Cruelty to Animals

Cruelty To Animals is a subject which has lately attracted much public attention from moralists and legislators. The principle upon which owners are restrained from exercising unnecessary severity in the treatment of their beasts is not, as often imagined, because brutes have any moral rights in themselves, but because society requires to be protected from exhibitions of cruelty, inasmuch as these not only outrage the feelings of humane spectators, but also tend to generate ferocity in the individuals who practice such excess, and thus render them dangerous to their fellow-beings. On this ground Christianity, as soon as it succeeded in gaining control of public sentiment in the Roman empire, abolished the atrocious customs of the amphitheatre, not even allowing beasts to contend with each other in mortal combat for the amusement of the populace; and the same benign influence has nearly banished the bull-fight, the cock-pit, and pigeon-shooting, as sports, from Christendom. Wanton infliction of suffering is at variance with the fundamental law of the Gospel, and invariably reacts with injury upon its perpetrator. Even criminals are not to be executed with needless severity, nor with prolonged or aggravated misery. Pain may be, often must be, inflicted, and that of intense character, but never unnecessarily nor for the gratification of revenge, malice, or barbarity. The heavenly Father himself, like the wise surgeon, cuts keenly and cauterizes sorely, but only for the good of the sufferer. So the human lord of creation has a right to take the life of inferior creatures when this is subservient to his own or others' important advantage, but he is not authorized to superadd torture. The modern laws passed in most Christian countries to prevent cruelty to animals have this principle for their only legitimate foundation. Hence they should be judiciously administered, so as not rashly to interfere with the proper rights of ownership, nor subject parties to vexatious interference. The practice of vivisection for scientific and medical purposes has especially been, in our judgment, unduly restrained by some of the enactments in certain states as well as in Great Britain. The valuable information to be acquired by this means alone should not be lost for squeamish regard to nervous individuals, who are not compelled nor expected to witness such operations. Provided no unnecessary amount of pain is caused the animal, nor any aggravating circumstances introduced into the operation, these experiments should be fostered by the statute law, rather than repressed. They ought doubtless to be placed under regulation, but not prohibited. They should, of course, be performed in private, and by scientific practitioners. When carried on properly they are a means of mercy and not an act of inhumanity.

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