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How Effective are Graphic Images for Animal Rights Campaigns?

A recent study funded by FARM’s Sabina Fund and conducted by Chris Monteiro has monitored the effects of graphic imagery on attitudes towards animal rights, and found it to be most effective when used to a low degree.

Participants were told that researchers were interested in their opinions of advertisements and they completed questionnaires interspersed with fake advertisements and an animal rights advertisement. The images used (low, moderate and high) featured: a dead pig on a muddy slaughterhouse floor, a dead pig on a bloody slaughterhouse floor and a dead pig with their throat slit on a bloody slaughterhouse floor.

The images’ effects on attitudes towards animal rights were measured using the Wuensch animal rights scale, a high score on which indicates a positive attitude towards animal rights and so on. For a random sample of US adults, images with a low degree of graphic detail produced the greatest improvements in attitudes towards animal rights.

In general the participants responded more favorably towards low graphic detail but the report says that this is of no statistical significance because it cannot be ensured that this did not occur by chance. In addition, when participants were asked to rate the graphic detail their ratings showed no effect on their scores on the Wuencsch scale. This suggests that activists should not judge images’ degree of graphic detail by themselves, but try to agree on some objective criteria (ie wounds, blood etc.)

Variables including age, gender, income and race were not found to exert an effect, however there was some difference between the right-wing and the left-wing. When right-wing participants were compared to left wing participants it was found that the former responded best to low graphic detail, and the latter to moderate graphic detail.

Do the results surprise you?

Chris Monteiro conducted the study and is task force coordinator for the Carnism Awareness & Action network. Questions are welcome and can be sent to

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