Maneka Sanjay Gandhi
All of us want peace on earth but, as we grow in size, we humans have become more distressed and more apart from each other. While we live together like lemmings, unfortunately we do not behave like lemmings who live in harmony. We have split the world into small pools of hatred and not only do we attack each other ceaselessly, we attack our own planet and everyone on it without thinking.
Do we want our children to grow up like us? No. We want our children to be happy but happiness has its own disciplines: gentleness, mindfulness, respect, a desire for peace, a love for nature. But do we raise them like this? Or do we teach them to be vicious and fearful from the day we think they can learn.
We teach them to be scared of all creatures, and fear breeds violence. By laughing when they pull up grass, or squash snails and ants, or by making them watch animal-based cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry where guns are fun, is sending your children on the path to destruction.
How does watching, or taking part in cruelty to animals influence behaviour in children?
Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, believed that the human psyche (personality) is structured into three parts – the id, ego, and superego. Children develop the id which deals with the instinctive side of human behaviour quickly. But it takes time for them to develop their superego – the one that deals with moral conscience, which is why in their early years from five-10, children are unaware of the moral right or wrong and usually act on their instincts and rely on imitation. If we show them cartoons, and these glorify violent games against animals, acting on their instincts they will develop moral leanings that they see in such animation. All violence, posing as fun, is going to bias their mental development and emotional understanding. From there they go on to video games: 90 per cent of those are about violent supremacy, crashing, killing, shooting.
In the Little Albert experiment, researchers John B Watson and Rosalie Rayner worked on stimulus generalisation. If a child has been taught to fear one thing, what else will he fear in general? A little boy Albert was conditioned to fear a white rat. They observed that Albert showed fear in response to similar stimuli – he started fearing everything that was white – a white dog, a rabbit and even white hair.
This study proved that it’s difficult for children to distinguish between conditioned stimuli and generally similar stimuli. Meaning: if children are conditioned to believe that animal violence is justified, there is a high chance that they will start believing that all violence is
The Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego showed that the prefrontal cortex grew smaller, and less active, in people who had shown aggressive tendencies as children. This validates the graduation hypothesis, which suggests that the presence of cruelty to animals at one developmental period predicts interpersonal violence at a later age. Animal abusers will always work their way up from harming animals to harming people. Their brain development actually predicts it.
Early experiences of violence may confer lasting damage at the basic levels of nervous, endocrine, and immune systems, and can even influence the genetic alteration of DNA (Building a framework for global surveillance of the public health implications of adverse childhood experiences, Atlanta University, 2010). What does that mean? It means that you are not just producing a violent child/person, you are changing the brain and DNA so that his children will be inclined towards violence from the day they are born. Is that the world you want?
One of the saddest things I have ever seen is a tied dog being beaten to death by a woman with her high heels. A child being strangled slowly. Both films are part of an industry called Crush and Snuff. Crush videos typically depict humans, usually women, crushing, stomping on, or impaling small, helpless animals to satisfy the bizarre sexual fetishes of their viewers. Snuff kill young children actually. The same people produce both type of films.
Jeff Vilencia, the person who introduced Crush films, recalls with pride that even as a child he was fascinated by seeing insects and animals being stepped upon, and was encouraged in his violence. Is he better than any serial murderer?
Cruelty to animals is a hallmark background for serial murderers. Eleonora Gullone, writing for Journal of Animal Ethics, states that Ted Bundy or Jeffery Dahmer, world famous serial killers, were also known for their animal abuse tendencies. During the trial of convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, a psychology professor testified that the teenager, who killed 10 people with a rifle, had “pelted—and probably killed—numerous cats with marbles from a slingshot when he was about 14”.
Another study by Bill Henry and Cheryl Sanders, State College of Denver, found that nearly all homicidal sex offenders in the study engaged in significantly more animal cruelty when young.
The Violence Graduation Hypothesis suggests that animal cruelty in childhood is predictive of violence towards humans in adulthood. Of the number of serial murderers in a study, published in Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 36 per cent engaged in animal cruelty as children, 46 per cent engaged in animal cruelty as adolescent, and 36 per cent engaged in animal cruelty as adults. This theory suggests that children practice animal cruelty, and are desensitised to the consequences of violent behaviour, before they graduate to violence against humans.
According to the paper, ‘The Relationship of Animal Abuse to violence and other forms of Antisocial Behaviour’ by Arluke, Levin, Luke and Ascione, the presence of cruelty to animals at one developmental period predicts interpersonal violence at a later developmental period. The study showed that animal abuse is uniquely related to violence towards humans, as opposed to other forms of violence. The results obtained by the study indicate that animal abusers were significantly more likely to be involved in some form of criminal behaviour, including violent crimes.
On January 1, 2019, America’s FBI included acts of cruelty against animals alongside felony crimes like arson, burglary, assault, and homicide in the FBI’s criminal database NIBRS, and began collecting data from 18,000 law enforcement agencies on acts of animal cruelty, including gross neglect, torture, organised abuse, and sexual abuse.
“Studies say that cruelty to animals is a precursor to larger crime,” said Nelson Ferry, of the Bureau’s Criminal Statistics Management Unit, which manages NIBRS.
When police in India underplay, and try to avoid registering animal abuse crimes, this is what they should read – or be taught in police training academies. The report titled ‘Animal Cruelty as a gateway of Crime’, released by the US Department of Justice, estimated that animal abusers are five times more likely than non–animal abusers to commit violent crimes against people, four times more likely to commit property crimes, and three times more likely to have a record for drug or disorderly conduct offenses.