A recent study has highlighted the drop in support for medical testing on animals, and social media may be responsible.
The study, conducted by researchers at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Western Governors University, found that support for animal testing has declined significantly since 2001. The researchers used 12 years’ worth of Gallup survey data to determine 41% of American adults and 54% of Americans aged 18 – 29 viewed animal testing as ‘morally wrong’ in 2013. This is opposed to the respective 29% and 31% of people opposed to the practice in 2001.
Speaking at the annual meeting of AAAS (which publishes Science) the researchers speculated the trend could be linked to the ever-increasing number of Internet and social media users.
The researchers put forward PETA’s two million Facebook followers against the Foundation for Biomedical Research’s 130,000 followers as one example of anti-animal testing groups getting their message across more effectively to the younger generation.
The obvious caveat to this suggestion is the social media followers’ potential lack of commitment beyond a Facebook like. There has been a lot of speculation about the actual change that social media fosters beyond feel-good clicking - so much so that it has even been called “slacktivism.”
Despite this, the Internet and social media sites are a force to be reckoned with, and have proven countless times to be an advocacy tool with significant impact. As Ben Rattray, the founder of Change.org, once said:
“The goal here is social change, it’s not to make things difficult. It may be really difficult to go protest in person, but it might be more effective to mobilize a hundred other people using the web to simultaneously send letters to a single target.”