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  • Majd Malaeb

What Is Animal Cruelty and How Can We Stop it For Good?

Animal cruelty is real and pervasive. It happens to all different types of animals and in every corner of the world. It’s also preventable and unnecessary. Every 60 seconds, an animal is abused. That’s unconscionable, especially in our advanced culture, but animal cruelty continues to occur all over the world. Animal cruelty can take many different forms, but the impact is always the same. A sentient animal capable of love and creating social relationships experience pain, fear, and desperation. And it needs to stop. We live in a world that not only turns a blind eye to animal cruelty but condones it whether through indifference or legislation. It’s legal to raise chickens in deplorable conditions for the sole purpose of slaughtering them later. If that isn’t animal cruelty, then what is? The problem is that there aren’t enough people fighting for animal rights. If everyone started to look at animals and not just dogs and cats as fellow animals who share our planet, we would see far fewer cases of cruelty toward animals. First, though, we have to spread awareness. What is animal cruelty? What does it look like? And how can we stop contributing to it?

What Is Animal Cruelty?

Animal cruelty is the abuse toward or neglect of an animal. It’s that simple. Some aspects of animal cruelty involve purposefully putting animals in situations that harm, scare, and terrorize them, while others simply result from people looking the other way. Most animal cruelty investigations involve large-scale operations that victimize hundreds or thousands of animals at a time. For instance, the SPCA frequently goes undercover at factory farming operations to expose the cruel conditions in which farmed animals live. However, animal cruelty takes place every day in all places, not just in the world of industrial animal agriculture. It might be happening inside your neighbour’s house, at an entertainment venue in your city, or at a lab near where you work. You’ve likely encountered stray animals throughout your life, companion animals who have been abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

Cases of animal cruelty fall into several categories. Let’s explore them in more detail.

Animal Abuse: Most cases of animal abuse involve the willful harming of a nonhuman animal. When a man kicks a dog for having an accident in the house or when a woman whips her horse for failing to respond to a command, those are instances of animal abuse. One of the problems facing animal rights activists is that animal abuse rarely occurs in plain view. It happens behind closed doors and in factory farms that aren’t open to the public. When we don’t see it occur, we can pretend it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately for the affected animals, it does exist. Animal cruelty and abuse is a systemic problem that often gets handed down from parent to child, boss to worker, and culture to culture. There’s a reason most jurisdictions have animal control officers. These members of law enforcement bravely investigate cases of animal abuse, prosecute the offenders, and rescue the animals. However, they’re only effective when someone reports the abuse.

Animal Neglect: In some cases, animal neglect stems from ignorance. A person keeps an animal on his or her property and doesn’t know how to properly care for that animal. This isn’t a justification for the neglect, but a recognition that we need to educate people about the animals in their care. Neglect can also stem from disinterest. If a dog owner notices that the animal has sustained an injury, he or she is morally and legally obligated to obtain veterinary care. Unfortunately, some people are unwilling to spend the time and money necessary to heal their sick or injured pets. Similarly, a companion animal might go days or weeks without food because the owner “just forgets.” That’s not an excuse. Every day, emaciated, diseased, flea-ridden animals enter shelters. Some get adopted by loving families. Others aren’t so lucky. Worse, some animals spend their entire lives in neglectful circumstances. They eventually die of dehydration, malnutrition, untreated diseases, or other conditions.

Animal Exploitation: For some people, there’s a sense of entitlement toward animals. These people believe that we have the right to use animals in any way we wish, usually for monetary gain. Exploiting animals is a form of animal cruelty, however, especially when the exploitation goes against the animal’s instincts or forces the animal into scary or unsafe situations. Circuses, zoos, aquatic theme parks, and other venues often exploit animals in the name of entertainment. The crowds don’t see how the animals are forced into submission, kept in tiny cages, and denied socialization with others of their own species. Did you know that 96% of a circus animal’s life is spent in a cage? They’re transported from city to city in trailers that lack climate control, and they often use barbaric devices to force performances, from bullwhips and chains to cattle prods. Even zoos, which are often viewed as positive contributions to a community, have been rife with animal cruelty. Zoo animal abuse can take many forms, from starving animals to sending them to livestock options. This doesn’t even take into account the many accidents that have occurred due to poorly constructed exhibits.

Human Predation: Human beings are often called “apex predators.” Because of our unique skill set, we can dominate animals easily. The question is whether we should, and the answer is no. When humans prey on animals, we take away their life and reduce them to nothing but food on a plate. Sometimes, we even prey on animals without the desire to eat them. The fur farming industry is one solid example. There’s no reason for humans to prey on animals. Endless cases of animal cruelty come from factory farming, hunting, and fishing. Consider, for instance, that anyone can get a hunting license. There’s no test to find out that they can shoot straight. Every year, hunters maim animals with non-lethal shots, which means those animals die slow, excruciating deaths.

Why do people treat animals cruelly?

People who participate in animal cruelty don’t have horns poking out of the tops of their heads, and they don’t twirl their mustaches while cackling evilly. Instead, they look like your neighbour, your friend, your teacher, or your boss. There’s no specific reason behind animal cruelty. It can occur because of many different causes, many of which stem from human self-interest. If we care only about human beings, we can view animals through a distorted lens. In most cases, animal cruelty doesn’t feel like an immoral act to the person who commits it. He or she can justify the behaviour in myriad ways. Let’s look at one of the most common justifications.

Research shows that, historically, wars and genocide often begin with a campaign of dehumanization. In other words, we can only go to war with other human beings when we strip them of their humanity through language. We’re not built to kill each other. Animals are often viewed as objects. They’re not sentient beings with emotions and needs, but merely a means to an end for those who would victimize them. If you get really mad at your laptop for breaking down on you, there’s no moral imperative to stop you from throwing it across the room, beating it with a ball-peen hammer, or tearing it apart. You’re angry at the device, so you destroy it because it has no sentience. When we view animals the same way, animal cruelty results. The animal has no more significance than a tool or device. People who mistreat animals can separate themselves from the beings they hurt, so they don’t feel as though they’re doing anything wrong. For instance, a hunter might view a buck as food. The hunter sees the venison steak he’s going to cook for his family rather than the beautiful creature he’s captured in his rifle’s sights.

Which animals suffer the most?

Some animals face more animal cruelty than others. Generally speaking, the animals that can provide monetary value to human beings are destined to face the most cruelty. People can behave cruelly because of their nature. For instance, an unhappy person might take out that dissatisfaction on the family cat simply because the cat can’t fight back. There’s no monetary gain, just a brief sense of satisfaction that comes from dominating another creature. It’s horrific, but it happens. Other forms of animal cruelty are slightly less obvious but just as disastrous. These occur because the people responsible for the cruelty truly believe that they’re acting in humanity’s best interests. People who own and work in factory farming operations, for instance, believe that they’re providing a necessary service. They’re slaughtering animals for their meat to feed omnivorous human beings. However, we don’t need animal meat or by-products to survive. Furthermore, many of the people in these operations commit acts of unnecessary cruelty just because.

What Are the Best Ways to Combat Animal Cruelty?

Animals need our help. They can’t end animal cruelty on their own, so we have to step in and let people who victimize our fellow animals know that it’s not okay. Joining animal rights organizations is a great first step. Whether you donate your time or your money, you can become part of the solution. These organizations launch investigations, report animal cruelty to authorities, raise awareness, and rescue animals. If you witness animal abuse for yourself, report it. You don’t want to confront an abuser on your own because you could get hurt, but neither should you turn away from it. Maybe you have a family member who has begun hoarding animals. You might feel guilty for reporting it, but remember that you’re helping the animals as well as your loved one. Additionally, avoid attending entertainment events that victimize animals. By paying for tickets, you’re telling the event organizers that you approve of their methods. Sometimes, the best way to prevent animal cruelty is to withhold your dollars.

Consider going vegan if you haven’t already. Don’t eat meat, eggs, dairy, honey, or any other animal by-products. Police your non-food products so you don’t buy anything that has been tested on animals or contains products that come from our furred and feathered friends. The most important thing you can do is spread awareness. Let people know about the animal cruelty that goes on in all these situations. Share articles like this one on social media, invite people to ask you questions about animal abuse and don’t miss an opportunity to explain why you don’t eat meat.

In conclusion, animal cruelty is real and pervasive. Speciesism is the cause of these kinds of abuses. Because people see animals as “less valuable” than humans, these atrocities continue to happen over and over. It happens to all different types of animals and in every corner of the world. It’s also preventable and unnecessary. Animals are sentient creatures who deserve our respect and protection. Many aren’t aggressive toward human beings unless they’re threatened, and we’ve already stolen much of their wildlife space for our own needs. The last thing we need to do is add to their suffering. There’s no reason to buy animal products at the store or to participate in activities that increase animal cruelty. You have the power to vote for your elected officials, and you also have the power to vote for animals with your dollars. As more people become aware of animal cruelty, we’ll have more power to stop it. Don’t just read this article. Share it everywhere. Contribute your own voice to the cause. Have you ever witnessed animal cruelty for yourself? What did you do about it?


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