Lawyer Seeks Action on Cruel Children as Kickers-to-Killers Evidence Mounts
Children who torment animals may be more likely to grow up to commit child abuse, violent assaults and even murder, according to a barrister who is calling for changes to the law.
Writing in the latest issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine (28 May 2002), barrister Noel Sweeney says new studies are expanding on research which proved a link between early cruelty to animals and serial killing on the scale of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and Boston strangler, Albert De Salvo.
The evidence is that, while it is extremely rare for the child who kicks a dog to become a mass murderer, such behaviour signals an alert to a self-perpetuating vicious circle, where childhood cruelty to animals, first, mirrors abuse witnessed within the family and, later, becomes a rehearsal for adult violence. Sweeney says: "We have begun to realise that cruelty to animals and to humans is a continuum based on the abuse of the powerless.
In the United States the connections are taken so seriously they are now part of FBI procedures, and Congress has just provided funding to prevent animal cruelty by juveniles, and to counsel young people who commit it.
Sweeney uses his BBC Wildlife Magazine column to argue for similar action in Britain, to avoid a further escalation in the already-high violence levels.
As a starting point, he wants vets to become legally required to report suspicious injuries to animals. He also says: "There must be more communication between the police, probation workers, doctors and social workers to identify children who abuse animals, because within such troubled minds, there lurks the capacity to kill.
Sweeney adds: "We now have the knowledge that the abuse of animals and children causes and creates a cycle of cruelty that feeds off itself. We need the will to change this, so that today's badger-baiter does not become tomorrow's baby-batterer or wife-beater, or worse. The blueprint for our future must be to protect animals, and guide children towards a chain of compassion. Both the problem and the solution are wholly within human hands."
Notes to Editors:
BBC Wildlife Magazine is Britain's best-selling nature monthly. Noel Sweeney's opinion piece is published in the June issue, on sale from 28 May, price £2.80p.
Noel Sweeney is a practising barrister specialising in criminal law, human rights and animal law. He is happy to give interviews.