What Does Racism Have to do with Animal Exploitation?

OK, so it’s easy to assume that people who look down on people of different ethnic or racial backgrounds also see humans as superior to animals. But can we prove it? In children, no less?

Well, turns out, we can.

To some, this is a photo of a mother showing affection to her child. To others, it's a dumb animal.  (Photo: KMZU.com)
To some, this is a photo of a mother showing affection to her child. To others, it’s a dumb animal. (Photo: KMZU.com)

A study conducted by  of British Journal of Social Psychology.

But first, let’s define a few terms.

Ingroup means people of the same ethnic or racial group. If you’re white, then your ingroup is other whites.

Outgroup means people of different ethnic or racial groups. If you’re black, then whites are a part of an outgroup.

Dehumanization is a psychological process whereby people view members of an outgroup as less than human and not deserving of moral consideration.

Social Dominance Orientation is a belief that there is hierarchy in humans, with some being higher, or more valuable, than others.

What do YOU see in this photo? (Photo: huffingtonpost.com)
What do YOU see in this photo? (Photo: huffingtonpost.com)

The human/animal divide is a belief that animals are morally inferior to humans. This belief is used by those that exploit animals to justify their actions.

OK, back to the study.

The two-tiered study first set out to look at whether white children dehumanize black children by assigning qualities of animals to that outgroup. Then they would look at those same children’s beliefs in the human-animal divide.

What did the study find? 

Children who believed in a definite human–animal divide were more likely to dehumanize photos of black children. The children’s beliefs were related to their parent’s belief in Social Domination Orientation.

Among parents who believed in a distinct human–animal divide, there was also an increased rate of dehumanization, racial prejudice, and Social Domination Orientation.

Change your tune about this kid after watching this video? 

HOWEVER, white children who initially dehumanized photos of black children changed their mind after they were shown a video that identified similarities in humans and animals.

The takeaway is that we can be effective in lessening both animal exploitation AND racism by educating children about similarities in animals and humans. 

Now to figure out how to make THAT happen. 

14 thoughts on “What Does Racism Have to do with Animal Exploitation?

  1. Fabulous find. And I’d love to see more research in this area. I think there’s a lot more to explore.

    I’d be very curious to see if trainers with strong ideas about dominance express different ideas about people than trainers using strictly relationship-based training.

    As for the how, I think it has to do with exposure.

    Other studies find that the more people hang around with their ingroup, the less they understand people in outgroups. It’s why segregation is so insidious.

    Of course trying to convince people who don’t buy it that legally-enforced diversity benefits us all is quite the trick. s

  2. You might show videos of animals showing compassion to animals of another species. Compassion seems like a human only characteristic but it’s not. One example is a video I saw of a bear in a zoo that pulled a drowning bird out of the water.

  3. Just for the record. The ingroup can be black people too. I once had a ward from Guinea. He was black. He was a Fulbe. In Guinea 40% of the people are Fulbe and there’s only a small amount of people that are not black. He was a child soldier before he came to Germany. I don’t know who got him to Germany but he had to sell drugs for that person. He was selling cocaine to 14 years old white girls and he gave a shit about them. He had some real problems, didn’t go to school for most of his life and of course showing him videos about the similarities between humans and animals would have been pretty much pointless. His life was a mess. He had killed and tortured black people when he was a child soldier. He didn’t like white people. His friends didn’t like white people either. They had insulting words for them. I’m white. I was hanging around with them a lot. They didn’t like me. They didn’t like any white person. They had completely different problems, severe problems. Where to live tomorrow, how to get a job, how to appease the people smugglers that ask for their money.

    A friend of mine always complains about animal rights people, giving a damn about people. He’s of course wrong. He gives a damn about animals AND people. But it’s true that it won’t help the starving people, the abused people, the people in wars to explain animal rights to them. We tend to forget in what a good position we are. Doesn’t matter what colour we have. We can write and read, we are educated. We don’t have to fight for our life every day. We obviously even have an internet connection, maybe even a home. For the children of the privileged (like us) it is a very nice idea – and wonderful that it seems to work so well – to show them the similarities between people and animals. For the others.. well I don’t know. We probably can’t save the whole world.

    1. The man you described has obviously experienced severe trauma, and that’s not something you get over on your own. It’s real easy for those who have never lived through such horrific situations to judge him as though he should just shake it off and go on. We know it doesn’t work that way, though. His anger at all white people isn’t justified, but it is understandable.

  4. One again, animal attitudes say a lot.
    As a research who dealt with cohorts, my interest is nudged and will have to read the article.
    In our research we found a children of all races are influenced by the diversity or lack or it in their communities/exposure to other groups in their lives. And as noted get a great deal of their opinions and attitudes when older from their parents. (What they think/thought about other people, animals in general, and sports – such as dog/cock fighting – is closely related to family opinions)
    Serial killers and those of escalating violent behavior very often begins with tormenting live creatures: insects, birds, dogs, cats until human.
    We need to find common ground as humans and derail anti-social behavior. Perhaps kindness to animals is one of the best places to start developing kindness and appreciation of other humans
    Great share, Rumpy

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