Understanding Tolerance and Stigma
Relating to Animal Practices

from the Attitudes toward Marine Wildlife Survey

Courtesy USFWS As the population of the Los Angeles region continues to become more culturally diverse, the ways different people make use of beaches and coastal resources will continue to expand. Often cultural practices of one group relating to marine animals or the coastal resource in general may be at odds with another group's beliefs and values. As part of the Attitudes toward Marine Wildlife survey, we queried people about both their tolerance of particular animal practices (such as whale hunting, eating turtle meat) and their perceptions of feeling looked down upon or stigmatized because of their own animal practices, for example, eating particular animals, or believing that animals have rights.

[Photo courtesy US FWS]

This section focuses on our results concerning the tolerance and feelings of stigma reported by survey respondents, related to animal practices. Though 18 questions in total were asked on these topices, not all related to marine animals. Here, we focus on the marine animal related questions and how the results link to overall attitudes toward marine wildlife.

Highlight: Tolerance toward controversial animal practices varies by cultural background. The least tolerant group was Latinos, while Whites were the most tolerant. Asian-Pacific Islanders and African Americans, though in general less tolerant than Whites, were more tolerant of certain practices, primarily pertaining to food. 

FOCUS: Tolerance toward controversial animal practices

Of the 18 questions asked about tolerance toward controversial animals practices, five specifically related to marine animals. Noting that people from other cultural backgrounds treat animals differently, respondents were asked if "it was OK" if other people engaged in:

Overall, as can be seen in the table below, Whites were the most tolerant of these practices, and Latinos were least tolerant. Most respondents in all groups, however, were intolerant of whale hunting and eating turtles, and virtually no one tolerated littering on the beach. Further analysis showed that for all groups, women were far less tolerant than men. Also, those people who were more strongly in favor of dolphin protection, and to a lesser extent, tidepool protection, were less tolerant across race/ethnic groups.

Tolerance by Race/Ethnicity

We found that higher levels of tolerance toward controversial animal practices was linked to being male, having higher educational attainment and income, being a beach-goer, having more environmental knowledge, and favoring marine wildlife protection. Results also indicated that gender and race were significantly related to tolerance, with women and non-Whites being less tolerant. But what is most interesting is that Latino respondents were uniformly less tolerant of the range of controversial animals practices, including those often associated with Latino culture, such as bullfights, dog and cockfighting, and horse tripping (a staple of traditional Mexican-style rodeo).

FOCUS: Feelings of perceived stigma relating to animal practices

Over 40% of those surveyed felt stigmatized - in other words, they felt that at some point in the past that others looked down on them or thought they were strange because of their interactions with animals. However, levels of perceived stigma associated with pet-keeping and training practices and animal food preferences were relatively low across the groups. Overall, Asian-Pacific Islanders were least apt to feel stigmatized, whereas African Americans were most likely. Modeling of the survey results confirm that immigrants may feel stigmatized because their practices, such as eating certain animals, may differ from the U.S. cultural norm.

Highlight: Almost 30% of African Americans who reported feelings of stigma felt they had been looked down upon because they believed that animals have rights like people. Just over 20% of the Latinos and Whites reporting some stigma also felt looked down upon because they felt animals had rights, while only 7% of Asian-Pacific Islanders reporting some feelings of stigma felt this way due to animal rights beliefs.