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April 14, 2008

Cause and Effect

Animal cruelty is a vice, and our society should fight it with every ounce of energy we can muster. Abusing animals is a moral issue, and it commands the attention of people of conscience, lawmakers, and corporations. Given the public's love and appreciation for animals, we have a built-in advantage in taking on human-caused abuse and exploitation.

But our cause is buttressed by the connectivity of animal cruelty to other social ills. The fact is, when we cause harm to animals, there's usually some other closely correlated negative effect. Animal fighters do not just perpetrate acts of cruelty; they are often knee-deep in other criminal behavior, such as narcotics, human-on-human violence, money laundering, or some other form of mayhem. In our investigation of the Hallmark/Westland Meat Co., we documented cruelty to cows. But we also saw that abusing animals resulted in demonstrable food safety threats—to say nothing of the devastating effect on the beef industry itself.

Those of us immersed in animal protection know of these connections. And these ideas were elegantly knitted together in Barbara Cook Spencer's essay in last Friday’s edition of The Christian Science Monitor. Spencer writes:

Much as bullies demoralize themselves when they dominate or ride roughshod over those who are meek, vulnerable, or defenseless, it should be obvious that human beings are the ones demoralized by the commission of inhumane acts.

I've touched on this argument before. But it bears repeating. Cruelty is indivisible, and when we do harm to animals, that's just one manifestation of how this behavior erodes the fabric of a civil society.

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