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and knowledge, perceptions and behavioural interaction patterns. A set of questions
specifically regarding one group of animals (marine wildlife) was also posed, as a
way to focus on attitudes towards a specific subset of wild animals with whom
residents of coastal southern California would likely interact. (In addition,
participants completed a brief questionnaire regarding demographic characteristics,
their experience with different sorts of animals, and their participation in animal-
oriented organisations.) Two warm-up questions focused on the constructions and
perceptions of animals in the city, especially 'pets' and 'wildlife', 5 and the animals
deemed appropriate for each category. Then, questions were grouped around three
general topics. Topic One questions looked at the practices, interactions and
perceptions of the focus group members towards, as well as access to, marine
wildlife in southern California. Topic Two questions focused on family, social and
cultural practices, customs, perceptions and attitudes towards animals. Members
were asked to reflect on their own familial and cultural practices and histories as
well as those within the many other cultures found throughout the greater Los Angeles
area. This series of questions accounted for the bulk of the discussion and what may
be considered the most intense period of the focus group. Topic Three questions
targeted, respectively, animal welfare values and gendered attitudes towards animals.
Finally, the discussion ended with a question posed by one focus group member
concerning a very particular type of human—animal interaction.
Focus group members responded in an uneven fashion depending on question and
trajectory of discussion. While Carla, Denise and Frankie remained conspicuously
absent from most of the conversation, others, such as Georgia, Alice, Vivian,
Bernadette and Irene, tended to be well represented throughout. 6 Extended
narrative (that lasting longer than a couple of sentences) was regularly provided by
Alice, Susan, Georgia and Irene. The group discussion was tape-recorded,
transcribed and analysed.7 Text was 'coded' for a particular conceptual 'node', with
nodes collectively constituting an 'index tree' (see Appendix B ). In our particular
case, nodes tended to fall into one of three 'umbrella' categories: (1) practices, (2)
perceptions and knowledge, and (3) values and attitudes.
People and animals: the everyday experiences of focus group
Participants had a wide variety of experiences with animals, both direct and
indirect. While only five of the women had ever held jobs that involved animals,
such as farming, virtually all presently keep, or have in the past kept, pets. From
experience, information handed down to them from others, and formal education,
the women developed knowledge and perceptions about animals as well as
preferences for some sorts of animals over others. Interestingly, only one of the
participants mentioned watching nature programmes on TV as a source of either
experience with or knowledge about animals, despite being directly asked (although
they were familiar with TV animal characters such as Lassie and Benji). The recently
opened Long Beach aquarium was the only animal display institution mentioned
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