Many people claim to love animals. Some are indifferent, and some hate them. I’m not going to tell people they have to love other living creatures, but what I will say is that animals need to be protected for our own good. If there’s no love there, there’s no point in appealing to the ‘softer side’ of a person’s nature, so I’ll phrase the argument in a way that even those people will understand. Why should even non-animal lovers care what happens to the other living creatures around them? Here’s why:
In studies conducted in the United states, 90% of serial killers started out by torturing and killing animals. In similar studies conducted in Australia, 100% of serial killers admitted to torturing and killing animals before turning to their human victims. Psychology Today discusses issues here with regard to childhood behaviours toward animals, and what parents should do to intervene. The long and short of it is, any child over the age of six (who is not developmentally delayed), should be well aware that it is wrong to cause harm to animals – parents should get immediate professional help if their child is doing so…if for no other reason than the fact that they will almost always exhibit other harmful behaviours toward themselves and others.
Whatever the discrepancies in statistics, it’s clear that the vast majority of serial killers tortured animals as children. Often they were abused as children, and then turned the abuse on the animals. No matter how you look at it, people who get enjoyment out of hurting animals lack empathy. People without empathy will not hesitate to hurt human beings. Not every animal abuser turns into a serial killer, but they do often become abusive to their spouses and children.
Envision Counselling and Support Centre Inc. in Saskatchewan, Canada, has some helpful statistics to illustrate the connection between animal and human abuse. The three most alarming are these:
- 88% of pets living in households with family violence are either abused or killed
- 57% of survivors of family violence have had a pet killed by their abuser
- Up to 70% of animal abusers also have records for other crimes
Similar statistics are reported by the ASPCA here.
It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to understand that people who lack empathy do not care about anything outside themselves. They are egocentric in the worst possible way, and cannot relate to pain experienced outside that sphere. There is little difference to them whether their victim is an animal or human, aside from the increased likelihood of being caught and punished for crimes against a human being.
Crimes against animals are treated lightly throughout the world, and that includes the so-called developed nations. There is a disconnect somewhere along the line, where law-makers are ignoring the results of allowing those guilty of animal cruelty to get off with warnings, small fines, and the proverbial slap on the wrist. Occasionally they will be banned from owning specific types of animals, but that’s generally the extent of the punishment.
Much of the damage done by abusers and serial killers is about power. It’s the same when it comes to rapists or any criminal who preys on those who are vulnerable. They’re attempting to put themselves into a position of power and control. Murder is, in fact, the ultimate in control over another person. As has been stated in multiple public service announcements, abuse is not a loss of control; it’s an attempt to regain control. The perpetrator feels powerless and weak. Killing and abusing makes them feel strong.
Until we change the legislation and demand harsher penalties for animal abuse, we leave ourselves wide open to this kind of societal damage. It won’t put a complete stop to these types of crimes, but it will certainly serve as a red flag – particularly to law enforcement when they’re investigating abuse and murder. There has been some demand by citizens in various places for an animal abuse registry. Not just to prevent crimes against humans, but also to prevent these people from adopting animals from shelters.
Harsher punishments are insufficient to prevent problems in the future, though. Mandatory counselling is a vital part of sentencing. The majority of people whose issues are pushing them toward cruelty toward animals, are victims themselves. The anger, frustration and powerlessness that compels them almost always comes from damage inflicted on them by someone else in a position of power over them.
Even with harsher sentences and mandatory counselling, we’re not going to put a stop to all of these kinds of crimes. No system is perfect, and quite frankly, often it’s too late. By the time a child is so damaged that they’re hurting animals, it becomes almost impossible to reverse that damage. It takes work and vigilance to save even one of these children. The kids who are setting the family dog on fire are most often the ones that are being molested, emotionally or physically abused, or neglected. This treatment isolates them mentally and emotionally. They build up defenses to protect themselves, and quite often those defenses render them incapable of any kind of emotional response. Without that, it’s very hard to reach them.
All we can really do is try. For those who wish to take some action, World Society for the Protection of Animals has a petition that you can sign here. They are calling for a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare to be backed by the United Nations.
It boils down to self-preservation for some people, but as long as the message gets across it doesn’t matter how the dots are connected.
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