Cruelty to animals

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Domitian, one of the 17 macaque monkeys experimented on during the animal experiment in Silver Spring.

Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse, animal neglect or animal cruelty, is the infliction by omission (animal neglect) or by commission by humans of suffering or harm upon any non-human.


  • The destruction of animals for food, in its details and tendencies, involves so much of cruelty as to cause every reflecting individual — not destitute of the ordinary sensibilities of our nature — to shudder.
    • William Alcott, Vegetable Diet: As Sanctioned by Medical Men, and by Experience in All Ages, Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon, 1838, p. 267.
  • Every system of law is a system of education, and, in extending legal sanction to the scientific torture of animals, the State educates the nation in a false view of the relations of man to the lower creatures, encourages selfishness and cruelty and the disregard of the rights of the weak by the strong.
    • Frances Cobbe, The Modern Rack: Papers on Vivisection (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1889), Ch. XV: "Four Reasons for Total Prohibition of Vivisection", pp. 223–224
  • The FBI has found that a history of cruelty to animals is one of the traits that regularly appear in its computer records of serial rapists and murderers, and the standard diagnostic and treatment manual for psychiatric and emotional disorders lists cruelty to animals as a diagnostic criterion for conduct disorders.
  • In general, the core moral and philosophical question at the heart of animal rights activism is now being seriously debated: Namely, what gives humans the right or justification to abuse, exploit, and torture non-human species? If there comes a day when some other species (broadly defined) — such as machines — surpass humans in intellect and cognitive complexity, will they have a valid moral claim to treat humans as commodities whose suffering and death can be assigned no value? The irreconcilable contradiction of lavishing love and protection on dogs and cats, while torturing and slaughtering farm animals capable of a deep emotional life and great suffering, is becoming increasingly apparent.
  • After looking at this building there appeared a white dome on the top of a hill, to which men were coming from all quarters. When I asked about this they said that a Jogi lived there, and when the simpletons come to see him he places in their hands a handful of flour, which they put into their mouths and imitate the cry of an animal which these fools have at some time injured, in order that by this act their sins may be blotted out. I ordered them to break down that place and turn the Jogi out of it, as well as to destroy the form of an idol there was in the dome.
  • I have this small but sure voice deep inside me that says ‘NO’ every time I witness violence and I don’t ever want to stifle that voice with apathy. Supporting animal abuse in any way quiets that voice. To hurt animals is to disconnect me from that most caring, compassionate voice. I see them as such spiritual creatures, much more awake than humans and I feel if I can accept the abuse of these innocent, sentient creatures and my role in it then I could easily become apathetic about…well, everything, and that is a scary thought. […] I don’t know why we are still using our power and our blessings to quash animals. Why have we not yet assumed our rightful role as their caretakers? And every time I look into a cow’s eyes and see the gentle soul dwelling in that enormous powerful body, I feel like the animals are patiently waiting, quietly willing us to just catch on.
  • All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.
    • Mahavira, Ācharanga Sutra, Book 1, lecture 4, lesson 1, as translated by H. Jacobi, quoted in The Boundless Circle: Caring for Creatures and Creation (1996) by Michael W. Fox, p. 262

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