Pigs should be treated like humans

How is our relationship with animals? Are dogs better than pigs? Will that change over the course of our lives? Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Oxford wanted to know more about this topic. They surveyed several groups for their study. The first were children aged nine to eleven, then young men aged eighteen to twenty-one, and finally adult men and women.

The result: the group of children said that farm animals and humans should be treated equally. W: Youngsters found it morally unacceptable to eat animals of the other two groups. why is that? According to the researchers, the picture that is given to children about animals.

In children’s books, for example, the happy cow says “mo,” the fluffy sheep says “ba” and the chicken “grows.” In the books, they are rarely killed and end up making ground beef or nuggets.

Photo: unsplash.com/Annie Spratt (avatar)

Dogs are friends and pigs are food

But attitudes have changed over the years. For researchers, this is a clear signal: there is a moral hierarchy that attaches different values ​​to different animals. According to the study, this so-called gender is learned during adolescence.

“The human-animal relationship is fraught with double ethical standards,” said Luke McGuire, Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter. “Some animals are beloved companions in the home, others are kept in factory farms for economic reasons. Judgments seem to depend largely on the species: dogs are our friends, pigs are food.”

Baby with a golden retriever dog
Photo: lucanoto, 20th20.com

People master “moral acrobatics”

According to the study, “moral acrobatics” are an integral part of the human soul. That is, people may have conflicting moral beliefs and adopt double standards. Little is known about the origins of these moral acrobatics with regard to animals.

So the researchers wanted to find out how children and adults think about treating animals. For this purpose, photographs of a farm animal and companion animals were provided to study participants. They were then asked to classify the animals as “food”, “pet” or “item”. They were asked how animals were treated – and how they should be treated.

Even children think: dogs are better than pigs

The result was that children did not judge all animals equally. They concluded that dogs should be treated better than pigs. BUT: You also agree that pigs should not be treated differently from humans. The two adult groups said that pigs should be treated less well than dogs, while humans and dogs should be treated equally.

When do children’s attitudes change? “Something seems to happen during adolescence when early love for animals becomes more complex and we develop more species affiliation,” said Luke McGuire. Adults also make a difference: “They were of the opinion that eating meat was less morally justified than animal products like milk. So the reluctance to harm animals—including livestock—will not go away completely.”

Little pigs in the sand.
Photo: pixabay.com/LSC (avatar)

Children’s moral intelligence is valuable

Luke McGuire’s bottom line: Situations naturally adapt throughout life – but the “moral intelligence of children” has value. “If we want people to move to a more plant-based diet for environmental reasons, we have to disrupt the existing system somewhere,” he says. “If children were eating more plant-based foods in schools, for example, this might be more in line with their moral values.”

But a glimpse into the emotional lives of so-called farm animals can also change attitudes. For example, pigs are not only social. “Pigs don’t think and feel very differently from humans,” behavioral biologist Carsten Prinsing explains. “In fact, given the scientific findings about how animals feel and think, we should have changed housing conditions a long time ago,” he says.

In this way, pigs should be spared suffering and pain as much as possible. “However, it is critical that the animals are given joy and stimulation as well.”

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