By Tilly Dillehay, Editor
March 12, 2014
A few weeks ago, the Times reported on a local animal cruelty arrest. A photo of a dog, which had allegedly been malnourished and left in an unheated shed during the coldest days of the winter, was included. The dog had been found frozen to the floor of the shed.
The online version of this story went viral, eventually getting about 255,000 hits from all over the US. An animal rights group up north started a petition, asking the judge involved with the case to see that justice was done. I got numerous emails from people, asking for contact information for the judge. We had dozens upon dozens of outraged commentary on our website.
All of them called for justice, many using violent terms themselves to describe the way the person responsible should be treated.
I was a little flabbergasted by all of this.
After all, I we have reported about a lot of terrible things that people do to each other. Child abuse, drug trafficking, rape and murder. But none of those stories had gone so far so fast in the cyberworld. This one—an admittedly awful case of animal cruelty—was the story that brought an avalanche of emotional, livid responses.
I decided to do a little reading about this issue, because it is clearly something I don’t understand well. I’ve never seen animals abused before. I’ve don’t really know what motivates underground dogfighting or cockfighting rings. I haven’t even owned a pet in some time (although as a child, I had a reputation as an animal lover and was often called “Ellie-Mae” by my parents… yes, that’s a nod to The Beverly Hillbillies).
But a comment by one of the local animal control officers also sparked my interest. He mentioned, offhandedly, that animal cruelty has been “linked to other criminal activity.”
Turns out, he was right.
They didn’t start doing studies on this issue until the 70s, 80s, and 90s. But in those decades, dozens of studies came out with the following claims (courtesy of the Animal Legal Defense Fund):
Animal cruelty is serious, yes. It’s serious because human beings were created to be stewards of creation, not abusers. It’s serious because life is something to treasure, not something to destroy.
But in case the idea of ‘animal rights’ is still vaguely associated with PETA nonsense in your mind, consider the above points, and then consider something else: this is not a new issue.
People have written on animal cruelty before. See Francis Wayland’s “Our duty to brutes [animals],” or John Dagg’s “Injustice to brutes.” Both of these pieces were written in in the 1800s. And both of them call on the authority of something outside of themselves to argue the point of man’s obligation to treat “brutes” well: the Bible.
Proverbs 12:10 says “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”
So you have my permission, political conservative, to take this seriously. If a person is cruel to an animal, it seems to be well documented that they are also cruel to men, women, and children.
Cruelty is like a snowball; it builds on itself and is never content to stay the same shape and size.