The need for a theoretical grounding of the human-animal relationship is addressed from the perspective of the motivational bases of attitudes toward animals. Building on recent developments in attitude theory, and integrating themes from the historical and cultural background to Western attitudes, a model is developed that proposes three fundamental motivational bases, where responses to animals depend on instrumental self interest, empathylidentification, or people's beliefs and values about the nature and status of animals. Initial empirical studies using the model revealed reduced instrumentality, heightened empathy, and strong commitment to a value perspective endorsing equal status for humans and animals among animal rights supporters. Farmers exhibited an opposite pattern, and supported the dominant status of humans. The urban public evidenced moderate levels of instrumentality and empathy, and a neutral value position with some individuals exhibiting considerable ambivalence (agreeing with both equality and dominance). Gender differences on instrumentality (favoring males) and empathy (favoring females), were less evident for values, and were confined to female and male farmers. Directions for future research are discussecl, as is the practical value of this approach.