Cruelty to animals: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cruelty to animals is the infliction of suffering or harm upon animals, other than humans, for purposes other than self-defense. More narrowly, it can be harm for specific gain, such as killing animals for food or fur use. Diverging viewpoints are held by jurisdictions throughout the world.

Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to the issue. The animal welfare position holds that there is nothing inherently wrong with using animals for human purposes, such as food, clothing, entertainment, and research, but that it should be done in a humane way that minimizes unnecessary pain and suffering. Animal rights theorists criticize this position, arguing that the words "unnecessary" and "humane" are subject to widely differing interpretations, and that the only way to ensure protection for animals is to end their status as property, and to ensure that they are never used as commodities. Laws concerning animal cruelty are designed to prevent needless cruelty to animals, rather than killing for other aims such as food, or they concern species not eaten as food in the country involved, such as those regarded as pets.


In law

Many jurisdictions around the world have enacted statutes which forbid cruelty to some animals but these vary by country and in some cases by the use or practice.


In Australia, many states have enacted legislation outlawing cruelty to animals, however, it is argued that welfare laws do not adequately extend to production animals.[1] Whilst police maintain an overall jurisdiction in prosecution of criminal matters, in many states officers of the RSPCA and other animal welfare charities are accorded authority to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty offences.

Most jurisdictions simply do not depend on law enforcement officers who may not be knowledgeable in the area or assign it a high priority.


As of 2006 there were no laws in China governing acts of cruelty to animals.[2] In certain jurisdictions such as Fuzhou, dog control officers may kill any unaccompanied dogs on sight. However, the People's Republic of China is currently in the process of making changes to its stray-dog population laws in the capital city, Beijing. Mr. Zheng Gang who is the director of the Internal and Judicial Committee which comes under the Beijing Municipal People's Congress (BMPC), supports the new draft of the Beijing Municipal Regulation on Dogs from the local government. This new law is due to replace the current Beijing Municipal Regulation on Dog Ownership, introduced in 1889. The current regulation talks of "strictly" limiting dog ownership and controlling the number of dogs in the city. The new draft focuses instead on "strict management and combining restrictions with management."[3] There are no government supported charitable organizations like the RSPCA, which monitors the cases on animal cruelty, so that all kinds of animal abuses, such as to fish, tigers, and bears, are to be reported for law enforcement and animal welfare.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

In September 2009, legislation was drafted to address deliberate cruelty to animals in China. If passed, the legislation would offer some protection to pets, captive wildlife and animals used in laboratories, as well as regulating how farm animals are raised, transported and slaughtered.[11]


Egyptian law states that anyone who inhumanely beats or intentionally kills any domesticated animal may be jailed or fined,[12] however, these laws are rarely enforced. The Egyptian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was established by the British over a hundred years ago, and is currently administered by the Egyptians. The SPCA was instrumental in promoting a 1997 ban on bullfighting in Egypt.[13]

In the ancient Egyptian law, the killers of cats or dogs were executed.[14][15]


Acts of cruelty against animals can be punished with imprisonment, for a minimum of three months up to a maximum of three years, and with a fine ranging from a minimum of 3000 Euros to a maximum of 160,000 Euros, as for the law n°189/2004[citation needed]. The law was passed mainly to crush the phenomenon of dog fighting, which in Italy is a clandestine blood sport fully controlled by organized crime.[16]

Saudi Arabia

Despite passages in the Qur’an advocating positive treatment of animals, veterinarian Lana Dunn and several Saudi nationals report that there are no laws to protect animals from cruelty since the term is not well-defined within the Saudi legal system. They point to a lack of a governing body to supervise conditions for animals, particularly in pet stores and in the exotic animal trade with East Africa.[17]


In Mexico, there are little to no animal cruelty laws, however, it has been suggested that animal cruelty laws are slowly being implemented. The country's current policy usually condemns physical harm to animals as property damage to the owners of the abused animal. The Law of Animal Protection of the Federal District is wide-ranging, based on banning 'unnecessary suffering'. Similar laws now exist in most states. However, this is disregarded by much of the public and authorities.[18]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, cruelty to animals is a criminal offense for which one may be jailed for up to 51 weeks and may be fined up to £20,000.[citation needed]

On August 18, 1911, the House of Commons introduced the Protection of Animals Act 1911 (c.27) following lobbying by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). The maximum punishment was 6 months of "hard labour" with a fine of 25 pounds.[19]

United States

The Animal Legal Defense Fund releases an annual report ranking the animal protection laws of every state based on their relative strength and general comprehensiveness. In 2008's report, the top five states for their strong anti-cruelty laws were California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, and Oregon. The five states with the weakest animal cruelty laws were Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Dakota.[20]

In the United States a few jurisdictions, notably Massachusetts and New York, agents of humane societies and associations may be appointed as special officers to enforce statutes outlawing animal cruelty. "Brute Force: Animal Police and the Challenge of Cruelty" by Arnold Arluke is an ethnographic study of these special humane law enforcement officers.[21]

In 2004, a Florida legislator proposed a ban on "cruelty to bovines," stating: "A person who, for the purpose of practice, entertainment, or sport, intentionally fells, trips, or otherwise causes a cow to fall or lose its balance by means of roping, lassoing, dragging, or otherwise touching the tail of the cow commits a misdemeanor of the first degree."[22] The proposal did not become law.[22]

It is to be noted, however, that in the United States ear cropping, tail docking, the Geier Hitch, rodeo sports and other acts perceived as cruelty in many other countries are sometimes condoned. Penalties for cruelty can be minimal, if pursued. Currently, 46 of the 50 states have enacted felony penalties for certain forms of animal abuse.[23] However, in most jurisdictions, animal cruelty is most commonly charged as a misdemeanor offense. In one recent California case, a felony conviction for animal cruelty could theoretically net a 25 year to life sentence due to their three-strikes law, which increases sentences based on prior felony convictions.[24]

In 2003, West Hollywood, California passed an ordinance banning declawing of house cats.[25] In 2007, Norfolk, Virginia passed legislation only allowing the procedure for medical reasons.[26] However, most jurisdictions allow the procedure. It is illegal in many parts of Europe.[27]

Many state animal cruelty laws exempt animals used in United States Department of Agriculture licensed facilities since the use and humane treatment of some of these animals is regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act. In 1992, a Federal District Court judge ruled that mice, rats and birds bred for laboratory use, who account for about 90% of animals used in laboratories, should be covered by the Animal Welfare Act,[28] however this decision was never implemented into law.[29]


The Animal Legal Defense Fund releases an annual report ranking the animal protection laws of every province and territory based on their relative strength and general comprehensiveness. In 2009's report, the top four, for their strong anti-cruelty laws, were British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. The worst four were New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Quebec.[30]


The use of animals in the circus has been controversial since animal welfare groups have documented instances of animal cruelty during the training of performing animals. The Humane Society of the United States has documented multiple cases of abuse and neglect,[31] and cite several reasons for opposing the use of animals in circuses, including confining enclosures, lack of regular veterinary care, abusive training methods and lack of oversight by regulating bodies.[32] Animal trainers have argued that some criticism is not based in fact, including beliefs that animals are 'hurt' by being shouted at, that caging is cruel and common, and the harm caused by the use of whips, chains or training implements.[33]

In 2009, Bolivia passed legislation banning the use of any animals, wild or domestic, in circuses. The law states that circuses "constitute an act of cruelty." Circus operators have one year from the bill's passage on July 1, 2009 to comply.[34]

In 2010, Lebanese animal rights groups became enraged when it was learned that wild performing animals belonging to the Monte Carlo Circus were transported from Egypt to Lebanon without being provided with food and water.[35]


Following the campaign, new regulations were enacted that prohibit the use of animals in circuses in Israel. Finland and Singapore have restricted the use of animals in entertainment. The UK and Scottish Parliaments have committed to ban certain wild animals in travelling circuses and approximately 200 local authorities in the UK have banned all animal acts on council land.[citation needed] Animal acts are still very popular throughout much of Europe, the Americas and Asia. In the United States animal welfare standards are overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture under provisions of the Animal Welfare Act. Efforts to ban circus animals in cities like Denver, Colorado have been rejected by voters. Some circuses now present animal-free acts.[36]

In theory and practice

There are many reasons why individuals abuse animals. Animal cruelty covers a wide range of actions (or lack of action). Learning about animal abuse has revealed patterns of behavior employed by abusers.[37]

Animal cruelty is often broken down into two main categories: active and passive, also referred to as commission and omission, respectively.

Passive cruelty is typified by cases of neglect, in which the cruelty is a lack of action rather than the action itself. Examples of neglect are starvation, dehydration, parasite infestations, allowing a collar to grow into an animal’s skin, inadequate shelter in extreme weather conditions, and failure to seek veterinary care when necessary.

In many cases of neglect in which an investigator believes that the cruelty occurred out of ignorance, the investigator may attempt to educate the pet owner, then revisit the situation. In more severe cases, exigent circumstances may require that the animal be removed for veterinary care.

Active cruelty implies malicious intent, as when a person has deliberately and intentionally caused harm to an animal, and is sometimes referred to as NAI (Non-Accidental Injury). Acts of intentional animal cruelty may be indicators of serious psychological problems. [38] There is an intrinsic link between battered pets and battered women and children. The likelihood that women's shelter personnel will encounter women and children who have been threatened by batterers using animal abuse as a weapon is high. This is because more families in America have pets than have children. Secondly, the majority of pet owners are themselves parents with children. Thirdly, 64.1% of households with children under age 6, and 74.8% of households with children over age 6, also have pets. Lastly, as many as 71% of pet-owning women seeking shelter at safe houses have reported that their partner had threatened and/or actually hurt or killed one or more of their pets; 32% of these women reported that one or more of their children had also hurt or killed pets. Battered women report that they are prevented from leaving their abusers because they fear what will happen to the animals in their absence. Animal abuse sometimes is used as a form of intimidation in domestic disputes.[39]


Animal testing, Traditional medicine

Psychological disorders

One of the known warning signs of certain psychopathologies, including anti-social personality disorder, also known as psychopathic personality disorder, is a history of torturing pets and small animals, a behavior known as zoosadism. According to the New York Times, "[t]he FBI has found that a history of cruelty to animals is one of the traits that regularly appears in its computer records of serial rapists and murderers, and the standard diagnostic and treatment manual for psychiatric and emotional disorders lists cruelty to animals a diagnostic criterion for conduct disorders.[40] "A survey of psychiatric patients who had repeatedly tortured dogs and cats found all of them had high levels of aggression toward people as well, including one patient who had murdered a young boy."[40] Robert K. Ressler, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's behavioral sciences unit, studied serial killers and noted,"Murderers like this (Jeffrey Dahmer) very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids."[41]

Cruelty to animals is one of the three components of the Macdonald triad, indicators of violent antisocial behavior in children and adolescents. According to the studies used to form this model, cruelty to animals is a common (but not with every case) behavior in children and adolescents who grow up to become serial killers and other violent criminals.

It has also been found that animal cruelty in children is frequently committed by children who have witnessed or been victims of abuse themselves. In two separate studies cited by the Humane Society of the United States roughly one-third of families suffering from domestic abuse indicated that at least one child had hurt or killed a pet.[42]

TV & film making

Animal cruelty has long been an issue with the art form of filmmaking, with even some big-budget Hollywood films receiving criticism for allegedly harmful—and sometimes lethal—treatment of animals during production. One of the most infamous examples of animal cruelty in film was Michael Cimino's legendary flop Heaven's Gate, in which numerous animals were brutalized and even killed during production. Cimino allegedly killed chickens and bled horses from the neck to gather samples of their blood to smear on actors for Heaven's Gate, and also allegedly had a horse blown up with dynamite while shooting a battle sequence, the shot of which made it into the film. After the release of the film Reds, the star and director of the picture, Warren Beatty apologized for his Spanish film crew's use of tripwires on horses while filming a battle scene, when Beatty wasn't present. Tripwires were used against horses when Rambo III and The Thirteenth Warrior were being filmed. An ox was sliced nearly in half during production of Apocalypse Now, while a donkey was bled to death for dramatic effect for the film Manderlay, in a scene later cut from the film.

Cruelty in film exists in movies outside the United States. There is a case of cruelty to animals in the South Korean film The Isle, according to its director Kim Ki-Duk.[43] In the film, a real frog is skinned alive while fish are mutilated. Several animals were killed for the camera in the controversial Italian film Cannibal Holocaust.[44] The images in the film include the slow and graphic beheading and ripping apart of a turtle, a monkey being beheaded and its brains being consumed by natives and a spider being chopped apart. In fact, Cannibal Holocaust was only one film in a collective of similarly themed movies (cannibal films) that featured unstaged animal cruelty. Their influences were rooted in the films of Mondo filmmakers, which sometimes contained similar content. In several countries, such as the UK, Cannibal Holocaust was only allowed for release with most of the animal cruelty edited out.

More recently, the video sharing site YouTube has been criticized for hosting thousands of videos of real life animal cruelty, especially the feeding of one animal to another for the purposes of entertainment and spectacle. Although some of these videos have been flagged as inappropriate by users, YouTube has generally declined to remove them, unlike videos which include copyright infringement.[45][46]

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has contracted with the American Humane Association (AHA) for monitoring of animal use during filming or while on the set.[47] Compliance with this arrangement is voluntary and only applies to films made in the United States. Films monitored by the American Humane Association may bear one of their end-credit messages. Many productions, including those made in the US, do not advise AHA or SAG of animal use in films, so there is no oversight.[48]

Simulations of animal cruelty exist on television, too. On the September 23, 1999 edition of WWE Smackdown!, a plot line had professional wrestler Big Boss Man trick fellow wrestler Al Snow into appearing to eat his pet chihuahua Pepper.[49][50]

Crush films

Animal snuff films, known as crush films can be found on the Internet. These films depict instances of animal cruelty, and/or pornographic acts with animals, usually involving the crushing death of an animal, including insects, mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, monkeys, birds, cats, and dogs. In 1999, the U.S. government banned the depiction of animal cruelty, however the law was overturned by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that these films were protected as free speech.[51] The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the lower court's decision.[52] The case is United States v. Stevens.


A horse with a gas mask during World War I

Military animals are creatures that have been employed by mankind for use in warfare. They are a specific application of working animals. Examples include horses, dogs and dolphins. Only recently has the involvement of animals in war been questioned, and practices such as using animals for fighting, as living bombs (as in the use of exploding donkeys) or for military testing purposes (such as during the Bikini atomic experiments) may now be criticised for being cruel.[53][54] Princess Royal, the patron of the British Animals in War Memorial, stated that animals adapt to what humans want them to do, but that they will not do things that they don't want to, despite training.[55] Animal participation in human conflict was commemorated in the United Kingdom in 2004 with the erection of the Animals in War Memorial in Hyde Park, London.[56]

In 2008 a video of a US Marine throwing a puppy over a cliff during the Iraq conflict was popularised as an internet phenomenon and attracted widespread criticism of the soldier's actions for being an act of cruelty.[57]


  1. ^ Graeme McEwen. The fox is in charge of the chickens Animals Australia, retrieved July 4, 2008.
  2. ^ Richard Spencer. Just who is the glamorous kitten killer of Hangzhou? April 3, 2006.
  3. ^ "Beijing loosens leash on pet dogs". Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  4. ^ SBS Australia. "The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World". Retrieved 4 November 2008. 
  5. ^ Journal of Ecotourism. "The Shark Watching Industry and its Potential Contribution to Shark Conservation". Retrieved 8 November 2008. 
  6. ^ Sohu Forum. "人类的饮食与野生动物的灭绝有着本质和必然的联系". Retrieved 8 November 2008. 
  7. ^ 中国青年报. "国家禁令挡不住虎骨酒热销". Retrieved 4 November 2008. 
  8. ^ Jadecampus. "Conservationists Call on China to Support Law Over Tiger Farms". Retrieved 4 November 2008. 
  9. ^ PETA. "Other Common Atrocities". Retrieved 4 November 2008. 
  10. ^ 中国青年报. "拿什么拯救你可怜的黑熊:能不能不用熊胆?". Retrieved 4 November 2008. 
  11. ^ "China unveils first ever animal cruelty legislation". September 18, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-18. 
  12. ^ Legislature Related to Animals in Egyptian Law
  13. ^ Humanity, through animal care
  14. ^ (Not-So-) BIZARRE DOG LAW California Man Faces Life in Prison for Killing Dog; and Tennessee Judge Slam-Dunks Puppy Mill Owners July 14, 2002 Dogs in the News
  15. ^ The Domestic Cat: the biology of its behaviour Cambridge. Second Edition. Page 185
  16. ^ Law n°189/2004, "Disposizioni concernenti il divieto di maltrattamento degli animali, nonché di impiego degli stessi in combattimenti clandestini o competizioni non autorizzate"
  17. ^ Animal lovers lament lack of law against cruelty
  18. ^
  19. ^ The Times, Monday, Jan 01, 1912; pg. 3; Issue 39783; col F "The Animals' New Magna Charter"
  20. ^ "2008 State Animal Protection Laws Rankings". Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  21. ^ Book Review: Brute Force: Animal Police and the Challenge of Cruelty
  22. ^ a b Emery, David. "Florida to Consider Ban on Cow Tipping". Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  23. ^ "ALDF: U.S. Jurisdictions With and Without Felony Animal Cruelty Provisions". Retrieved 2009-04-29. 
  24. ^ "Accused Dog Killer Could Get 25 Years to Life in Prison". Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  25. ^ Judge allows California cities to ban cat declawing
  26. ^ Norfolk Bans De-Clawing Of Cats
  27. ^ Declawing Cats: Manicure or Mutilation?
  28. ^ Court Say Rats, Mice, Birds Covered bv Animal Welfare Act
  29. ^ Use of Animal Subjects
  30. ^ "2009 Canadian Animal Protection Laws Rankings". Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  31. ^ "Circus Incidents: Attacks, Abuse and Property Damage" (PDF). Humane Society of the United States. 2004-06-01. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  32. ^ "Circuses". Humane Society of the United States. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  33. ^ Patton, K (2007-04-01). "Frequently Asked Questions: Do circus trainers/handlers abuse animals?". Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  34. ^ Guardian - Bolivia bans all circus animals
  35. ^ All Headline News - Maltreated Circus Lions, Tigers and Bears Take the Heat of Lebanese Politics
  36. ^ "Animal-Free Circuses: Factsheet" (PDF). PETA. 2005-08-09. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  37. ^ "Pet-Abuse.Com - Animal Cruelty". Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  38. ^ {{cite web|url= |title=Pet-Abuse.Com - Animal Cruelty | |date= |accessdate=2010-03-17}]
  39. ^ "Domestic Violence & the Animal Abuse Link". Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  40. ^ a b Felthous, Alan R. (1998). Aggression against Cats, Dogs, and People. In Cruelty to Animals and Interpersonal Violence: Readings in Research and Applications.. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press. pp. 159–167. 
  41. ^ "Clues to a Dark Nurturing Ground for One Serial Killer". New York Times. 1991-08-07. 
  42. ^ "Animal Cruelty and Family Violence: Making the Connection". Humane Society of the United States. Retrieved 2008-10-26. 
  43. ^ Andy McKeague, An Interview with Kim Ki-Duk and Suh Jung on The Isle at, May 11, 2005, retrieved March 11, 2006.
  44. ^ "Pointless Cannibal Holocaust Sequel in the Works". Fangoria. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  45. ^ Times online, August 19, 2007, retrieved August 25, 2007.
  46. ^ Practical Fishkeeping, May 17, 2007, retrieved August 25, 2007.
  47. ^ Entertainment Industry FAQ
  48. ^ Earning Our Disclaimer
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ 3rd Circuit Strikes Down Law Criminalizing Sale of Animal Cruelty Depictions
  52. ^ Supreme Court Grants Review in Animal Cruelty/First Amendment Case
  53. ^ "Animals in War - The unseen casualties". Animal Aid. 2003-06-01. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  54. ^ "The Military's War on Animals". PETA. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  55. ^ "They served and suffered for us". The Daily Telegraph. 2004-11-01. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  56. ^ "Animal war heroes statue unveiled". The Daily Telegraph. 2004-11-24. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  57. ^ "Puppy-toss video makes Marine figure of hate". The Times. 4 March 2008. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 

Further reading

  • Arluke, Arnold. Brute Force: Animal Police and the Challenge of Cruelty, Purdue University Press (August 15, 2004), hardcover, 175 pages, ISBN 1-55753-350-4. An ethnographic study of humane law enforcement officers.
  • Lea, Suzanne Goodney (2007). Delinquency and Animal Cruelty: Myths and Realities about Social Pathology, hardcover, 168 pages, ISBN 978-1-59332-197-0. Lea challenges the argument made by animal rights activists that animal cruelty enacted during childhood is a precursor to human-directed violence.
  • Munro H. (The battered pet (1999) In F. Ascione & P. Arkow (Eds.) Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 199-208.

External links

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Pagan antiquity

The first ethical writers of pagan antiquity to advocate the duty of kindness towards the brute creation were Pythagoras and Empedocles. Holding the doctrine of metempsychosis, or the transmigration of human souls into the bodies of lower animals after death, these philosophers taught that animals share in human rights, and that it is a crime to kill them. These ideas, together with an appreciation of the services rendered by domestic animals to man, found some expression in early Roman legislation. The error of ascribing human rights to animals is condemned by Cicero (De Finibus, Book III, xx).

Old Testament

The Old Testament inculcates kindness towards animals. The Jews were forbidden to muzzle the ox that treads out the corn (Deuteronomy 25:4) or to yolk together an ox and an ass (Deuteronomy 22:10). Some other texts which are frequently quoted as instances are not so much to recommend kind treatment of animals as to insist upon duties of neighbourly goodwill. The prohibition against seething the kid in its mother's milk, a process in which there is no cruelty at all, and the one against taking a mother-bird with her young, seem to have a religious rather than a humanitarian significance.

New Testament

The New Testament is almost silent on this subject. Even when St. Paul cites the Mosaic prohibition against muzzling the ox, he brushes aside the literal in favour of a symbolic signification (I Cor. 9:9 sq.). The Fathers of the Church insist but little on this point of duty. Nevertheless, Christian teaching and practice from the beginning resect in a general way the Scriptural ideal of righteousness which is expressed in the words: "The just regardeth the lives of his beasts: but the bowels of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10). The hagiological literature of monastic life in the Middle Ages, which so largely formed and guided the moral sentiment of the Christian world, as Lecky sets forth with ample evidence, "represents one of the most striking efforts made in Christendom to inculcate a feeling of kindness and pity towards the brute creation" (History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne, II, 161 sqq.). This considerate feeling was a characteristic of many holy personages, even before St. Francis of Assisi and some of his followers carried it to a degree that seems almost incredible.

The Scholastics

The scholastic theologians condemn the infliction of needless suffering on animals, chiefly because of the injurious effects on the character of the perpetrator. Thus St. Thomas, in his Summa Contra Gentiles (Book II, 112), after refuting the error that it is not lawful to take the lives of brutes, explains the import of the above-mentioned texts of Scripture. He says that these prohibitions are issued either

lest anyone by exercising cruelty towards brutes may become cruel also towards men; or, because an injury to brutes may result in loss to the owner, or on account of some symbolic signification.

Elsewhere (God's purpose in recommending kind treatment of the brute creation is to dispose men to pity and tenderness for one another. While the scholastics rest their condemnation of cruelty to animals on its demoralizing influence, their general teaching concerning the nature of man's rights and duties furnishes principles which have but to be applied in order to establish the direct and essential sinfulness of cruelty to the animal world, irrespective of the results of such conduct on the character of those who practise it.

Catholic doctrine

Catholic ethics has been criticized by some zoophilists because it refuses to admit that animals have rights. But it is indisputable that, when properly understood and fairly judged, Catholic doctrine -- though it does not concede rights to the brute creation -- denounces cruelty to animals as vigorously and as logically as do those moralists who make our duty in this respect the correlative of a right in the animals.

In order to establish a binding obligation to avoid the wanton infliction of pain on the brutes, it is not necessary to acknowledge any right inherent in them. Our duty in this respect is part of our duty towards God. From the juristic standpoint the visible world with which man comes in contact is divided into persons and non-persons. For the latter term the word "things" is usually employed. Only a person, that is, a being possessed of reason and self-control, can be the subject of rights and duties; or, to express the same idea in terms more familiar to adherents of other schools of thought, only beings who are ends in themselves, and may not be treated as mere means to the perfection of other beings, can possess rights. Rights and duties are moral ties which can exist only in a moral being, or person. Beings that may be treated simply as means to the perfection of persons can have no rights, and to this category the brute creation belongs. In the Divine plan of the universe the lower creatures are subordinated to the welfare of man.

But while these animals are, in contradistinction to persons, classed as things, it is none the less true that between them and the non-sentient world there exists a profound difference of nature which we are bound to consider in our treatment of them. The very essence of the moral law is that we respect and obey the order established by the Creator. Now, the animal is a nobler manifestation of His power and goodness than the lower forms of material existence. In imparting to the brute creation a sentient nature capable of suffering -- a nature which the animal shares in common with ourselves -- God placed on our dominion over them a restriction which does not exist with regard to our dominion over the non-sentient world. We are bound to act towards them in a manner conformable to their nature. We may lawfully use them for our reasonable wants and welfare, even though such employment of them necessarily inflicts pain upon them. But the wanton infliction of pain is not the satisfaction of any reasonable need, and, being an outrage against the Divinely established order, is therefore sinful. This principle, by which, at least in the abstract, we may solve the problem of the lawfulness of vivisection and other cognate questions, is tersely put by Zigliara:

The service of man is the end appointed by the Creator for brute animals. When, therefore, man, with no reasonable purpose, treats the brute cruelly he does wrong, not because he violates the right of the brute, but because his action conflicts with the order and the design of the Creator (Philosophia Moralis, 9th ed., Rome, p. 136).

With more feeling, but with no less exactness, the late Cardinal Manning expressed the same doctrine:

It is perfectly true that obligations and duties are between moral persons, and therefore the lower animals are not susceptible of the moral obligations which we owe to one another; but we owe a seven-fold obligation to the Creator of those animals. Our obligation and moral duty is to Him who made them and if we wish to know the limit and the broad outline of our obligation, I say at once it is His nature and His perfections, and among these perfections one is, most profoundly, that of Eternal Mercy. And therefore, although a poor mule or a poor horse is not, indeed, a moral person, yet the Lord and Maker of the mule is the highest Lawgiver, and His nature is a law unto Himself. And in giving a dominion over His creatures to man, He gave it subject to the condition that it should be used in conformity to His perfections which is His own law, and therefore our law (The Zoophilist, London, 1 April, 1887).

While Catholic ethical doctrine insists upon the merciful treatment of animals, it does not place kindness towards them on the same plane of duty as benevolence towards our fellow-men. Nor does it approve of unduly magnifying, to the neglect of higher duties, our obligations concerning animals. Excessive fondness for them is no sure index of moral worth; it may be carried to un-Christian excess; and it can coexist with grave laxity in far more important matters. There are many imitators of Schopenhauer, who loved his dog and hated his kind.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
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