*As an animal rights activist and a longtime scholar of sexism and gender
issues, while reading the recent spate of articles about the sexual abuse
of females by males in positions of power, I have been struck by the clear
similarities to the abuse of animals by humans.*

*Let me be clear. I am not speaking here about situations where someone
beats a dog or kills a cat, or other horrific instances of abuse and
torture of individual animals. I am talking about the systemic and
systematic abuse of animals that is practiced, institutionalized,
and normalized by all human cultures throughout time, where humans are in a
position of greater power than the animals. Just as human males in
positions of power feel free to abuse females they desire, so too do we
humans feel free to do the same to animals.*

*The common dimension is a concept of property, which explicitly or
implicitly has been used throughout history to justify the abuse of humans
females, and which similarly has normalized, driven, and justified human
treatment of animals across all centuries and societies. In both cases,
the victims, deemed property, become resources or objects to fulfill the
desires of those in power. Thankfully, legal views of women as chattel
have eroded in many places, although implicit and more subtle views of them
as property (private if not public), as “available” resources, persist
today still. But for animals there has been virtually no change at all,
legally or otherwise. Legally they remain our property, things or
objects to be used and exploited in any way we wish. Thus as we see with
human females still, concepts of property and ownership have spawned the
justification for their abuse by people in positions of greater power—males
in the case of human females, all humans in the case of animals.*

*Thus both groups are treated as “available” resources. As beings to be
“taken” and used as the perpetrators see fit. For human females, this may
include horrific sexual abuse, for animals “anything goes” and there is
virtually no limit to how we humans may use animals and what we may do to
them. We eat their flesh, we steal their eggs and the milk intended for
their own babies, we torture and kill them so we may tear away and wear
their skin and fur. We brutally separate mothers and babies, we rip
families apart. We demean and torture animals so they can perform for our
“entertainment,” we perform unspeakable “experiments” on them. *

*All of this because, like the human victims of sexual abuse, the animals
are “ours” for the taking, there to violate, to commit terrible acts upon
by those in power. And we do, ruthlessly. In the words of Nobel prize
winning author J.M. Coetzee, a dedicated animal advocate, human treatment
of animals is ”a crime of stupefying proportions.” And Nobel prize winning
writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, also a resolute animal advocate, wrote,”In
relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal

*Human treatment of animals, these normalized actions on our part, gives
the lie to the morality we profess to , and bespeaks deep pathology in the
human psyche. To abuse, exploit, torture and kill other beings, living and
sentient, because we are in a position of dominance and greater power is
something we consider wrong. To then split and compartmentalize this
ethic—culturally and individually—and apply it solely to humans but not
animals not only contradicts our professed values and morality, but in so
doing also creates psychologically dangerous and destructive conflicts
within the human psyche and soul. Like our animal victims, we too are
damaged and suffer from what we have wrought, from the atrocities we
inflict on them.*

*It is time for this to stop. Time for our norms, institutions and values
to change, time to bury the outmoded historical paradigms which have
unscientifically created hierarchy among human groups and between humans
and animals, attempting thereby to justify exploitation and abuse by those
wielding power. Time to change oppressive ideologies and institutions. Time
for humans to end our psychological denial, reintegrate our morality, and
heal our souls. To become the ethical beings we profess to be–so that just
as we so correctly condemn the sexual abuse of human females, so too will
we condemn, renounce, and end our exploitation and abuse of animals.*

*Deborah Tanzer, Ph.D, is a psychologist and psychoanalyst in New York
City.. She is writing a book about the psychological connections between
human violence, gender issues, and human treatment of animals.*

*Deborah Tanzer,


  1. This is an excellent discussion on an issue that gets no publicity …Animals are terribly treated by us and the females is singled out even more..It must stop..more humans need to “woke” to humanity’s crimes against them …I have changed my lifestyle since understanding the horrible consequences of our inaction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s