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Public Response to Media Coverage of Animal Cruelty

A television news program has the capacity to deliver more images of violence, suffering, and death in a half hour than most people would normally view in a lifetime (Newhagen 1998: 267).


Activists’ investigations of animal cruelty expose the public to suffering that they may otherwise be unaware of, via an increasingly broad-ranging media. This may result in ethical dilemmas and a wide range of emotions and reactions. Our hypothesis was that media broadcasts of cruelty to cattle in Indonesian abattoirs would result in an emotional response by the public that would drive their actions towards live animal export. A survey of the public in Australia was undertaken to investigate their reactions and responses to. The most common immediate reaction was feeling pity for the cattle. Women were more likely than men to feel sad or angry. Most people discussed the media coverage with others afterwards but fewer than 10 % contacted politicians or wrote to newspapers. We conclude that the public were emotionally affected by the media coverage of cruelty to cattle but that this did not translate into significant behavioral change. We recommend that future broadcasts of animal cruelty should advise the public of contact details for counseling and that mental health support contacts, and information should be included on the websites of animal advocacy groups to acknowledge the disturbing effect animal cruelty exposes can have on the public.

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  1. Meat and Livestock Australia is the cattle and sheep industry representative body. Livecorp is the company responsible for live export industry service delivery.


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The authors would like to thank respondents to the survey and acknowledge the assistance of Glen Mactaggart and Eduardo Santurtun Oliveros for assistance with the surveying. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Catherine M. Tiplady.

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Tiplady, C.M., Walsh, DA.B. & Phillips, C.J.C. Public Response to Media Coverage of Animal Cruelty. J Agric Environ Ethics 26, 869–885 (2013).

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