Are Animals Victims of Scapegoating?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Are Animals Victims of Scapegoating?

Nonhumans are certainly victims on an extreme and massive scale. Every year, billions of land animals suffer short lives filled with pain and misery until they are murdered in adolescence or early adulthood. Perhaps this is just a manifestation of human selfishness – people recognizing that it’s wrong but not caring because they believe they benefit from abusing nonhumans.
While selfishness is likely a factor in humanity’s violence against nonhumans, I think the scapegoating process is also at work. A hallmark of scapegoating is that excessive guilt is attributed to victims prior to their victimization. Scapegoating requires a degree of ignorance and misunderstanding. If those engage in scapegoating realize that the accusation is false, they will feel guilt rather than vindication when they victimize. Jesus seemed to recognize the scapegoating process at work when, as he was being crucified, he prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Do animal abusers (and those who pay people to abuse animals) know not what they do?
I think humanity’s fear of the “animal side” of the human psyche has encouraged people to denigrate and despise nonhumans. Psychologists call “projection” the tendency to attribute to others what we fear or despise in ourselves. Next essay, I will suggest ways in which humans project their inner demons onto animal victims.

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