No Sugar-Coating This Study

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No Sugar-Coating This Study

By Bee Friedlander, a Managing Director of Animals and Society Institute

A recent Gallop Poll has disturbing implications for animal advocates. The annual "Moral Acceptability" study, conducted from May 7-10, 2009, asked Americans whether they personally believe certain social and policy issues are "morally acceptable" or "morally wrong."

Of the 15 issues (divorce, death penalty, gambling, abortion, suicide, homosexuality, etc.), three of them (20%) involve animals: buying and wearing of fur; medical testing on animals; and cloning animals (cloning humans was a separate question).

The single issue which saw the most change in attitude toward "acceptance" of a practice since May 2008 is the morality of buying and wearing fur. A significant 7% more people found the practice to be morally acceptable, from 54% last year to 61% this year.

(The only swing in attitude that was larger was "divorce" which changed 8% in the other direction, with 62% finding it "acceptable" in 2009, down from 2008's 70%).

The other two issues involving the use of animals also became more "acceptable" in the past year, albeit by only a percentage point: medical testing on animals now is accepted by 57% of the population (compared to 56% last year); 34% find cloning animals to be acceptable, an increase from 2008's 33%. (By contrast, 9% find human cloning to be morally acceptable, a decrease from 11% in the previous study).

Those of us in the animal protection movement have many reasons to feel optimistic about the progress made toward improving animals' lives over the last few years. It also is heartening that 3 of Gallup's 15 moral issues involve animals. However, the take-away message is disturbing and can't be sugar-coated: last year over half the people thought it was OK to buy and wear fur; a year later, over three-fifths of those polled stated it was morally acceptable. Vivisection is still accepted by a majority of people. And cloning finds the support of one third of us.

This brings home what we all know; namely, that there is a good deal of work ahead of us to change the hearts and minds (and morals!) of our fellow humans if we want to be effective advocates for animals.

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