This paper provides an overview of results from an Australian Research Council-funded project "Sentiments and Risks: The Changing Nature of Human-Animal Relations in Australia." The data discussed come from a survey of 2000 representative Australians at the capital city, state, and rural regional level. It provides both a snapshot of the state of involvement of Australians with nonhuman animals and their views on critical issues: ethics, rights, animals as food, risk from animals, native versus introduced animals, hunting, fishing, and companionate relations with animals. Its data point to key trends and change. The changing position of animals in Australian society is critical to understand, given its historic export markets in meat and livestock, emerging tourism industry with its strong wildlife focus, native animals' place in discourses of nation, and the centrality of animal foods in the national diet. New anxieties about risk from animal-sourced foods and the endangerment of native animals from development and introduced species, together with tensions between animals' rights and the privileging of native species, contribute to the growth of a strongly contested animal politics in Australia.
Questions on "animal rights" in a cross-national survey conducted in 1993 provide an opportunity to compare the applicability to this issue of two theories of the socio-political changes summed up in "postmodernity": Inglehart's (1997) thesis of "postmaterialist values" and Franklin's (1999) synthesis of theories of late modernity. Although Inglehart seems not to have addressed human-nonhuman animal relations, it is reasonable to apply his theory of changing values under conditions of "existential security" to "animal rights." Inglehart's postmaterialism thesis argues that new values emerged within specific groups because of the achievement of material security. Although emphasizing human needs, they shift the agenda toward a series of lifestyle choices that favor extending lifestyle choices, rights, and environmental considerations. Franklin's account of nonhuman animals and modern cultures stresses a generalized "ontological insecurity." Under postmodern conditions, changes to core aspects of social and cultural life are both fragile and fugitive. As neighborhood, community,family,and friendship relations lose their normative and enduring qualities, companion animals increasingly are drawn in to those formerly exclusive human emotional spaces.With a method used by Inglehart and a focus in countries where his postmaterialist effects should be most evident, this study derives and tests different expectations from the theories, then tests them against data from a survey supporting Inglehart's theory. His theory is not well supported. We conclude that its own anthropocentrism limits it and that the allowance for hybrids of nature-culture in Franklin's account offers more promise for a social theory of animal rights in changing times.