Giving farm animals a name and a face: Eliciting animal advocacy among omnivores using the identifiable victim effect

Rakefet Cohen Ben-Arye, Eliran Halali

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Diets based on animal products are costly to our health and the planet and often inflict suffering on animals. In this study, we aimed to elicit animal advocacy among omnivores using the identifiable victim effect, a well-documented phenomenon in which presenting an identifiable victim, compared to anonymous or statistical victims, evokes greater caring and helping behavior. We explored whether this finding extends to farm animal victims, and particularly among omnivores who may have a material interest in the outcome (i.e., the slaughter of farm animals)., Consequently, due to their dietary lifestyle and consumer support of the meat industry, they may be perceived as complicit in the victimization. In Experiment 1, omnivore participants indicated a greater likelihood to sign and share a petition to save an identified runaway calf (presented with a name and a picture) from slaughter than several unidentified runaway calves. In Experiment 2, we extended these findings to actual petition signing, along with reporting support of the petition. In Experiment 3, we further replicated the identifiability effect using real donations to save the runaway calf (calves) from slaughter and demonstrated it is limited to a single-identified victim. Additionally, we found that feelings of sympathy (Experiment 1) and ambivalence towards meat (Experiment 3) mediated the effect, whereas concern, empathy, identification with animals (Experiment 2), and ecological identity (Experiment 3) moderated it. Omnivores who scored high in concern and ecological identity, and low in empathy and identification with animals were more susceptible to the effect. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102193
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


This study was carried out by Rakefet Cohen Ben-Arye under the supervision of Eliran Halali in partial fulfillment of the PhD requirements at Bar-Ilan University. The authors thank Tehila Kogut, Amos Schurr, Anna Dorfman and Maayan Katzir for their insightful comments and valuable feedback on earlier versions of this work. Data and Supplementary Online Materials are available via the Open Science Framework at: . This study was supported by an Israel Science Foundation grant number 1699/17 to Eliran Halali.Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Rakefet Cohen Ben-Arye: [email protected] or Eliran Halali: [email protected]

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1699/17


    • Animal welfare
    • Identifiable victim effect
    • Moral behavior
    • Prosocial behavior
    • Veganism


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