During my time at PETA, I’ve heard about a lot of cruelty-to-animals incidents involving children and teenagers. From shooting geese with air guns to kicking dogs and drowning cats, the cruelty that people show towards other living beings is always shocking.
Just a couple of weeks ago, five teenagers were arrested for allegedly killing a duckling in Salisbury.
When I hear about cases such as these, I realise how important it is to provide children with a humane education from an early age.
If children can’t empathise with the suffering of others – if they can sit back and watch, even laugh, when others in their group deliberately torment an animal (or worse, if they torture an animal themselves) – then aside from causing great suffering to animals, they are also unlikely to be capable of empathising with people.
In fact, there’s a strong link between cruelty to animals and violence towards humans. According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, human beings who hurt animals are likely to move onto even bigger “game” – their fellow humans.
One of my favourite plays is Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, and there is a scene from that play which always sticks in my mind. In the scene, Blanche DuBois says, “[S]ome things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable! It is the one unforgivable thing, in my opinion, and the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty”.
Deliberate cruelty is disturbing and unnecessary, and we can try to prevent it by teaching kindness and compassion from an early age. How we act as parents and teachers and how we behave in public places all play a part in spreading a compassionate message and encouraging children to look upon the animals with whom we share this planet with respect and kindness.