(SPORT HUNTING/OP-ED) While gun control continues to be a hot topic for debate, many across the nation are pointing to hunting as an example of “responsible” gun ownership. Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna, author of Raising Kids Who Love Animals, weighs in on the strong correlation between animal cruelty and violence towards human beings, while emphasizing the importance of humane education and the fact that violence is wrong regardless of which species is harmed. — Global Animal
By Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna
The hottest topic in American politics these days is gun control. A commonly heard phrase in the debates goes something like this … “I’m an avid hunter and sportsman, but there’s no reason that we need to have assault weapons on the streets.”
As a mental health professional, I find statements like these to be baffling. Psychologically speaking, there is little difference between killing animals and killing human beings. Numerous scientific studies have shown a strong correlation between animal cruelty and violence towards humans. The connection is so clear and consistent that law enforcement agencies use a history of harming animals as a risk factor when assessing suspects, and pediatric psychiatrists list animal cruelty as one of the criteria for conduct disorder, along with other delinquent behaviors such as theft and vandalism.
Someone who is able to cause pain and suffering to an animal without feeling any empathy towards that living creature is likely to have that same disconnect when dealing with human beings. In extreme cases, this emotional numbing results in what is commonly known as a sociopath, a person who is able to kill or injure large numbers of his/her fellow humans without feeling any kind of remorse. There have been numerous documented cases of serial killers who practiced their techniques on animals before implementing them on humans.
Even when we kill animals for food, something which many people see as a necessity, there are adverse emotional effects. Slaughterhouse workers, who are forced to cause pain and suffering to struggling creatures as a routine part of their job, eventually lose their sense of compassion. Many of them report having aggressive thoughts towards their fellow human beings, and sometimes they act on these impulses. A recent study in the United States confirmed that communities around slaughterhouses experience increased rates of violent crime.
When implementing a long-term strategy for reducing the prevalence of violence in our society, providing humane education for our children is a better approach than trying to tell them that killing is acceptable in some circumstances but not others. Public schools in many states, including New York, Illinois, California, and Florida, are required to include humane education as part of their curriculum. In these classes, students might learn about current issues regarding the conservation of wildlife, or receive instruction on how they can show kindness to domesticated animals.
If we want our children to grow up understanding that they should not cause pain and suffering to others, we must apply that concept to all sentient beings. Rather than excusing people who want to use guns for killing animals, while vilifying criminals who use similar weapons to kill human beings, we would do better to emphasize that acting violently towards others is wrong regardless of which species is being harmed. Our moral lessons are most effective when we apply our standards consistently.