Loving some animals, eating others: Species categorisation in childhood, young adulthood and adulthood
McGuire L., Palmer S., Faber NS.
<p>Humans care for the wellbeing of some animals (e.g. dogs), yet tacitly endorse the maltreatment of others (e.g. pigs). What treatment we find morally appropriate for an animal depends on whether we characterise it as “pet” or “food”. Is this categorisation of animals and the resulting moral hierarchy of species present in childhood or instead taught through the lifespan? Comparing samples of children (9-11-years-old), young adults (18-21-years-old), and adults (29-59-years-old; total N=479), we find that children as compared to young adults and adults, a) show less speciesism, i.e. moral worth tied less to species-membership, b) are less likely to categorise farm animals as food than pets, c) think farm animals ought to be treated better, and d) deem eating meat and animal products less morally acceptable. These results are not due to children having a lower general acceptance of violence against living beings than adults. Our findings imply that our moral view of animal worth is not innate but instead develops over the lifespan in our specific societal context.</p>