Centers Of Excellence

Animal Law and Policy

The UCLA Law Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program encourages new empirical research – in fields from economics to medicine – to better evaluate and pursue animal law and policy reform.


Ethics and Animals

Explore the nexus between public policy and the treatment of farm animals, pets and wildlife to build a fact-driven, sustainable legal approach to all species.

The program seeks to foster sound empirical knowledge related to human uses of animals and alternatives to uses of animals, and to develop sophisticated understanding of the impact of public policies and laws that affect animals directly or indirectly.

Who We Are

For Applicants

  • UCLA Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program Goals


    The UCLA ALP Program has two goals:

    Fostering sound empirical - quantitative or qualitative – research to increase knowledge related to human uses of animals, alternatives to uses of animals, and humans' relationship to animals, which animal law and policy academics and practitioners could use to develop animal law and policy reform applications.

    Supporting well-designed empirical—both qualitative and quantitative—research that enables animal law and policy academics and practitioners to develop increasingly more sophisticated understandings of the impact of public policies and laws that affect animals directly or indirectly.

  • Eligibility

    Scholars interested in developing or expanding their legal or non-legal research agenda to include topics related to the UCLA ALP Program's goals are welcome to apply. Advanced-level graduate students are encouraged to apply but must have strong references from advisors who have reviewed the proposed project.

    At this time, the UCLA ALP Program will not accept applications for support of any type of research on animals or applications from principal investigators based in foreign countries. Applicants must be affiliated with an accredited academic institution of higher learning in the United States. Grant recipients must be affiliated with such an academic institution at the time of receipt of funds and throughout the funded research period, through the completion and submission of the research and the attendant written report. Advanced graduate student grant applicants should include information on where they are in their degree process and indicate whether they anticipate finishing their degree within one year of the funding date.

  • Sample Topic Areas for Qualitative or Quantitative Research Proposals
    • Economic constraints on agricultural producers' attempts to shift from animal-based agriculture to non-animal-based agriculture
    • Demographics and socio-economic characteristics of people who interact with animals in various capacities, such as animal shelter workers, veterinarians, employees in animal agricultural operations, and animal trainers
    • Potentially dangerous animal complaint proceedings
    • Adoption of newly engineered technologies that could reduce animal use, such as virtual reality and alternatives to animal product consumption
    • Economic analysis of various types of corporate ownership and uses of animals
    • Characteristics of households containing nonhuman family members, including likelihood of relinquishment to shelters or abandonment
    • Wildlife-human co-existence
    • Use, impact, and evaluation of laws pertaining to animals on the animals themselves
    • Analysis of public opinion data regarding animals in various settings, such as zoos, research facilities, farms, and human entertainment
    • Innovative policy interventions for the purpose of increasing the protection of animals
    • Social science research on public receptivity to ideological and behavioral principles of increasing the protection of animals
    • Extent of existence of or utilization of non-lethal alternatives to "pest control," such as rodent, "nuisance" wildlife, and insect control
    • Non-animal empirical research whose findings and implications could be used to eliminate specific types of animal research
    • Empirical research relevant to decreasing use of animals in entertainment

    These are samples only. Other topics are welcome.

  • UCLA ALP Fund Information

    The UCLA ALP Program anticipates funding five to seven individual projects with a suggested total budget in the range of $1,000 to $4,500. The Program gives very few grants at the top of its dollar range. Please include in the research design section of your proposal breakdown of research components or stages that would enable us to consider the option of partially funding your proposal. Funds can be used for both salary support and costs associated with acquiring and analyzing new or existing data sources. Proposals that are part of larger research initiatives are also welcome. The ALP Program does not provide funding for overhead or other indirect costs. Funding from the ALP Program should be additive and not duplicate any other research funding. Requests for travel funding must be limited to travel necessary to carry out the research project. Project budgets must be for activities that take place within one year of receipt of funding. Applicants should consult an adviser on any potential tax liabilities stemming from a grant award.

  • UCLA ALP Fund Priority

    Priority is given to project proposals with well-designed, well-developed, and well-explained research methodologies appropriate to answer research questions related to animal law and policy reform. The UCLA ALP Program values both qualitative and quantitative research projects but expects research applicants to explain in detail their choice of method, the research design, and its relationship to the research question they propose to answer. As for quantitative research, we would like to see designs most likely to produce reliable, replicable research results. Often that requires narrowing a topic sufficiently to produce an answerable research question with a research method that does not allow for many, if any, alternative explanations for the research results. Applicants proposing qualitative research projects need to explain the scope of their research with sufficient specificity to assess why and how the proposed qualitative method is ideal to answer the proposed research question.

  • Reporting Responsibilities

    The principal investigator of research funded by the UCLA ALP Program shall provide a summary report by project end date and no later than one year after receipt of funds, including a description of progress in accomplishing the project aims, an account of funds expended, and a 500-word summary of project findings written for a general audience. Any studies, reports or other final written material created as a result of the funded research shall also be made available to the UCLA ALP Program.

    Publications reporting, referring to or building on this work are expected to acknowledge the funding received from the UCLA Law School Animal Law and Policy Grants Program.

  • Application Process

    The application must include:

    Project Summary - a 200-word description of the project written for a non-academic audience.

    Research Proposal - No more than five pages (not including cover sheet, bibliographic references, list of suggested referees, budget narrative, and human subjects narrative), single-spaced with one-inch margins and a font size no smaller than 12 point. The research proposal must include the following sections:

    1. Cover Page: List the applicant(s) name, title, department, and affiliated academic institution. Also indicate on this page (1) whether or not the applicant(s) already has funds or is or will be applying for additional funding for this project from another source, and (2) the status of the IRB approval process specific to the proposed research
    2. Research Aims: Succinctly describe the specific research aims of the project.
    3. Project Description: Describe the project and include the following information:
      • Significance of the project, including:
        • Significance to research: Discuss knowledge to be gained by the project and how it is relevant to the scholarly literature.
        • Relevance: Describe how the project will contribute to at least one of the two goals of the UCLA ALP Program (above).
      • Research strategy/methodology, including a description of the project's design, sampling and/or data collection procedures, and plan for data analysis. A sound research methodology is critical to our evaluation of your project. Please provide as much information as possible. Applicants for quantitative research support must design research questions and attendant methodology narrowly enough that confounding variables do not interfere with the reliability of their results. Applicants for qualitative research support must explain the relationship between the research question and the specifics of the methodological design. For instance, why are particular interviews or observations necessary and reliable for the purposes of the research question
      • Plan for dissemination of results including expected research publications.
    4. Applicant: Describe the qualifications of the applicant(s) and applicant's organization. The committee will review proposals closely for methodological rigor. If you are not experienced or trained in the methodology you propose to use, you will need to include in your proposal a co-Principal Investigator trained in the relevant methods. If you are a graduate student or there are any graduate or undergraduate students included in the proposal who will be conducting substantive research, you will need to include a supervisor review and approval of your proposed methods.

    List of Suggested Referees
    List two academic referees qualified to review the research proposal, including title, contact information (preferably email), and nature of academic relationship to the applicant (e.g., chair of doctoral committee, professor of course taken, research collaborator). At least one should be qualified to review the proposed methodology.

    Budget and Budget Narrative
    Budgets should outline the amount requested and the basis for all cost estimates. The budget should reflect resources necessary to complete the proposed project in a timely way. Please list other funding sources that support the project and other applications for funding, if the project is part of a larger initiative. Having other sources of funding is not an impediment to receipt of a UCLA ALP Program grant, if additional funding will result in a better research product. For in-kind contributions, provide a letter from the institution that is making the contribution. Please identify other sources and amounts of funding you have already received or for which you are applying. UCLA ALP funding should be additive and not duplicative. The Program gives very few grants at the top of its dollar range. Please include in the research design section of your proposal breakdown of research components or stages that would enable us to consider the option of partially funding your proposal.

    Human Subjects Narrative
    Indicate if the project involves human subjects, and if so, identify the Institutional Review Board ("IRB") responsible and what IRB process (e.g., expedited review) you are using. If human subject(s) approval is necessary, you must provide evidence that you have a valid IRB approval or waiver, or that you have applied for IRB approval. Funds will not be released until final IRB approval is obtained. In such a case, IRB approval must be current, specific to the project for which funding is sought, final (no "approval subject to modification"), and received within one month of ALP's offer of funding. If we do not receive final IRB approval that meets our requirements within one month of ALP's offer of funding, we will not fund your project. If you currently have an IRB approval or waiver that you believe covers your proposed project, include the IRB application and notice of approval or waiver with your UCLA ALP Small Grants application. If you do not yet have IRB approval or waiver, please include your IRB application and a statement of your good faith belief that IRB approval will be granted or waived.

    Curriculum Vitae for all key personnel involved in the project.

  • Deadlines and Decisions

    Applications must be received by midnight December 16, 2019, via email or mail, for the 2019 application cycle. Awards will be announced by February 2, 2020.

  • Where to Send the Application

    Please check that your application contains all the required information and send the completed application to:

    By Email:

    By Mail:

    UCLA Law School Animal Law and Policy Small Grants Program

    UCLA School of Law
    Box 951476
    Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1476

Funded Projects

  • 2018 Projects

    Wildlife Consumption: The Roles of Legalization and Commodification

    Jessica Bell Rizzolo, Michigan State University | MSU, Ph.D. student, Sociology, Animal Studies, Environmental Science & Policy, and Conservation Criminology

    The illegal wildlife trade is one of the world's largest criminal enterprises and threatens numerous species with extinction. This project addresses, through empirical survey research, two ongoing debates about the illegal wildlife trade. First, there is the question of how the legalization of wildlife products affects demand for wildlife products. Second, there is the issue of whether wildlife farming (raising endangered species in captivity for consumption) presents a conservation solution or only serves to increase demand for wildlife products. However, there is little empirical evidence on how legalization and commodification of wildlife influence wildlife consumption. This project uses an experimental vignette survey of 1,000 respondents in Mainland China to analyze how the variables of legalization and commodification alter the acceptability of, and perceived deterrents to, wildlife consumption. Respondents are provided with vignettes (short paragraphs of text) about four endangered species widely consumed in China: tigers, bears, snakes, and turtles. For each animal, the vignettes are designed to compare consumption across three dimensions: legalization, farming status, and type of use (medicinal versus non-medicinal use). Statistical modeling is then used to analyze how these variables impact a) the acceptability of wildlife consumption and b) perceptions of deterrents to wildlife consumption such as social disapproval, guilt, and legal punishment. Policymakers will be able to use the results of this work to understand how altering the legal context (e.g. legalizing or banning a wildlife product) impacts demand for wildlife products.

    Systematic Review of Fish Research: Neglected Areas and Alternative Ways Forward

    Isabel Fife-Cook, Masters student, Animal Studies, NYU

    Over the past 30 years, a deeper exploration of fish cognition and emotion coupled with humanity's growing dependence on aquaculture have spawned a significant upsurge in fish welfare research. However, despite a growing concern for fish wellbeing, emerging trends highlighting problematic experimental methodology suggest fish welfare research may be causing fish more harm than good. Our project aims to address this issue by exploring biases and exposing gaps in fish welfare research by performing a systematic literature review and analysis of over 1,000 publications pertaining to fish welfare. A preliminary analysis reveals significant trends in research areas and methodology, including a strong tendency towards sole reliance on biological health as an indication of welfare and lack of psychological and behavioral welfare analysis. These findings suggest that the existing research on fish welfare fails to adequately address fish wellbeing by ignoring fundamentally important aspects of animal welfare such as psychological state and expression of natural behaviors while simultaneously causing harm and suffering to the experimental subjects. In exposing the strong bias towards harmful, biologically-driven welfare research, we hope to encourage policy-makers to turn towards existing research in other fields of study such as cognitive ethology and behavioral ecology when making decisions pertaining to fish welfare standards.

    The Effects of Pro-Animal Rights Laws and Existential Threat on Attitudes toward Animals

    Jeff Greenberg, Professor, Social Psychology, The University of Arizona

    Uri Lifshin, Visiting Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel

    The goal of this research is to test the potential effect that new pro animal-welfare laws may have on human attitudes towards animals. We hypothesize that establishment of pro-animal-rights laws may motivate people to adopt more pro-animal rights thinking as a way to live up to cultural standards and gain psychological protection. By doing so, it may also moderate the human tendency to have negative attitudes towards animals and act aggressively towards them as a way to gain psychological protection from death as shown in previous research (Lifshin, Greenberg Sullivan, & Zestcott, 2017; for a review see: Marino & Mountain, 2015). Building on previous research the framework of terror management theory (for review see: Greenberg, Vail, & Pyszczynski, 2014; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 2015), we will conduct two experiments to test if introducing new legislation to ban non-medical research on animals would increase positive attitudes towards animals and reduce the tendency to respond to psychological threat (reminders of death) with support for aggression against animals. This research may help demonstrate the overall positive effects that new pro-animal-rights laws may have on people's attitudes towards animal rights. It may also advance the scientific understanding of the factors that may help reduce negative attitudes and behaviors towards animals. By doing so, the current research may contribute to developing better empirical bases from which to understand and pursue animal law reform.

    Pets, Emotional Support Animals, and Service Animals on Campus: Policies & Implications

    Beth Lanning, Baylor University, Ph.D., MCHES. Associate Chair, Department of Public Health, Director Public Health Undergraduate Program, Associate Professor 2018

    Megan Patterson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Health and Kinesiology, Texas A&M University

    Attending a college or university can be a stressful event for many students. Students may experience feelings of loneliness, anxiety, hopelessness, depression, or overall poor mental health. Animals can provide a source of both physical and psychological support for students making them a common fixture on college campuses as well as in student housing and apartments.

    While most animals found on college campuses are pets, an increasing number are designated as emotional support animals (ESAs) or service animals, which may qualify the animal and student for additional accommodations. Colleges and universities are already required to provide accommodations in the classroom and student housing for students who possess a service animal, but the legal requirements for an emotional support animal are less clear. Contrary to service animals, which undergo specific training and certification processes, ESAs serve to relieve mental and emotional distress, and do not require specific training. Students requesting accommodations for an ESA on campus must provide documentation from a health care provider to justify their accommodation; however, protocols and policies concerning the student and/or the animal tend to vary from institution to institution. Further, most policies apply to the safety of the individual and to other students: they may not include protocols to ensure the health and safety of the animal. It is important to understand the environment in which students' pets, ESAs, or service animals live and rules and regulations in place to protect both the individual and to ensure the safety of the animal. Therefore, we aim to: 1) assess the number of students who report having a ESA, service animal, or pet on campus, in student housing, or housing near campus, 2) assess the care and relationship of the student with the ESA, service animal, or pet, and 3) assess current university policies regarding ESA, service animals, and pets on campus and in student housing.

    The relationship between eviction and companion animal relinquishment in reducing housing loss in Baltimore City, Maryland.

    Paul Locke, Dr.PH, Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

    William Bellamy, graduate student Johns Hopkins Public Health

    Companion animals are deeply woven into the fabric of American family life. Approximately 70% of American households own a companion animal, which are increasingly viewed as family members. Among families facing eviction from their homes, finding a place for their pets is of paramount importance. Based on our preliminary research, we have found that families about to lose their homes tend to surrender their companion animals to a shelter so that the animal can be cared for and, if necessary, rehomed. In Baltimore, Maryland the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), the city's primary open-access animal shelter, is a principal point for pet relinquishment. Because families come to BARCS to surrender their pets before they are evicted, we believe that BARCS can help identify individuals in need of legal and social services to keep them – and their companion animals – in their homes. Our project will collect and obtain court records of eviction in Baltimore. We will use this data to match evictions to relinquishments over the 10 year period (2009 to 2018) for which we have already collected, and analyzed data. Our current dataset contains information about approximately 24,000 relinquishments at BARCS, including information about the reasons for relinquishment as reported by the individuals relinquishing the animals.

    We believe that this analysis will have yield at least two important insights. First, it will result in a better understanding about the dynamics and timing of relinquishment and eviction. Second, because our current database lists self-reported reasons for relinquishment we believe that there could be misreporting because families are often embarrassed about eviction and housing loss. This analysis will shed light on the accuracy of self-reporting, and (potentially) on the extent and nature of misreporting.

    What Happens to Grizzly Bear Poaching when Management Policies Change?

    Naomi Louchouarn, University of Wisconsin Madison, MESM (Ph.D. candidate), Carnivore Coexistence Lab

    Illegal killing, or poaching, is one of the greatest threats to large carnivore restoration in the USA and beyond. Carnivore conservation policies in the US have historically assumed that poaching is a direct response to conflict with large predators and have therefore attempted to indirectly reduce poaching by reducing conflict. However, conflict reduction techniques have generally been focused on lethal control of large carnivores, such as grizzly bears, with limited empirical evidence for their success. Recent research using survival analyses of radio-collared wolves has found that periods of liberalized killing (e.g., government culling programs or public hunts) were associated with higher incidence of radio-collared wolf disappearance and unexplained mortalities. These statistical methods have now been used on multiple populations of wolves, but should be tested on other large carnivores, such as grizzlies. My proposed research will contribute to the small but growing body of literature on the effects of management policies on poaching risks of large carnivores by analyzing government data on two populations of grizzlies in the Western US. I will use survival analysis techniques to examine whether risk of poaching increases or decreases based on changes in grizzly management policies from 2007 to 2018.

    Governing Human-Animal Interactions for Older Adults: An Analysis of Nursing Home Policies and their Characteristics

    Natalie Pitheckoff, gerontology PhD candidate, MS, MGS, University of Massachusetts Boston

    Human-animal interactions (HAI) can transform nursing homes into more home-like and person-centered environments, while improving nursing home residents' quality of life and well-being. Despite the increased popularity and support of HAI, little is known about the policies and practices governing the relationship between older adults and animals in nursing homes. Guided by the diffusion of innovation theory and existing literature, this proposed study seeks to address five main aims. These include (1) understanding the perspectives of national and state-level organizations on HAI, including animal therapy groups and nursing home associations; (2) surveying nursing homes in New York (NY) on their policies and procedures on HAI; (3) estimating the prevalence of facilities providing HAI in NY; (4) exploring nursing home characteristics that may predict the likelihood of having HAI; and (5) investigating staffs' attitudes and views on the therapeutic use of animals in the selected nursing homes. To address these aims, a mixed-methods approached will be utilized. In phase one, qualitative key informant interviews will be conducted with pertinent staff from national and state-level nursing home associations and animal therapy organizations. The data collected in phase one will inform the creation of the questionnaire for phase two, the web-based survey. In phase three, using results from the survey on HAI, logistic regression models will be performed to estimate the association of facility-level characteristics on the likelihood of adopting HAI. In phase four, qualitative interviews with staff will be collected first-hand by visiting four selected NY nursing homes. This proposed study will have implications for both policy and practice.

    An Evaluation of the Impact of Desmond's Law - Do Court Advocates Impact the Prosecution and Outcomes of Animal Cruelty Cases?

    Jessica Rubin, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Legal Practice Program, UConn School of Law

    Does a legal advocate impact prosecution and outcomes of criminal animal cruelty cases? In 2016, Connecticut enacted Desmond's Law, the first law to allow courts to appoint advocates in cruelty cases involving dogs and cats. The law is significant because it allows advocates to represent the interests of justice, including the interests of animals. The project aims to assess the law's impact.

    We will collect and analyze data on cruelty cases in Connecticut, comparing outcomes of cases with and without advocates, both before and after the enactment of Desmond's Law. The data, and conclusions drawn from it, can inform other states as they consider similar legislation.

    Additionally, the project will gather qualitative data to assess perceptions of the law by judges, court personnel, prosecutors, defense lawyers and advocates. This data can inform improvements in Desmond's Law and its implementation.

  • 2017 Projects

    Barriers and Facilitators to Diffusing No/Low-Cost Pet Sterilization in Underserved Neighborhoods

    Arnold Arluke, Ph.D., Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Northeastern University

    Pet owners living in or near poverty are sometimes reluctant to use free or low-cost veterinary services, such as sterilization. This behavior flies in the face of popular thinking, which argues that lack of money is the primary barrier to using veterinary services. Without knowing more about the nature of pet keeping in economically underserved communities, we cannot understand the barriers that prevent or impede pet owners from using these services. Nor can we redesign shelter programs that offer reduced or free veterinary services to reach more pet owners in need. This research project consists of an ethnographic study of pet owners living in poverty in West Charlotte, North Carolina, who are offered free sterilization, pet food, vaccinations, basic examinations, and treatments for problems like worms or fleas. The study also includes pet owners living near poverty who are offered these services at very low cost. Over 100 West Charlotte pet owners, shelter workers, and veterinarians are included in this ethnographic study, which seeks to understand what prevents some people from using these services and what helps to overcome these barriers.

    The Paradox of Animal Empathy: A Motivational Approach to Fostering Empathy for Animal Suffering

    Daryl Cameron, Assistant Professor, Director, Empathy and Moral Psychology Lab, Pennsylvania State University

    Rob Chiles, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education and the Department of Food Science and a research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute, Pennsylvania State University

    Janet Swim, Professor, Psychology, Pennsylvania State University

    Animal suffering appears to present a paradox for our prosocial emotions. On the one hand, the acute pain of identifiable animals can be a potent elicitor of empathy and compassion. For example, Cecil the lion and Harambe the gorilla both triggered large amounts of empathic outrage after they were killed by humans. On the other hand, people can be insensitive to the suffering of animals, especially when animal suffering is in conflict with human's perceived needs (e.g., to eat meat). The current project aims to resolve this paradox by examining competing motivational factors, with empirical predictions derived from theories of motivated empathy. Those theories suggest that empathy varies as people balance competing costs and benefits of empathy.

    Relationship Between Occupational and Environmental Exposures to Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Fertilizer and Their Presence in the Human Resistome in Farm Workers in California

    Cristina Echeverria-Palencia, Ph.D., UCLA Department of Environmental Engineering

    The use of antibiotics in agricultural animal feed is problematic for many reasons. This study seeks to describe routes of exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in landscape and farm workers. Landscape and farm workers are uniquely exposed to both ARB and ARGs through fertilizers. Through quantifying in commonly purchased fertilizers and environments local to workers, the study can assess whether and how occupational and environmental exposures are associated with resistome patterns. This effect can then be taken into account when considering the importance of reducing animal exposure to antibiotics because of its potential for negative effects on the environment and on the workers exposed to waste products of animals exposed to antibiotics.

    Understanding Consumer Literacy about 'Milk'

    Silke Feltz, Ph.D. Candidate, Michigan Technological University

    Adam Feltz, Associate Professor of Psychology and Applied Ethics, Michigan Technological University

    Are people product literate enough to reliably distinguish plant-based 'milk' products from animal-based 'milk' products? Currently, there are several policy initiatives to enact or enforce a ban on using 'milk' terms (e.g., milk, cheese, whey, cream) to describe plant-based products. The main justification for the prohibition is that using 'milk' terms to describe plant-based products would cause too much confusion in consumers. However, there is no empirical evidence that people are confused or regarding the extent of that confusion. This research project addresses this lack of empirical evidence by developing ways to assess consumers' "milk" product literacy.

    Does the Path Model of Blame apply to animals?

    Geoffrey P. Goodwin, Associate Professor, Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

    Adam Benforado, Professor of Law, Drexel University

    Why do humans blame and punish animals for harms humans experience in their interactions with some animals. In prior work, Goodwiin and Benforado have shown that one of the underlying motivations is retribution—some people feel that animals fundamentally deserve punishment when they are associated with harm to humans (Goodwin & Benforado, 2015). The present research project investigates two key drivers of such retributive attitudes: intentionality and reasons for acting. The project includes four studies in which relevant factors are manipulated: whether an animal "offender" attacks and kills a human intentionally or accidentally (Experiment 1), and the perceived culpability of an animal's reasons for intentionally attacking a human (Experiments 2-4). The initial hypothesis for this research is that participants' judgments of blame and punishment will be elevated when animals attack seemingly intentionally, and when they do so for seemingly culpable reasons. Both features derive from the recently developed Path Model of Blame, which specifies the cognitive processes underlying judgments of blame for human offenders. Accordingly, this research has the potential to confirm for the first time that people punish animals in a way that is analogous to the way they punish humans. This can be expected to shed important light on widespread societal practices surrounding the killing of "dangerous" animals.

    Using System Justification Theory to Improve Animal Welfare in Society

    John T. Jost, Ph.D., Co-Director, Center for Social and Political Behavior, Professor of Psychology and Politics, New York University

    Mao Mogami, Ph.D. student, Social Psychology, New York University

    Mark Hoffarth, Postdoctoral Researcher, New York University

    Why do so many people tolerate the abhorrent treatment of animals, as in cases of factory farming and animal testing? This research identifies a key social psychological mechanism that may help to explain indifference to animal cruelty, namely, system justification: the motivation to defend, bolster, and justify aspects of the societal status quo.

    This research involves a series of quantitative studies that will illuminate the social, cognitive, and motivational underpinnings of animal rights attitudes and provide a sound empirical basis for designing effective intervention campaigns to improve animal welfare. The project begins with the development of a new scale to measure contemporary attitudes pertaining to current controversies over animal rights. Next, the project investigators examine how "system justification motivation" undermines the promotion of animal rights by perpetuating negative attitudes toward animals, encouraging biased information processing of scientific information, and inhibiting collective action designed to stop the unjust treatment of animals.

    BOAS Dogs

    David Rand, Associate Professor of Psychology, Economics & Management, Yale University; Human Cooperation Lab; The Applied Cooperation Team

    Molly Crossman, Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology, Yale University, Innovative Interactions Lab

    Gordon Kraft-Todd, Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology, Yale University, Human Cooperation Lab; The Applied Cooperation Team

    Purebred dogs are favorites among pet owners and advertisers due to their distinctive appearance honed through hundreds of years of selective breeding. Yet these breeding practices have resulted in severe health defects among certain breeds, especially in short-headed dogs such as bulldogs and pugs. Despite the serious threat that these defects can pose to animal welfare and the calls for change in breeding practices from numerous professional organizations, the popularity of afflicted breeds continues to rise. Changing attitudes towards such selective breeding is a challenge because of the personal and commercial gains owners and advertisers, respectively, gain from supporting these practices. This research aims to understand of how these attitudes might be changed by leveraging a mechanism of cultural learning: the principle that "actions speak louder than words." The research findings can inform the development of more effective interventions, policies, and laws that promote more humane breeding practices and reduce the prevalence of severe hereditary problems in dogs.

    Animal Trials and Tribulations: Activism, Legality, and Animal Rights in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

    Iván Sandoval-Cervantes, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso

    This project examines the animal rights movement in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, by asking: How are animal rights constructed, challenged, and interpreted in a city with high rates of violence? Located in northern Mexico, across from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juárez was once "the most dangerous city in the world" (2008-2012). In recent years, violence in Ciudad Juárez has fluctuated but it has not ceased. Some popular and academic outlets have focused on the causes and consequences of violence, and how they relate to gender, drug trafficking, and neoliberalism. Other scholars have studied how violence and the violation of human rights have produced social protests, and ongoing criticisms of the legal system. These studies have shown how different types of violence overlap, the faulty application of the law, and the potential of social mobilizations. Missing from these discussions, is consideration of the emerging animal rights movement, which has grown throughout Mexico, including in Ciudad Juárez, and which addresses violence against non-human animals both through legal channels and through public forums. Understanding the ways in which animal rights are conceptualized in the courtroom and in everyday life can illustrate the relationship between animals, humans, and violence in Ciudad Juárez.

    Correlating policies and human-caused mortality in an endangered carnivore species

    Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila, Ph.D. Candidate, Carnivore Coexistence Lab, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Recent peer-reviewed literature provides empirical evidence that poaching is the primary cause of death in many carnivore populations worldwide. However, given its illegal nature, poaching proves extremely difficult to detect, measure, and prevent. This often results in its underestimation when evaluating policy alternatives. Although the scholarly literature has focused on providing reliable estimates of poaching, the question of what policy conditions (e.g., liberalizing killing by the public or government agents) may mediate poaching risk for individual animals remains largely unaddressed. Exploring this relationship is critical for developing policies that effectively target poaching or rescinding those that may exacerbate it, which could potentially allow for higher population viability and improved coexistence of carnivores and people. This research project will address these gaps in knowledge through an analysis of government data on radio-collared wolves for three populations classified as endangered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service: Wisconsin gray wolves, Mexican gray wolves and red wolves. The principal investigators will use statistical techniques, including survival analyses, to evaluate if wolves face a significantly higher or lower risk of poaching, given on-the-ground policy changes. This research is potentially relevant to other controversial large carnivore populations, e.g., grizzly bears, experiencing high human-caused mortality and human-wildlife conflict.


  • Public Values in Conflict with Animal Agribusiness Practices

    This innovative conference held in February 2019 at UCLA Law included three panels about subjects relevant to closing the gap between public values and animal agribusiness practices. Our goal was to provide comparative perspectives from different social justice movements whose missions are negatively impacted by animal agribusiness, such as animal protection, labor law enforcement, and protection of human health and the environment.

    • More information [PDF] (includes program and panelists)
    • MCLE Materials [PDF] - The MCLE reading for this event included this article by Hitov and Asbed
  • Understanding Consumer Literacy about 'Milk' - Comment Submitted to FDA

    Based on research completed by two of our small grant recipients, the UCLA Animal Law and Policy Program submitted a Comment to the FDA regarding its consideration of standards of identity for products labeled as "milk" or "milk product." Researchers Silke and Adam Feltz conducted empirical research on whether consumers are confused about the source of plant-based milks and milk products as not derived from lactating animals or about the nutritional differences between plant-based milk products and those derived from animals. Their results indicate that speculation about "consumer confusion" is not well-founded and that the FDA should not exclude use of the term "milk" in plant-based products.

    Read the full Comment. [PDF] 

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