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Breaking the cycle of violence

Obie, pictured here, was riddled with scars and fresh stab wounds. The attack on him was an early-warning sign of a violence that would eventually escalate to other members of the family. Thankfully, the family survived, and Obie has found himself in the safe care of Gordon’s Bay Animal Shelter.

Nature-based Education asked therapists and psychologists to help explain the connection between animal abuse and human violence and how the one develops into the other.


Here are some pointers:

  • Control: An abusive/violent person tries to control the animal and eliminate characteristics considered undesirable. This is often the same motivation for child and spouse abuse.

  • Retaliation: An abusive/violent person retaliates against a perceived wrong-doing by the animal.  This is often the same motivation for child and spouse abuse.

  • Prejudice: An abusive/violent person tries to satisfy a prejudice against a species or breed. Similarly, domestic abusers generally have a prejudice against women, a lack of respect for them, or feel intimidated by their success.

  • Bravado: An abusive/violent person tries to impress others by a show of violence against an animal. Similarly, domestic abusers often treat their spouses or children disrespectfully in front of their friends.

  • Revenge: An abusive/violent person tries to take revenge on another person by harming that person’s pet.

  • Mental disorder: An abusive/violent person tries to satisfy a mental disorder whereby acts of cruelty give relief or even pleasure. This applies to domestic violence as well as animal abuse.

  • Power: An abusive/violent person tries to gain a sense of power through violence against those who cannot fight back.

  • Young children who are cruel to animals are often acting out the hostility and violence that is perpetrated against them by adults.



  • Abused pets play a vital role in alerting us not only to which members of society are potentially dangerous and need help, but also to households where violence may be taking place behind closed doors. The cycles of abuse against animals and people are inter-connected.

How can we break the cycles of abuse?

  • Have the courage to speak out and spread the word that animal cruelty and human violence are linked.


Of special note:

2023: The United Nations decrees: 

“Children must be protected from all forms of physical and psychological violence whether in their home or in society, and from exposure to violence, such as domestic violence or violence inflicted on animals”. 

A quote worth remembering:

“How we treat animals and how we treat each other are two stems that grow from the same root. If there are thorns of neglect, contempt or cruelty on one, we can be sure to find them on the other.”

–  Ronald Swartz, former Head of Education, Western Cape Province, South Africa.

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Louise van der Merwe

Managing Trustee  |  The Humane Education Trust 

Director  |  Nature-Based Education  Cape Town, South Africa

SA Representative  |  Compassion in World Farming South Africa

Mobile |  082 457 9177

Email  |  |

Website  |  |


Extracts from the magazine archives of ANIMAL VOICE November 2017 : front & back pages

Front cover photo: Courtesy Morris Darbo, Executive Director: Liberia Animal Welfare and Conservation Society (LAWCS),

The children's march took place at  World Animal Day celebrations in Foya City, Liberia, on 4 October 2017.

Some 2000 people attended the celebrations including students from 10 of the 32 schools where LAWCS is implementing humane education.


Please make a contribution to our efforts to raise human consciousness so that the animals in our care can lead healthy lives in accordance with the Five Freedoms for Animals 

Your donation is tax deductible!

For every donation, The Humane Education Trust will issue a Section 18A Tax Certificate for you to hand in to SARS.

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