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  You are in: Home > Cultural & Social Studies > The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence  

The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence

Edited by Andrew Linzey

The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey is Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and a member of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Oxford. He has written more than 100 articles and authored or edited 20 books on theology and ethics, including seminal works on animals: Animal Theology (1994). In 2001, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his 'unique pioneering work in the area of the theology of creation with particular reference to the rights and welfare of God's sentient creatures'.



1 November 2011


Oxford animal theologian Professor Andrew Linzey has been awarded a top university honour for his pioneering work around the world.

The University of Winchester is to recognise Professor Linzey with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of his work in animal theology in a graduation ceremony on 9 November.

Professor Linzey, who is Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, said: "I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of my colleagues at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, who are in the forefront of pioneering this subject internationally.”

“Animal ethics is now an emerging discipline with scores of university courses world-wide, and this is a tremendous boost to those working in this field.”

“Animal ethics explores the challenges that new thinking poses, both conceptually and practically, to traditional understandings of human-animal relations.”

Professor Elizabeth Stuart, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor commented: “At Winchester we value and celebrate those who champion the voiceless and challenge the dominant paradigms. We shall honour one of the animals’ most thoughtful and passionate champions, someone who I believe will be remembered as one of the most pioneering and influential theologians of his day.”

Professor Linzey was made an Honorary Professor of the University of Winchester in 2007, and in the same year his book Creatures of the Same God was the first to be published by Winchester University Press. He is also co-editor of the Journal of Animal Ethics published by the University of Illinois Press.

“Winchester has one of the most progressive departments of theology in the country, and I am delighted to be associated with it,” said Professor Linzey.


The RSPCA gave one of its highest awards, the Lord Erskine Award, to Oxford theologian, the Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey at a special ceremony held at the RSPCA Headquarters in Horsham on 11 September 2010.

Professor Andrew Linzey is one of the world’s leading ethicists on the status of animals and the pre-eminent theologian on animal issues. He is the founder and the Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics ( and a member of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Oxford. This is the first time that the award has been given to a theologian.

On hearing of the award, Professor Linzey said: “This is a tremendous affirmation of the work we have been doing at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. I am happy to accept this award on behalf of all the fellows of the Centre who are pioneering ethical perspectives on animals.”

Professor Linzey has written or edited more than 20 books including seminal works on animals: Animal Theology (1994), Animal Gospel (1999), Creatures of the Same God (2004), and The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence (2009). His latest book, Why Animal Suffering Matters published by Oxford University Press in 2009 has been described as “a paradigmatic example of how practical ethics ought to be done”. (Christopher Libby, Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 4.1. 2010).

Andrew Linzey is also Honorary Professor at the University of Winchester, and Special Professor at Saint Xavier University, Chicago. In addition, he is the first Henry Bergh Professor of Animal Ethics at the Graduate Theological Foundation, Indiana. The post is named after Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and pioneer in animal protection.

The RSPCA’s award is named after Lord Erskine (1750–1823) who pioneered the first anti-cruelty legislation in the United Kingdom. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (as it then was) was founded a year after his death in 1824.

Many philosophers, including Aquinas, Locke, Schopenhauer and Kant, have assumed that there is a link between cruelty to animals and violence to people. During the last 40 years, evidence for this view has steadily accumulated as a result of statistical, psychological, and medical investigations, and there is now a substantial body of supporting empirical evidence.

The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence brings together international experts from seven countries to examine in detail the relationships between animal abuse and child abuse, the emotional development of the child, family violence, and serial murder. It considers the implications for legal and social policy, and the work of key professionals. Sections include critical overviews of existing research, discussion of ethical issues, and a special focus on the abuse of wild animals.

This book is essential reading for all those who have a stake in the debate, either because their academic work relates to the issues involved, or because their professional role involves contact with the abused or the abusers, both human and animal, including child care officers, community carers, law enforcement officers, health visitors, veterinarians, anti-cruelty inspectors, animal protection officers, social scientists, lawyers, psychologists, and criminologists. The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence is the most up to date, authoritative, and comprehensive volume on the link between animal abuse and human violence.

About the Editor and Contributors

Does Animal Abuse Really Benefit Us?
Andrew Linzey

Part I Overviews of Existing Research
Introduction by Andrew Linzey

1 Measuring Animal Cruelty and Case Histories
Marie Louise Petersen and David P. Farrington

2 Types of Cruelty: Animals and Childhood Cruelty,
Domestic Violence, Child and Elder Abuse
Marie Louise Petersen and David P. Farrington

3 A Lifespan Perspective on Human Aggression and Animal Abuse
Eleonora Gullone

Part II Emotional Development and Emotional Abuse
Introduction by Andrew Linzey

4 Empathy as an Indicator of Emotional Development
Andrea M. Beetz

5 Emotional Abuse of Children and Animals
Franklin D. McMillan

Part III Children, Family Violence, and Animals
Introduction by Andrew Linzey

6 Cruelty, Children, and Animals: Historically One,
Not Two, Causes
Sabrina Tonutt

7 Examining Children’s Exposure to Violence in the Context of Animal Abuse
Frank R. Ascione

8 Women-Battering, Pet Abuse, and Human–Animal
Clifton P. Flynn

9 The Role of Animals in Public Child Welfare Work
Christina Risley-Curtiss

Part IV Animal Abuse and Serial Murder
Introduction by Andrew Linzey

10 Developmental Animal Cruelty and its Correlates in Sexual Homicide Offenders and Sex Offenders
Llian Alys, J. Clare Wilson, John Clarke and Peter Toman

11 Reducing the Link’s False Positive Problem
Jack Levin and Arnold Arluke

Part V Ethical Perspectives on Human–Animal Relations
Introduction by Andrew Linzey

12 Is Human Rights Speciesist?
Conor Gearty

13 Responding Ethically to Animal Abuse
Mark H. Bernstein

14 The New Canaries in the Mine: The Priority of Human Welfare in Animal Abuse Prosecution
Elizabeth Clawson

15 The Structure of Evil
Mark Rowlands

16 ‘Vile attentions’: On the Limits of Sympathetic Imagination
Daniel B. Williams

Part VI Law Enforcement, Offenders, and Sentencing Policy
Introduction by Andrew Linzey

17 An FBI Perspective on Animal Cruelty
Alan C. Brantley interviewed by Randall Lockwood and Ann W. Church

18 Laws and Policy to Address the Link of Family Violence
Joan E. Schaffner

19 Dealing with Animal Offenders
Angus Nurse

20 Implications for Criminal Law, Sentencing Policy and Practice
Martin Wasik

Part VII Prevention and Professional Obligations
Introduction by Andrew Linzey

21 A Legal Duty to Report Suspected Animal Abuse – Are Veterinarians Ready?
Ian Robertson

22 The Role of Veterinarians and Other Animal Welfare
Workers in the Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse
Corey C. Montoya and Catherine A. Miller

23 Animal Cruelty and Child Welfare – The Health Visitor’s Perspective
Dawn Hawksworth and Rachel Balen

Part VIII The Abuse of Wild Animals
Introduction by Andrew Linzey

24 Overview of Research
Nicola Taylor and Tania Signal

25 Hunting as an Abusive Sub-culture
John Cooper

26 Hunting as a Morally Suspect Activity
Priscilla N. Cohn and Andrew Linzey

27 Dolphin Drive Hunts and the Socratic Dictum: ‘Vice harms the doer’
Thomas I. White


“I think at some point in our career, we as vets have come across at least one case where we’ve suspected that an animal has been subject to neglect and/or abuse. Often it could be that we think the case is not ‘severe’ enough to report or there are other (human) factors which play a part in our decision making whether to report or not.
…If we – on top of considering the obvious unreasonable suffering of the animal – knew, that signs of animal abuse could be an indicator of much deeper problems in the home of the caretaker, would our decision be different?
…This book provides critical overviews of existing research and examines the latest evidence. It addresses the underlying ethical issues and considers the implications for legal policy and the work of key professionals (including veterinary surgeons). It comprises work by international experts from seven countries and features research by up-and-coming scholars as well as accomplished researchers. It also looks into the link between animal abuse and abuse/neglect of the elderly and has a chapter regarding the abuse of wildlife.
…The introduction asks Does Animal Abuse Really Benefit us? Later in the book we get some answers to why animal abuse can ‘benefit’ humans as a vent for anger, depression and frustration when a human is caught in an abusive relationship as a child, adolescent or adult. But it also suggests that in a home environment, where abuse and violence might be happening frequently, children growing up in such homes fail to learn to respect animals and later on in life could also develop this attitude into having low respect for fellow humans. Adults who have been subject to physical, sexual and mental abuse in childhood (whether there was animal abuse in the home or not) are more likely to develop the same patterns in adulthood. This might not come as such as surprise, but in this book we actually get some explanations to why this happens.
…The book is divided into 8 parts – each having a short introduction with chapters written by various authors to illustrate research and other investigation into the subject.
As vets, we need to know as much as we can about our patients and learn to recognise any signs of abuse and/or neglect early on. But we must also appreciate the human implications of animal neglect and abuse in order to help the animal presented to us in the most effective and ‘holistic’ way. In homeopathy we aim to treat the individual rather than the symptom. If we knowingly treat an animal without looking into its past and more importantly into its present situation, then we’re treating the ‘symptoms’ shown on the surface without addressing the real problem. If we can help individual family members (especially children) in a joint venture with other healthcare professionals and authorities, then we’re helping in a truly ‘holistic way’.
…With references to statistics and calculations, parts of this book could be a challenge to some readers. However, chapters can be easily understood without them and the book offers a great deal of helpful information for professionals in understanding the dynamics of a violent home environment and why people do what they do.
Read it and be all the wiser!” Book review by Malene Jørgensen, CandMedVet, VetMFHom, MRCVS, appeared in BAHVS (British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons)

Excerpts from a review essay titled ‘The Elephant in the Room: Three New Books on Animal Ethics and Animal Theology’ by Scott Cowdell, who reviewed The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence, and two other books by Andrew Linzey, Creatures of the Same God: Explorations in Animal Theology (Lantern Books, New York); and Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics (Oxford University Press)

“Andrew Linzey is the world’s first ‘animal theologian’ … He charts his own vocational commitment to animal welfare and the reform of Western theological imagination – as a conscientiously vegetarian theological student, then through decades of writing and activism as an academic clergyman, most recently as founder of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.


The association between human and animal suffering underpins the last of these books (The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence), comprising proceedings of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics’ first international conference, held at Keble College in 2007. Philosophers, ethicists, legal scholars, law enforcement officers, scientists and theologians all contribute. Many abusers of women, children and the elderly, also most serial killers and violent serial rapists, typically demonstrate a history of animal abuse, with the worst offenders beginning with childhood abuse of animals. Abused children witnessing animal abuse often grow up to emulate it. Animal abuse also accompanies human abuse, when pets are hurt or killed to terrorize and punish children, or threatened to extort money from vulnerable elders. I was saddened to learn that many women delay escaping an abusive partner for the safety of a shelter for fear of leaving a threatened pet behind.

Statistics are amassed, with case studies from law enforcement’s chamber of horrors, leaving little doubt that there is a common pathology at work. The book canvasses options for legal reform, mandatory reporting of animal abuse by veterinarians, and law enforcement more intentionally pursuing animal abusers because it is likely in so doing to uncover and prevent human violence. A number of contributors, Linzey included, consider the pathology of violence towards wild animals, including the desensitization to suffering typically fostered among aficionados of English fox hunting and American deer hunting. They discuss the infamous dolphin drive hunts of Japan, with highly sentient creatures hounded, terrorised, gaffed and speared in a bloody maelstrom, all for the traditional right to eat cetacean meat (though it is increasingly unpopular, being mercury-laden), and English hunt advocates scorning reports of foxes (also unlucky domestic dogs and cats) torn apart by dog packs in the countryside – even in people’s yards, in front of children.


As for nature’s cruelty, maybe God creating by evolutionary means allows animal pain, yet God feels every bit of it personally and redeems it through the suffering of Christ, with God’s new creation revealing the healing and restoration of every traumatised creature. But even if nature’s created ‘goodness’ accommodates the natural suffering of animals, Linzey’s insistence on minimising animal suffering and death is hard to discount, as is his ‘eschatological vegetarianism’. Here is a challenge at once theological, political and personal.” Associate Professor Scott Cowdell is a Research Fellow in Public and Contextual Theology at Charles Sturt University, and Canon Theologian of Canberra-Goulburn Diocese. He is a Founding Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics

“Scholars of psychology, philosophy, social sciences, law, and other fields look at the existing research; emotional development and emotional abuse; children, family violence, and animals; animal abuse and serial murder; ethical perspectives on relations between humans and animals; law enforcement, offenders, and sentencing policy; prevention and professional obligations; and the abuse of wild animals. Specific topics include a lifespan perspective on human aggression and animal abuse, empathy as an indicator of emotional development, the role of animals in public child welfare work, developmental animal cruelty and its correlates in sexual homicide offenders and sex offenders, the structure of evil, laws and policy to address the link of family violence, the role of veterinarians and other animal welfare workers in reporting suspected child abuse, and hunting as a morally suspect activity.” Reference & Research Book News

A review of the book also appears in Humane Education

“This substantial book addresses a significant issue for many academics and practitioners— the link between bad things human animals do to non-human animals and bad things human animals do to each other. Edited by theologian Andrew Linzey, and featuring chapters by some distinguished academics including some who have been concerned with these issues over an extended period (e.g., Arluke, Ascione, Flynn, and Levin), it represents a significant statement by those concerned with demonstrating and exploring the ‘link’.” Anthrozoös

“This publication is perhaps the most important in its field to date. It will be of interest to academics studying these issues, and to health care or other professionals who work with the abused and their abusers. These include law enforcement officers, RSPCA inspectors, lawyers, psychologists, child workers, doctors and, of course, veterinarians.

Veterinarians are likely to find the section on the obligations of professionals of greatest interest. New Zealand veterinarian Ian Robertson – who is also a barrister, and teaches animal law in England and elsewhere – describes the “moral dilemma” veterinarians face when presented with a case of suspected abuse. The veterinarian is caught between reporting the case to the authorities and respecting client confidentiality. Although the relevant RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct annex clearly specifies that such cases should be reported to the RSPCA or other appropriate authority, Robertson argues that adding to this duty the weight of legal obligation would increase both the protection afforded to veterinarians, and compliance with this moral and professional duty.

In the US, a sizeable minority of states already legally require veterinarians to report such cases, and a larger number have enacted legislation protecting veterinarians from liability or prosecution as a result of such reporting, or participating in cruelty investigations. Similar reporting obligations exist in parts of Canada.
Robertson identifies a group of related issues that should also be addressed to ensure human-animal violence is effectively tackled, including the training and assessment of veterinarians and veterinary nurses, clinical record-keeping protocols, and cross-reporting and information sharing between agencies.

Written and edited to the highest standards, this book provides an essential reference for all those interested in studying this important emerging field. It is a field no veterinarian should be unaware of. For other readers, it provides a fascinating – albeit sometimes disturbing – insight into one of the darker realms of human psychopathology.” Veterinary Times

“Would we care more about animal suffering if we knew about the damage it can do to our children? The latest research suggests that animal abuse has a knock-on effect that puts children at risk of being affected by potentially disabling disorders that include impaired learning ability and depression.

Recent thinking on the connection between animal abuse and child abuse is revealed in a new book, titled The Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence, comprising cutting-edge research by 36 international academics in fields as varied as the social sciences, criminology, developmental psychology, human rights, applied childhood studies, behavioural science and child welfare. The volume is edited by Professor Andrew Linzey, director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and a member of the university’s faculty of theology.

A piece of research brought to light in this book is the domino effect of animal abuse and cruelty. It starts when we, as adults, disrespect, neglect, abuse or harm an animal. By doing so, we are unknowingly guiding children on to a slippery slope that can ultimately affect their mental health. The process begins with desensitisation or loss of feeling, whereby children become able to witness the neglect, hurting, harming or killing of an animal and yet remain indifferent.

The second step is when children become accustomed to the pain and suffering they witness and become habituated. Habituation to neglect and cruelty means that it has become a routine part of their lives.

Importantly, desensitisation directly opposes the crucial development in early childhood of empathy. Understanding the nature of empathy is critical to our understanding of how animal cruelty affects children. Empathy is the ability to feel with another person. It is the precursor to sympathy and sympathetic behaviour. Social workers and psychologists regard empathy as an indicator of healthy emotional development in children and adults. It is believed to be the vital ‘ingredient’ upon which socially competent, cohesive, integrated, cooperative, sustainable and peaceful communities are built.

In contrast, lack of empathy leads to dehumanisation because it stunts children's emotional development so that their potential as emotionally mature adults is not realised.

What becomes clear from The Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence is that scientists now suggest that animal abuse, because of its potential to damage emotional development, is a form of child abuse that can lead to lifelong disability, including impaired ability to learn, inability to build or maintain satisfactory social relationships, inappropriate behaviour and/or feelings and depression.

Furthermore, research shows that adults who are underdeveloped emotionally resort more readily to violence to resolve problems.
…If we accept, then, that abusive and oppressive treatment of animals is injurious to children and is a destabilising force within communities and society at large, where do we look for an urgent and sustainable solution to man’s notorious inhumanity to non-human life?” Louise van der Merwe, The Teacher, Johannesberg, South Africa

“Powerful moral arguments are put forward in some of the papers that animals should not be viewed in purely instrumental terms in the cruelty connection debate with regard to the negative impact of animal cruelty upon the human perpetrator and their human victim. The abuse of animals is also morally wrong because animals have the right not to be harmed and neglected and merit respectful treatment as inherently valuable beings.

Professor Linzey advocates that a holistic approach will require that we challenge abuse even where there are apparent benefits to humankind (“necessary cruelty” such as that involved in the meat and vivisection industries) otherwise we are vulnerable to the argument that anything which benefits human beings is morally justifiable. Professor Linzey states that this moral calculus should be questioned and we should ask whether any practice which involves cruelty to animals can benefit humankind.

Without exception, the papers and the contributions of Professor Linzey significantly add to the knowledge base relating to the cruelty connection and the book will be an invaluable resource for researchers, policy makers and those working in the field with responsibilities for the protection of vulnerable people and animals. The book merits wider readership and adds to the growing debate about the morality of our treatment of animals?” Journal of Animal Welfare Law

The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence is a profoundly important text for those who have a commitment to issues of animal and/or human suffering. Beyond providing excellent fodder for presentations to others, this compilation from persons with various approaches, histories, and perspectives moves readers to transcend silos of thought on the subject and calls on us to return to historic roots in which ‘the two causes stemmed from the same ideological roots, shared common moral visions, and even resulted in similar forms of social intervention’ (Tonutti, p. 97). Its breadth, clarity, depth of thinking, and integrity make this a decisive and indispensable resource that will compel those of us with a stake in the debate to revisit our assumptions and reframe the ways we think and speak about aggression in its many forms, leading toward a more integrated, viable, and effective response.” Journal of Animal Ethics

The Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence is an edited collection of 27 papers aimed at social workers, therapists and academics. The book’s international contributors come from backgrounds that include social work, psychology, philosophy and law. In eight parts, the book includes topics on childhood emotional development and animal abuse, family violence and domestic abuse, ethical issues, dealing with animal abusers through criminal justice agencies, and prevention and professional obligations.

Accounts of abuse deliberately inflicted on animals is no easy read. As many frontline social workers know, people who are violent and abusive towards family members and children may harm, abuse or kill family pets and companion animals. Some research reported in the volume has identified links between deliberate animal cruelty and perpetration of rape, violence, child molestation and elder abuse. Children who harm animals may intentionally hurt other children. Research reporting the link between domestic violence and animal abuse shows the central role of gender, power and control in male violence towards women and animals.

For social workers, the value of this collection lies in its comprehensive sweep of a subject that does not get much professional attention. Its concern with the deliberate cruelty to animals that may occur alongside child neglect, domestic violence and the mistreatment of adults at risk makes this an important volume on an area often neglected in family violence literature. The book will be of use to social work teachers, students and professionals working with adults and children at risk of abuse.” Angie Ash, Principal, Angela Ash Associates
, Professional Social Work

Reviewed in Studies in Christian Ethics 25 (3):381384.

The December 2014 issue of The New Scientist takes up the issue in “On the pain of others: The case for animal rights,” by Adam Roberts.


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
300 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
Hardback, July 2009; Paperback, June 2009
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
£60.00 / $84.95
Paperback Price:
£19.95 / $44.95

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