It is currently a truism, at least among social work types, that children who treat animals badly will go on to treat humans badly as well. Where once we thought rather little of boys tying tin cans to dogs’ tails, or pulling the wings off flies, now we believe each is a potential serial killer.
Maybe. On the other hand, there is the curious fact that, in the pages of history, those who have been particularly fond of animals have sometimes not been the nicest folks to their fellow humans. Hitler was a vegetarian and a dog lover. Ceausescu gave his dog his own chauffeur. Caligula made his horse a proconsul.
In the recent hearings on granting Karla Homolka her freedom, it turned out she too was an animal lover.
From the Toronto Star account:
“He (the prosecutor) also tried to debunk key defence contentions that Homolka suffered from battered-wife syndrome and was in the clutches of a calculating psychopath when she participated in the killings.
Ramsay referred to two occasions when Homolka stood up to Bernardo, once when he was smashing a dog's head on concrete, and a second time when he tried to force her into having sex with the family pet.
‘She was willing to risk being alone for the dog. For her sister? No. For two other young women? No. But for the dog, yes ... that says all you need to know about Ms. Homolka's character,’ he said.”
Toronto Star, June 4, 2005-06-05, “She’s Still a Danger, Court Rules.”
At a minimum, there seems to be no connection between kindness to animals and kindness to one’s fellow man. But it even seems possible that the one substitutes for the other: people can love animals as a substitute for loving humans.
It’s so much easier to love an animal, after all: they are completely subservient to you. You are in control.