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Origin of Adult Animal Rights Lifestyle in Childhood Responsiveness to Animal Suffering

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This qualitative study examines the childhood experiences of adult animal rights activists regarding their feelings about, and interactions with, nonhuman animals. Central to children's experiences with animals is the act of eating them, a ritual both normalized and encouraged by the dominant culture and agents of socialization. Yet, despite the massive power of socialization, sometimes children resist the dominant norms of consumption regarding animals. In addition to engaging in acts of resistance, some children, as suggested in the biographical narratives of adult vegan animal activists, also possess a predisposition to respond to the perceived suffering of animals. This predisposition is a variant of the trait empathy but is specifically animal-oriented. In open-ended interviews with 30 vegan animal activists about their paths into the movement, this study examined these childhood experiences and the predisposition that may help set the stage for later adoption of a vegan, animal-rights lifestyle.

Affiliations: 1: Independent Scholar Animal Legal Defense Fund, 170 East Cotati Ave., Cotati, CA 94931, USA

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