By Owuh Israel Uche

On the 8th of August, 2017, a disturbing footage emerged online of a woman biting her defenseless little dog. On 7th Dec. 2016, a Newspaper reported a case of a woman who starved a nursing dog and it's puppies to death in a home. In the same year, a dog was left fighting for its life after being stabbed in the chest. Again, On the 8th of August, 2017, a court denied bail to a pair accused of skinning a donkey alive. On Dec. 11, 2016, a man was arrested for throwing boiling water on a urinating dog. These incidences occurred in America where cruelty to animals is unacceptable. 

However, the case is totally different in these parts. Someone once playfully said to me that it is better to be an animal in America than to be a human being in Nigeria. In a country where even humans are treated brutally, animals are in a totally desperate condition. In civilised societies where the premium is placed on human life, cruelty against animals is taken seriously. For example, in the United States of America, animal cruelty is seen as a Class-A felony. Meaning that animal abusers could potentially face jail time.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines animal cruelty as:
"intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilating, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment. Included are instances of duty to provide care, e. g, shelter, food, water, Care if sick or injured; transportation or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death, causing an animal to fight with another; inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering, e. g, uses objects to beat or injure an animal"

N: B This definition does not include proper maintenance of animals for show or sport; use of animals for food, lawful hunting, fighting or trapping.

According to Wikipedia, animal cruelty is the inflicting by omission (animal neglect) or by the commission by humans of suffering or harm upon any nonhuman animal, regardless of whether the act is against the law. Thus, animal cruelty falls into two categories: intentional cruelty and unintentional cruelty or neglect. Intentional cruelty occurs when someone has purposely inflicted physical harm or injury on an animal. Unintentional cruelty, or neglect, could mean an animal has been denied the basic necessities of care, including food, water, shelter, veterinary care. It could also mean that the pet parent is unaware they are doing anything wrong and needs to be educated on how to properly care for the animal.

Woman severely tortured by Nigerian Soldiers 

The Humane Society listed signs of neglect of animals to include, but not limited to:
1) Animals without shelter in extreme heat or cold
2) Clearly emaciated animals. Visible bones and lethargy can be a sign of an untreated, life-threatening medical condition or imminent starvation
3) Untreated wounds or other medical condition. This includes limping, multiple patches of missing fur, and open sores.

All mammals process the neuroanatomic and neuropharmacologic components involved in transduction, transmission, and perception of noxious stimuli; therefore, it is expected that animals experience pain even if they cannot exactly perceive or communicate it in the same way people do. If the physiological process that causes pain in people is identical to that in animals, it then follows that animals too feel pain, they feel cold, they feel the heat, they feel hunger, they feel abuse, neglect, and maltreatment. On the other hand, they also feel joy, satisfaction, and love. Aristotle once quipped, 'man is a social animal.' There is no better way to convey the message of our relatedness to animals.

Alphonse Marie Louis de Lamartine said, 'we cannot have two hearts, one for the animals and one for men. In cruelty towards the former and cruelty to the latter, there is no difference but in the victim'. No one with an ounce of empathy could fail to be appalled by the level of cruelty meted out to animals in our society.

Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, 'compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man. ' Every day, we hear stories of people who abuse animals. Dogs being bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer, pets being shot to death at the slightest infractions, cats doused in petrol and set alight, animals served with meat laced with poison, dogs chained and starved to death and on and on - the stories never end. In these parts, pet owners make good sandwiches for their children but treat their pets to their children's 'delicious' feces. How would one feel to be chained and starved for days? How would one feel to be sick and left untreated? How would one feel to be left in the cold or under the rain for days without shelter? How does it feel to be beaten with a stick or iron? It sure doesn't feel right to me and must not feel right for an animal. As a student of psychology and an observer of animal abuse cases, I'm sadly familiar with the disturbing lack of empathy shown by some people toward animals in their care. But to go as far as to abandon, beat or burn a defenseless animal indicates a level of behaviour that needs serious clinical intervention.

I know some of my readers will question my concern for animals when we have many serious issues in Nigeria such as hunger, bad roads, lack of electricity and access to medicine. But the truth is that the way we treat animals is a good indicator of the compassion we are capable of for the human race. A leader who treats animals well will most likely treat his followers better. Nonetheless, why should we expect our prayers for mercy to be heard by what is above us when we show no mercy to what is under us?

The truth remains that the way in which animals are treated in a culture is a direct reflection of how humans are treated by that culture. In Nigeria, under the bridges, uncompleted, roofless buildings, gutters, destitute can be seen wallowing in misery. Many of them are sick and tired of living. Some die every day in the streets and are not promptly evacuated by the 'cadaver men' as they are called in some climes. No, human bodies are retrieved from prisons every day, ground to shreds by passing traffic, dismembered by ritualists contracted by the high and mighty, or just left to putrefy, swell and burst by the roadside, as indifferent pedestrians walk by, all totally inured to such horrific sights, by frequent exposure. In such a surreal landscape of human misery and abject squalor, the spectacle of animals being subjected to prolonged torture never raise an eyebrow, any more than does the sight of accused witches or prick thieves being lynched and set alight by baying mobs.

It was Karl Marx who said that religion is the opium of the masses. Religion has contributed in no little measure in the way we treat animals. Some religious leaders most frequently use animals to depict evil, thus creating a 'nurtured' ill-feeling and cruel disposition towards animals. The belief that God gave man power to treat animals as he sees fit may be one of the basis to justify the abuse meted out to animals in our society. This belief is erroneous and 'unbiblical'. Beecher Stowe once said, 'we should remember in our dealings with animals that they are a sacred trust to us from our Heavenly Father. They are dumb and cannot speak for themselves.' The Holy Bible is replete with admonitions on humane treatment of animals. Proverbs 12:10 says, 'Whoever is righteous has regards for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel'. Jesus said, 'look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them ( Matthew 6:26). In Exodus 23:5, God instructed that if you see the donkey of your enemy lying under a heavy burden, you should rescue it. Again, in Deuteronomy 22:6-7, the scripture instructs that an Ox that treads out the grain should not be muzzled. Surely, God is interested in the way we treat animals.

Bradley Miller said, 'teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar'
When the science of behavioural profiling began to emerge in the 1970s, one of the most consistent findings reported by the FBI profiling unit was that childhood intentional cruelty and torture of animals appeared to be a common behaviour among murderers and rapists.

Robert Ressler averred in his famous quote, 'Murderers.... very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids'. Research studies have found that children in violent households, who themselves have been abused, represent one-fifth of domestic animal cruelty cases. Thus, when a child consistently harms animals, it can indicate that serious abuse has been inflicted on the child. Consequently, animals are abused in nearly all household in which children have been abused.What this means is that children who witness animal abuse are at greater risk of becoming abusers. Many notorious killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Devin Kelley, Otokoto, Clifford Orji and others began by torturing and killing animals in their childhood. Dahmer particularly collected animal roadkills, dissected their remains, and masturbated over them. We are familiar with the case of Devin Kelley, the man behind the famous Texas shooting that took the lives of 26 worshippers at a First Baptist Church in Texas. His first wife revealed that he boasted of snapping a dog's neck when he was just 10 years old and admitted to cracking her baby's skull. Read the wife's narrative of domestic violence, culled from DailyMail of Nov. 14, 2017:

'I was terrified, really terrified. He would choke me, punch me, kick me. There would be times where I was on the floor curled up and having to protect my organs because he would be violently kicking me'.
The truth is this: a person who is cruel to animals will likely be cruel to humans _ and a person who is cruel to humans will almost certainly be cruel to animals.

In Bradley Miller's words, 'teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar'. And I dare say, 'teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the society as it is to the child'

Publisher:  Prince Richmond C. Amadi 

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