Recent US headlines regarding the reinstatement of NFL player Michael Vick, convicted of participating in a dog-fighting ring, raise a number of questions about animal rights and how we attempt to understand and treat animal abusers.
As the introduction for the most recent Journal of Social Issues (JSI) states, “virtually all societies” make use of and have relationships with nonhuman animals — as companions, for work, as a source of food, etc. But these relationships are complex and raise a number of ethical and psychological issues.
For example, research has shown that we often benefit — both psychologically and physiologically — from companionship with animals. Perhaps it is this presumption, and the idea that we should care for and protect our companions that elicits such emotional responses from deviant (i.e. abusive) behavior. Ascione & Shapiro (2009, JSI) report on interventions, such as AniCare, that build on these ideas and “intimate justice theory” to work with those convicted of animal abuse. Researchers are also considering how our understanding of animal abuse can inform work on domestic abuse, and vice versa. Such questions have even resulted in the establishment of a new field — anthrozoology — to formally investigate human-animal interactions.
In what ways has animal use changed in our societies as technology has developed? Do you think findings from animal abuse studies can be generalized to other areas of abuse and abuse interventions?