Support for medical testing on animals has declined 12 percent since 2001 in the United States, and the Internet may be responsible, according to an analysis presented here Sunday at the annual meeting of AAAS, which publishes Science. The study, conducted by researchers at the advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Western Governors University, an online school based in Salt Lake City, looked at Gallup survey data from the past 12 years.
After weighting the data to ensure they were nationally representative, the researchers found that 41 percent of American adults considered animal testing "morally wrong" in 2013, up from 29 percent in 2001. Opposition to such testing has risen among all demographic groups, but the biggest jump has been among people aged 18 to 29; 54 percent of that group found animal testing morally wrong in 2013, versus just 31 percent in 2001.
The team says the surge in Internet use during this period may explain the trend. Animal rights and animal welfare organizations have a much stronger presence on social media than do pro-animal testing groups -- PETA has more than 2 million followers on Facebook and nearly a half million on Twitter, for example, versus 130,000 and 1,700, respectively, for the Foundation for Biomedical Research. As a result, the researchers speculate, these organizations may getting their message out more effectively, especially among young people.