Recently we have had questions about a study we did a decade ago. This is a summary.
We learned that the convenient excuses that people give for animal abuse are essentially non-relevant. Take away one excuse, and animal abusers merely use another excuse. Take away all logical excuses, and people still will do what they want to do. In England, 13 years ago, we wanted to know:
1. What logic would be most effective to use to get folks to stop eating/wearing animals - was it health, benefit to the planet, animal welfare, or something else?
2. If we successfully refuted their reason for eating animals, would they stop?
To cut to the conclusion, we learned that philosophy and logic had NOTHING to do with their choice.
Nearly 100% of the pollees stated that it was not relevant to them if we refuted every reason they gave for eating meat - religion, convenience, man's superiority, eating meat is natural, meat is necessary for good health, food animals get to live a short life which is better than no life -- all the classic excuses. They stated that they were going to eat meat anyway, because they WANTED TO DO IT.
And they confessed that they gave excuses only to get people off their backs. A few percent stated they might change - that is until we actually refuted their logic -- and then they back-pedaled faster than a bicyclist who just spotted an approaching cliff.
We shouldn't have been surprised. The Bible (dominion) was often an excuse, yet almost all Catholic women ignore the Pope's rule against birth-control. People simply do what they want, and then justify it with whatever reason is handy. If no reason can be found they ignore the question.
After the poll, during the past decade, we have continued to search for the logic that would help us convince people to stop abusing animals. We have found that any logic from outsiders - religion included - has no lasting effect. But if the logic comes from within themselves - if we help them resolve their own cognitive dissonance between loving their pets and eating other equally sentient beings - we make headway.
Note: The study began in a shopping center, with almost 2000 people answering at least a few of the questions. When possible there was follow-up to determine the veracity of their responses.
We learned, accidentally, that when there was friendly sustained communication between the poller and the pollee, the poller was able to get the pollee to change their habits.
So, as it turned out, people DO do what they want to do, and one of the things they want to do is to please others who they like - and this motivates them more than a concern for their health, the planet, or any beings outside their inner circle.
Sidebar: The poll also asked whether the pollees actions against
animals were influenced by the anti-AR publicity in the news. The
pollees confirmed that any reasons they gave for their behavior
against animals (such as a belief that all ARA's were wackos) were
not the root cause of their behavior. This poll was taken again
after the 2004 grave-robbing incident with the same results.