Carol Glasser

Gruesomeness as a Movement Tactic: An Examination of the Efficacy of Gory Images in Animal Rights Campaign Materials

By, Carol Glasser, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Minnesota State University, Mankato


Graphic images are used regularly in a number of New Social Movements, including the anti-abortion, anti-sex trafficking, animal rights, and environmental movements. This study examines the role of gruesome images and their potential to create either “moral shocks” that can generate attitude change, or disgust, which can cause bystanders to turn away from the message. Respondents were placed into a control group (saw no video) or shown one of three videos arguing against the use of animals in research. The videos varied only by the amount of gruesome images in the video (all gruesome, no gruesome, half gruesome). Respondents were then asked a series of questions about their attitudes toward animals and given a chance to seek more information from pro-animal research and anti-animal research perspectives. Data was analyzed using a series of ordered logit models and ANOVAs. Key findings of interest are that the degree of gruesomeness in images did not significantly impact willingness to finish watching the video or attitudes toward animal testing. Being exposed to any image (regardless of gruesomeness) was the key factor in shaping attitudes. Compared to respondents in the control group, respondents exposed to any video condition were significantly more likely to oppose medical experimentation on animals, as well as shaping other attitudes. However, the differences in attitudes between video conditions were slight or not significant. Other findings of interest discussing nuances of the data, including attitudes toward research on specific species, the use of animals in research for different purposes, and attitude differences by demographic characteristics, will be discussed in the presentation.


Carol L. Glasser works professionally, academically, and at the grassroots for the liberation of human and nonhuman animals. Since 2009, she has focused on ending animal experimentation and is a cofounder of and organizer with an anti-vivisection group, Progress For Science ( Dr. Glasser’s academic work addresses social movements and the intersections of nonhuman and human animal exploitation. In her scholarship she advocates for scholars to use more accessible and publicly-oriented research models and publication methods. She is currently an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, Mankato.