Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 24 August 2003 Issue
Our Silence About Animal Abuse Promotes Abuse of Humans
We have long know that the Church's silence concerning the abuse of animals was directly connected to the abuse of human children and adults. It has been well reported that people who work in factory farms and slaughterhouses have a higher incidence of domestic violence than do the people who work in non-violent working conditions.
The FBI and Perdue University studies have proven that people how torture and abuse animals have a tendency to do the same to humans, and this is one of the profiles used to identify serial killers.
On 23 August 2003 we received the following letter from "Hashell" concerning the abuse that took place in her home, and the tragedy that it produced.
I'd like to share my experience with pet abuse. I hope that people won't use my experience to gain ideas for abusing animals but rather to help stop animal abuse and in the process help to stop child abuse. Although there were other forms of abuse happening in my family, I will focus mainly on the area of pet abuse here.
As a child my pets were killed before my eyes. I watched because my dad said it would be easier to get over it, but mostly because didn't want my pets to die alone. I believe animals have feelings and coming from the perspective of creation, I have always believed that animals were put on this earth for us to enjoy and care for in a loving manner.
As a young child I tried to convince my dad of this but he too had his own idea of why animals were on this earth - for people to be in charge of (his version of caring for animals) and for animals to be afraid of people. He claimed that loving an animal was putting animals above man, next to God.
No, my dad didn't force me or my siblings to watch but neither could I let them die alone. We were not allowed to talk about what we witnessed or he would give us something to cry about. He said he was doing what God wanted us to do. It was man's job. I loved my dad dearly and tried hard to believe what he said. Needless to say, I couldn't deny what I believed, but was helpless to do anything - I didn't know there was such a thing as pet abuse - I just knew it didn't feel right.
At first he "took care" of whole litters of kittens and the mother cat by hitting each one on the head with a hammer, while my mom dug a separate hole for each animal in the garden, emotionless as if she were planting potatoes. My dad dropped one kitten into each hole and covered it with dirt.
He said they didn't suffer but died immediately because their bodies went limp. That was some consolation to me at the time but as I have grown older I doubt that the kittens were dead, rather unconscious and buried alive. (I would like more information on that.)
This kind of slaughtering pets went on for about 3 years. And we would grow our food over top of these pets that us kids had raised and loved to 6 weeks old to see them murdered.
Every time he killed a pet, he killed a part of me till I lost respect for him so much that I longed for death and became suicidal. I didn't understand my mom's role in this and how she did it without saying anything, except she felt it was her duty to support my dad in all his decisions. And that was at the expense of her own children's mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.
The summer when I was about 12, my dad decided that if even one kitten came into the house, he would kill them all. As hard as we tried to keep them out of sight, one kitten came into the house through an open door one Saturday morning. That was it.
My dad made a wooden box with a round hole in the side. He was so proud of this box - it was like a brand new invention for him - a new way to kill unwanted animals. My brother came into the house saying the box was done - we should come look - my dad had put the 1 puppy and a litter of kittens into the box with the mother cat.
When I came outside he was placing the box on the camper's exhaust pipe. (Camping took on a different meaning after this day.) The world came to a stop, time went in slow motion. My dad said the animals would die quickly - they wouldn't feel a thing. He started the truck. I wanted to open the box and take them all out, hide them - I didn't know how long it took for brain damage to set in and I knew the punishment that would come and hoped against hope that this wasn't really happening.
In the first few moments everyone held their breath, and then the sounds, like the sounds of the holocaust started - screaming. suffocating sounds, painful breathing sounds, then silence, a silent scream. My dad opened the box in front of us and there lay our 7 perfectly loved pets, black as hell from all the exhaust.
The silent scream inside my head lasted for 15 years. I still grieve the loss of my pets, which by the way he said weren't really my pets because we couldn't keep them all, so it shouldn't matter that they died.
I couldn't believe that anyone could cause such suffering to an animal or not see what it does to a child.
Later when I went into the house, my dad was already inside, I turned towards him and opened my mouth to say, "how could you do this?" I only opened my mouth. My dad said "if you cry or say one word about this, you are going to get a strapping."
I couldn't understand, I couldn't fathom the magnitude of this whole day. So I went to my room, sat on the edge of my bed and tried to believe that my dad was a Christian and I just didn't understand. As I sat there I numbed and numbed and numbed until I didn't remember anymore.
Later that fall, my sister, my twin brother and I sat by the scrap pile at my dad's shop watching some scrap wood burn. We noticed the blackened figures of the kittens and puppy in the fire. They didn't burn, they didn't burn away. As we sat there and watched we asked each other why was dad the way he was. Why did he kill all our pets. We didn't have any answers so we sat there and watched till late afternoon.
At the supper table that evening my brother told my dad, "The kittens and the puppy are all black and they don't burn away." The silence like that on the day of the holocaust surrounded the table. We weren't sure what would happen next. My brother had broken the silence. My sister and I looked at each other, then at my brother and waited.
My dad looked at my brother for a very long 2 minutes. He didn't say anything and later in the week we found that the animals had been taken away. I numbed again but it didn't take as long this time to forget.
Although my dad didn't use this method again to kill animals, when he wanted to get rid of them he put them in a sack and threw them into a river, then told my siblings not to tell me because I would get upset.
He resorted to kicking, hitting and throwing stones at pets to make them cower when they were near him. He said that animals respected him if they were afraid of him. He said he could hurt whomever he wanted in his own house (including family members).
He actually tried to make intelligent conversation about these beliefs. In my mind I could see myself holding his head and smashing it against his own brick wall that I was talking to and seeing all the pieces flying everywhere.
I was about 25 years old. I went to my room to get ready for bed. I sat on the edge of my bed the same way I had when I numbed out on the day of the holocaust. The whole day came back as if it had happened 2 minutes earlier.
Over and over I recognized the scream that had played in my head since that day. I had survived 4 suicide attempts and yet to try another time.
In counseling, when, after explaining how it had affected my life, I asked my dad if he would do anything differently, (specifically if he would kill animals like that again), he said - "I wouldn't change anything, I'd do it all over again."
All it amounted to was that he had killed our pets to control us. To make us afraid of him. My blood ran cold as I lost the last shred of hope of any kind of healthy relationship with my parents. I told them I couldn't continue in a relationship like this and wouldn't be contacting them anymore.
That was a hard thing to do but I don't have any regrets that I made that decision. I can now create environments that are safe and healthy for any pets that I have without fearing that someone will take them away and hurt them. I don't hear the scream anymore - at least not on a daily basis - except when I see animals being mistreated. I cannot be quiet.
My dad died not knowing what real love is and he missed out on a relationship with one little girl who would have done anything for him had he been more caring and sensitive to creation and to someone who worshiped the ground he walked on. Love shouldn't hurt.
If you have read this, thank you for letting me share my story.
The church, as a whole, is not an innocent bystander in this and other similar cases. It is part of the root cause, because in the vast majority of situations it has kept silent about violence directed toward animals in the home, on the farm, in sports and in entertainment. And even worse, in many cases church leaders have condoned and even encouraged such violence.
It's time we wake up to the truth that violence of any kind only leads to more violence, and the Church, who claims to follow the Prince of Peace, must take a stand against all forms of violence. The Church must and should be the leader in promoting love, compassion and peace!
Return to Animals in Print 24 August 2003 Issue
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