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April 26, 2013

High public concern for human rights – but UK among countries where animal rights seen as more important

Across the world both human and animal rights movements remain popular, with millions around the world joining advocacy and campaigning groups. Activists may sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion, such as when animal rights activists target the life sciences industry, or when the legal battles of criminals and terrorists are protracted, alienating the general population.

But public support for the rights agenda nonetheless remains high. In our most recent global polling, 76% of those polled across 18 countries described human rights as a serious challenge, while 65% agreed that animal welfare is serious. Countries with recent histories of authoritarianism were most likely to view human rights as a serious challenge, with 90% of Indonesians and Poles saying as much Numbers in Spain (89%), Turkey (88%), Brazil, Peru, and Nigeria (85% each) are barely lower

Brazilians are the most concerned about animal welfare, with 87% describing it as a very serious issue. Poland (84%) and Spain (81%) are not far behind. Indeed in Brazil, Mexico and the UK, fewer people describe human rights as serious than say the same about animal rights. This view is especially pronounced in the UK, where rows over prisoners’ voting rights and the government’s attempts to deport radical cleric Abu Qatada have led to vocal media and political criticism of the country’s Human Rights Act and membership of the European Court of Human Rights.

Though the strongest levels of concern emanate from countries with recent histories of human rights violation, persistently high numbers of people in the West rate rights abuses as serious social challenges. This suggests that over half a century after the founding of Amnesty International and 33 years after the establishment of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), human rights and animal welfare remain, for the global public, as pressing as they were decades ago.

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