What Leads to Animal Abuse?

Not being a sports fan, I was not very aware of Michael Vick and his atrocities until I saw all the recent posts on social media protesting against him being an NFL captain.

 First thing that came to mind: was his violent cruelty tied in to what can be a violent sport? But no, that couldn’t be the whole story. I routinely read online news and social media, posting some of it to my Facebook page, indexing a good deal of it to my 4Earth Media Index  (for research and personal decisions where to put your money, voice and vote to make a difference). But sports were not a common denominator.

The United States has recently passed a law, in addition to various state laws, making animal cruelty a felony. In Canada’s Criminal Code, animal cruelty has long been an indictable offence. In the Criminal Code article linked above (from 2008, about increasing penalties) it is noticeable that cattle are singled out and treated separately from other animals. That reminds me of the case in British Columbia where an undercover film from Mercy for Animals led to prosecution of dairy farm employees for cruelty against cattle (Please note the video included in that link is highly disturbing). Similar undercover work has revealed such cruelty is endemic to factory farming. 

Law enforcement has long known that individuals with a history of animal cruelty often escalate to violence towards humans. So I look at these factory farm workers and wonder: are they violent and looking for work or does their work make them violent? The link referenced above notes that parents often “turn a blind eye to things, instead of admitting something is really wrong with their child”. Right there we see that a lack of empathy toward other beings is being communicated to the child. Sometimes that lack of empathy is championed as in the social media posts posing children with weapons and carcasses of trophy-hunted (not subsistence-hunted) dead animals. 

But others suggest that simple lack of empathy is not the only factor and they point to the Dark Triad — psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism — and sadism. Are these traits also fostered by indifferent parents? Possibly, but they are also fostered by most cultures. Just recently, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Alberta have proposed or passed Ag-gag laws, basically punishing undercover investigations into animal cruelty and hiding the cruelty. Such laws have existed for some time in the United States.

Mainstream religions have traditions of proclaiming humankind as dominant over animals. With the current unfolding environmental destruction, some religious leaders have backtracked and tried to lead followers to a kinder treatment of animals and the environment.  

Personally, I see Machiavellianism as being the most pervasive cultural expression of lack of empathy where “a person so focused on their own interests they will manipulate, deceive, and exploit others to achieve their goals.” Is this not the pervasive attitude of the corporations and government that discard/experiment on both animals and the environment with tunnel vision toward the bottom line? And if personal experiences and/or family don’t step in to antidote the attitude, the child will grow up similarly disconnected from the natural world. Just check out media reports of Ecocide by Industry for the past month.

Preventing animal abuse can only be done, in my view, by a change in attitude toward all animals and the natural world. I believe Henry Beston clearly described this required change.



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