Animal Writes
25 November 2001 Issue
The Psychology of Animal Abuse

by John Tierney
Campaigns Director - Association of Hunt Saboteurs
PO Box 4734
Dublin 1
[email protected] 

Violence done to humans cannot be divorced from violence done to animals for whatever purpose. In Ireland our government legalises some of the most horrific acts of cruelty to wild animals by individuals who carry themselves under the fieldsports banner. One must examine why people engage in blood sports like hare coursing, foxhunting, etc.

The first reason is that most blood sport enthusiasts have been brought up to it from childhood. They genuinely cannot see anything wrong with it. They have developed a mental mechanism known as Double Think. A person can keep two mutually contradictory codes of conduct in his mind at the same time but in separate compartments so that they never meet by this psychological mechanism. A hare coursing follower can see a hare torn to pieces without a qualm, but can be extremely attached to, and kind, towards his pet dog.

A second common psychological mechanism is rationalisation or justification. In the Middle ages people were tortured to death in the most obscene ways for a wide variety of offences without public uproar. People were brainwashed to think that it was the correct and proper way to deal with witches or heretics. They were brought up to it. It was a justifiable punishment.

It is interesting to note that paralleling this harsh and brutal treatment to humans was the treatment of animals. Cruelty to animals was the accepted norm. Anyone who objected was regarded as a crank.

When the great Irish reformer Dick Martin (Humanity Dick) tried to introduce anti-animal cruelty laws into the British Parliament he was treated with scorn and derision. Cruelty to animals has always reflected itself in cruelty to humans. Cruelty is indivisible. Like the Aids virus it can lie dormant or spread with horrifying rapidity.

A third group of mental mechanisms is what is called, the screening mechanism. The effect of this is to isolate the minds of those involved from the effects of their actions. This can be seen to effect in war as those taking part are subjected to an amount brain-washing so that they remove themselves from the results of their actions. Adversaries are depersonalised. They become "legitimate targets" and the "faceless enemy." They become mere "things."

Similarly in blood sports the hare, the fox and the stag are merely "things" to be hunted and killed. In the case of blood sports followers [of] the psychological mechanisms are complex and individual to each person. This is little doubt, but that the combination of the mechanisms outlined are operative, to a greater or lesser degree, in all participants. Certainly, the symbolic killing, the domination, the inflicting of pain and suffering are central, albeit subconscious motivations.

A Government, which legalises blood sports, is approving of the principle that cruelty and non-defensive violence against certain animals are legitimate "rights" of the citizen. The preservation of the "right to kill for sport" or "amusement" by a Government trivialises the whole concept of cruelty and violence. It is symbolic of a repressed desire to preserve this last bastion of inhumanity and the Right to Violence.

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