“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” –Anthropologist Margaret Mead
One of the most often ignored links in our society is between the violence to animals and the violence to humans. The general tendency is to ignore the violence to animals committed by serial killers and other criminals which is really an important failure, yet not a surprising one, on the part of the shallow mainstream media. However, law enforcement agencies like the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) have learned to profile possible serial killers based on their past abuses of other animals. More and more coordinating is being done between animal protection agencies and law enforcement to recognize the signs of potential abuse to animals and humans.
As the New York Times reported in 2010: “…Many U.S. communities now cross-train social-service and animal-control agencies in how to recognize signs of animal abuse as possible indicators of other abusive behaviors. In Illinois and several other states, new laws mandate that veterinarians notify the police if their suspicions are aroused by the condition of the animals they treat. The state of California recently added Humane Society and animal-control officers to the list of professionals bound by law to report suspected child abuse and is now considering a bill in the State Legislature that would list animal abusers on the same type of online registry as sex offenders and arsonists.”
It is obviously progress. However, the abuse of the family “pet” is in itself a symptom of a greater issue, that is, it doesn’t address the real underlying problem of our violent society.
To understand the reasons behind the violence to animals and then humans, one has to look at the way our society raises children, particularly boys, to become competitive, aggressive, “strong”. They are taught to repress their natural compassion and instead cultivate domination habits. From childhood, they are fed foods of violence like animal flesh and animal secretions. In order to become men, they can’t show emotions, they can’t care for animals, they have to dominate women, etc… Is it any wonder then that the majority of the violence in the world is committed by men and boys? Will Tuttle analyzed this very well in The World Peace Diet. We are de-facto raising potential psychopaths.
Preventing kids from torturing animals is not just about telling them that it is wrong. It starts with completely changing the lifestyle they are accustomed to. If a child hurts another animal, you can almost be certain that he may have a very bad family environment (violent parents for instance) and of course lots of animal “foods” in his diet. Animal flesh is linked to masculine aggression and domination. Because these children feel a sense of oppression, they vent their frustration and their anger on those who are more vulnerable than they are: the family dog. It is recognized that they become violent themselves to the family pets in order to have some control over their own powerlessness in seeing the animal being abused, going as far as sometimes killing the animal themselves.
And as an article from the American Anti-Vivisection Society concludes: “Those caught in such a vicious abuse-reactive cycle will not only continue to expose the animals they love to suffering merely to prove that they themselves can no longer be hurt, but they are also given to testing the boundaries of their own desensitization through various acts of self-mutilation. In short, such children can only achieve a sense of safety and empowerment by inflicting pain and suffering on themselves and others.” A vicious circle is therefore established and even harder to change.
There are even kids who torture animals out of boredom. But is it any surprising when they eat the dismembered body parts of violently slaughtered animals since almost the time they were born? If they think nothing of eating slaughtered animals (as we taught them), why are we acting surprised as a society if they don’t care about dogs and cats?
Women and girls also inject the food of the cultural programming of death but they are taught to be more passive and subservient. We live in a patriarchal world which, as Carol Adams documented so well in The Sexual Politics of Meat, teaches women that they are still here to pleasure men and do what men want. The tendency of women is in fact to protect companion animals in the home and to suffer at the hands of men in order for the animal not to get hurt. A lot of them are afraid to leave an abusive husband because of the risk of retaliation to their companion animal and, by extension, their children.
As Carol Adams notes in The Sexual Politics of Meat: “Batterers, rapists, serial killers, and child sexual abusers have victimized animals. They do so for a variety of reasons: marital rapists may use a companion animal to intimidate, coerce, control, or violate a woman. Serial killers often initiate violence first against animals. The male students who killed their classmates in various communities in the 1990s often were hunters or known to have killed animals. Child sexual abusers often use threats and/or violence against companion animals to achieve compliance from their victims. Batterers harm or kill a companion animal as a warning to their partners that she could be next; as a way of further separating her from meaningful relationships; to demonstrates his power and her powerlessness.”
That is a of course a result of the patriarchal mindset which seeks to repress inner compassion and hides the link between our culture of oppression of other animals and oppression of women.
What are the solutions? This is not a easy answer as this mindset is so pervasive in our society. We must educate people to recognize the links between the violence of our food system, the psychological and spiritual injuries we create in our children and how serial killers and other criminals emerge in our society. For most people, the idea of torturing a dog is abhorrent, and rightly so. But no one really calls into question the idea that we torture billions of cows, chickens, pigs, ducks, goats, etc… every year, in the United States alone. No one seems to connect the dots of the violence in our lifestyles.
The law is starting to seriously address the links between the violence to other animals and the violence to humans and early intervention may prevent more brutality. Arresting people who commit horrible crimes on other animals and humans serves the only purpose of preventing them from doing it again. All of this is progress but it does not provide healing or may always prevent the next serial killer from appearing and make national news. By participating in what Dr. Will Tuttle calls “the daily rituals of violence”, we are all in fact serial killers. Anyone of us could suddenly snap and end up on a killing rampage. Most serial killers are also using legal anti-depressants and therefore snap more easily. These legal drugs make it easier for their buried tendencies created since birth by society to just emerge and take them over.
Hitlers are not born, they are made. Violence is not our real nature, it is taught. We are not born with killer instincts, society molds us. The patriarchal mindset teaches violence and competition and therefore creates violent men (and women). Science in fact is starting to agree with this and even now shows the neurological damage in violent children. But science also shows that being compassionate to them increases their empathy. So there is essentially one tool which can restore the damage our society has done to children and that is to treat them with love. It is possible to repair the neurological damage inflicted on them instead of just punishing them or doing old fashioned psychological counseling. The power of meditation is also a tool of transformation which can help adults in rehabilitation as showed in the excellent documentary The Dhamma Brothers which followed a group of prisoners in a high security prison. We also have the example of the hunter who nurses a calf back to health in an episode of “30 days”. It is not merely “light and love fluff” anymore as some people sometimes believe. The brain is in fact malleable and can be re-taught empathy. Science has caught up with spirituality.
Veganism is obviously the most important aspect of repairing psychological damage and prevent further violence. It allows us to bring back the qualities we were born with. They are not gone, they are just buried deep inside us. Obviously, for the Hitlers of the world, we can’t expect much changes. Some may be too far removed from their true selves that I don’t hold much hope for them. If more and more of us build a strong force for positive change, this, however, may help reduce the general violence we see currently but we need to seriously understand that showing anger and lack of empathy to others reduces the chances of them ever changing. Science now proves that.
By teaching our children (and adults) to be compassionate Vegans and in touch with their true natures, we can then prevent the next serial killers. We may not change people who are too far gone down the road of self-destruction, but we can bring about a new generation of visionaries who can help heal the world. Only then will we see a break in the link between violence to other animals and humans.
– The Animal-Cruelty Syndrome – New York Times online http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/magazine/13dogfighting-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&
– Carol J. Adams “The Sexual Politics of Meat”.
– The Animal Abuse-Human Violence Connection – PAWS People Helping Animals http://www.paws.org/human-violence-connection.html
– The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle has an extensive chapter on how children, particularly boys are raised in our society.
– The Dhamma Brothers is a wonderful documentary on High Security prisoners trying meditation for a months and talking about their own inner transformation. Highly recommended and watchable on Netflix.
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