Ask a hunting guide about what your first experience as a novice hunter should be and they will say a turkey. No one ever cried over eating turkey whereas a rabbit would be a bad idea for many.

A new survey in Human-Animal Interactions attempted to assess social perceptions in Singapore about ‘food animals’ versus 'friends' and 'worth fighting for', broken down as ‘Love’, ‘Save’, ‘Indifferent’ and ‘Dislike.’

Using the controversial Stereotype Content Model (SCM), creatures as diverse as shark, alligator, pig, dog, octopus, rabbit, cow and orangutan were rated on scales of warmth and competence. In total the 16 animals were rated and subjected to multi-dimensional scaling analysis, which sounds scientific, but it is still subjective responses on one island.

No surprise that the results indicated people hold different social perceptions congruent to the various animal species. Yet despite vegetarians and animal activists holding more ‘Absolutist’ and overtly social authoritarian beliefs, ethical ideology had little impact on participants’ social perceptions of the nonhuman animals.

Despite being in numerous anthropomorphic films, bacon remains too delicious for people to look at pigs as friends. Meanwhile, deer are just giant rats who will tear like locusts through nature if not culled but they are regarded as cute. Credit: Pixabay

Sharks are generally disliked even though they kill fewer people than cows each year, but few look at cows as friends. They are food. Yet in China, cats are food whereas in America they are 'friends.' Pandas are considered worth saving even though they are not endangered and real jerks. Food or friend or worth saving are cultural. Ask an environmental activist in New York City about restoring wolves all over Montana and a rancher or pet owner in Montana and you will get much different responses.

Reference: Patinadan, Paul Victor; Dillion, Denise, ‘Friends, Food or Worth Fighting For? A Proposed Stereotype Content Model for Nonhuman Animals,’ Human-Animal Interactions, 12 December (2022). DOI: 10.1079/hai.2022.0023