Kitten roasted alive in an oven.
Greyhound repeatedly thrown against a wall because it did not win a race.
Neglected horses in a pasture slowly starving with hooves so overgrown they can barely walk.
Cat beaten to death with a pole and video shown on the internet.
Young pitbulls used as bait to teach older pitbulls to fight.
Mother cat and kittens tied in a sack and thrown in the river.
Chihuahua dropped from the top of a multi-story parking garage by teenage boys, just to see if it would survive the fall.
Orcas kept as captive entertainers in sea parks.
Elephant kept chained in a roadside zoo.
Elderly dog left at animal shelter because family now wants a puppy.
Family cat left behind when family moves away.
These are just a few of the things people do to animals. The list could have been a lot longer. How can people be so cruel?
One reason: We don’t even agree on what constitutes animal abuse. Some would say all the things on the list are animal abuse. Some would not, arguing that elephants and orcas enjoy performing for humans, that pitbulls are born fighters, that the owner of the starving horses had grown senile or was having financial difficulties or had just forgotten about the horses.
Some might even say the most horrific abuse examples on this list are okay, because animals don’t have the intelligence, the self-awareness, and the feelings that people do, and therefore God gave man dominion over the animals to use as he wished. After all, it’s only a cat, or a dog, or a chicken, or whatever.
Whether animals have souls, as the title of this post asks, is as debatable as whether we have souls. We do know, though, that as human beings we have intelligence, self-awareness, and feelings. There is more and more evidence that animals share these same qualities with us, that there is even a bond between us, based on our shared existence on this planet Earth.
Those who don’t believe animals share our “human” qualities just may be uninformed and still guided by the stereotypes about animals they learned in childhood. They aren’t deliberately cruel to animals; they just don’t think of animals as having the same emotional wants and needs as we do.
These are the people who may accept using animals for medical testing, or raising them for food in cramped conditions on factory farms, or having them perform for humans in zoos and parks, or turning in a pet at an animal shelter because it is no longer convenient to have it in the family.
And then there are the real, true abusers. The people who get joy out of torturing, killing, and abandoning animals. They abuse animals because they are dead emotionally and because making an animal suffer at least makes them feel something.
So maybe you don’t care that much about animals, but here’s a reason you should care about their abusers: people who abuse animals may go on to abuse people–like maybe their wives and children.
My thinking on animals has evolved over time, as readers of my earlier posts Do Animals Have Souls? Part One and Who Keeps Abusers from Abusing Again? already know. My thinking evolved because of all the companion animals who have shared my life and the shelter animals I have encountered as a volunteer and the examples I have seen, heard, or read about of animal intelligence, emotion, and bonding among animals and between animals and their humans.
My newspaper earlier this year carried an especially poignant story of a mother animal feeling grief:
A female orca whale in a pod roaming the Pacific Ocean between Vancouver, B.C. and San Juan Island gave birth to a calf that was the first live birth in the pod since 2015. This calf lived only about half an hour. For 17 days the mother orca carried her dead calf with her “in an unprecedented act of mourning,” according to whale researchers following the pod.
The mother would balance the baby on her head or push it along with her nose, and retrieved it each time it began to sink in the water. This made it difficult for the mother to keep up with her pod, but she would not let her baby go. Finally, after 17 days, she did release the dead calf to sink in the ocean.
How could anyone seeing this whale mother’s behavior deny she was grieving her dead baby, just as a human mother would?
How could anyone witnessing a tortured animal howling in pain or a victim of past torture trembling in fear deny that animals suffer physically and psychologically from ill treatment, just as humans do?
At this point it is appropriate to recall the wisdom of Charles Darwin:
There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.
I’m with Charles Darwin. Animals and humans have too much in common for animals to be treated as commodities or objects of neglect and abuse. All humans and all animals deserve respect.
Thank you for reading my blog.
Joy and Peace, and may you always respect and be loved by the animals in your life.