Honors College


Cary Williams

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



The purpose of this research project was to explore similarities and differences in framing activity of animal cruelty by animal advocacy organizations and to fill some of the gaps within the current literature. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Humane Society of the United States, and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were selected for study, as they are the largest and most widely recognized animal advocacy organizations. Sections of the organizations’ websites (about us, positions, and frequently asked questions) and pamphlets from the organizations were analyzed using content analysis to see how the organizations define the concept of animal cruelty. Coding the websites and pamphlets led to the appearance of five major themes: animal cruelty, suffering and sentience, necessity, exploitation, and harm to humans. These themes were identified as frames through which the organizations identify and present animal cruelty. Findings from PETA, an animal rights organization, were largely consistent with current literature. Data illustrate a perspective that the majority of animal use is cruel and a reliance on strategies such as celebrity involvement, moral shocks, animal to human comparisons, and movement-to-movement comparisons. Findings from HSUS and ASPCA, animal welfare organizations, contribute to the lack of literature on framing activities of animal welfare organizations. Data collected from HSUS and ASPCA show a perspective that cruelty arises from practices that expose sentient animals to unnecessary suffering or exploitation and focus on legislation and programs to create a humane world. My findings provide a foundation of the differential definitions of animal cruelty by animal advocacy organizations that further research can develop from.

Included in

Sociology Commons