Is human-animal inequality foundational to human inequalities?
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date26/06/2021
Murdock, Thomas Joseph
Around the world, human-animal inequality is widespread; the meat industry alone slaughters billions of animals each year. Some human groups face similar inequalities. For example, drug addicts are routinely persecuted by the state despite needing help, and workers in developing countries such as Bangladesh are exploited to produce cheap clothing for the developed world. In a similar way to human-animal inequality, both drug addicts and sweatshop workers are systematically oppressed and most people are indifferent to their suffering. However, the magnitude of human-animal inequality is arguably greater as they are routinely slaughtered at the end of a short, grueling life. Because of this, we wanted to determine whether human-animal inequality is foundational to inequality between human groups. Specifically, we hypothesized that challenging human supremacy over animals would reduce support for human-animal inequality, and would subsequently cause a reduction in support for human inequalities. To test our hypothesis, we employed a self-persuasion task that challenged either (a) human supremacy over animals, (b) non-addict supremacy over drug addicts, or (c) a control condition. We found consistent evidence that support for human-animal inequality and human inequalities were strongly correlated. However, we found no robust evidence that challenging human supremacy reduces support for either the human-animal or human inequalities. This research illustrates the difficulties we face when designing interventions aimed at reducing supremacist beliefs. Further, it highlights the challenges we face as a society, as we try to address harmful behaviours that have become the norm.
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