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"Watch What He Does When I Do This!"

Animal Abuse, Shnanible Abuse.

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 03, 2002.

It pains me to admit I read local newspapers, and that I sometimes read the editorials. It goes beyond pain to admit that I find myself agreeing with the new editorial staff of The Daily Camera more and more, which may be a sign of age, Alzheimer’s, or the fact that the Camera is decidedly less fuzzy-wuzzy fuddy-duddy than it has been since the early 1980’s. Since they get all their coverage off the national wire, including some local stories, they now have time to focus up in Editorial, perhaps.

They chat today about Colorado House Bill 48, which concerns a modest increase in the punishment for animal abuse. It was fueled by the incident where two teenage boys set a cat afire and took off in a sports car. Turns out that aggravated animal cruelty would only be a Class 6 felony, punished by probation and 500 hours community service. Only second and third convictions of animal abuse laws would be a felony. Given what we know about the folks who delight in torturing animals, I find this absurd beyond the norm.

Every serial murderer, once the books come out about their spree, seem to have had this early horrific fascination with watching creatures die in pain for no actual purpose then their own amusement. I believe, if memory serves, that those who have family histories of domestic abuse also share this predilection. Which is to say, those who set fire to cats in Denver, use live animals for shark bait off Florida, thrive on dog fights, whip dray animals without food or water or purpose, are those likely to eventually be revealed to have newly turned earth in their basement. Not all, obviously, but the little lonely boy who sticks pins in the classroom hamster, or catches and drowns mice slowly, or burns them, or throws cats in a bag so they rip each other apart, or throws pet dogs over the fence so the neighbor’s Rottweiler will have something to do ought to be on the watch list, not to mention his parents.

Which is to say, cutting down on those with the avocation of torturing animals for entertainment will also cut down on the number of missing children, women, and young men that seem to vanish without benefit of family to spur police or media. Those who often torture animals move up to more entertaining victims. And given that this is known, it seems to me most odd that this clear indicator of future murder is not given more attention by the legislators of the world.

One problem in Colorado is that animal abuse and/or torture descriptions could be applied to rodeo animals, circus animals, and the horses and cattle of the poor, who sometimes cannot feed their beasts of burden any easier than themselves. Is it torture to force Greyhounds or horses to race? And you don’t have to be a militant Vegan to come away from a visit to a slaughterhouse a changed and very angry person.

Another problem is that one culture’s torture is another’s totemic life passage, as the bullfight was for Spain for centuries, now essentially destroyed by tourists, and just bloody entertainment to no actual value at all. Westerners are tempted to say that the bullfight NEVER had any point but torture, but that is incorrect once you understand it. Still, the cockfight, the dogfight are staples here in Colorado, and few enough are willing to object beyond statements that mean well feebly, much less question the psychological profiles of those who would enjoy such.

But then, what is the attraction of boxing – where people actually get seriously hurt – and professional wrestling, where greasy muscle men grope each other in Speedos for ……well, for what exact sort of entertainment? It’s theater, but it’s theater of pretend sexual violence for established exhibitionists, a phrase which, if used in other contexts, sets the purse lipped religious and the outer fringes of the feminist league free of their temporal selves. We have the excuse that the participants are there voluntarily, but is the attraction of their efforts to the viewer far removed from those who get off watching animals die in combat?

And, for that matter, why do people attend auto races again?

Clearly, there is deep need for acting out motivations from the cerebral cortex, and there are many ways that such can be sated without killing or hurting others, especially those others who would choose else for themselves.

When I was in jail, a mouse was found, caught and tortured by first one, and then about five others, eventually flushed down the toilet while still struggling. I did and said nothing. The phrase I recall is a giggly white supremacist wannabe saying “Watch what he does when I do this!” followed by forced laughter from the assembled thugs. You could see in the eyes of the participants the satisfaction of the powerless striking back at something, anything, but there was more, an almost orgasmic delight in the whole process, and the sort of lynch mob camaraderie that they shared. A mouse, for god’s sake, sees the same faces that I imagine Emmett Till did in his last moments.

This is Dark Cloud.