An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Monday, 27 June 2011

Do having animals in circuses lead to human cruelty?

Last week British MPs passed a motion calling on the Government to ban the use of animals in circuses on the grounds that circuses featuring wild animals were barbaric and had no place in civilised society in the 21st Century. Mark Pritchard MP, who lay the motion for debate, said the practice was cruel and outdated - comparing it to outlawed practices such as dog-fighting and badger-baiting - and insisted that the UK should "lead not lag the world" in animal welfare. The motion was won on the same day that two people were jailed for killing a toddler whom they had systematically beat and a man was jailed for the murder of a schoolgirl.  All three made the headline news.

In Britian we are sometimes accused of treating animals better than we do other people. It occured to me that perhaps there was a link between the way animals and people are treated. John Locke, the British philosopher who is seen as a great Liberalist, wrote that children should be taught from an early age that torturing and killing any living thing was despicable. Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher, said that cruelty by humans against animals is an act that escalates into cruelty to other humans. In other words, mistreatment of animals was the tip of the iceberg and, if unchecked, would see humans become so desensitised to pain and harm so as to enable them to start doing the same to other human beings.

The Chinese premier is in the UK and so leads me into drawing another parallel. In Asia household animals are commonly mistreated by being caged or kept in cruel conditions and then sold either to be eaten or to have their body parts used for traditional medicinal purposes. Human rights in Asia is scant.

I can't see that by God giving human beings dominion over fish, fowl and cattle, as set out in Genesis,  bestowed on us the right to do as we please. A dollop of moral responsibility must be inherent which calls for us, as Christians, to care for these animals as God's creatures.
"All the animals in the forest are Mine and the cattle on thousands of hills. All the wild birds are Mine and all living things in the fields." Psalm 50:10, 11

I think the philosophers were correct in their assumptions and our humanity is a causal link which starts with a responsibility to be kind towards those creatures smaller than us to ones who tower above us.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree that we should treat animals as we should treat human beings. The operative word being should.
    It seems to me that those who ill-treat animals are the same ones who have no respect for the rights of their fellow humans.
    The mind-set is the same, only the victims differ.
    If we believe that every living creature on earth was created by God then surely they deserve the same respect we accord each other. Sadly cruelty is a perversion, and like sll other perversions, makes the perpetrator less than human.

  2. I agree with you. It's a false dichotomy to distinguish between animal and human cruelty. I suspect most people who are cruel in particular are cruel in general. Sadly, the cruelty extends to climate change as well, which effects humans, plants and animals alike.