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Moral emotions and social activism: The case of animal rights

By Harold Herzog, Lauren Golden

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Why do some people and not others become involved in social movements? We examined the relationships between a moral emotion—disgust—and animal activism, attitudes toward animal welfare, and consumption of meat. Participants were recruited through two social networking websites and included animal activists, promoters of animal use, and participants not involved in animal-related causes. They took an online survey which included measures of sensitivity to visceral disgust, attitudes toward animal welfare, and frequency of meat eating. Animal activists were more sensitive to visceral disgust than were promoters of animal use or nonaligned participants. Disgust sensitivity was positively correlated with attitudes toward animal welfare but not with meat consumption. The relationship between animal activism and vegetarianism was complex; nearly half of animal activists ate meat, and half of the vegetarians did not consider themselves to be animal activists. We argue that conflicts over the moral status of animals reflect fundamental differences in moral intuitions.


Deborah Maron

Publication Title Journal of Social Issues
Volume 65
Issue 3
Pages 485-498
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal rights
  2. Animals in culture
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Mammals
  5. Physical environment
  6. Social Environments
  7. Vegetarianism and veganism