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In an increasingly global landscape, NFP (not-for-profit) initiatives including those addressing animal protection, are increasingly operating cross-borders. Doing so without respect, local engagement, and a thorough understanding of the issues of concern is fraught with danger, and potentially wasteful of resources. To this purpose, we sought to understand attitudes to the importance of 13 major world social issues in relation to animal protection (including reducing poverty, racial, LGBT and gender equality, environmental protection, sustainable development, genetic engineering and capital punishment) by surveying 3433 students from at least 103 universities across 12 nations. The emergence of a ‘nature trifecta’ was suggested, with animal and environmental protection and sustainable development recurring as the most highly rated in importance across all countries, with these issues also consistently rating amongst the highest in each individual country. It is concluded that significant differences exist between attributed importance of world issues by nation, pointing towards the benefit of tailoring NFP (including animal protection) initiatives by country and region. It is also suggested that nation, or more specifically, sociopolitical and cultural region, is a vitally important demographic for consideration in social development.
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ARTICLES
The Cross-Cultural Importance of Animal Protection
and Other World Social Issues
Michelle Sinclair
1
Clive J. C. Phillips
1
Accepted: 12 July 2017 / Published online: 26 July 2017
!Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017
Abstract In an increasingly global landscape, NFP (not-for-profit) initiatives
including those addressing animal protection, are increasingly operating cross-
borders. Doing so without respect, local engagement, and a thorough understanding
of the issues of concern is fraught with danger, and potentially wasteful of
resources. To this purpose, we sought to understand attitudes to the importance of
13 major world social issues in relation to animal protection (including reducing
poverty, racial, LGBT and gender equality, environmental protection, sustainable
development, genetic engineering and capital punishment) by surveying 3433 stu-
dents from at least 103 universities across 12 nations. The emergence of a ‘nature
trifecta’ was suggested, with animal and environmental protection and sustainable
development recurring as the most highly rated in importance across all countries,
with these issues also consistently rating amongst the highest in each individual
country. It is concluded that significant differences exist between attributed
importance of world issues by nation, pointing towards the benefit of tailoring NFP
(including animal protection) initiatives by country and region. It is also suggested
that nation, or more specifically, sociopolitical and cultural region, is a vitally
important demographic for consideration in social development.
Keywords Animal welfare !Animal protection !Environmental protection !
Sustainability !Social issues !Not for profit !International
&Michelle Sinclair
m.sinclair6@uq.edu.au
1
Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics, School of Veterinary Sciences, The University of
Queensland, Gatton, QLD 4343, Australia
123
J Agric Environ Ethics (2017) 30:439–455
DOI 10.1007/s10806-017-9676-5
Introduction
Knowledge about the attitudes of key stakeholders is of great value in the spheres of
politics and business, and equally in the endeavor of producing social change and
progress. Social activism and a person’s level of engagement with not-for-profit
organizations (NFPs) can be predicted by whether their attitude is that the issue of
focus is of high importance. For example, there is a strong correlation between
attitude intensity and self-reported environmental behavior and political activism in
environmental issues (Steel 1996). Similarly, perceived importance across a variety
of animal welfare and rights issues is positively correlated to engagement with
animal welfare NFPs (Phillips et al. 2012). With globalization increasing, the
importance of understanding cultures and social priorities is increasingly a
requirement for success, specifically within the aim of ‘thinking globally and
acting locally’.
Relevant cultural and social knowledge is of particular importance when
developing multinational policies and partnerships within a commercial ‘Corporate
Social Responsibility’ framework, and in the development and implementation of
NFP projects and initiatives in cross-cultural settings. In this context, understanding
the audience is the key to success (Andreasen and Kotler 2008). In addition to
benefits to NFP and social progress, understanding the attitudes and world social
issue priorities of varied cultures and nations is likely to have wide-reaching social
benefit. Gaining an understanding of the variability of attitudes and beliefs in
diverse groups can challenge the cognitive bias or ethnocentric tendency to believe
that one’s view—whether personal or culturally founded—is fact and solely
‘correct’ (Wiegand 1991). This tendency seems to be a common cause of
miscommunication, a barrier to successful co-operative relationships (business or
otherwise), and, in its worst form, the basis of conflict and discrimination (including
racism).
A recent study found that the importance placed on animal welfare and rights
across a variety of issues (the killing of animals, animal use in experimentation etc.)
and over a wide range of demographics, differs significantly between nations
(Phillips et al. 2012). No differences were identified between ethnic groups within
each country. Within the investigated Eurasian geographical region, respondents
from European countries expressed more concern for animal welfare than those
from Asian nations. The researchers postulated a relationship with affluence, this
was supported by a positive correlation between respondent expenditure and
concern for animal welfare and animal rights. The relationship between religion and
concern for animal welfare and rights was not found to be as significant as other
factors (Phillips et al. 2012).
Significant gender differences exist in attitudes in the literature (Davis 1983;
Phillips et al. 2010; Ling et al. 2016). Gender differences are most prominent in
relation to empathetic abilities and tendencies, with women usually more empathic
than men (Eisenberg and Lennon 1983; Davis 1983). Empathy seems to translate to
concern for environmental conservation too, with females having higher levels of
social responsibility in this area Zelezny et al. (2000). Gender differences are
440 M. Sinclair, C. J. C. Phillips
123
particularly prominent in relation to animal welfare (Phillips et al. 2010). Attitudes
to livestock slaughter and transport have been found to differ by gender and
nationality in Veterinary Science and Agricultural students in E and SE Asia (Ling
et al. 2016). Thai respondents found killing animals the least acceptable of the four
Asian nations that were assessed, and Malaysian respondents found that animals
experiencing pain and suffering during slaughter to be significantly less accept-
able than respondents from Vietnam and China. Female respondents were more
likely to find certain animal production processes unacceptable compared to their
male counterparts (Ling et al. 2016).
In a large cross-country sample of attitudes to corporate social responsibility,
differences were found between countries that depended on the social focus and
religion. Attitudes and social priorities across nations and culture remain largely
unexplored despite their importance to many diverse fields (Brammer et al. 2007).
In a study of the association between attitudes and engagement with not for profits,
people who considered animal issues important were more likely to engage with
animal protection organizations (Phillips et al. 2012). Respondents who rated
animal welfare highly were also more likely to be interested in world issues in
general but no comparisons of levels of action and engagement have been studied
for individual world issues.
Apart from this, the importance of world social issues has not yet been measured
or analyzed across nations, or compared with other individual social issues cross-
culturally. Knowledge of the importance of social issues in different geographical
regions and cultures can help NFP organizations tailor their initiatives to make them
more geographically and culturally relevant (Sinclair 2016). This is of considerable
importance as NFP initiatives have traditionally been limited by operational and
financial constraints in scope to certain geographical regions and it is vital that the
initiatives are tailored to the region of interest to improve relevance, local
engagement and success.
The research described in this paper was part of a cross-cultural study of attitudes
towards animals and other areas of concern in Eurasian students (Phillips et al.
2012; Izmirli and Phillips 2011; Meng et al. 2009). The objective of this paper is to
investigate the relationships between the importance of world social issues,
including animal protection, with nationality and gender.
The intended application of this study is to further inform NFPs’ understanding
of social priorities to enable them to develop locally meaningful campaigns,
programs and initiatives. To think globally and act locally requires an understanding
of attitudes in a variety of cultures and geopolitical regions, and understanding the
position of people of different nations and cultures on world issues is of paramount
importance in an increasingly globalised landscape.
Materials and Methods
Human ethics approval was granted by the University of Queensland Human Ethics
Committee. The survey method utilised responses to a survey focusing on attitudes
to animals from 3462 university students in 11 Eurasian countries. The survey
The Cross-Cultural Importance of Animal Protection and441
123
method and responses relating to food avoidance, nation and ethnic group,
differences between male and female respondents in attitudes to animal welfare and
rights and extent of support for animal protection organizations have been
documented previously. In brief, a call was distributed through relevant organiza-
tions (e.g. the International Society for Applied Ethology), for volunteer academic
collaborators to organise a survey of students’ attitudes to social issues, in particular
animal management, in their country. Suitable collaborators volunteered in 21
countries worldwide, but those in 9 countries dropped out over the course of the
project, leaving 12 countries as a convenience sample. Those remaining represented
a broad spectrum of cultures and geographical regions of Europe and Asia,
including the People’s Republic of China (hereafter referred to as China), Czech
Republic, United Kingdom, Islamic Republic of Iran (hereafter referred to as Iran),
Republic of Ireland (hereafter referred to as Ireland), Portuguese Republic (hereafter
referred to as Portugal), Republic of Korea (hereafter referred to as Korea),
Republic of Macedonia (hereafter referred to as Macedonia), Kingdom of Norway
(hereafter referred to as Norway), Republic of Serbia (hereafter referred to as
Serbia), Kingdom of Spain (hereafter referred to as Spain) and the Kingdom of
Sweden (hereafter referred to as Sweden).
In all cases except Norway and Sweden, where access by e-mail to the entire
student populations in the selected universities was possible, collaborators organised
a team of student volunteers to recruit respondents in a sample of universities in
their country. The universities were selected at random if possible, but in some
countries a convenience sample was used. The target number of respondents in each
country was related to the population. If they agreed, students were asked to give
their e-mail address to the volunteer, in order that a weblink to the survey could be
sent to them at a later date.
Student volunteers approached students at a central location in the university (not
related to any subject area) and asked them if they would take part in a social
survey. A pilot survey informed the development of the survey. The majority of
responses were received from students in 103 universities, providing a broad spread
of the tertiary education sector.
The survey format and content was discussed and agreed by all collaborators, and
the survey was then translated by the collaborators into each native language, since
these people were most familiar with the animal welfare terminology used. Where
possible the translated versions were translated back into English and changes made
in the case of discrepancies, and in all cases the survey meaning and translation
were checked by a third party for accuracy and consistency of meaning, in
conjunction with the collaborator.
For the study reported here, students were asked thirteen questions concerning
major world social issues, with students asked to give their opinion about how
important each was to them, on a scale of 1 (not important) to 7 (extremely
important), or to indicate that they were not familiar enough with the issue to
decide.
Students were also asked other demographic questions such as area of study,
religion and ethnicity, including nationality and gender as focus fields for this
present study.
442 M. Sinclair, C. J. C. Phillips
123
Statistical Analysis
Data were initially cleaned and examined for potential sources of bias. ANOVA of
issues included the following dependent variables entered into the model included
level of support for animal protection organizations, area of study, level of
education, nation, ethnic group (nested within nation), gender, place of residence,
religious affiliation, food avoidance and reasons why food was avoided. This paper
focuses on nationality, gender and their interaction as dominant influences in the
model. As well as actual attributed importance ratings, relative ratings within each
country were calculated to facilitate comparison of ratings within a country. The
following formula was developed and applied to this analysis:
Weighted rating for issue x by country y¼rating for issue #maximum rating xðÞ=ð
maximum difference in issue ratings for country yÞÞ þ 1'100:
A principal component analysis of the issues data, with Varimax rotation, was
used to identify common groups of issues. There were two components with Eigen
values greater than one, a commonly accepted criterion for when to stop extracting
factors, and included issues with loadings C0.20. A dendogram is presented that
describes an agglomerative hierarchical clustering method that begins with all
variables separate, each forming its own cluster using the complete linkaging
method.
Results
The issue given the highest importance rating overall was environmental protection,
followed by sustainable development, and then animal protection and peace and
security by order of ranking (Table 1). Less importance was attributed to women’s
rights, reducing poverty, racial equality and professional ethics. Lowest importance
was attributed to human cloning, capital punishment, LGBT equality and human
euthanasia.
Differences Between Nations
Differences between nations were statistically significant for all issues (P\0.001).
Environmental protection was given a high rating in all countries, but the highest
possible rating only in China, Spain, Macedonia and Serbia. The lowest ratings were
given in South Korea and Sweden. Chinese and Spanish students also attributed the
highest level of importance to sustainable development, with all countries except
Iran giving this a high rating. Chinese students also attributed the highest possible
importance to animal protection, with only Swedish students giving it a relatively
low rating. Chinese students also ranked peace and security very high, with
relatively low ratings in Korea and to a lesser extent Sweden. Spanish students gave
the highest rating of any country to women’s rights, racial and LGBT equality.
The Cross-Cultural Importance of Animal Protection and443
123
Table 1 Least squared means for effects of country on importance value for 13 world social issues, rated from 1, not important, to 7, extremely important, in declining
order of overall mean importance
CN CZ ES IE IR KR MK NO PT SE SR UK SED P
Environ. protection 7.00 6.68 7.00 6.50 6.62 6.18 7.00 6.38 6.81 6.21 7.00 6.58 0.0860 \0.001
Sustain. devel. 7.00 6.13 7.00 6.28 5.06 6.04 6.66 6.62 6.63 6.58 6.49 6.64 0.0974 \0.001
Animal protection 7.00 6.26 6.62 6.02 6.62 6.07 6.50 6.19 6.56 5.60 6.34 5.97 0.1051 \0.001
Peace and security 6.82 6.21 6.64 6.02 6.64 4.23 6.46 6.28 6.36 5.78 6.69 6.09 0.0865 \0.001
Women’s rights 6.34 5.46 6.90 5.77 6.47 5.03 6.64 5.94 6.29 5.84 6.37 5.55 0.1143 \0.001
Reducing poverty 6.44 5.49 6.60 6.01 6.16 4.95 6.72 5.77 6.44 5.48 6.19 6.00 0.1073 \0.001
Racial equality 6.35 5.48 6.49 6.08 6.34 5.46 5.93 6.08 6.40 5.55 6.00 5.80 0.1075 \0.001
Prof. ethics 6.56 5.27 6.00 5.46 4.89 4.99 5.85 5.44 5.83 4.33 6.24 5.85 0.1028 \0.001
Genetic engineering 5.62 5.16 5.37 4.25 4.86 5.03 5.65 4.41 5.05 3.37 5.50 4.48 0.1326 \0.001
Human euthanasia 4.08 4.92 5.05 4.22 5.53 4.09 4.44 4.27 5.21 3.53 4.91 5.26 0.1404 \0.001
LGBT equality 4.03 4.21 5.37 5.34 5.03 3.56 4.17 4.75 5.24 4.68 4.26 4.87 0.1510 \0.001
Capital punishment 4.81 4.97 5.43 4.59 5.47 3.55 4.80 4.41 5.46 2.37 4.97 4.37 0.1479 \0.001
Human cloning 4.36 4.89 4.72 3.85 4.56 4.67 5.19 4.45 5.33 3.21 5.10 4.69 0.1705 \0.001
CN People’s Republic of China, CZ Czech Republic, ES Spain, IE Ireland, IR Iran, SK South Korea, MK Macedonia, NO Norway, PT Portugal, SE Sweden, SR Serbia and
UK United Kingdom. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality’ is abbreviated to ‘LGBT equality’, ‘professional ethics’ to ‘prof. ethics’, ‘environmental protection’
to ‘environ. protection’ and ‘sustainable development’ to ‘sustain. devel.’
444 M. Sinclair, C. J. C. Phillips
123
Iranian students rated the issues of capital punishment and human euthanasia higher
than all other countries, Macedonian students rated reducing poverty higher than all
other countries, and Portuguese students rated human cloning higher than all other
countries. Swedish students generally attributed the lowest importance of any nation
to all of the world issues, except peace and security, women’s rights, racial equality,
and LBGT equality. South Korean students attributed the lowest importance of any
nation to LBGT equality, and Iranian students rated sustainable development
significantly lower than all other countries.
In terms of relative ranks of issues within countries (Table 2), the degree of
variation between countries increased as the mean importance across countries
decreased (Fig. 1). Hence there was a degree of concordance between countries on
the most important issues, especially the top eight, but not the four less important
issues.
A principal component analysis (Fig. 2) explored the linkages between
responses across countries to the 13 world issues. Two components with Eigen
values over 1 emerged, which are presented in graphical form. There were common
responses to the top eight issues, confirming the concordance between countries for
these issues. Of the remaining issues, LGBT equality had the most similar variation
to the top eight issues, even though the variation between countries for this variable
was the highest. Human cloning, however, had both very high variation between
countries and was also very dissimilar to the top eight issues.
A dendogram of clustered variation across the 13 world issues illustrates that four
of the five lowest rated issues, genetic engineering, human euthanasia, capital
punishment and human cloning, had some similarity in variation structure, whereas
LGBT equality was unrelated to this and only remotely related to variation in the
top eight issues. Of the top eight issues the closest were environmental protection
and sustainable development in terms of variation structure, but two other major
closely related pairs emerged, racial equality and women’s rights, and reducing
poverty and peace and security.
Gender Results
When assessing the importance of world issues by gender and country, the
differences between male and female rated importance in different countries were
significant for 7 of the 13 world issues (Table 3). Overall, women rated all issues as
of higher importance than did men, except Capital Punishment, to which men
attributed higher importance overall.
Women’s rights had the greatest gender disparity across countries, with women
rating the issue of much higher importance, most noticeably in South Korea,
followed by Czech Republic, and to the least extent in Iran and Sweden. LGBT
equality was also rated as more important by women in all countries except Ireland
and Spain, with the greatest disparity seen in Sweden, Czech Republic, Norway and
Macedonia. Animal protection had the biggest differences between men and women
in the UK, Sweden and Norway, where females rated it of more importance. Men
and women in Iran, Macedonia, China and Serbia rated the issue to be of similar
importance. Capital punishment showed the greatest disparity between the sexes in
The Cross-Cultural Importance of Animal Protection and445
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Table 2 Least squared means for effects of country on importance value for 13 world social issues, weighted according to relative ratings within country, together with
coefficients of variation (CV) between countries for each issue
CN CZ ES IE IR KR MK NO PT SE SR UK CV
Environmental protection 100 100 100 100 99.0 100 100 89.78 100 91.2 100 99.97 3.8
Sustainable development 100 77.73 100 91.69 24.03 94.67 87.98 100 89.77 100 81.38 100 24.5
Animal protection 100 82.99 83.33 81.88 99.03 95.81 35.33 81.70 85.79 76.72 75.91 75.36 20.7
Peace and security 85.18 80.97 84.21 81.88 100 25.85 80.91 85.53 74.43 80.99 88.56 75.77 22.7
Women’s rights 77.77 86.23 95.51 72.45 91.82 56.27 87.27 71.06 70.45 82.42 77 51.98 17.3
Reducing poverty 81.14 51.82 82.45 81.50 76.92 53.23 90.10 63.82 78.97 73.97 70.43 71.8 16.0
Racial equality 78.11 51.41 77.63 84.15 85.57 72.62 35.33 77.02 76.70 73.87 63.50 62.99 20.8
Professional ethics 85.18 42.91 56.14 60.75 15.86 54.75 59.36 49.78 44.31 46.55 72.26 65.19 31.6
Genetic engineering 53.53 61.53 28.50 15.09 14.42 56.27 52.29 5.95 0 23.75 45.25 4.94 74.8
Human euthanasia 1.68 28.74 14.47 13.96 46.63 20.53 9.54 0 9.09 27.55 23.72 39.20 73.1
LGBT equality 0.67 0 28.50 56.22 22.59 0.38 0 20.42 10.79 54.86 0 22.02 113.5
Capital punishment 26.26 30.76 31.14 27.92 43.75 0 22.26 5.95 23.29 0 25.91 0 74.0
Human cloning 11.11 72.46 0 0 0 42.58 36.04 7.65 15.90 19.95 30.65 14.09 103.3
446 M. Sinclair, C. J. C. Phillips
123
Ireland, where it was rated more highly by men than women, and only in Czech and
Norway was it rated substantially higher by women than men. Racial equality was
only rated substantially higher by women than men in the UK and Sweden, and in
Fig. 1 Coefficients of variation related to importance ratings of 13 world social issues between students
in 12 countries, with line of best fit by linear regression
Fig. 2 First and second principal components in students’ ratings of the importance of world social issue,
across the 12 countries in the study
The Cross-Cultural Importance of Animal Protection and447
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Table 3 Gender disparity for 12 countries for the least square mean importance values for 13 world social issues, presented as the difference in respondent importance
rating of females minus means for males, in declining order of overall gender disparity
Mean CN CZ ES IE IR KR MK NO PT SE SR UK SED P
Women’s rights 0.83 0.76 1.3 0.37 0.83 1.25 1.57 0.86 0.55 0.11 1.02 0.60 0.76 0.162 0.001
LGBT equality 0.64 0.55 1.34 -0.22 -0.39 0.39 0.22 1.2 1.25 1.03 1.50 0.06 0.83 0.217 0.008
Animal protection 0.49 0.31 0.7 0.21 0.59 -0.27 0.23 -0.16 0.97 0.70 1.00 0.46 1.18 0.148 0.04
Capital punishment -0.06 0.23 1.04 -0.65 -1.68 -0.14 -0.55 -0.16 1.20 -0.41 0 0.34 0.01 0.209 \0.001
Racial equality 0.23 0.18 0.58 -0.3 -0.67 -0.11 0.13 0.32 0.54 0.16 0.73 0.36 0.92 0.152 0.04
Peace and security 0.05 0.1 0.31 0.26 -0.84 0 -0.81 -0.08 0.21 0.45 0.41 0.40 0.28 0.122 0.001
Reducing poverty 0.03 0 0.47 -0.18 -0.32 0.32 -0.37 -0.19 0.30 0.11 0.09 0.13 0.01 0.152 0.04
SED and Pvalues refer to gender 9country interactions, with only world issues with a Pvalue \0.05 included
448 M. Sinclair, C. J. C. Phillips
123
Ireland men rated it higher than women. When considering peace and security, the
greatest disparity between the sexes was evident in Ireland and South Korea, with
men rating it considerably higher than women. Men and women in the Czech
Republic showed the only major gender difference for reducing poverty, it being
more highly rated by women than men.
Discussion
The ‘Nature Trifecta’
As demonstrated in Tables 1,2, and Figs. 1,3, collectively across the countries
environmental protection was given the highest rating for importance and was
closely followed by sustainable development and then animal protection. Sustain-
able development received the highest possible rating by Chinese and Spanish
respondents, and animal protection received the highest possible level of importance
by Chinese respondents. Each of these highly rated world social issues are
collectively based around our relationship with the natural world, what will here be
referred to as the ‘nature trifecta’. The nature trifecta effect demonstrated in this
study is suggestive of a level of common understanding of the importance of these
issues between respondents in widely different political and geographical regions.
This may be indicative of a recognition that careful consideration of these issues and
stewardship is needed to achieve a benign relationship with the natural world in the
future, which is likely to be key to our species’ self-preservation. It may also be
Fig. 3 Dendogram of similarity of students’ ratings of the importance of 13 world social issues, across
the 12 countries in the study
The Cross-Cultural Importance of Animal Protection and449
123
indicative of an awareness of a current disconnect between a fabricated human
society and the natural world, and a willingness to support and engage in initiatives
to foster harmonious and nature protection and conservation projects. While this
perceived importance reported by respondents is often in contrast to governmental
and commercial priorities, which usually focus on economic progression, many
societal trends support and reflect these results. For example, the emergence of eco-
tourism (Cater 1993), the move towards organic foods (Harper and Makatouni
2002), support for animal protection (Phillips et al. 2012), the policy forums
addressing climate change (Lorenzoni and Pidgeon 2006), increasing condemnation
of animal abuse and animal focused media (Tonsor and Olynk 2011), and the steady
tightening of environmental protection policy in industrialised nations (Vogel 1997)
are prominent issues for citizens today. Within the nature trifecta, the dendogram
(Fig. 3) demonstrates that ‘environmental protection’ and ‘sustainable develop-
ment’ are the most closely related, which is probably due to their mutual roots in
ecology.
Nation Effects
Despite the commonality observed in selection of the major issues by respondents in
all countries, the results of this study showed that the level of importance attributed
to each world issue varied more between countries than other demographic factors.
There were no consistently significant effects of religion, ethnicity or income on
importance ratings. Nationality therefore emerged as the key defining demographic
in relation to attitudes to the most important social issues.
The world issue ‘environmental protection’ rated highest both collectively across
all countries, and by individual country in all instances except UK, where
‘sustainable development’ scored slightly higher. This, as with other issues, may
reflect awareness of the importance of the issue, but also may indicate the extent to
which respondents believe it is being successfully addressed. The latter may be
different between nations. In some nations, such as China, respondents may have
been influenced in this choice by personally experiencing or being aware of a
deteriorating environment in their country.
The world social issue of human cloning received the least associated relevant
importance by the countries collectively, with Spanish, Irish and Iranian respondents
allocating the issue the lowest level of importance of all issues. This may reflect a
perceived inability or unlikely impact of the issue on respondents’ lives. Similarly, for
this reason capital punishment may have been perceived as being of low importance;
it was shown to be the second lowest in importance when measured collectively, and
the lowest in Sweden, UK and South Korea specifically. The death penalty has been
illegal throughout the European Union for all crimes, including in times of war, since
1996 (Sarat and Boulanger 2005) (and it was not practised for a considerable time
prior to that in both Sweden and UK). Although South Korea has not abolished the
death penalty, it has had a moratorium on the issue since 1998 (Cho 2008). This may
indicate that responses of low level associated importance are reflective of a perceived
lack of need to address the issue, or a perceived satisfactory addressing of the issue
nationally. This could also offer an explanation as to why respondents in nations that
450 M. Sinclair, C. J. C. Phillips
123
are believed to have more advanced policies for animal protection (in particularly UK,
Sweden and Norway) did not rate the issue as highly in importance as respondents in
other nations with less developed policies, such as China.
Human euthanasia, along with LGBT equality, received the third lowest
importance rating collectively, with respondents from China, Czech Republic,
Macedonia and Serbia all reporting it as the lowest in importance compared to other
issues. The low importance rating of LGBT equality may represent a lack of
acceptance, stigmatisation or cultural unacceptability of sexual preferences other
than heterosexual in these regions, suggesting less progress in social policy towards
minority groups than in countries such as the UK. However this is not totally
supported by international Human Rights records, which include considerations of
anti-discrimination legislation; Iran has the death penalty for same sex relations in
mature and ‘sane’ men (Itaborahy and Zhu 2012), yet students there reported the
issue to be of greater importance than those in the Czech Republic, which has a
good record on Human Rights. The discrepancy suggests a variation in the attitudes
of respondents and the governing regime pertaining in Iran. Rating of LGBT as
highly important by women and the extent of social progress in a country suggests a
link to gender empowerment: Swedish students, for example, reported the highest
difference in rates of importance for LGBT equality between gender groups, and
this country ranks second in the world on the Social Progress Index 2015 (Porter
et al. 2015).
One of the most unexpected results of this study comes from considering the
nations with the highest ranking of importance for the world social issues
collectively. Spanish respondents rated all of the collective world social issues with
the highest importance compared to the other nations in the study, followed by
respondents in Portugal, then China. When comparing the level of associated
importance reported in this study with the world ‘Social Progress Index 2015’
(Porter et al. 2015), both Spain and Portugal rate in the top 20, but are below nations
such as Norway (number 1), Sweden (number 2) and the UK (number 11) that were
also included in this study. This may indicate a rapidly developing social landscape,
with Spanish and Portuguese nationals seeing value in the major world social issues
coupled with a need to continue progression; thus the reported high levels of
reported importance. This could also relate to the extent of social change within
students of this nation. Compared with other nationals examined in this study,
Chinese nationals have seen great social change over the last 10 years (Bai et al.
2008). Similarly, Spain and Portugal have also been exposed to significant social
change within the last 40 years. Spain has developed rapidly from a nation governed
by fascist rule to one that is increasingly liberal (Solsten and Meditz 1990). Portugal
has also experienced a rapid change in this time, from rule by the dictator Salazar, to
becoming a democracy and membership of the Eurozone (Federal Research
Division 1993). Support for less developed nations following entry to the European
Union may have facilitated this rapid progression. These results may be in contrast
to the highest rating Social Progress Index countries of Norway and Sweden who
may see value in the world social issues but are not reporting them in this study to
be of such a high level of importance. This could be due to a naturally conservative
attitude or the belief it is already handled adequately in their home country.
The Cross-Cultural Importance of Animal Protection and451
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In relation to China, a desire for change is evident from the high reported levels
of importance for all world social issues, and China’s rating on the Social Progress
Index, ranked 92nd out of 133 countries (Porter et al. 2015). If the findings of this
study are representative of the views of the people of China and the Social Progress
Index reflective of government policy, it represents a significant disparity between
priorities of the Chinese government and those of the Chinese people. The ‘nature
trifecta’ issues (animal protection, environmental protection and sustainable
development) were all rated the highest for China, as they were in the other
countries.
Overall major differences existed between nations on importance ranking of the
world social issues which was consistent with the hypothesis of this study. This
highlights the importance of understanding and tailoring social improvement
programs or initiatives to nations and avoiding standard cross-cultural policies by
not-for-profit organizations active in this area. It also highlights the need to consult
and understand local audiences before initiating operations. In some countries, such
as China, results demonstrate a disconnect between policy and respondent opinion,
suggesting significant concern for domestic social issues amongst younger adults,
some of whom may be future leaders. This could be seen as promising for not-for-
profit organizations in relation to societal engagement in those areas.
Gender Effects
Gender effects on attitudes have been previously reported (Phillips et al. 2010), with
females expressing greater associated importance for all social issues, except capital
punishment, which was generally rated higher by men. They are further discussed
here, in view of their importance to the relative rankings. Men are more frequently
charged with crimes that are punished by the death penalty (Cornell Law School
2015), and probably therefore feel more potentially impacted. Alternatively, it is
possible that the males rating capital punishment as ‘more important’ may have
done so from a position of ‘pro-Capital Punishment’. Violence to the person is
historically more culturally accepted by men as compared to women (Nisbett and
Cohen 1996). Women associated significantly more importance with the issues of
animal protection, equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and women’s
rights than men (Phillips and McCulloch 2005). Women’s expression of concern for
animal protection is positively correlated with their level of empowerment in the
country (Phillips et al. 2010). When comparing the importance of issues to the
different genders by nation, women in the Czech Republic, Norway and Sweden
differed most from men by reporting greater importance of all issues. A significant
difference was also associated with gender on the issue of women’s rights across
nations, with the greatest gender disparity most evident in South Korea, followed by
Czech Republic, with least difference in Iran and Sweden; this is likely to be due to
the specific gender implications of the issue. The social progression index (Porter
et al. 2015) attributes ranks of 29, 22 and 95 (out of the 133 nations analyzed)
respectively for South Korea, Czech Republic and Iran, indicating that gender
equality is lacking in these nations as compared to others in this study such as
Norway, Sweden and UK (with rankings of 1, 2 and 11, respectively). When
452 M. Sinclair, C. J. C. Phillips
123
considering peace and security, the greatest disparity between the sexes was evident
in South Korea and Ireland, with men rating this issue of considerably higher
importance than women. One explanation for this could be the recent challenges to
peace and security within these nations (for example, the strained relations between
South and North Korea and the regional unrest in northern Ireland) and men being
more traditionally seen as responsible for maintaining peace and security (Carreiras
2006).
Overall, a gender effect is clear, most frequently seeing women reporting higher
levels of importance to social issues; however, this clearly varied by country. This
has implications for targeting audiences and eliciting engagement with NFPs, as
women in some cultures could be engaged as social ambassadors.
The major limitation of this study is that it was a convenience sample conducted
with respondents who were university students, and, as a consequence, predom-
inately fall within a highly educated and often younger demographic. Therefore, it is
possible that the results of this study may not be representative of the community as
a whole; the general population may not rate the importance of the reported world
issues in the same way and may have different levels of engagement with not-for-
profit causes. It is also of importance to note that a rating of ‘importance’ as offered
in this research, does not offer insight into how well the respondent feels the issue is
being currently addressed, and if the respondent is in support or standing against
world issues that have been presented as practices (such as genetic engineering and
capital punishment). While inferences can and have been made here in an attempt to
interpret the results, further research including a complete analysis of governmental
policy and NFP initiative saturation at the time of data collection is required.
Conclusions
This study has demonstrated that nation, and gender within nation, can be major
factors influencing rating of importance of world social issues (including: reducing
poverty; racial, LGBT and gender equality; animal and environmental protection;
sustainable development; genetic engineering; and capital punishment). The results
suggest that ‘nature trifecta’ exists which causes ‘environmental protection’,
‘sustainable development’ and ‘animal protection’ to be rated with the greatest
importance compared with other presented social issues across all surveyed nations
collectively. In addition, the study suggests that progression on world social issues
requires engagement based on understanding and respect of the different cultures,
social priorities and sociopolitical regions across the world.
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