Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Jennifer E. Givens


Jennifer E. Givens


E. Helen Berry


Courtney G. Flint


Erin T. Hofmann


D. Layne Coppock


Our relationships with animals are important for us as humans, for the environment, and for the animals themselves. In this dissertation I look at the relationships between humans and animals at three scales: farm, U.S. state, and country. Specifically, I address how factors like economic growth, technological innovation, and globalization affect human relationships with animals. Understanding how these factors influence human-animal relationships is important for improving these relationships and deciding which directions will most contribute to sustainable outcomes. I address the social factors that influence human-animal relationships in three studies.

In the first study I surveyed and interviewed dairy farmers in Washington. I asked them how farm size and the technologies and practices they used on their farm influenced their relationship with their work and with their cows. I then analyzed how these relationships influenced their overall life satisfaction. Farmers reported that farm size made it difficult to stay connected with their cows but that new technologies helped farmers connect in new ways with their cows while avoiding conventional negative interactions. Both relationships with work and cows were related to life satisfaction, which is important for farmers, who as a population face high levels of stress.

In the second study I used data from government sources and the Humane Society of the United States to assess how economic growth influenced farm animal protection in the United States. The results of my analyses suggest that economic growth may have a positive effect on farm animal protection. This is encouraging news for policymakers hoping for win-win scenarios to improve animal welfare – though more research on direct animal welfare is needed.

Lastly, in the third study I used data from Voiceless: The Animal Protection Institute and the World Bank to see how economic growth influenced farm animal cruelty on a global scale. The results suggest that economic growth reduces some types of farm animal cruelty but increases others. Trade with high-income countries may have a spillover effect with lower-income countries that reduces farm animal cruelty in those countries.