THE EDITOR: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” This famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi is indicative of the importance of pursuing the larger law apart from the recent updating of the local animal cruelty laws via the Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2020 in the House.
It is to be duly noted that the previous fines for cruelty to animals was $400 and two months imprisonment. This was under an old law dating back 100 years ago, namely the Summary Offences Act of 1921. However, those amendments to the act now provide for a fine of $2,000 and five months imprisonment.
While efforts to amend the old law began in 2018 and the proposed changes laid in Parliament in 2019, the House of Representatives must be commended for ensuring passage of the bill this year, which in no small way now provides a deterrent to those who may be tempted to carry out acts of cruelty against animals.
It is also noteworthy to mention the tireless efforts of the several animal welfare activists who have been championing the rights of neglected and abandoned animals for many years. Thankfully their hard work and dedication were not in vain.
However, legislation by itself cannot work without an alert and civic-minded citizen response to the problem. Reporting incidents of cruelty against animals to the relevant authorities, whenever and wherever they occur, is imperative.
In the words of Matthew Scully, “Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honourable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us.”
Therefore, the barbaric torturing of animals has no place in a civilised society, more so since there is an established link between extreme cruelty to animals and violence against humans, inclusive of child and elder abuse, domestic violence, as well as other violent behaviour.
“If man is not to stifle his human feelings he must practise kindness towards animals for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of man by his treatment of animals” – Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) Lectures on Ethics.
Furthermore, a landmark study conducted by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Northeastern University revealed that perpetrators of animal cruelty are five times as likely to also harm humans.
Additionally, Phil Arkow, co-ordinator of the National Link Coalition – a US group focusing on the interconnection between violence toward animals and humans – has written extensively on the topic, with the group labelling the phenomena a “predictor crime.”
According to the research, if a child is cruel to animals it can possibly be an indication that the child was also a victim of serious abuse or neglect and therefore children witnessing animal cruelty who were themselves victims of abuse and neglect were at a greater risk of becoming abusers.
Therefore, as pointed out, there is a direct correlation between acts of cruelty to animals and acts of violence towards humans.
This is all the more reason why cruelty towards animals must be taken seriously by law enforcement, and therefore it was indeed welcome news when Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith recently issued a statement to the effect that the police will be working harder to enforce laws against animal cruelty, through a team of specially assigned police.