Nature, Nurture or a Blow to the Head?

Johnny Depp has been quoted as saying, “You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be true for everyone. Some people can be taught to close their hearts as well, as this quote from a former animal-lover-turned-trophy-hunter illustrates: 

“You see, I didn’t grow up hunting and because I loved animals, I never wanted to hunt them. Any stray cat or dog simply became my new best friend. Any wounded animals became my patients, and if any of our animals looked cold in the winter, I would always ask my mom if we had any old coats or shirts that I could lay outside for them to curl up on. ….Dating Scot was a good thing back then, he taught me about hunting, trapping and conservation. He gave me all of the correct information I needed to understand how it was done…”  

Conservation by killing? Now that’s a funny way to express a “love” for animals. Heaven help any stray cat, dog or wounded creature she comes across now that she’s armed with a new understanding of “conservation” tactics. Not to underestimate her hunter boyfriend’s powers of persuasion (read: manipulation, domination and control) but there must also be some sort of shut-off mechanism involved to aid people who care about animals but want to fit into a society that decidedly does not—a society that in fact was built on, and continues to thrive on, animal exploitation. 

It’s a story that has played out over and over and over again throughout human history. Certainly the 4H club has “taught” a lot of caring young kids not to be “sentimental” about the pigs, cows, chickens and rabbits they lovingly raised when it comes time to send them to slaughter. 

Pigs are one of the smartest animals to grace the earth and have nearly hairless bodies, features that should help people relate to them (especially in this age of shaved heads and waxed backs), yet they are objectified more than almost any other living being. They’re even sold and roasted with their head still attached. How many young people in cannibalistic societies over the ages were put off at their first sight of a human on a spit? Chances are they could empathize with the person being slow-roasted over a bed of coals, but they were taught to objectify the victim as an “other” and therefore not worthy of their sympathy. 

Some psychopaths were simply born without a conscience; some may have lost the use of that part of their brain after a severe blow to the head. But many actually learn to shut off their emotions, their natural reactions, to adapt to a violent or abusive household—or simply to get ahead in the world. A number of psychopathic serial killers, such as Jeffrey Dahmer, grew up around pets, but eventually used them as victims to practice empathy-blocking techniques and hone their skills as callous killers. 

Thankfully, humanity has moved beyond cannibalism (aside from the five freak cases that cropped up during the last six days of May, of course). But as long as society condones killing and eating animals, people remain only a half a step away from likes of Dahmer or Luka Rocco Magnotta.

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8 thoughts on “Nature, Nurture or a Blow to the Head?

  1. You know, having the majority of friends/ family who either hunt or eat animals (but still claim to be animal lovers) always makes me so upset and angry. I think about it so much, how can these otherwise good people feel this is ok behavior? I don’t give them the benefit of the doubt anymore, but assume it’s a lack of WANTING to change and believing they are doing something wrong. Everyone around me got so utterly defensive when I told them I was becoming a vegan, and yes this was a total lifestyle change, and yes this is for life. And I think this defensive behavior is a result of feeling bad about their actions. Also, I am so, so tired of people saying I can’t judge them for what they eat/actions they do/how they live (excessively) because they don’t judge me- what you don’t judge me for eating fruits and veggies and not wearing the clothing made from an animals hide and trying not to support a sweatshop, etc, etc??? Um, ok you get a medal. Sorry, had to get that off of my chest.

    • I know exactly where you’re coming from. I’ve had the same of reactions, and seen the same kind of denial and lack of WANTING to change, and the kind of line: “We tolerate your food choices, so you should do the same…”
      Thanks for sharing your feelings on this–feel free to vent here.

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