NGO Thematic Report on the Effects Caused to Children Witnessing Violent Government Practices Against Homeless Animals in Azerbaijan
Failure to comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Societal Violence Against Animals Witnessed by Children
The following report is presented by European Link Coalition and others. Attention has been drawn to the UN Committee about the existence of activities involving children and adolescents below the age of 18 (hereinafter children) that violate nation’s obligations under the Convention.
The UN Committee has responded to the ‘Harmful Effects’ caused to children witnessing violent animal abuse in bullfighting to advise nations where this takes place to ensure that children are not exposed to these practices. The Committee declared to “Increase efforts to change violent traditions and practices that negatively affect the well-being of children (…)”.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has included an express statement regarding the violation of the rights of people under 18 years old in the formulation of the Concluding Observations of the following countries regarding witnessing bullfighting: Portugal (2014 and September 2019), Colombia (February 2015), Mexico (June 2015), Peru (February 2016), France (February 2016), Ecuador (October 2017) and Spain (February 2018), identifying harmful effects to children participating & witnessing violent animal abuse.
Freedom of the child from all forms of violence
27. The Committee recommends that the State party set the minimum age for participation in and assisting at bullfighting and bull-running events, including in bullfighting schools, at 18 years, without exception, and raise awareness among State officials, the media and the general population about the negative effects on children, including as spectators, of the violence associated with bullfighting and bull-running. CRC/C/PRT/CO/5-6 Portugal
(f) The physical and mental well-being of children involved in training for bullfighting, and performances associated with it, as well as the mental and emotional well-being of child spectators who are exposed to the violence of bullfighting; CRC/C/COL/CO/4-5 Columbia
31. (d) The physical and mental well-being of children involved in training for bullfighting, and performances associated with it, as well as the mental and emotional wellbeing of child spectators who are exposed to the violence of bullfighting.CRC/MEX/CO/C/4-5 Mexico
Prohibit the participation of children in bullfighting training and associated performances as a worst form of child labour, ensure the protection of child spectators and raise awareness of the physical and mental violence associated with bullfighting and its impact on children. CRC/C/PER/CO/4-5 Peru
(f) Increase efforts to change violent traditions and practices that negatively affect the well-being of children, including by prohibiting children’s access to bullfighting and associated performances. CRC/C/FRA/CO/5 France
With reference to its general comment No. 13 (2011) on the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence and taking note of target 16.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals to end, inter alia, abuse and violence against children, the Committee urges the State party
28. The Committee recommends that the age limit for watching and participating in bullfighting be raised from 16 to 18 years and made statutory.
25. In order to prevent the harmful effects of bullfighting on children, the Committee recommends that the State party prohibit the participation of children under 18 years of age as bullfighters and as spectators in bullfighting events.
16. Recalling its General Comment No. 14 (2013) on the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration and its previous recommendations,9 the Committee recommends that the State party: (a) Ensure that the principle of the best interests of the child is consistently applied in all administrative and judicial proceedings, as well as in policies, programmes and projects that are relevant to, and have an impact on, children; (b) Finalize the procedure, with a clear set of criteria, to provide guidance to all relevant persons in authority for determining the best interests of the child in every area and for giving it due weight as a primary consideration; (c) Evaluate and eliminate, on the basis of the procedure and criteria described above, practices, policies and services that may not be in the best interests of the child, including those relating to societal violence against animals. CRC/C/TUN/CO/4-6 Tunisia
1. Violent Government Homeless Animal Control Practices Witnessed by Children: policies, evidence-base information and key concerns
2. Violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and General comments: articles 3, 6, 19.1 and 27.1.
3. Children’s Right to Be Heard (article 12)
5. Academic Study Papers
1. Violent Government Homeless Animal Control Practices Witnessed by Children: policies, evidence-base information and key concerns
In Azerbaijan the preferred practice of managing homeless animal populations is conducted by shooting the animals.
A subsequent study conducted by Teesside University, UK (Plant et al,2016) explored the effects of violent practices against animals, witnessed by children in societies where homeless animal populations are subjected to management by killing by violent practices. The effects were the same as identified in exposure to bullfighting but on a significantly greater scale exercising this practice in public and witnessed by children (Ladny R.T & Meyer,L (2019). Violent government activity invites a normalisation of violence (Thompson K.L & Gullone. E. (2006) Passivity allows uncontrolled numbers of homeless animal populations with attendant social status diminishment, encouraging societal violence against animals, again witnessed by children.
It should also be noted that eradication practices promote social stigmatization of the animals which encourages a normalization of violence against animals & which is evidenced to also potentially be enacted in the human domain, typically with domestic violence & child abuse..
This could all be prevented if a national neutering program as recommended by World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) , World Health Organisation (WHO) (as also effective in rabies control)9, and Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, (FVE) 10 as the ONLY effective homeless animal management practice replaced the killing practices.
Judgement of the European Court of Human Rights Georgel and Georgeta Stoicescu v Romania  ECHR 1193 (26 July 2011), is an important judgment that, based on the scope of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, held that Romania violated article 8 of the Convention through failing to take sufficient measures to protect the physical and psychological integrity of the applicant, Ms Georgeta Stoicescu. In October 2000, the applicant was attacked by a pack of stray dogs in front of her home in Bucharest. As a result of the attack, she suffered very serious injuries and became disabled. The large population of stray dogs in Romania has been a public health issue for many years (as Tunisia).
Violent Animal Abuse Practices & the Children – VIDEO: Click on this image to view the video of violent practices experienced by the children in Azerbaijan
2. Violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and General comments: articles 3, 6, 12, 19.1 and 27.1.
The situation in Azerbaijan in relation to children and violent animal abuse practices violate the following articles of the Convention:
General principles: articles 3 and 6
Protection and care of well-being of children and best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
GENERAL COMMENT no. 5 (2003) general measures of implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. “Article 3, paragraph 1 -In all actions concerning children the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration.
According to Concluding observations (2010) of the Committee on the Rights of the Child CRC/C/TUN/CO/3(32), Committee concerns about the views of children not being sufficiently taken into account and respected.
Civil rights and liberties: article 19.1
State Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence.
The State Party has not taken appropriate steps to protect children from the mental harm of abuse caused by children being exposed to violent homeless animal management practices.
According to Concluding observations (2010) of the Committee on the Rights of the Child CRC/C/TUN/CO/3 (42), the Committee encourages the State party to prioritize the elimination of all forms of violence against children and recommends that the State party pay particular attention to prohibit all forms of violence against children and use the recommendations of the United Nations Study on Violence against Children as a tool for action in partnership with civil society and, in particular, with the involvement of children to ensure that all children are protected from all forms of psychological violence and to gain momentum for concrete and time-bound actions to prevent and respond to such violence and abuse.
Wellbeing and basic health: article 27.1
Article 27. 1. The State Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
Recognition of the right included in article 27.1 is violated when dealing with public animal killing, as the mental, spiritual and moral development of children is severely compromised by the experience linked to the activity and to traumatic consequences and after-effects of viewing such an event (habituation of violence, traumatic effects, moral desensitization and disturbance of values).
Similarly, the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations on "Children's Rights" A/RES/61/146, of 19 December 2006 condemned all forms of violence against children and urges States to take effective legislative and other measures to prevent and eliminate violence in all its forms (physical, mental and psychological).
Thus, the State Party has not adopted the necessary legislative and administrative measures to ensure children such protection and care as is necessary for their wellbeing and to protect against mental abuse in public places.
The physical, mental, spiritual and moral development of children is severely compromised by the danger linked to the activity and to traumatic consequences and after-effects of viewing such events. Witnessing public killing of sentient beings often befriended by the children does not foster the development of those educational values incumbent on the State Parties.
The Committee has already declared its position on the exposure of children to violent animal abuse.
Various psychological studies on violence and animal abuse have shown that witnessing or participating in the violence inherent in bullfights and witnessing public violence against homeless animals can have the following negative impacts on children:
Traumatic effects on children, who cannot freely express their feelings in an environment shaped by adults. A child’s normal reaction to the sight of an animal bleeding as a result of human violence is always, on principle, one of rejection, distress, and fear. Progressive desensitization with an erosion of affective empathy & progressive normalisation of violence from traumatization potentially life-affecting, are among identified results (Merz-Perez, L., Heide, K. M., & Silverman, I. J. (2001).
Habituation to violence if we show them that gratuitous violence can be acceptable and even recommendable. Witnessing the mistreatment of animals perpetuates the cycle of violence by desensitization and imitation of behaviours, especially among people who are at an age when they are learning and being taught.
As a result, significant evidence exists showing that youths who repeatedly witness the mistreatment of animals might be more susceptible to “learning” to use violence in their personal relationships (Wright, J., & Hensley, C. (2003), Murrell, A. R. Merwin, R. M., Christoff, K. A., & Henning, K. R. (2005), Daly, B., & Morton, L. L. (2008), Buka, S. L., Stichick, T. L., Birdthistle, I., & Earls, F. J. (2001).
Confusion of values because the child’s opinion of what is fair and unfair is destabilized. Public Killing of innocent domesticated animals is the negation of what children understand a value to be. Children’s ability to feel empathy is not only limited to human beings; they can also feel it for animals. This is based on the concept of biophilia - the innate emotional bond that humans have towards other living creatures - a predisposition that is particularly strong in children. Killing animals also runs contrary to law - and children know that mistreatment of animals is punishable by law in many countries.
Weakening of the moral compass at a time when children need to find role models to identify with. Children, anxious to preserve the image of their parents and to avoid conflicts of loyalty, have no option but to deny the brutality they have witnessed and to hide all feelings of compassion towards the animal victim. A progressive desensitization process ensues with an erosion of affective empathy and a normalisation of violence which can then be taken into the child' adult world and enacted against people and property. A Cycle of Abuse can be created which results in an increased likelihood of child safeguarding issues and domestic violence. All forms of public violence against animals can cause 'Harmful Effects' to the observing child whether these practices include shooting, poisoning or violent removal for later slaughter.
Children exposed to violent practices can suffer life changing effects.
European Link Coalition makes the following recommendations to in order that Azerbaijan meet its obligations pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child:
That Azerbaijan comply with the Council of Europe Treaty 125 to adopt the appropriate legislative or administrative measures introducing neutering programs of dogs as being the only proven management practice that could prevent children from being exposed to this kind of violence.
WHO, OIE & FVE all advise national neutering programs as the ONLY effective homeless animal management solution.
19 October 2007 Azerbaijan ratified the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals.1 May 2008 this came into force.
‘ When a Party considers that the numbers of stray animals present it with a problem, it shall take the appropriate legislative and/or administrative measures necessary to reduce their numbers in a way which does not cause avoidable pain, suffering or distress. Such measures shall include the requirements that:
b Parties undertake to consider:
ii) Reducing the unplanned breeding of dogs and cats by promoting the neutering of these animals; ‘
'Once the treaty enters into force in respect of a State, it becomes LEGALLY binding and the State MUST implement its provisions'. https://rm.coe.int/16802f5aff
5. Academic Study Papers
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Ascione, F. R., Weber, C. V., Thompson, T. M., Heath, J., Maruyama, M., & Hayashi, K. (2007). Battered pets and domestic violence: Animal abuse reported by women experiencing intimate violence and by nonabused women. Violence Against Women, 13(4), 354-373.
Becker, K. D., Stuewig, J., Herrera, V. M., & McCloskey, L. A. (2004). A study of firesetting and animal cruelty in children: Family influences and adolescent outcomes. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 43(7), 905-912.
Buka, S. L., Stichick, T. L., Birdthistle, I., & Earls, F. J. (2001). Youth exposure to violence: prevalence, risks, and consequences. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71(3), 298. Daly, B., & Morton, L. L. (2008). Empathic correlates of witnessing the inhumane killing of an animal: An investigation of single and multiple exposures. Society & Animals, 16(3), 243-255.
DeGue, S., & DiLillo, D. (2009). Is animal cruelty a “red flag” for family violence? Investigating co-occurring violence toward children, partners, and pets. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24(6), 1036-1056.
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Farrell, A. D., Mehari, K. R., Kramer-Kuhn, A., & Goncy, E. A. (2014). The impact of victimization and witnessing violence on physical aggression among high-risk adolescents. Child Development, 85(4), 1694-1710.
Faver, C. A. (2009). School-based humane education as a strategy to prevent violence: Review and recommendations. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 365-370.
Flynn, C. P. (1999). Animal abuse in childhood and later support for interpersonal violence in families. Society & Animals, 7(2), 161-172.
Flynn, C. P. (2011). Examining the links between animal abuse and human violence. Crime, Law and Social Change, 55(5), 453-468.
Gullone, E., & Robertson, N. (2008). The relationship between bullying and animal abuse behaviors in adolescents: the importance of witnessing animal abuse. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 371-379.
Henry, B. C. (2004). Exposure to animal abuse and group context: Two factors affecting participation in animal abuse. Anthrozoos, 17(4), 290-305.
Hensley, C., & Tallichet, S. E. (2005). Learning to be cruel?: Exploring the onset and frequency of animal cruelty. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 49(1), 37-47.
Holt, S., Buckley, H., & Whelan, S. (2008). The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: A review of the literature. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(8), 797-810.
Kellert, S. R., & Felthous, A. R. (1985). Childhood cruelty toward animals among criminals and noncriminals. Human relations, 38(12), 1113-1129.
Ladny, R.T., Meyer, L. Traumatized Witnesses: Review of Childhood Exposure to Animal Cruelty. Journ Child Adol Trauma (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653- 019-00277-x Merz-Perez, L., Heide, K. M., & Silverman, I. J. (2001). Childhood cruelty to animals and subsequent violence against humans. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45(5), 556-573.
Murrell, A. R. Merwin, R. M., Christoff, K. A., & Henning, K. R. (2005). When parents model violence: the relationship between witnessing weapon use as a child and later use as an adult. Behavior and Social Issues, 14, 128-133.
Nicoll, K., Trifone, C., & Samuels, W. E. (2008). An in-class, humane education program can improve young students’ attitudes toward animals. Society & Animals, 16, 45-60.
Plant, M., van Schaik, P., Gullone, E., & Flynn, C. (2016). “It’s a Dog’s Life”: Culture, Empathy, Gender, and Domestic Violence Predict Animal Abuse in Adolescents—Implications for Societal Health. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 0886260516659655.
Tardif-Williams, C. Y., & Bosacki, S. L. (2015). Evaluating the impact of a humane education summer-camp program on school-aged children’s relationships with companion animals. Anthrozoos, 28(4), 587-600. doi:10.1080/08927936.2015.1070001
Thompson, K. L., & Gullone, E. (2006). An investigation into the association between the witnessing of animal abuse and adolescents’ behavior toward animals. Society & Animals, 14(3), 221-243.
Wright, J., & Hensley, C. (2003). From animal cruelty to serial murder: Applying the graduation hypothesis. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 47(1), 71-88.