Animal Studies Bibliography

Solot, Dorian. 1997. Untangling the animal abuse web. Society and Animals 5(3): 257-265.

Academic studies of violence tend to use strict distinctions between types of violence, ignoring connections between domestic violence and animal abuse, for example. While recent research has examined whether animal cruelty is linked to later abuse of humans, community action organizations have long seen and acted upon such connections and patterns of violence. There has been much less research on animal abuse that on other forms of violence. This absence has a positive side, however, in that violence in general has been well-theorized, and the concepts already developed can be profitably applied to an examination of animal abuse. Studies of animal cruelty must recognize the complexity of the issue. One of the first steps in such study should be the development of a typology of animal abuse, which we currently lack despite a few attempts. Further, the research should consider whether children/teens or adults are more likely to abuse animals, what social groups are most likely to abuse animals (by class, race, gender), whether people are more likely to abuse animals they know or stranger animals, and whether certain groups of abusers are more likely to use particular kinds of abuse. Defining abuse is a further problem for this research to deal with. A definition of violence towards humans usually includes physical, psychological, emotional, and sexual acts, but this is problematic when applied to animals. Some human control of animals is assumed, not abuse; further, it would be difficult at best to determine emotional abuse of an animal. Definitions of animal abuse in the current literature usually focus on physical harm, which is the easiest to identify. This definition is problematic for two reasons. First, it leaves out neglect, which constitutes 9 of 10 cases the AHA considers animal abuse. While researchers may want to focus on more active cases of abuse, an examination of types of neglect should be undertaken to make definitions and purposes clearer if this many cases are to be left out of the analysis. Second, the definition of abuse is culturally defined and presents conceptual problems. For example, the same action, taken by different people, in a different setting, or on a different species may be considered cruel or normal, and this determination has no logical basis. Further, the acceptability of different behaviors in different subcultures (e.g. cockfighting) makes the situation more complicated. The general question is: what (or whose?) standard of abuse do we use? This is particularly important when subjects are asked to recollect their own actions of abuse toward animals--their cultural definitions are key. This research must also resist the current practice of justifying the research or touting its importance by connecting animal abuse to later abuse of humans. While these connections between types of violence are important and should be investigated, it is also important that each type of violence receive equal consideration. Researchers must make it clear that animal abuse is important because of the harm it brings to animals, not because abusers might hurt people later. Finally, researchers should avoid the competition among abuse victims in which groups claim they are ignored while other abused groups get more attention or resources. Instead of such competition, alliances should be forged in an attempt to fight all forms of violence and their cultural roots.



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