By Diane Venberg,
Humane Research Council
Written by Diane Venberg, one of Humane Research Council's (HRC) 2010 interns, this wonderful overview of HumaneSpot.org shows the breadth of our research database and highlights a number of important studies. Be sure to give this blog a read if you've been wanting a taste of what HumaneSpot.org has to offer before applying for access. And if you have any research that you think should be included in our database, be sure to let us know.
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Operating since 2000, the Humane Research Council (HRC) is a non-profit organization offering research-based information on issues relevant to animal rights. By providing free information through their website and professional research and analysis services at a reduced cost to other organizations, HRC enables and promotes effective advocacy strategies and tactics for activists and educators. Their clients and partners include some of the most widely known animal welfare organization in the U.S. HRC’s mission is to empower fellow animal advocates with access to the research, analysis, strategies, and messages that maximize their effectiveness to reduce animal suffering. (Access to HRC’s website is granted after an application process to approved researchers.)
There are ten main areas of research accessed via HRC’s website, many articles are cross-posted since the issue covered either falls into several areas of topic or the article discusses a variety of issues. Sources are drawn worldwide and span mainstream media such as Time magazine and USA Today, academic research, other non-profit organizations, and industry analysis, like Fur Commission USA. The first area listed is Advocacy Strategies, which includes 32 pieces on public views on major issues in animal rights (AR). By examining public opinion, groups can understand which issues the public feels most strongly about and what sort of messaging has the most impact.
The second sub-section is Animal Experimentation with 121 articles. Some data suggests that while the majority of the public still support vivisection, activism has had an impact because the actual number of animals used in medical research has declined.; a 2006 article however, states that the number of animals tested on for medical purposes is rising in Britain. According to a 2002 Gallup poll, 63% of respondents felt that medical testing on animals is morally acceptable. In 2008 Gallup surveys found a 56% majority believing that it is morally acceptable to conduct animal research, while 38% consider it "morally wrong." The Star Tribune reports that from 2000 to 2008, support for animal research declined from 70% to 54% and that according to a July 2009 Pew Foundation poll, only slightly more than half (52%) of the public supports such research.
A 1995 Associated Press article states, “According to a scientist at the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tuft's University, the number of animals used in scientific research has dropped by about half since 1968 due to technological advances such as cell culturing and computer modeling, although activism has also contributed to this decline”.  Of U.S. medical schools, 90% have ceased using live animals; of the 154 U.S. allopathic and osteopathic medical schools in existence, only 10 use live animal labs and 5 of these currently use animals to teach surgery skills. One university study by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) members shows that the majority of animal researchers favor including rats, mice, and birds under the Animal Welfare Act. Not currently covered, these types of animals represent the most commonly used species for animal research. Other studies displayed a definite hierarchy for species in which people believed it is acceptable to use in vivisection.
Companion animals make up the next topic totaling 202 articles. This section covers animal health issues such as nutrition and obesity in pets, puppy mills, animal assisted therapy, the animal abuse/domestic violence link, and feral cats and pit bulls. One of the more endearing findings includes an American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) survey in which 57 % of pet owners responded that they would want a pet as their only companion if deserted on an island. A Bristol University Cats Protection Charity studied differences in dog guardians and cat guardians in the UK. Among their findings: Out of 2,524 households, 47.2% of those with a cat had at least one person educated to degree level, compared with 38.4% of homes with dogs.
In a 2010 University of Texas study, other differences in dog guardians versus those living with cats were posited; dog people tend to be more social and outgoing, while cat people are more neurotic, but also more open (i.e. creative or philosophical).  Having companion animals benefits guardians psychologically as well as physically. A 2009 study by the Journal of American Geriatric Society found that pet ownership maintains or slightly enhances physical health and the daily activities of older people. A Boston Globe story reports that a University of Minnesota study found that cat owners were 40% less likely to die from heart attacks than non-cat owners; that people in the San Francisco area who reported having owned a pet had about a 30% lower risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma compared with non-pet owners, which may be linked with findings that pet ownership during infancy results in reduced risk of asthma and allergies; that the presence of a fish tank helped focus the attention of Alzheimer's patients; and that dogs are more likely to inspire elders to stick with a walking program than human companions.  According to a national 2008 PetSmart survey of dog and cat owners, 92 % say their happiness is directly affected by the happiness of their pet. A survey was done on language usage and show that "owners," "guardians," and "owner-guardians" differ in their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors with respect to companion animals.
The fourth section discusses diet and nutrition and includes 374 articles. One of the most powerful studies comes from the National Cancer Institute and shows through a 10-year study that meat intake equates to higher mortality rates. With the economic downturn, one survey reports the 5% of consumers had changed their purchasing habits in regard to meat, buying more chicken and pork and less beef. Another article suggests that shoppers are buying cheaper cuts of meat and learning how to cook these unfamiliar cuts or making it into more meals by combining it with non-animal foods. On the other end of the spectrum, Food & Wine magazine writes that purchasing sustainable (and more expensive) meat from local farms is considered activism, in “Why vegetarians are eating meat.”  The Meating Place has lots of suggestions for marketing meat to different generations, since studies show that younger people tend to be more open to vegetarianism.
The School Nutrition Association reports that vegetarian menu items in schools increased 12.4% between 2007 and 2009. Despite this number, the International Food Policy Research Institute shows that meat consumption is expected to increase in developing countries 63% by 2020. Time magazine reports that the average person in an industrialized nation currently consumes 176 lbs of meat annually, compared to 66 lbs per person in a developing country.  Gender issues surrounding the consumption of meat may influence these factors; the University of Sydney, University of Nashville, and National Engineer School for Food Industries and Management have concluded that meat as a cultural symbol equals social power. The Finnish School for Economics has suggested strategies to decrease meat consumption in the interest of global climate change: 1) Aid technological development of products that could replace animal-derived protein; 2) Increase consumer knowledge about animal welfare and vegetarianism through advertising campaigns; 3) Make political decisions to transfer agricultural production away from meat and promote meat alternatives; and 4) Higher taxes on meat. 
The fifth section offers 39 pieces on animals in entertainment such as zoos, circuses, horse and greyhound racing, and cock fighting. Since banning traveling shows featuring wild animals has been attempted in many cities and successful in some, the treatment of elephants, tigers, and other exotic animals has been studied from both animal protection groups and by Feld Entertainment (owner of Ringling Bros.) Zoos and the supposed reasoning of education and species conservation are discussed in several articles. A University of Otego, Dalhousie University study examines conflicting interests between whale-watching for tourists and commercial whaling. 
Farmed animal issues comprise the sixth section, and list 339 research pieces. Concerns about both zoonotic diseases such as swine flu and avian flu, and animal welfare are increasingly being voiced as consumers request safe meat. One study reports that 73% of consumers would like to see a country of origin label, even if it increased food prices slightly, 79% of consumers believe meat from cloned animals should be labeled, and half said that meat from cloned animals should not be sold in the U.S. at all. The top three consumer concerns in this news article noted were healthiness of ingredients, possible use of chemicals, and the overall safety of ingredients. The U.S. Meat Export Federation, in addition to discussing record meat exports to countries outside North America, adds that farmed animal welfare is mentioned among the list of the "next generation of issues," along with ethical concerns and technical issues like standards and traceability.
The link between meat eating and global climate change however, remains the most discussed subject. A Cornell University study links animal based diets with environmental devastation, pointing out that the U.S. food system accounts for 50% of total U.S. land, 80% of fresh water, and 17% of fossil energy used in the country. The study states, "Both the meat-based average American diet and the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet require significant quantities of nonrenewable fossil energy to produce” but concludes that a meat based diet is even less sustainable in the long term.  United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) cites that the growing demand for meat products in developing countries originates from rising incomes, population growth, and urbanization. The FAO identifies three challenges that face the farmed animal sector including "increasing pressure on ecosystems and natural resources, "globalization of food systems," and "the social implications of the structural changes in the sector and the role of poor people in the process."  In regard to the environment, an Oklahoma State University and University of Oregon study of several dozen nations with different economic situations found that those living in relatively poorer nations are equally or more concerned about the environment when compared with those living in wealthier nations.
General animal protection studies make up the seventh section with 198 articles. This topic includes student dissertations, such as “History of Animal Advocacy in America: Social Change, Gender & Cultural Values, 1865-1975”, which outlines the history of the animal advocacy movement and examines animals and humans in a socio-economic and cultural context within the United States.  Another article by an Arizona State University student encompasses women and the AR movement, and discusses gendered social learning, societal expectations, and empathy based on common oppression. An interesting study offers personality differences between pro and anti-vivisectionists using the Myers-Briggs formula. Another one uses a personality factor inventory and animal attitudes scale with adjustments made for gender variances.
The ninth area has only eight articles that address non-profits and shelters with discussions about marketing, interpreting data properly, and managing an organization. The Center for Effective Philanthropy lists key challenges that foundations face in assessing strategies to achieve their goals based on interviews with leaders and staffers from 155 foundations.  A 2010 study found that negative words have a more rapid impact and that highlighting the negative qualities of a subject may be effective in influencing individuals' perceptions.
Vegetarianism and veganism comprise the tenth section and offer 224 articles. A 2009 Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) survey found that 3% of U.S. adults say they never eat meat, poultry, and fish/seafood (classified as vegetarian); approximately 1/3 to 1/4 of this group (1% of all U.S. adults) also say they never eat dairy, eggs, and honey (classified as vegan).  As many as 3% of those age 8 to 18 years are also vegetarian, according to a 2005 VRG survey. The Arizona Daily Star reported in 2008 that a $2.8 billion vegan market results partly from growth in the natural-products industry, which is currently estimated at $50 billion per year. A small Canadian study found that to maintain a vegetarian diet over time, social networks, personal factors and environmental resources were vital. Other articles posted discuss health issues of non-meat eaters, and issues affecting young people such as eating disorders and school lunches.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite that 1 in 200 kids in the U.S. are vegetarians but this figure is criticized as being under-reported. The CDC claims that vegetarians are most often female, from higher-income families and living on the East or West coasts and that trends contributing to the increasing number of vegetarians among children likely include increased awareness of animal issues. In 2007, Time magazine examined vegetarianism from a cultural standpoint; they reported vegetarians as more "moral, virtuous, and considerate" than non-vegetarians, according to an Arizona State University study. Time cites that while 10 million Americans considered themselves to be practicing vegetarians, in a survey of 11,000 people, 37% of those who responded, "Yes, I am a vegetarian" also reported in the last 24 hours that they had eaten red meat; 60% had eaten meat, poultry or seafood. 
The last research section relates to wildlife and exotic animals. A wide variety of topics is covered in the 241 articles, such as the wildlife trade in Asia, exotic meat in Vietnam, bushmeat, fur trapping in the Midwest, large carnivores in Latvia, dolphin-assisted therapy, the kangaroo “glut” in Australia, and squirrel hunting as studied by the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife in 2005-’06. Also of note is the study on horse/mule logging operations in Alabama, which may continue to find work since the average size of non-industrial, privately owned forest land continues to decrease in size thereby making small animal teams more effective.  The current and potential impacts on wildlife and habitat due to corn ethanol production is likely more relevant to North westerners.
In addition to these main topics, site users can search for articles based on the type of research, or using keywords or exact phrases. Users can also sign up for instant personalized email alerts for specific areas they may be interested in.
1. ICR Survey Research Group, Associated Press. “Public is Heeding Animal-Rights Activists (Also: Animal Rights Activists Getting Their Message Across).” Original item from 1995.
2. Landau, Elizabeth. “How are Dog People and Cat People Different?” CNN online. http://www.cnn.com; January 13, 2010.
3. Lazar, Kay. “Animal Attraction.” The Boston Globe online. http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/articles/2009/04/20/animal_attraction/?page=full; April 20, 2009.
4. Lennon, Christine. “Why vegetarians are eating meat.” Food & Wine magazine website. http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/why-vegetarians-are-eating-meat; Original item from 2007.
5. Walsh, Bryan. “Meat: Making Global Warming Worse.” Time Magazine online. http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1839995,00.ht... Wednesday, Sep. 10, 2008.
6. Vinnari, Markus. “Future Images of Meat Consumption in 2030.” Futures. Purchase PDF online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2008.11.014 Volume 41, Issue 5, June 2009, Pages 269-278.
7. Higham, James and David Lusseau. “Slaughtering the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg: Are Whaling and Whale-Watching Mutually Exclusive?” University of Otago, Dalhousie University online. http://www.multilingual-matters.net/cit/011/cit0110063.htm Original item from 2008.
8. Pimentel, David and Marcia Pimentel. “Sustainability of Meat-Based and Plant-Based Diets and the Environment.” Cornell University online. http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/78/3/660S; Original item from 2003.
9. United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization. “The State of Food and Agriculture: Livestock in the Balance.” FAO online. http://www.fao.org/publications/sofa/en/; Original item from 2010.
10. Beers, Diane L. “History of Animal Advocacy in America: Social Change, Gender & Cultural Values, 1865-1975.” Temple University; Original item from 1998.
11. The Center for Effective Philanthropy. “Survey: Foundations Often Rely on Anecdotes to Assess Impact.” available online: http://www.massnonprofit.org/news.php?artid=1763&catid=13; Original item from 2009.
12. Vegetarian Resource Group. “How Many Vegetarians Are There?” http://www.vrg.org/press/2009poll.htm; Original item from 2009.
13. Corliss, Richard. “Should we all be Vegetarians?” Time magazine , http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/2002/1014/veg/story.html; 2002.
14. Bliss, John and Christopher Toms, Mark Dubois, John Wilhoit, Robert Rummer. “A Survey of Animal-Powered Logging in Alabama.” WA State Dept. of Natural Resources, Auburn University, Oregon State University, Old Home Place Farm, USDA Forest Service. Available online: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/ja/ja_toms001.pdf; Original item from 2001.