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Cruelty to Animals = Bullying: A Contemporary Equation

Posted by at 12:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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Most people will agree that cruelty perpetrated against animals is a horrible crime. Most would also agree that instances of bullying have increased in number, becoming an epidemic in our schools. In fact, according to Stomp Out Bullying—a national program for kids and teens dedicated to stopping this violence—”Bullying is a problem that affects millions of students of all races and classes. 1 out of 4 kids are bullied and 43% of teens, 97% of middle schoolers and 47% of older teens 18-24 are cyberbullied.”

But bullies don’t always reserve their bullying exclusively for other kids—often, animals are victims as well. What happens when they get “bullied”? There is significant documentation showing that kids who engage in bullying hold “positive attitudes toward violence.” And in many cases, the expression of that violence involves animals. The phrase commonly used to refer to this connection between violence to animals and violence to humans is “the link.” 

Stories involving school violence are no longer rare or exceptional—they have become commonplace. And cases of cruelty to animals are being viewed as significant indicators of things to come.

In 2005, a research study found a connection between bullying and human and animal abuse. The research involved more than 500 children and indicated that schoolyard bullies “were twice as likely to have committed some form of animal abuse when compared to their non-bullying peers.”

Humane educators strive to introduce the concept of empathy to children as the first step in learning compassion and kindness toward all beings. While quantifiers may be difficult to find in terms of the efficacy of these lessons, the work can certainly be productive. Empathy appears to play a significant role in both animal abuse and bullying, and lack of it has become a marker for researchers looking at children who may be prone to both animal abuse and bullying.

What can we do? Learn more about “the link.” If there are children in your family, speak with them about the importance of empathy and compassion toward animals and their friends. There are materials at TeachKind.org that can help. Make it a practice to chat with teachers about your child’s or grandchild’s school life—do they participate in bullying? Are they bullied? Look for bullying behaviors when they play with their friends. Not all kids who bully abuse animals too. But if we each take on the responsibility of doing what we can to create a foundation of empathy for our children and grandchildren, it could make for a very different world—for ALL beings!

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4 Comments

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    Gabriel C. says...

    March 26th, 2011, 11:16 am

    With all the talk on the Media and from our President, this form of bullying, conveniently not one to be spoken about, came to my mind right away and felt somewhat uncomfortable at the hypocrisy behind their words. It’s amazing how these people can see the injustice and wrongdoing, but only half ways and. To me it’s the ultimate form of cowardice and bullying! Shame on those who know right from wrong but conveniently sink their heads in the sand, choosing to ignore, instead of being honest and true…

    Adair says...

    March 26th, 2011, 11:49 am

    The first thing a child should be taught is that cruelty to animals is very wrong, and there will be consequences. They need to learn compassion for animals.

    MAURA says...

    March 26th, 2011, 4:00 pm

    as an avid animal lover, i truly feel that so-called “people who abuse animals should have the same thing(s) done to them. sort of like a what goes around comes around. remember the old saying “this shouldn’t happen to a dog!” well i am sorry to say, it does.

    Virginia Holmes says...

    April 25th, 2013, 10:16 am

    Thank you so much for this article. It is well documented and very straight forward. I have launched myself a Petition an d pacific protest to my school (where my children go) to ban the Yearly Donkey basketball Show as a furndraiser. It is crazy to see how the school invites little preschoolers to watch that to use animals for entertaiment is ok, plus the children learn to be bullies by watchign that it is ok to target the animals. We are in the 20th Century ot 21st Century. Schools should teach the kids to be kind to all living creatures. – My petition and Protest have reached the news here in Ohio. Here is a link to the news: http://www.wistv.com/story/22058347/donkey-basketball-sparks-controversy-at-lake-schools

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