This research examines whether people are more emotionally disturbed by reports of non-human animal than human suffering or abuse. Two hundred and fifty-six undergraduates at a major northeastern university were asked to indicate their degree of empathy for a brutally beaten human adult or child versus an adult dog or puppy, as described in a fictitious news report. We hypothesized that the vulnerability of victims—determined by their age and not species—would determine participants’ levels of distress and concern for them. The main effect for age but not for species was significant. We also found more empathy for victims who are human children, puppies, and fully-grown dogs than for victims who are adult humans. Age makes a difference for empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims. In addition, female participants were significantly more empathic toward all victims than were their male counterparts.
BatsonC. D.DyckJ. L.BrandtJ. R.BatsonJ. G.PowellA. L.McMasterM. R.GriffittC.Five studies testing two new egoistic alternatives to the empathy-altruism hypothesisJournal of Personality and Social Psychology19885515277
BatsonC. D.PolycarpouM. P.Harmon-JonesE.ImhoffH. J.MitchenerE. C.BednarL. L.KleinT. R.HighbergerL.Empathy and attitudes: Can feeling for a member of a stigmatized group improve feelings toward the group?Journal of Personality and Social Psychology1997721105118
BonasS.McNicholasJ.CollisG. M.PodberscekA. L.PaulE. S.SerpellJ. A.Pets in the network of family relationships: An empirical studyCompanion animals and us: Exploring the relationships between people and pets2000New YorkCambridge University Press209236
FilippiM.RiccitelliG.FaliniA.Di SalleF.VuilleumierP.The brain functional networks associated to human and animal suffering differ among omnivores, vegetarians and vegansPLoS ONE201055e10847doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010847
LambertV.Why do people donate to dog charities when children are dying?The Telegraph2015Accessed 2/26/15http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/11408327/Why-do-people-donate-to-dog-charities-when-children-are-dying.html