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Journal ArticleDOI

An exploratory study of British Millennials’ attitudes to the use of live animals in events

27 Feb 2019-Leisure Studies (Routledge)-Vol. 38, Iss: 3, pp 422-434

Abstract: Ethical issues related to animal rights have gained significant exposure in the past few decades. As a result, animal welfare concerns have continuously been at the forefront of public debate. This...
Topics: Animal welfare (68%), Animal rights (56%), Public debate (55%)

Summary (2 min read)

Introduction

  • Events are unique representations of culture and tradition and as such they express and form people’s attitudes and beliefs (Hall, 1997) and have the power to directly affect opinions and inspire change (Getz, 2005).
  • Studies have confirmed this theory, showing that interactions with animals and feeling in harmony with nature offer health and well-being benefits to humans (Penn, 2003).
  • This view has been changing and evolving throughout the twentieth century and culminated in animal rights & welfare becoming a pivotal discussion in recent years.
  • Allen et al. (2011) state that an event’s impact can be determined by looking at how effectively the needs of different stakeholders are met.
  • To observe participant’s perceptions of animal treatment in the events industry 4.

Nature-related philosophies

  • Debates on animal welfare date back to Antiquity.
  • Anthropocentrism is demonstrated by viewing humans as superior to other beings, by supporting the idea that humans exist separate from, and are not existentially connected to the rest of nature, and also by seeing the environment as a resource to be exploited (Zu & Fox, 2014).
  • Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being (Bentham, 1789 cited in Rollin 2016, p. 11).
  • In their latest collaborative work Ryder & Singer (2011) put forward the term of painism as a new ethical idea that stands for assigning moral rights to all living beings capable of suffering.
  • While Machan (2002) states human use of animals is justifiable due to animals’ assumed lack of moral agency, Shapiro (2006) argues some non-human animals’ observed behaviour when relating to other animals, both from their own and different species, serves as proof that non-human species can indeed demonstrate moral agency.

Determinants of attitudes to animals

  • There are a number of studies (Galvin & Herzog, 1992; Curtin, 2006: Knight & Barnett, 2008; Apostol et al., 2012) examining the causes of people adopting a certain view on animals.
  • Their findings show an individual’s views are highly dependent on their experiences of interacting with animals – people were likely to oppose animal use if they considered the animal aesthetically attractive, more mentally and emotionally capable, or had spent time with an animal of the same species.
  • Higher levels of education on the topic and first-hand experiences have been linked to lower levels of support for many forms of animal use (Broida, Tingley, Kimball & Miele, 1993; Pifer, Shimizu & Pifer, 1994 and Knight & Barnett 2008).
  • In other words, SCD interviewees demonstrated cognitive dissonance expressed in their avoidance of information that can add to the uncomfortable feelings associated with contributing to captivity (Festinger, 1957).
  • Donaldson & Kymlicka (2011) argue that circuses, zoos and marine parks are indeed involved in education but the lessons taught are not love for, and knowledge of the natural world, but rather disrespect to animals’ freedom and promotion of human entitlement and superiority.

Methodology

  • As the study is exploratory, drawing on theory from different disciplines, a qualitative approach was selected.
  • Two data collection methods were used with nine participants in a focus group and three in-depth interviews.
  • The focus group helped determine general attitudes and patterns towards the use of animals in events, which were then further investigated through conducting semi-structured interviews.
  • To achieve a heterogeneous sample, socio-demographic variables such as age, gender, country of origin, course studied and lifestyle (vegan/vegetarian/omnivore) were considered.
  • Approximately 2% of the UK population are vegetarian or vegan (NHS, 2015), with almost half of those being Millennials (The Vegan Society, 2017).

Findings

  • Both the focus group and interviews began by asking participants about their views concerning nature and animals.
  • Interestingly, discussing horse racing as an animal-related event came as a surprise to some participants with one interviewee stating that they ‘have never actually thought of horse racing as an animal-related event.’ [P12].
  • Adopting an anthropomorphic view of animals can lead to an increased demand for animal-related events, due to people’s limited knowledge of animals’ true nature, consisting of instincts and needs humans cannot always anticipate.
  • Animal rights groups and individuals with absolutist moral views advocate for ‘animal liberation’, condemning all animal use across different industries (Haynes, 2008), whereas others adopt a more pragmatic approach, claiming reducing animal suffering is enough to ensure welfare (Jasper & Nelkin, 1992).
  • The adoption of an ecocentric perspective, which was found to be popular among Millennials, makes it of no importance whether one has seen a certain species of animal or not, whether one cares about that animal or not, what matters is the responsibility to allow other species to pursue life and survival on their own terms (Bekoff, 2013).

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1
An exploratory study of British Millennials’ attitudes to the use of live
animals in events
Elena Marinova,
Department of Events & Leisure, Bournemouth University, Poole, England
Dorothy Fox, (corresponding author)
Department of Events & Leisure, Bournemouth University, Poole, England
dfox@bournemouth.ac.uk

2
An exploratory study of British Millennials’ attitudes to the use of live
animals in events
Abstract
Ethical issues related to animal rights have gained significant exposure in the
past few decades. As a result, animal welfare concerns have continuously been
at the forefront of public debate. This has had a major impact on Western
culture, expressed in the growing popularity of lifestyle changes towards
reducing and abandonment of animal use across different industries. However,
animal use in planned events remains insufficiently studied and absent from
most event management literature. Therefore, this research aims to explore the
opinions of Millennials on the use of live animals in events. The literature
discusses anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism and cognitive dissonance, as
reoccurring themes. A combination of a focus group and semi-structured
interviews was undertaken and the analysis identified entertainment, financial
benefit and tradition as the main reasons for using live animals at events.
Awareness and transparency on animal welfare issues within the events industry
were stated by interviewees as points for improvement together with the lack of
a clear definition of animal welfare, especially when it comes to captive and
performing animals, as well as the uncertainty regarding animals’ stakeholder
status in events.
Key Words: events; animal welfare; anthropomorphism; performing animals;
animal rights; animals as stakeholders.
Word count: 7,746

3
Introduction
Events are unique representations of culture and tradition and as such they express and form
people’s attitudes and beliefs (Hall, 1997) and have the power to directly affect opinions and
inspire change (Getz, 2005). Therefore, event organisers carry a certain amount of
responsibility to reinforce positive social practices and behaviours and avoid those that are
unethical and immoral (Bowdin, Allen, O’Toole, Harris & McDonnell, 2011). Wilson
(1984), suggests that people’s psychological health is associated with their relationship to
nature, a phenomenon called biophilia. Studies have confirmed this theory, showing that
interactions with animals and feeling in harmony with nature offer health and well-being
benefits to humans (Penn, 2003). This intrinsic desire to connect with the natural world can
serve as an explanation for humanity’s fascination with animals. Up until the early 1900s the
attitude towards animals was largely characterised by anthropocentrism, or the perceived
superiority and exceptionalism of humans compared to the rest of the natural world (Garner,
1993). This view has been changing and evolving throughout the twentieth century and
culminated in animal rights & welfare becoming a pivotal discussion in recent years. This
shift in morals translates to lifestyle changes, such as identifying as a vegetarian/vegan and
minimising one’s consumption of products or services that include the use of animals. The
number of people adopting a vegan lifestyle ‘has doubled twice in the last 4 years’ (The
Vegan Society, 2018). This growth is believed to be a consequence of more information
being publicly available about how animals are treated across different industries (Moss,
2016).
Both in theory and practice, stakeholder analysis plays a pivotal role in event management
(Shone & Parry, 2010). Traditionally, a stakeholder is defined as any individual or

4
organisation that has an interest in, or is influenced by, an organisation or project
(Donaldson & Preston, 1995). Thus, anyone involved in the production, delivery and
experience of an event is considered a stakeholder (Allen, O’Toole, Harris, & McDonnell,
2011). Therefore, it can be argued that when animals are involved in an event, they should
be assigned a stakeholder status. Allen et al. (2011) state that an event’s impact can be
determined by looking at how effectively the needs of different stakeholders are met. This
leads to the need to observe how, if at all, an animal’s needs are identified and considered.
One might argue therein lies the purpose of animal welfare legislation. However, the issue is
that a universal definition of animal welfare does not exist (Haynes, 2008). According to
Jasper & Nelkin (1992) animal welfare is not expressed in abandonment of using animals,
but rather in ensuring less suffering is caused to them where they are used. An opposing
perspective is ‘animal liberation’ the belief that animals are entitled to moral consideration
equal to that of humans, and capitalising on them should be discontinued (Haynes, 2008).
2). Dashper (2016, p. 23) argues the relationships between people and animals cross
‘species, spatial, sensory and temporal boundaries’ and goes on to explain these issues
‘are complex and highly debated and no consensus has been reached amongst academics
and practitioners’.
Getz (2012) states event research requires a multidisciplinary approach, studying culture,
human behaviour, morals and sociology in order to be valuable. Furthermore, Jones (2014)
states creating a lasting and sustainable event legacy is at the centre of producing events that
nurture positive changes in society. Some aspects of ensuring sustainability, however, are
less tangible and harder to measure, such as the effect on culture, communal thinking and
consumer behaviour. Getz (2012, p. 91) argues people ‘cannot be ethical or moral in
isolation’, thus, highlighting the impact one’s social environment has on their moral

5
philosophy. Getz proceeds to explore whether ethics is determined by law, or if morality
brings an additional set of rules, beyond what is regulated by governing bodies. Despite this
recognition of the importance for event management practices to be both sustainable and
ethical, event theory discussing the ethics of animal use in planned events is limited. Many
countries, including the United Kingdom, have introduced bans on performing animals in
circuses, for example, yet other ways in which animals are involved in events remain
permitted and widely unexplored. Considering the different beliefs about animal rights, this
study aims to explore and understand Millennials’ thoughts and feelings on using live
animals in planned events. Millennials in the UK have been defined by Parliament as
Roughly aged between 25 and 34’ (Brown et al. 2017, p. 3) and they make up 13.9% of the
total UK population. To achieve this the following objectives were developed:
1. To explore philosophies held by Millennials in relation to the natural world and
animals in particular
2. To discuss the reasons for animal use in planned events according to Millennials
3. To observe participant’s perceptions of animal treatment in the events industry
4. To encourage participants to identify areas for improvement and ways to act on
animal welfare issues at events.
Literature Review
Nature-related philosophies
Debates on animal welfare date back to Antiquity. Ancient Greece offers varied opinions on
the matter, the philosopher Pythagoras being the first known animal rights advocate.
Pythagoras subscribed to animism the belief that all components of the natural world

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