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Cruelty can be described as indifference to suffering, and even positive pleasure in inflicting it. Sadism can also be related to this form of action or concept.

Cruel ways of inflicting suffering may involve violence, but affirmative violence is not necessary for an act to be cruel. For example, if another person is drowning and begging for help, and another person is able to help, but merely watches with disinterest or perhaps mischievous amusement, that person is being cruel — rather than violent.

Cruelty usually carries connotations of supremacy over a submissive or weaker force, insofar as a weaker party or entity can rarely inflict suffering on a party or entity that has greater dominance.

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Usage in law

The term cruelty is often used in law and criminology with regard to the treatment of animals, children, spouses, and prisoners. When cruelty to animals is discussed, it often refers to unnecessary suffering. In criminal law, it refers to punishment, torture, victimization, draconian measures, and cruel and unusual punishment. In divorce cases, many jurisdictions permit a cause of action for cruel and inhumane treatment.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CRUELTY (through the 0. Fr. crualte, mod. cruaute, from the Lat. crudelitas), the intentional infliction of pain or suffering. It is only necessary to deal here with the legal relations involved. Statutory provision for the prevention of cruelty to those who are unable to protect themselves has been particularly marked in the 19th century. The increase of legislation for the protection of children, lunatics and animals is a proof of the growing humanitarianism of the age. There was at one time a tendency among jurists to question whether, for instance, the prevention of cruelty to animals was not a recognition of a certain quasiright in animals, or whether it was merely that such exhibitions as bulland bear-baiting, cock-fights, &c., were demoralizing to the public generally. The true fact seems to be that the first introduction of such legislation was undoubtedly due to the desire for the promotion of humanity, but that the principle, for the recognition of which the time was not yet ripe, had to be excused in the eyes of the public by the plea that cruelty had a demoralizing effect upon spectators (see A. V. Dicey, Law and Opinion in England, p. 188; T. E. Holland, Jurisprudence, 10th ed., p. 372).

Cruelty to Animals

The English common law has never taken cognizance of the commission of acts of cruelty upon animals, and direct legislation upon the subject, dating from the 19th century, was due in a great measure to public agitation, supported by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (founded in 1824). Various acts were passed in 1822 (known as Martin's Act), 1835 and 1837, and these were amended and consolidated by the Cruelty to Animals Acts 1849 and 1854, which, with the Wild Animals in Captivity Protection Act 1900, are the main acts upon the subject. There are also, in addition, many other acts that impose certain liabilities in respect of animals and indirectly prevent cruelty. The Cruelty to Animals Acts 1849 and 1854 render liable to prosecution and fine practically any act of cruelty to an animal; such acts as dubbing a cock, cropping the ears of a dog or dishorning cattle, are offences. The latter practice, however, is allowed both in Scotland and Ireland, the courts having held that the advantages to be obtained from dishorning outweigh the pain caused by the operation. The word "animal" is defined as meaning "any domestic animal" of whatever kind or species, and whether a quadruped or not. The act of 1849 also forbids bulland bearbaiting, or fighting between any kinds of animals; requires the provision of food and water to animals impounded; lays down regulations as to the treatment of animals sent for slaughter, and imposes a penalty for improperly conveying animals. The Wild Animals in Captivity Protection Act 1900 extends to wild animals in captivity that protection which the acts of 1849 and 1854 conferred on domestic animals, making exception .of any act done or any omission in the preparation of animals for the food of man or for sport. The word "animal" in the act includes bird, beast, fish or reptile. The Dogs Act 1865 rendered owners of dogs liable for injuries to cattle and sheep; the Dogs Act 1906 extended the owner's liability for injury done to any cattle by a dog, and further, where a dog is proved to have injured cattle or chased sheep it may be treated as a dangerous dog and must be kept under proper control or be destroyed. The Drugging of Animals Act 1876 imposes a penalty on giving poisonous drugs to any domestic animal unlawfully. The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 was passed for the purpose of regulating the practice of vivisection. The Ground Game Act 1880, prohibits night shooting, or the use of spring traps above ground or poison. The Injured Animals Act 1907 enables police constables to cause any animal when mortally or seriously injured to be slaughtered. The Diseases of Animals Act 1894 and orders under it are for;, the purpose of securing animals from unnecessary suffering, as well as from disease. Finally, the Wild Birds Protection Acts 1880 to 1904, with various game acts (see Game Laws), extend the protection of the law to wild birds. The acts establish a close time for wild birds and impose penalties for shooting or taking them within that time; prohibit the exposing or offering for sale within certain dates any wild bird recently killed or taken unless bought or received from some person residing out of the United Kingdom; the taking or destroying of wild birds' eggs, the setting of pole traps, and the taking of a wild bird by means of a hook or other similar instrument.

For the law relating to the prevention of cruelty to children see CHILDREN, LAW RELATING TO; for cruelty in the sense of such conduct as entitles a husband or wife to judicial separation see DIVORCE. (T. A. I.)


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