Love thy neighbour

Horses are friendly and wonderful animals. People have for years written about their loyalty, amazing memories and good sense – from our Chetak to Black Beauty to more recently the movie War Horse. The country today is distressed over what has happened to Shaktiman, a police horse. The problem with our society is that we have a habit of reacting to situations instead of responding with long-term solutions. The uproar over Shaktiman’s issue will die down soon and we will forget and move on. We need to realise that tweeting over one incident will not solve the problem. A larger solution is required. We need to instil a sense of love and compassion for animals in our society – one that is latent in India and needs to be awakened – and also ensure that the law enforcement agencies are trained and respond to animal cruelty effectively.

As India strongly moves forward to stand amongst the superpowers of the world, our moral duty towards our most vulnerable citizens, the animals, must not take a back seat. Violence towards people and animals are inextricably linked. People who abuse animals in their childhood often end up targeting people when they are older. Cruelty to animals in children can be a warning sign of future violent behaviour. Hence, it is of prime importance to address this issue. There are hundreds of examples to show the deep connect between animal abuse and human violence. Mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer used to cut off the heads of cats and dogs impaling them on sticks. Similarly, Albert De Salvo (“The Boston Strangler”), trapped dogs and cats in crates and shot them through the boxes.

The Macdonald Triad theory (as proposed by renowned psychiatrist JM MacDonald) links cruelty to animals, obsession with fire setting and bed-wetting past a certain age to violent behaviour, particularly homicidal behaviour and sexually predatory behaviour. As a child, serial killer and rapist Ted Bundy – who was convicted of two murders but was suspected of actually killing more than 40 women –  witnessed his father’s violence towards animals and he himself later tortured animals. Even in the fictional world of Harry Potter, we see how the ruthless villain and mass-murderer, Voldemort, exhibited tendencies of animal torture in his childhood. In renowned humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s words, “Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.”

Abusers target the powerless – crimes against animals, spouses, and children often go hand-in-hand. Children who abuse animals may be repeating a lesson learned at home; like their parents, they are reacting to anger or frustration with violence. Their violence is directed at the only individual in the family who is more vulnerable than they are: an animal.

The impact of stories on the mind of children is enormous. Hence, children should be told stories of love and compassion. At home and in schools, they should be taught that “Love thy neighbour as thyself” also extends to animals. They need to be told stories of India’s glorious past where we worshipped our rivers, mountains and animals. The earliest laws of conservation of animals date way back to the reign of Emperor Ashoka who banned killing and hunting of all animals in his kingdom.


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