BOOKS: The Link Between Animal Abuse & Human Violence
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2010:
The Link Between Animal Abuse
& Human Violence
Edited by Andrew Linzey
Sussex Academic Press (P.O. Box 139, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN24
9BP, U.K.), 2009. 300 pages, hardcover. $84.95.
Thirty-six professionals, mostly well known in the field,
contribute to The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence.
Hundreds and perhaps thousands of references offer theories about
Why do some five-year-old boys who stomp kittens to death
grow up to be ax murderers while others lead constructive lives? No
one really knows, but there is a lot of speculation. Marie Louise
Peterson and David P. Farrington in chapter two suggest that children
who are cruel to animals lack empathy. Why they lack empathy is open
to speculation. Is it biological, environmental, or both?
Elenora Gullone in chapter three cites the nine motivations
behind animal abuse discovered decades ago by Stephen Kellert and
Alan Felthous through interviewing convicted criminals. Jack Levin
and Arnold Arluke in chapter 11 suggest that serial killers
“retaliate for perceived injustices they have suffered.” So they
take out their rage on humans and animals. But why do some
individuals with festering grievances go on murderous rampages,
while others merely fulminate in web postings? No one can say for
Studies discussed in The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human
Violence indicate that animal abusers tend to share low-self esteem,
exposure to domestic violence, and academic failure. People who
inflict violence against humans usually harm animals as well, if
they have contact with animals. For instance, caseworkers
investigating child abuse often find maltreated domestic pets in the
same home. The exceptions tend to be homes where there are no pets.
The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence presents an
interesting discussion in Chapter 17 about the FBI and animal
cruelty. An agent in the FBI Behavioral Science unit offers his
perspectives about repeat offenders, animal abuse, and serial
murders. I’d like to hear more from the agent, as his contributions
are too brief.
Teach compassion and respect for all living things, Joan E.
Schaffner recommends in Chapter 18. Such teaching may prevent a
child from becoming violent.
But what about children who are already killing or maiming
animals? What options are available for treating an eight-year-old
boy who sets puppies on fire? Clearly such cases presents the boy’s
school, his family, and the criminal justice system with moral,
ethical, and legal dilemmas. The boy is too young for
incarceration, but ignoring the nature of his crime is not possible,
either. Can he be rehabilitated? And if so, where? Few established
programs exist to successfully treat violent youthful offenders.
The scope of The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence
is mostly restricted to violence against domestic pets, although
hunting is mentioned toward the end. What about the people who
debeak chickens, and operate puppy mills?
Much more animal abuse and neglect occurs within legal
parameters than is recognized as criminal. Participating in legal
activities that harm animals almost certainly has similar effects on
the psyche, but this appears to have barely been studied.
–Debra J. White