Humane Religion Magazine
November - December 1996 Issue
“There is no difference between the pain of man and the pain of other living beings” Maimonides
In the past few years, social and behavioral scientists have begun to notice the connection between the abuse of animals by children, and their subsequent abuse of other people. Consequently, the matter is now being formally examined, using statistical methods that establish a verifiable basis for claiming this connection.
But millennia before this scientific analysis was begun, the relationship between the abuse of human beings and the abuse of animals was recognized by the Latter Prophets of Israel. For more than a century men like Amos, Micah, Jeremiah and Isaiah consistently linked cruelty to animals with the oppression of powerless human beings. They prophesied against the brutality and corruption of their countrymen proclaiming that it was mercy compassion, and social justice that God desired, not the abuse of men or animals.
Jeremiah stood in the gate of the Temple at Jerusalem and told his people to stop the violence of temple sacrifices as well as the oppression of the helpless humans among them. "If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place [by animal sacrifice] I will cause you to dwell in this land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever." (Jer 7:6,7)
The Prophets of Israel linked cruelty to animals with the oppression of humans
Isaiah's prophecies also linked the abuse inflicted on animals with the way in which defenseless people were treated. "What are your multiplied sacrifices to me?...I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats...Cease to do evil. Learn to do good; seek justice; reprove the ruthless. Defend the orphan, plead for the widows." `(Isaiah 1:11,14,17.)
And speaking for God, Amos indicted his people for the violence they perpetrated on animals in the ritual of animal sacrifice; a violence that was reflected in their unjust treatment of other human beings. "When you offer me holocausts I reject your oblations, and refuse to look at your sacrifices of fattened cattle...but let justice flow like water and integrity like an unfailing stream."
But now, as in the past, many people refuse to listen to voices that urge compassion and concern in the name of goodness or of God. However, those who turn a deaf ear to such pleas can often be motivated by self-interest. And as the various sciences produce evidence which demonstrates that cruelty to animals is a precursor of the abuse of human beings, more attention will be paid to the plight of animals whose torment is now ignored.
An important meeting examining this relationship between the deliberate violence inflicted on animals by children, and the violence they later inflict on humans, was held January 16, 1997 in Macon Georgia. This kind of meeting represents a milestone in the struggle for animal rights because there are those who will respond to this issue only as it is "scientifically" proven that cruelty to animals has an adverse affect on their own lives.
Such motivation may be far removed from the biblical injunction to "do justice and to love kindness" because this is what God expects of us. (Micah: 6:8) But enlightened self-interest can save countless animals from tormented lives and untimely deaths. #