51.3%) are
acceptable alternatives to animal exploitation,  and are presumably
also seen as alternatives that can be introduced in a culturally
sensitive manner.
Asking indigenous Americans to migrate from areas where the
use of animals is necessary was favored by only 38.1% of respondents,
and encouraging welfare dependency in lieu of killing animals was
seen as acceptable by just 8.8%.
Despite their desire to stop indigenous peoples from killing
animals,  only 17% of respondents had ever participated in a protest
directed at the use of animals by indigenous peoples.  Nevertheless,
79.9% of respondents said they would, if given the opportunity,
discourage indigenous peoples from using animals,  and 53% consider
themselves either “somewhat” or “very” informed about interactions
between animal advocates and indigenous peoples, showing a higher
than expected amount of knowledge about such campaigns.
Even though 55.3% said that western culture has had a
“completely” or “mostly” negative impact on indigenous peoples,  only
11.2% believe that animal advocacy has had the same type of effect.
In other words, animal advocates for the most part do not see their
own interactions with indigenous peoples as part of the larger impact
that western society has had on Native Americans.

[Lee Wiles is a Post-Baccalaureate Fellow and honors student in the
Dept. of Anthropology and Sociology at Knox College in Galesburg,
Illinois.  All funding for this survey was provided by a Richter
Memorial Scholarship.]
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