A new study about the relationship between attitudes to human rights and to animal rights suggests that individuals who hold egalitarian and inclusive views as regards human-human relationships also tend to have similar views as regards human-animal relationships, with empathy as an underlying common factor.

The study, published on the 1st November 2022 in The Journal of Social Psychology and titled “The relationship between attitudes to human rights and to animal rights is partially mediated by empathy”, was conducted by Anna Stone of the University of East London, UK. Among her conclusions, Stone found that vegans tend to be female, lower in Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) and Social Dominance Orientation (SDO), and higher in feminist perspectives (FPS). 

The concept of Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) was developed by Altemeyer in 1998. It comprises three interrelated attitudinal clusters: authoritarian submission (uncritical subjection to authority), authoritarian aggression (feeling of aggression towards norm violators) and conventionalism (strict adherence to conventional norms and values). Social dominance orientation (SDO) is a measure of an individual’s support for group-based hierarchies. People with high SDO believe that society should be structured in terms of inequality, with some groups at the top and others at the bottom.

One study of 311 subjects analysed in Stone’s article looked at the relationships among meat consumption, ethical veganism, RWA, SDO, and FPS, using a series of online questionnaires. RWA, SDO, and meat consumption correlated together in one group of variables; FPS and ethical veganism correlated together in a distinct group. Although the sample studied is quite small, these results are not contra intuitive. In another study, participants also completed the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (TEQ) as a potential mediator variable. The relationship between RWA, SDO, and FPS as predictors, and ethical veganism as the target, was partially mediated by empathy. 

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.