Why do people get so upset about cruelty to animals?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : like sands : One Thread

It seems to me that many people, even most people, think that cruelty towards animals is worse than cruelty towards people. Can anyone explain this phenomenon to me?

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2000


I think it has to do with assumed innocence. When a person, especially young men, and most especially young men from a minority group, is killed, there is often a feeling of, "Oh, isn't it a same, what was he doing to get killed?" It is never (or rarely) assumed that the dead person was innocent.

With children (for instance, the girl who was killed in Michigan this week) and animals, there is an inate, assumed innocence that comes from their age and/or pedigree. This trampling on innocence causes the moral outrage you saw.

At least, that's my opinion.

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2000

Yeah, I've heard that "innocence" explanation before, but even that doesn't explain it. The story of the murdered 6-year-old Michigan girl was featured on the news the same day as the dog story, but it received far less air time, and the newscasters didn't express any moral outrage in telling the girl's story. I've seen a lot of other cases of horrific child abuse reported on the news, but almost none of them have generated the sort of uproar this dog case seems to have caused.

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2000

That's pretty weird. I posted that story on Diary-L as a lark just an hour ago, and now I find you writing about it.

There's a lot of people who probably wouldn't mind seeing Jon Benoit Ramsey thrown into oncoming traffic. She is so undead. (what with the seemingly endless media aspect revisited)

OK, maybe it's just me, but let her ghost rest.

Cruelty? "Let the first person who doesn't deserve to be stoned step forward."

That leaves babies and puppies, and I'm not sure about babies.

I have no idea -- I suppose it just seems more evil to torture the less intelligent things that feel, rather than cognizant beings that feel. Perhaps cognizance means we have greater ability to cope?

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2000

My first response when reading the subject line of this topic was -of course- people get upset about cruelty to animals. Regardless of the species, decent people should be outraged about cruelty. I disagree that animal cruelty receives more air time than crimes against human beings. Cruelty deserves airtime, regardless of who it is inflicted against.

There is a commonly held view, it is also the way the law views these crimes, that the seriousness of a crime is aggravated by any special status of the victim. So, a crime against an invalid, or a blind person or a child is generally considered to be more malicious because the victim had less of an ability to defend themselves.

I think the innocence argument has some merit, in the case of very young children as well as animals. Neither (generally) has the capacity for malice nor the ability to reason. Any cruelty inflicted upon them has the appearance of being all the more unfair.

Just my view.

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2000

Hmm, if you are rendered by accident or disease, to the mental capacity of a 3 year old, are you really more valuable than a chimpanzee?

I guess everyone would point to your "potential" (however improbable) for recovery, as your "value." But I can't think of why you would actually be more worthy than a chimp.

I mean, that is why we would value a newborn human baby over an adult chimp, because of its potential. But if we could say with any reasonable certainty, this person was "unrecoverable" could we really value such a person more than an animal?

Therefore, experiments on such a person would be no more unethical than experiments on a chimp? They both feel pain. They both wouldn't fully comprehend it.

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2000

Jen, you say that crimes against "defenseless" individuals are worse, but aren't we all pretty much defenseless when faced with a gun? No matter how able-bodied you are, if you wind up getting hurt or killed, you were obviously defenseless!

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2000

I think it has more to do with whether the victim was cute or not. Bichon Frises are much more aesthetically pleasing than skunks. Same thing with Elian Gonzales. He is not the first Cuban refugee to lose his family in such a way, but he's such a cute little boy that we're taking a grand interest in him above all others. I know the situations aren't analogous in many respects, but the "defenseless" thing is pretty much the same methodology... Nobody really sheds any tears for ran-over opossums. Granted, this senseless act of violence was pretty apalling, but really, maybe the lap of the driver is not the best place for a dog in the car...

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2000

I said it was a commonly held view, an aggravating factor in a legal sense, I didn't say I agreed with it.

I tend to think acts of cruelty should be punished in the same way regardless of the victim's ability to defend themselves. Should an act of gross cruelty go unpunished just because the perpetrator was lucky enough to choose a strong healthy victim? The focus, I believe, should be on the offender.

We are all helpless with a gun pointed to our face, but of all living things animals are the most defenceless, I believe, because they have no understanding of the nature of the situation they are in.

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2000

(those poor hamsters)

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rio's pampered pets can now get into the spirit of the city's world-famous Carnival with party costumes including tutus and wedding gowns to take them through five days of revelry.

The options are limitless for those owners wanting to indulge their dogs, hamsters or parrots with the ultimate holiday treat. A ballerina or a bridal outfit? A bow-tie or a veil?

"Whatever the customer asks for we will make it, for all types of animals" said Monica Morgata, owner of the "Mon Amie" pet store in Rio's fashionable Ipanema district.

"We've got tuxedos and ballerina outfits for hamsters and we've already done a small parade for them. Cats don't really like dressing up but we have bow ties for them and we once made an outfit for a parrot. But that didn't last too long."

The most popular item was a T-shirt for dogs with this year's official theme of Brazil's 500-year anniversary, retailing at just five reais ($2.85), said Morgata.

"Carnival is for everyone. People like to joke around and get into the Carnival spirit, so they dress their dogs up when they go parading," she said. "Last week I saw somebody dressed as a dog in a parade. So why not the other way around?"

-- Anonymous, March 07, 2000

Most minds have to treat human death in the news as statistics and sociology, because caring about every murder on the news would be a remarkable emotional burden. Murders and mass deaths are a truly horrifying thing, but our heads teach themselves to say "that's normal" and move on. We don't have to think about the icky world that way. Caring about a dead dog requires a much smaller emotional investment for most people.

-- Anonymous, March 08, 2000

It definitely has everything to do with cuteness.

Last year a Vancouver area hospital was having problems with rabbits. The animal lovers were up in arms over plans to exterminate them, and offered to trap them instead. A year later the remaining rabbits were shot, again to much hue and cry.

The rabbits posed much the same problems as rats. Do you think anyone would get upset with a hospital for a plan to exterminate its rat problem?

It all goes to cuteness.

-- Anonymous, March 08, 2000

Well, I think it's the fact that animals can't talk. Were animals to talk, they would screw people over, hurt their feelings, and commit other sins (include selfishness in there, as well). Basically, the people who love animals with a desperate passion don't like themselves enough to like people the same way. Animals are innocent because they pretty much love you the way you are, no questions asked. You pick 'em, they love you.

I personally think that it's sad when an animal dies, or gets killed, or whatever; but it's nothing to commit several hours on ABC nightly news over. It's an animal. Big whooping deal. The lady can just as easily get another dog and she won't miss the other one once 1-2 years have passed.

-- Anonymous, March 08, 2000

The lady can just as easily get another dog and she won't miss the other one once 1-2 years have passed.

I think you could replace the word 'dog' above with 'lover' and it wouldn't seem out of place nowadays.

Of course, then, the question is not the relative worth of the animal as much as it is the circumstances of its demise. It seems that human beings in general have a tendency to worry about how or why something is done, rather than what is actually done.

Old stories circulate from my motherland about days when people beat dogs and cats down, carved them up, cooked them and used 'em for food. Tough times they were. Justification, though, prevailed. Better them than us. If the life of a child or family were at stake, then why not sacrifice an animal?

So, is killing an animal necessarily cruel? No. But again, the question can be asked - how was the animal killed? Did the woman solemnly take the animal off the street and cleave off its head in a fell stroke, all the while shedding tears at the loss of a family pet? Or did the children of the family run out with sticks and beat a stray brutally until the dog was nothing but pulp, laughing with glee?

The same question of the "how" and "why" can also be related to the death of humans. In addition, the same situations of "cruel" and "not cruel" can be applied.

So it seems to me that this phenomenon of people getting upset about cruelty to animals is a product of our passionate response to the motives behind the action.

Now, as to the point that most people think that cruelty towards animals is worse than cruelty towards people:

Let's take vivisection of animals.

Now, let's take the vivisection people.

Let's take neutering of animals.

Now, let's take neutering of people.

Let's take culling of litters.

Now, let's take culling of humans.

Compare the pairs.


More often, humans will feel that an outcry against animal cruelty will result in more action taken against it. Humans feel more power against cruelty against animals.

When you hear of someone found raped, tortured, and killed in a forest, all that's felt is helplessness and pent up anger. When you hear of the atrocities to Germanic Jews in the ghettos of Nazi Germany, you feel shame and helplessness.

Therefore, I would venture that the reason for vehement public outcry against animal cruelty would be indicative of our modern life that states:

1) If an animal is treated with cruelty, we can levy legal action against the offenders, but we honestly don't care because animals really aren't worth that much to us no matter how much we scream about them.

2) If a human is treated with cruelty, we can levy legal action against the offenders, but we are so hurt because humans matter a lot to us, and no amount of screaming will bring them back to us.


-- Anonymous, March 09, 2000

The lonely shepherd and his sheep.

The wife was giving him Hell.

And with her he didn't sleep

His favorite lover...

you guessed,

was ewwwwwww!

-- Anonymous, March 09, 2000

I think it's the element of commonplace vs. unordinary. Road rage stories are reported more and more often, so they're less shocking when they began. People hurt each other all the time. But reports of an animal freaking out and attacking a human are less common.

This can also be applied to the way in which the dog was killed. He was grabbed from the arms of his owner and *flung* into oncoming traffic. There'd probably be less of a freak-out over Leo's death if the guy had just shot the god. And there'd have been more news if the guy had grabbed the woman and flung HER into traffic.

The less commonplace a particular act or mode of violence, the more "shocking" it is. Sadly, schoolyards shootings are becoming frighteningly commonplace, and all that makes this Michigan incident stand out more is the extremely young ages of the victim and her shooter.

-- Anonymous, March 09, 2000

It is not a question of morality. The six year old didn't shoot the other six year old because of a moral issue. Kids barely even know right and wrong at age six, and they certainly don't fully understand the implications of death.

I don't think it's fair to compare the dog death to the child death, they are not the same thing.

News reporters talk all the time of the inhumanity of killing other people. (Well, as long as these people were innocent and/or important.) We can't really place those judgements on a dog. Of course, maybe if it were a pit bull thrown in the road, the reporting would have been different.

Anyway, I think it was important to give that story a lot of coverage because it represents the collective breaking point of society. You look at that man and think, wow, how did he get that far along. What if that had been an infant in the car instead of a dog. What if he had a gun. What if. What if.

I'm probably one of the few people who actually appreciates media sensationalism of events: it gets people riled up and maybe because of that, someone will say, "wow, my uncle charlie talks about throwing dogs in the road. Maybe I should tell someone."

-- Anonymous, March 10, 2000

Oh, and just another neat little social worker tidbit in relation to the history of people thinking animal abuse is worse than human abuse:

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals in the 1800s went out to homes to check on animal welfare. They started to realize that there were children in these homes who were being treated like the animals were. Hence, out of the SPCA came Child Protective Services.

Society created animal protection before it created child protection.

Maybe we're not too far from our roots in this manner of thinking.

-- Anonymous, March 10, 2000


I don't know why people get upset.

Someone I once knew liked to go to Central Park and --oh, wait! 'Blame Canada' just came on.... la la al Mmmm he's off to join the clan Mmmm not even a real country anyway---and go pigeon punting!

Pigeon punting! Can you believe it?

It's actually not so bad, you try to kick the pigeons but they fly off before you really punt them.

I once threw a frisbee and nailed a 6 week old baby on the head. He was being held by his mother. Felt bad about that. But pigeon punting? It's kinda fun.

-- Anonymous, March 19, 2000

I was there when Phil nailed the infant with the wild frisbee. I bet that kid still has a dent in the head. And I don't think Phil really feels that bad. I think he liked it. I think if he could he would do it again. I think he did it on purpose. And of course you know who likes to punt pigeons in the park. Not to mention knock down old ladies.
In fact, one of the reasons he's friends with Jen is that she tortures and kills little animals. Phil finds that appealing in a person.

-- Anonymous, March 22, 2000

Leave me alone.

-- Anonymous, March 23, 2000

I was just reading some of the forum posts about cruelty to animals. What's the deal with that? Why do people get so upset about cruelty to animals? What's the difference between chunking a disgusting little rat dog into oncoming traffic and castrating a bull, killing him, then eating him? I can just see these people who are so upset about the latest crazy, little old lady discovered with knee-deep cat and dog feces in her two-bedroom home that was used to keep 865 malnourished animals. It's just ridiculous. Their reaction to the condition of the animals is no better than Crazy Old Lady's zealotry to save all the poor little animals. These people who only think about "cruelty to animals" when the media shoves it in their face are probably discussing the topic over a ham, salami, and provolone sandwich at lunch. Did they stop to think about all the animal subjugation in that one sandwich? Oh, these bleeding hearts probably feel guilty with every mouthful they chew when they eat a steak. "Boo- hoo-hoo! All the poor cows. *SOB* It's their fault for being so damn tasty." Now, you'll never see a smart senior citizen in the situation with a house overrun with strays. The ones with common sense are like "Hell, I can barely feed myself! Fuck all the little kitties and puppies. I need all the cat food I can get for ME." As a matter of fact, there should be some kind of program that saves all strays combined with something like Meals on Wheels for the elderly. That way no animal, dog, cat, or senior citizen, has to suffer in hunger.

-- Anonymous, March 27, 2000

I would like to bring up the point that I don't even think this story is true. Are there any witnesses? No. The only witness is the crazy dog-obsessed woman. Who says the dog didn't just run into traffic to get away from the guy? But that's just my opinion. The thing I find so appalling about this whole episode is that the reward to find this guy is up to something like $120,000 while other Bay Area families are finding it hard to raise even $10,000 to offer as a reward for their missing children.

-- Anonymous, March 30, 2000

Well, perhaps if you look at what people spend on frivolities, when there are serious issues they could throw their money at, it makes more sense. (because that is not completely logical is it?)

Aside from the fact, that probably most dog lovers, if running into a burning building and only able to carry out a baby or a dog would probably sensibly choose the baby. OTOH, if confronted with the aftermath of the Burned Baby Fund, or Burned Doggy Fund, probably give more money to Burned Doggy Fund. (go figure)

And you know what, I like dogs, and I like hamburgers. And never the twain shall meet.

Hey, I wonder if Jen actually reads any of this crap?

-- Anonymous, March 30, 2000

I read each and every one of your crappy posts, Cory!

-- Anonymous, March 30, 2000

Now I sort of feel like the toddler, proud that his mom noticed his bathroom accomplishments.

(not that I think of you as a mommy substitute, just that you're the authority figure around here -- or the figurehead at least -- or something...)

-- Anonymous, March 31, 2000

I am concerned as to why you would ask such a question,does'nt it concern you.I just read an artical on the way they slaughter farm animals and if they did to people what they do to farm animals in big industries I am sure people would get equally mad.I am talking about thousands of chickens put in boiling hotwater before they are even dead because they don't stun them properly most of the time and that goes for most of the animals they kill,using crueler methods then that.Back to your question I think it has a lot to do with the fact that animals have no say or choice in what happens to them and in a lot of cases people do.Atleast if a person gets hurt it can say help or go to the hospital but when you take an animal in and then abuse it the animal has no way out,a dog for instance.Face it they are helpless.If a person is going to beat there dog the dog just cowers and goes in the corner and yelps.What else can it do.Same for a baby,People do take child abuse seriously too.Iam not sure what kind of cruelty you are talking about but I feel it is all cruel,man or animal.You never here of animals abusing people,you only here cruelty to animals and thats why ANIMAL LOVERS get so upset about it.I love animals as you can tell so that is why I care.And as far as cruelty to people.Humans are the only species that that are intentionally cruel to each other so animals I guess you could say are innocent.Every thing they do is out of instinct not anger and hate like humans.I hope I helped to answer your question.Don't get me wrong ,It is wrong for any thing on this planet to be abused but you can't change the world or the way it thinks.I hate to see anything suffer,man or animal so I don't know who is telling you this.Maybey if people were killed like farm animals by the millions they would have more of a concern.The answer is,bottem line,people tend to think this way because for generations people have ruled the planetlike they own it with no consideration as to how animals would like to be treated.PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS be crueler than animals!TRY to look at the big picture.Sorry for such a long letter but This is a touchy subject for me.No I am not a freak,I just have a huge,soft heart. :-)

-- Anonymous, December 11, 2000

I'm the president...I kill small children.

-- Anonymous, January 30, 2001

Here in the Pacific Northwest we have Canadian Geese. Lots and lots and lots and lots of Canadian geese. In fact, we're just about swimming in geese. So now, it's unsafe to go to any park and walk on the grass. You can't swim in the lakes because the crap washes into the water and pollutes it. Parks where you used to be able to spread a blanket and read for a while are vacant, because there isn't a spare square inch in which to spread such a blanket!

And yet, when the city officials proposed hunting some of the geese to tone down the population, there was a huge public uproar. People at work were passing around petitions, and flyers and emails and God knows what else protesting this plan. They called it "The Great Goose Slaughter" or some such.

So my question is, what's up with that? Why is this goose, of which there are THOUSANDS, more important than my enjoyment of the parks and lakes where I live? Why should we let the geese run us out of all these places? Why do people feel we should all sacrifice something we enjoy like that?

I'm not saying that I don't feel as bad as the next person when I see dogs or cats on the side of the road or neglected or what have you. I guess I'm thinking, "these are GEESE, for pete's sake" and, I would really like to be able to walk barefoot through the grass again.

Without getting green toes.

-- Anonymous, February 02, 2001

I am in the animal business and I know the answer!!!!! It is two part; yes cuteness definately counts for a lot BUT it is for the same reason 67% of a survied group of woman admitted loving their dogs better that the rest of their family. Dogs offer us unconditional love which is MUCH EASIER than human relationships, especially within the family!!! Therefore, it is so much easier to cry about abused animals, such as puppies in pet stores, than to worry about the starving children in your local town's slum. WHAT HAPPENS if you actually had to bring a down-trodden PERSON into your home---GOD FORBID!!!!! We would much rather take in a sick puppy than a sick human. Or adopt a lost kitten over a homeless child.

Thats it in a nutshell. In the olden days such a phenomenon did not exist, when animals were for work and not substitutes for "easy love" Thanks Suzanne

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2001

I think anyone who asks why people get so upset about cruelty to animals has either never owned a reasonably personable pet (cat, dog, etc.) or has difficulty dredging up the basic human emotions like compassion, empathy, sympathy, and caring. For the purposes of my response, I will use a dog as the "test case" animal (I prefer cats as pets, because they are as anti-social and aloof as I am, but they've never been called "man's best friend" - with good reason). Dogs are, by nature, extremely loyal to their owners. Dogs that have been treated well by people are playful, friendly, fun-loving, and unconditionally loving of their masters. They do not question, argue, confront, or disobey (in most cases). They possess PROVEN and documented emotional healing qualities, and they have also been documented as easing loneliness and sorrow (mainly because they don't care who you are...they just love you). Many families own dogs that have been incorporated into the family structure. Owning a dog for any length of time heightens the feeling of emotional attachment to the pet, and while I disagree that losing a dog can be like losing a child (dogs are replaceable somewhat...children are absolutely irreplaceable), I still firmly believe that a person can possess a great deal of love, consideration, and caring for a dog (or any other pet). Dogs are companions, and for many elderly people, a dog has been proven to somewhat lessen the grief and pain of losing a beloved spouse. However, dogs are basically "dumb" animals. Their behavior is limited to what they have been repetitively taught (in 99% of the cases). They do not have the capacity to "know" right from wrong (other than knowing it's wrong to pee on the carpet after having their nose rubbed in it a few times) and they do not possess any of the more innate and destructive human emotions such as anger, hatred, vengeance, and distrust. A dog learns distrust only after having its trust betrayed countless times, and even then it will still crawl to the feet of its master, only to be kicked again. After a great deal of abuse, a dog will eventually turn on its master, but not with the speed and frenzy of a person turning on another person. Dogs, like children, are innocent by nature. Being cruel to an animal is no better than slapping a baby for crying simply because the baby is crying. People who are cruel to animals, as are people who are cruel to children, are nothing more than moronic assholes taking out their frustrated and repressed rage over their own despondent and pathetic lives on something smaller, weaker, and more defenseless than they are. It gives them a sense of power. For example, the jackass who grabbed the little dog out of the lady's car in California and threw it into traffic was pissed off because he couldn't grab the lady out of her car, and angry that he had gotten "caught" driving like a braindead jerkoff (their cars bumped...thus he was "caught" in the act of being a pile of dog poo)...and since the woman did not get out of her car, he reacted instinctively and threw her dog into the highway (clearly he has deeper rooted issues than his inability to grasp basic driving techniques). If a woman and a man are in an argument and the woman goads the man to the point that he slaps her to shut her up...in most of these situations, the woman knew beforehand that she would probably get slapped for pushing buttons non-stop. A dog is not capable of doing that. If a man starts a drunken brawl with another man in a bar and one of them ends up injured or dead or in jail, they are capable of comprehending that their actions would lead to the end result. A dog is not capable of that thought process. If a person drives like an ass and gets pulled over by the police and ticketed or jailed for the action, they knew what they were doing, knew it was wrong, and did it anyway. A dog is not capable of those kind of knowledgeable "wrong" actions. In conclusion, I feel that if you are the kind of person that doesn't seem to have the candle-power to emote the tiniest bit of compassion over a beloved dog that was grabbed out of its owner's car and thrown into the path of oncoming traffic, where it died right before its' owner's eyes, then you are truly no better a person than the jerk that committed that act of mindless cruelty.

-- Anonymous, April 16, 2001

Because even man is a social animal and his existance is mere the support of all other species on this planet some of which even which he might not have thought of and he has got no right to be cruel to them.

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2001

I think cruelty to animals is very wrong! The animals didnt do anything to you, so why in the hell would you want to be so cruel to them?

-- Anonymous, December 24, 2001

A goldfish gave me the evil eye once.

-- Anonymous, December 24, 2001

I got the evil eye from an animal once too. Mine was a sheep. "Whaaaaaat aboooout the foooooreplay!", she kept saying. Apparently they're more like human women than I thought.

-- Anonymous, December 26, 2001

Hi i'ma 14 year old student and hope tobe a vet when i grow so i can help animals in situations they cant get out of themselves. The topic i just read, about why most people think its so much worse when animals getabused but yet not humans...cause theres a big difference! Animals cant defend themselves whatsoever, and i understand neither can children but others can go to there defense forthem if there caring enough what can animals do to prevent this, they cant move away or go tell the police....wake up and look around..maybe if some people werent so damn selfish and mayeb if parents took better care of there kids ..or whatever it takes then maybe human abuse can stop easier, for animals it different they have humans who can so much more then them detroys thre homes and abuse them and have no one help them the way a child can have a human help then against rape or whatever..think about it it makes sense u just gotta look at from a reasonable poitn of view humans are more capable of deefnding or stopiing anything animals cant! there helpless against a gun held by a hunter for his need of food.... grow a garden that way that can not only stop somewhat of the suffring to animals but to the complaining of poeple saying there fat. and why waste ur money on a pet that ur just gonna kick around then blame it on the pet for wasting ur money it dsont make sense...just stop..i dont think ud liek it if u got kick in the ribs or hit just because the tea, ur going for didnt win...well think of yourself in the animals place..i can go on and on even though this wotn make a difference...i can at least ssay i tried to help.

-- Anonymous, April 23, 2002

Well Jen, most normal people have love and compassion for animals. Most pet owners view their pets as children. It's real simple. If you have the ability to, imagine this: You have a child...you love your child and want to protect that child from any harm. Your child was created innocent and defenseless by Our Lord in Heaven (or maybe you don't believe in Him, Jen). Imagine your child being maliciously abused, tortured, even murdered. How would you feel about that Jen? Might that bother you? Well as hard as it might be for you to comprehend, Jen, a lot of people feel the same compassion for animals as they do for children/humans in general. And incase you have not researched animal abuse, Jen, you will find that most children/adults that abuse and torture animals display a propensity for violence towards humans as well. You will find this to be true in most cases of serial killers...or atleast that is what the FBI thinks anyway. Think about that for awhile, Jen.

-- Anonymous, July 27, 2002

animals are so innocent, they don't go oh gee see that human watch me kick the crap out of it, and they don't say hey i bet ya 10 bucks that one can beat the other one! No people think animals don't have feelings, they do! They know if they are being loved or neglected. people and animals die everyday so what right wrong its sad both ways but a lot of people know if a person dies , but if an animal dies noone knows.

-- Anonymous, November 01, 2002

Moderation questions? read the FAQ