Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously

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About the Author
 Dr. Wendy Wolfson is Assistant Professor of Shelter Medicine and Surgery at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. Ken Levy is Holt B. Harrison Professor of Law at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University. 

WOLFSON—LEVY—Cruelty to animals is unjust because of the suffering that it causes them, not because of any deprivation that it causes humans. Pain is pain – whether it is experienced by a human or a nonhuman. And lest anybody doubt this intuitively obvious claim, we have ample scientific evidence for it. Through evolution, nonhuman and human animals alike acquired something that plants and trees never did: nervous systems. These nervous systems explain why not only humans but also nonhumans exhibit both fear and pain-avoidance behavior (for example, fleeing and vocalizations such as screaming and groaning).



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2 thoughts on “Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously

  1. NO! This is not why we need to take cruelty to animals seriously. We need to take cruelty to animals seriously because animals are living beings who know fear, terror, joy, contentment.

    Saying that we need to take cruelty to animals seriously because it will protect humans is secondary. It is the distorted reasoning of dominion, where compassion to animals is conditioned by human need:

    Genesis 9:1-3 “The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”

    Dominion inevitably leads us back to sanctified violence.

    We must learn to respect the lives of all who live, as expressed in a tradition older and wiser than that of the bible… the AHIMSA tradition of India:
    “For there is nothing inaccessible for death.
    All beings are fond of life, hate pain, like pleasure,
    shun destruction, like life, long to live. To all life
    is dear.” Jain Acharanga Sutra.

    “These words of the venerable Mahavir found in the
    Acharanga Sutra are some of the profoundest ever found
    in a religious scripture. They are a result of a
    tremendous but simple spiritual discovery: all life is
    holy, sacred or God-given. Life, therefore, has
    intrinsic values – and all that lives has an interest
    in living.

    There is no other way around violence than the AHIMSA tradition.

  2. The author presents two cases: one that animal abuse is a predictor of violence to humans & two that animals are sentient beings, to be treated with kindness.

    The first is an argument for stopping animal abuse because it has the potential to harm humans…. That is classic dominion: compassion conditioned by human need.

    The second calls for education to encourage kindness to animals. What the author fails to grasp is that in a dominion based culture, kindness all too often means proper care prior to slaughter. The ideal of dominion is humane slaughter.

    “It is prohibited to kill an animal with its young on the same day,
    in order that people should be restrained and prevented from
    killing the two together in such a manner that the young is slain
    in the sight of the mother; for the pain of animals under such
    circumstances is very great…” Maimonides,Guide for the Perplexed, 3:48

    The compassion that the author feels for animals will not be understood by the mainstream majority, indoctrinated by the genesis view of animals… This view results in confusion. For example in a dominion nations it is possible to love dogs and kill them by the millions in legal kill shelters throughout the nation. This is not a contradiction according to dominion.

    The moral message of non-violence to any being is understood in India, so that if one loves dogs, one does not kill them. It is therefore against the law to kill a healthy or treatable dog, any dog, for any reason. When the life of an animal has inherent value, as it does with AHIMSA, kindness to animals is more easily understood:

    “All things breathing, all things existing, all living beings whatever, would not be slain or treated with violence, or insulted, or tortured or driven away. This is the pure unchanging eternal law, which the wise ones who know the world have proclaimed…” Jain Acharanga Sutra

    “All beings with two, three, four or five senses in fact, all creation know individually pleasure and displeasure, pain, terror and sorrow. ALL are full of fears which come from all directions. And yet there exist people who would cause greater pain to them…Some kill animals for sacrifice, some for their skin, flesh, blood, feathers, teeth or tusks;…Some kill them intentionally and some unintentionally. Some kill because they have been previously injured by them…and some because they expect to be injured. He who harms animals has not understood or renounced deeds of sin…He who understands the nature of sin against animals is called a Sage.” Jain Acharanga Sutra

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