by Margaret Duggan
A dustman in Lewisham, in the act of tipping the contents of a bin in
the back of his lorry, saw a live kitten about to disappear under the
steel teeth of the machinery which compresses the rubbish. He grabbed it
just in time and took it to Mrs Joan Watson. The kitten was small and
pathetic, and she hated to think what might have happened to its
brothers and sisters. As so often in the past, she made room for it
among her own collection of pets.
It was Mrs. Watson who recently wrote the official letter to the
General Synod's Board for Social Responsibility telling them of the
resolution passed at a recent conference of the Christian Consultative
Council for the Welfare of Animals. The Council had discussed the
Faith in the City report and regretted that, in their account of the
sufferings of humans in deprived inner-city areas, the authors had made
no mention of the suffering of animals in the same areas. The Council's
resolution called for a supplementary report on the subject.
The CCCWA has no shortage of evidence that people can be so
frustrated and brutalised by their environment that they turn to inflict
the cruelty on others that they feel has been inflicted on themselves.
Their victims are usually the weak and defenceless; and this can mean
torturing animals as well as battering babies and abusing small
children. The facts show that the two often go together. One sort of
cruelty and neglect leads to the other.
Mrs. Watson speaks with feeling of the cases she has known in her
area. At least two dogs have been thrown out of high-rise flats: one in
the middle of a row between husband and wife, the other in a fit of
temper by a maladjusted teenager. Both dogs were dead of multiple
injuries by the time the RSPCA inspector reached them.
Animals also suffer from drug-abuse - in humans. Two cats were found
nailed to doors by addicts who were high at the time.
The recent publicity about organised dog-fights gave the impression
that this horrible pastime took place out of town. Mrs. Watson has had
plenty of evidence that this is also a "sport" of the inner cities,
usually held in derelict buildings. Cats and kittens are used as bait to
train the dogs, and their torn and dismembered bodies have frequently
RSPCA inspectors say that reported cases of cruelty have recently
increased by thirty-three per cent, only some of which can be accounted
for by people being more ready to telephone with their suspicions. They
believe that it simply follows the pattern of other violence in society,
much of it exacerbated by deprivation.
Some of the cases of animal cruelty are quite clearly the result of
people finding that they can no longer cope with a pet. The kitten in
the dustbin was probably a case in point. Unwanted litters of kittens
are commonly put live into the rubbish chutes of blocks of flats. Many
dogs, cats and birds are left to starve in empty flats when their human
owners move on to other accommodation. The Battersea Dogs' Home always
takes in a record number of abandoned puppies that have been given as
presents at Christmas-time, or dogs that have been set loose when their
owners have gone on holiday.
Cruelty and callousness towards animals is always a sign of something
seriously wrong with the humans concerned, because compassion, sympathy
and concern cannot be compartmentalised. Cruelty breeds cruelty. The
bully was nearly always bullied himself. The violent parent was almost
always the child of violent parents. Children who are themselves abused
will turn on a creature smaller than themselves to inflict cruelty in
their turn - like the small boy who set fire to a cat.
But it would be wrong to think of the terrible things done to animals
simply in terms of symptoms of human suffering. The animals themselves
should be a matter of concern to all Christians; for they, too, are
sensate beings, creatures of the same Creator as ourselves, and we have
every reason to think that they feel pain as we do.
For the time being there can be no question of a special supplement
to Faith in the City on animals in urban priority areas; there
simply is no available money for the commission to continue its work and
produce a further report. But the Board for Social Responsibility has
promised to pass the matter to its Environmental Issues Reference Panel,
which is to produce a major report on environmental ethics. That, for
the moment, is all that the Christian Consultative Council for the
Welfare of Animals can hope for; that - and a growth in the number of
Christians who recognise in animals the distant cousins of the human
From the Church Times dated 4 April 1986.