Animal companions and speciesism: does pet ownership affect species prejudice?
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Since humanity's conception, human-animal relations have played an important role in our survival. At the same time, human-animal relations are often described as “speciest” due to the human tendency of applying unequal levels of moral status between different animals. While speciesism has been correlated with traits such as empathy and gender, research looking into the relationship between animal companions and speciesism is lacking. In the present study, I delved into this possible association by investigating how participants evaluated moral scenarios involving different pets. Participants were given a short animal passage and five animal companions. While reading the passage, participants would interchangeably include one of the provided species and rate how morally wrong the passage was. Afterwards, they were provided additional scales that measured empathy, speciesism, and prior contact with pets. Independent t-tests results showed that pet-owners rated moral concerns scenarios as being more morally wrong. However, this effect was only significant for the treatment of dogs and cats. Linear regression data also showcased that prior contact with pets was a significant predictor when it came to the moral concern of pets, while speciesism and empathy were not. Results from the study suggest that rather than empathy or speciesism, it is prior contact with animal companions that seems to play the largest role in determining moral concern for pets, but this largely applies to dogs and cats. Future studies within the realm of speciesism should look further into the strong influence of prior experience as it remains a relatively unexplored topic.