Can Violence Against Animals Lead to Violence Against People?
March 2, 2012 5 Comments
I’ve been reading lately about that horrific school shooting in Ohio. I follow these all too common reports with some obsession not only because I’m the father of two children in grade school, but because I’m curious about what leads any individual, especially such a young individual, to declare war on his classmates.
Many reports noted that the shooter, T. J. Lane, was a hunter. I realize that the connection between violence committed against animals and violence committed against humans is tenuous. I also know that it’s a matter of sustained debate in the psychological and sociological literature. That said, the concept of one form of violence systematically fostering another hardly seems far-fetched.
Throughout much of modern history observers—most of them women–have unabashedly made the connection. Writing in 1943, Agnes Martin, author of “For the Church Door,” opined that “wars will never cease while men still kill other animals for food, since to turn any living creature into a roast, a steak, a chop, or any other form of ‘meat’ takes the same kind of violence, the same kind of bloodshed and the same kind of mental processes required to change a living man into a dead soldier.” Twenty years later Grace Knole, author of The James Joyce Murders, wrote, “I expect after you have many times seen a deer or woodchuck blown to bits, the thought of a human blown to bits is that much less impossible to conceive.” These assessments strike me as sensible as they are disturbing.
In many parts of the United States hunting remains a revered right-of-passage for young boys. The tradition of killing one’s first deer often comes sheathed in warrior-like, and frequently sexually suggestive, rituals such as a “virgin” hunter covering his face with the blood of “his” first conquest. Troll YouTube and you’ll find a disturbing number of videos of boys as young as eight killing deer.
It’s astounding how many people think this is a wonderful thing. Advocates of this behavior invariably highlight the benefits that come from being in nature, bonding with fathers, and pursuing an ethic of conservation. It’s important to expose the lunacy of this rhetoric. These supposed benefits are, if the above quotes are onto anything, little more than rationalizations for severe violence, violence that could all too easily carry over into the way we view–and perhaps can treat–our fellow humans.