ISAZ 2018

Symposium 11

Multicultural Perspectives on the Human-Animal Bond

Date: Thursday 5th July
Time: 1:30 pm - 3:15 pm
Room: Platypus Room (Seminar Rooms 1.2/1.4)

Sponsored by: Humane Society of the United States

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Chair: Andrew Rowan

Humane Society of the United States 

The Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy is pleased to sponsor a symposium that explores multicultural aspects of the Human-Animal Bond.  There are four presentations (and three presenters).  Andrew Rowan (Humane Society of the US) will present on Dennis Turner’s (IEAP, Switzerland) research on differing attitudes to animals among the major religions and across different cultures and will also present a paper on different attitudes to domestic cats and their management in Europe, North America and Australasia.   Dr Peter Li (University of Texas, Houston) will present a paper on Chinese attitudes to animals and the cultural influences on those attitudes and Dr Bernard Unti will look at the use of cultural justifications for human-animal interactions that cause significant suffering and examine how digital communications are challenging some of those cultural assumptions.  

This 1 hour 45 minute symposium will include several speakers, and time for general discussions. Details of the individual presentations are provided below.

How strongly do different religious traditions affect attitudes toward animals, their welfare and use?

Dennis C. Turner1 

I.E.A.P., Horgen, Switzerland

Andrew Rowan

HSUS, Washington, D.C 

Attitudes toward nature and animals in particular, animal welfare, animal use as food or as companions or social support, are probably affected by religious tradition, gender, geographic location, and past experience - among other things. This study examined if and how these variables affected attitudes of adults in urban and suburban areas of 12 countries. (In the meantime, urban areas of two additional countries, Romania and Mexico, have been added.)


A 27-item survey instrument (ATA © Turner) was developed, tested and translated (twice back-translated) into nine relevant languages, and included five control questions to determine comprehension and concentration on the task at hand. These surveys included 27 statements to which the adult volunteer completing them agreed or disagreed along a 5-point Likert scale. The surveys were distributed and re-collected by volunteers in urban and suburban areas of twelve countries and sent to Switzerland for coding and statistical analysis. They were divided into two samle types, a “convenience sample” (at market places, on city streets, at college campuses) and an assumed “animal friendly” sample (in the waiting rooms of veterinary practices, dog grooming salons etc.), which were also compared. Over 6000 fully completed questionnaires went into the analyses.

Additionally, direct ethological observations of random encounters between people and animals in three of the countries (mostly Muslim, Hindu or Christian) on the streets of Amman, Chennai and London were made and analyzed.

The answers to control statements were compared by correlation analysis and found to be significantly negative, indicating that the participants indeed understood the statements and method, and focused on the survey to the end. The levels of agreement/disagreement with the 22 remaining statements were analyzed by ANOVAs with the factors: religion, gender, sample type and current or former pet ownership. The corrected models were all highly significant. Only significant main effects (all four) and their interactions (four of which were significant) have been published

Main Results/Implications

Religion was a significant main factor on 15 of the statements; gender on 10; sample type on 10; and pet ownership on 9. A number of clichés about the effects of religion were corrected.


Fehlbaum, B., Waiblinger, E., Turner, D.C. 2010. Swiss Archive Vet. Med. 152, 285-293. DOI 10.1024/0036-7281/a000066

Turner, D.C., Al Hussein, A. 2013. In T.G. Schneiders (Hrsg.) Die Araber im 21. Jahrhundert. Springer Verlag. DOI 10.1007/978-3-531-19093-8

Turner, D.C., Waiblinger, E., Meslin, F.-X. 2013. In C.N.L. Macpherson et al. (Eds.), Dogs, Zoonoses and Public Health, 2nd Ed. CAB International

Rusu, A.S., Pop, D., Turner, D.C. 2018. People and Animals: The International Journal of Research and Practice, PAIJ, 1(1), 1-14.

Differences in cat keeping and attitudes to cats between Europe, the USA and Australasia.

Andrew Rowan

HSUS, Washington, D.C 

The number of pet cats varies from one country to another.  These differences presumably reflect societal attitudes towards cats.  This presentation will highlight a sampling of these differences and comment on recent arguments about how to manage cats, especially those that have access to the outdoors or that are permanently outside.   For example, the country with the highest rate of recorded cat ownership in the world (New Zealand) is also going through a major internal debate on how to manage their cat populations.   Conservation biologists in the USA have, over the last decade, painted outdoor cats as THE major scourge of wildlife, especially birds while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK argues that outdoor cats (most pet cats in the UK have outdoor access unlike their counterparts in the US) have relatively little impact on endangered birds. 

The Socialist New Culture and Human-Animal Relations in Contemporary China

Peter J. Li
University of Houston-Downtown. China Policy Specialist, Humane Society International  

China is in a “civil war” over dogs and nonhuman animals in general. On December 31, 2017, a dog was bludgeoned to death by a police officer on a busy street and in broad daylight in Changsha, China. The incident has intensified the confrontation between the two camps of the “civil war.” To many outside China, the police brutality and countless other animal abuse cases have roots in the country’s dynastic “culture of cruelty.” In fact, most animal lovers in China blame their own traditional culture for animal cruelty in the contemporary era. Was China’s dynastic past with a so-called “culture of cruelty” responsible for animal cruelty in the contemporary era? Or is the political culture created and fostered by the country’s Leninist Party-state in its totalitarian stage (1949-1978) more responsible for the cruelty? Cultural traditions left from the past do play a role in shaping a society’s collective attitude and behaviors. However, cultural traditions can lose their relevancy as an agent of political socialization. In this paper, I shall ask three questions. First, what were China’s ancient cultural traditions in human-animal relations? Second, did these traditions serve the political objectives of the country’s Leninist Party-state in the pre-reform era? Third, if the state had rejected the ancient traditions, was the so-called “socialist new culture” its replacement? If yes, in what way has this new culture helped shape human-animal relations in contemporary China? 

Animal Protection, Zoopolis, and the Claims of Culture in Post-Modernity

Bernard O. Unti

The Humane Society of the United States 

Postmodernity, as a juncture in human history in which time and distance are compressed, erased, or obliterated, and constant change is inevitable, is profoundly shaping and reshaping human-animal relations, and bringing claims of culture to the fore in campaigns addressing animal cruelty issues across the globe.  Both the rising concern for animals and the success of organized animal protection have produced notable movement from anthropocentric utilitarian perspectives on nonhuman animals to a stronger and more pronounced biocentric empathy.  The Zoopolis paradigm frames a new path for social, cultural, and political integration of animals and their interests.   The presentation will examine how culture-based defenses of animal use are faring under the pressure of an increasingly integrated global community, in a world of instantaneous communication, and under an atmosphere of enhanced and determined skepticism?   How are cultural arguments engaging with the traditional use or mistreatment of animals and how do these arguments mark the flashpoints and hotspots of a new order in which virtually all practices involving animals are scrutinized, interrogated, or challenged?  What do these developments mean for the future of the human-animal bond, and the treatment of animals?