"The Bambi effect" is a term used anecdotally or in editorial media that refers to objections against the killing of charismatic megafauna (animals that are perceived as "cute" or "adorable", such as deer or dolphins), while there may be little or no objection to the suffering of organisms that are perceived as somehow repulsive or less than desirable, such as spiders or an endangered fungus and other woodland creatures.
Referring to a form of purported anthropomorphism, the term is inspired by Walt Disney's animated film Bambi, where an emotional high point is the death of the lead character's mother at the hands of the film's villain, a hunter known only as "Man".
Some commentators[who?] have credited this purported effect with increasing public awareness of the dangers of pollution, for instance in the case of the fate of sea otters after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and in the public interest in scaring birds off airfields in non-lethal ways. In the case of invasive species, perceived cuteness may help thwart efforts to eradicate non-native intruders, such as the white fallow deer in Point Reyes, California. The effect is also cited as the anthropomorphic quality of modern cinema: most people in modern Western civilization are not familiar with wildlife, other than "through TV or cinema, where fuzzy little critters discuss romance, self-determination and loyalty like pals over a cup of coffee", which has led to influences on public policy and the image of businesses cast in movies as polluting or otherwise harming the environment.
The effect was also cited in the events following record snowfall in the U.S. state of Colorado in 2007, when food for mule deer, pronghorns, and elk became so scarce that they began to starve; the Colorado Department of Wildlife was inundated with requests and offers to help the animals from citizens, and ended up spending almost $2 million feeding hungry wildlife. Among some butchers, the Bambi effect (and in general, Walt Disney's anthropomorphic characters) is credited with fueling the vegetarian movement; chefs use the term to describe customers' lack of interest in, for instance, whole fish: "It's the Bambi effect – [customers] don't want to see eyes looking at them".
A secondary meaning is sometimes found in psychology, where the term may be used to refer to a perceived tendency in "humans...to find animals attractive that have characteristics similar to those [of] human babies". It is also claimed that this tendency is at work in human sexuality, since, according to some studies, most people prefer 'babylike' features in their sexual partners, that is, "a large rounded forehead, large eyes, and rounded features".
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This is the Bambi Effect: our adverse reaction to cute critters being harmed.
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Remarking on the "Bambi Effect," noted demographer Diane Crispell wrote: "Ever since (the Walt Disney classic movie) Bambi, hunters have been typecast in the media as villains who take shots at anything that moves for the sheer love of killing."
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