Exploration of cultural norms and behavioural beliefs about zoo animal behaviour, welfare, ethics and husbandry practices in a sample of the international zoo community

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Heather Bacon, Catriona Bell, Cathy M Dwyer, Natalie Waran, Yan Qing, Liu Xia, Darren J Shaw
Zoo Biology
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Beliefs influence the intentions of people to behave in certain ways towards animals. This study presents survey responses from 237 people working in zoos in China and Europe and describes their demographic characteristics. It explores their beliefs about zoo animal behaviour, welfare and ethical issues, and zoo practices, using a survey methodology. These beliefs may be influenced by individual demographic or cultural factors such as age, gender and region of employment, as well as experiential or situative ‘norms’ within the work environment. Beliefs were significantly influenced by the region of employment with Chinese respondents beliefs being significantly different to beliefs from respondents in the United Kingdom or the rest of Europe. Hierarchical cluster analysis of the survey generated clusters of people from both regions who indicated positive beliefs about zoo animal welfare as well as clu sters indicating a lack of understanding of some zoo animal welfare issues. In addition, a cluster suggesting cognitive dissonance between beliefs about animals welfare and zoo practices was generated from Chinese responses. Factor analysis identified that prioritisation of in-situ conservation within good animal welfare was a key feature in Chinese respondents, whereas European beliefs prioritising in-situ conservation were distinct from those on supporting good animal welfare. This paper identifies similarities and differences in beliefs about zoo animal welfare and zoo husbandry practices between Europe and China, and discusses the underlying norms and values that these beliefs may reflect.


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