When does abuse become cruelty? Is any abuse cruelty? Is cruelty to animals in the eyes and feelings of the beholder only, or can an objective criterion be ascertained that effectively and unequivocally specifies the essential ingredients constituting cruel treatment?
We have laws on the books against cruelty to animals, and yet 100 million animals per year are used for experimentation worldwide. Beyond that, dog fighting and bear baiting (tormenting) continue as entertainment pursuits of the cruel and sadistic, those whose empathy mechanism is broken. I've seen pictures of people in the stands watching trained attack dogs [as many as 300 in rapid succession at some events] bite and tear at a helpless de-clawed and de-toothed bear tethered to the ground. They're smiling, obviously enjoying themselves. What the hell is wrong with these people?
Dogfighting is a felony in every US state, but Montana is the ONLY one where spectating is still legal–placing it dead last in a ranking of state dogfighting laws.
Poachers of threatened and endangered species in Africa, Asia and elsewhere are nothing short of sociopathic. And it's not confined to individuals and small bands, although there is that, of course; poaching of this kind is mainly done by organized and well-funded international groups. There's a lot of money involved [one rhino horn can bring over 175,000 dollars], and, besides the unfortunate fact that governments lack the will to forcefully go after poachers, it doesn't take a cynical eye to accept that in some cases government officials and those on the ground entrusted with protecting these endangered animals are bribed to look the other way. Plus locals, villagers who earn little, are easily enticed to help poachers. Money is all that matters to these people, it's a cold-hearted business, that's all, and the demand is intense in China, Viet Nam and other Asian markets where rhino horn is believed to have medicinal properties.
And what's with you trophy hunters? Do you imagine you've validated your manhood, punched your Cro Magnon card, by shooting an animal with a high-powered rifle from a safe distance? Do you imagine you're on some kind of religious quest, a spiritual undertaking to find your earthly soul? Or do you just like to kill things that can kill you, for fun? Who's superior now, eh?
What bullshit! Animals are not trophies.
* Convention on International trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora | Leopard Quotas | CITES
PDF File | Sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties Bangkok (Thailand), 3-14 March 2013
We have to put the brakes on all this.
A basic attitude, a fundamental assumption, needs to change in the human psyche, an evolutionary leap of consciousness has to occur in each one of us, a realization that we humans and the rest of nature are in this together, whatever this is, what it all means, our collective purpose. Elsewise, living for ourselves alone will become not only a very lonely business indeed, but also a life where we'll have learned the ultimate function and supreme significance of ecology's role in maintaining and sustaining life on a global scale by the sense of all connections with nature gone, by the loss of real physical meaning in the world, and by a strange, discordant emptiness.
An attitude of contempt to the point of sadism towards other animals can only come back to bite us, eventually, if not immediately. That's an evolutionary path I don't want to see humanity go down. It's a direction, an offshoot, a way of seeing the world that, from its inception, has indelibly remained imprinted in Man's mind through history--responsible for many extinctions--while gaining strength in intensity of late, and, because of its human nature, resonates wider repercussions through society, informing expressions that, on the surface, may not be perceivable as having a direct connection. The ripples fan out and permeate, by osmosis, if nothing else.
In spite of what we know, we accept things as they are--humankind's interacting relationships with the natural world--because, even at its worst, we can dismiss it with it's the nature of the beast, and focus on our own personal lives. Even as we may find cruelty to animals repugnant and immoral--cruelty in general, for that matter--somewhere in our reptilian brain we feel obligated and honor-bound to validate this mode of being, a natural, deeply-ingrained way that kept Mankind going through the ice-age and before. But is that true? How much did cooperation with the natural order and empathy with the other inhabitants of planet Earth play a part in Man's survival?
The root of cruelty stems from somewhere. Perhaps in former times and among certain cultures--prehistory--it manifested as justifiable cold-hearted ruthlessness when it came to hunting, an 'us' verses 'them' mentality. But there are cultures where just the opposite is true; Native Americans, for instance; the tribes of Eastern Siberia, all guided by shamans, people in touch with nature. But, in either case, if we peel the cultural skin back, when the precursors of humanity first stood to walk through the high grass, they probably did not receive predators with kindness. However, that inner willfulness and unconditioned aggression, always potentially present as our legacy, have taken on an ugly twist in our current [last 10,000 years] relations with other animals, and seems to be accelerating in that direction more recently. On the one hand, pleasure is associated with it, the crueler forms of what passes for entertainment especially, and on the other, a rational acceptance of its need, distancing us from any moral-bound inference.
On a deeper level still, however, we mustn't overlook the possibility that Earth has its own agenda, and there may come a time--if it's not already in the works--when we humans are seen and judged as a destructive virus that needs to be eliminated, for the health of the whole.