Theme Suggestion For UN General Comment to
Protect Children From 'Harmful Effects' Caused by Exposure to 'Societal Violence Against Animals'
NGO Thematic Report Informing on the Recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child & Compliance with UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals About Effects Caused to Children Witnessing Violent Societal Animal Abuse
Violent Government Enacted or Condoned Animal Abuse Traditions & Practices
Witnessed by Children
The following report is presented by European Link Coalition in collaboration with other organisations. Attention has been drawn by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about the existence of activities involving children and adolescents below the age of 18 (hereinafter children) that violate a nation’s obligations under the Convention.
The UN Committee has identified ‘Harmful Effects’ caused to children witnessing violent animal abuse in bullfighting and has recommended to States Parties where this takes place to ensure that children are not exposed to these practices. The Committee has 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.
During the 87th Session of the Committee these issues were raised as a recommendation to the authorities of Tunisia, to prevent children from exposure to societal animal abuse. This had been an expansion of the Committees recommendation that children should not be exposed to bullfighting because of ‘Harmful Effects’ caused to the child.
Implicit in these recommendations is that children are harmfully affected because of empathetic connections with the sentience of an animal and independent of species.
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. Domain unification of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with UN Sustainable Development Goals
4. Children’s Right to Be Heard (article 12)
6. Academic Study Papers
1. Violent Government Homeless Animal Control Practices Witnessed by Children: policies, evidence-based information and key concerns
In many countries the preferred practice of managing homeless animal populations is conducted by shooting or poisoning the animals.
A UK University study (Plant et al,2016) explored the effects of violent societal practices against animals, witnessed by children in societies where homeless animal populations are subject to management by killing, usually by shooting, poisoning or violently capturing for later slaughter .
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.
Whereas 'societal violence against animals' takes place in various forms, in diverse societies & cultures, there is one commonality...its effects on the children. As depicted in the following video, violent traditions & practices to which children are exposed, are diverse.
It should also be noted that where children are exposed to societal violence against animals for religious reasons, the following is applicable.. “Although preservation of religious and cultural values and traditions as part of the identity of the child must be taken into consideration, practices that are inconsistent or incompatible with the rights established in the Convention are not in the child’s best interests. Cultural identity cannot excuse or justify the perpetuation by decision-makers and authorities of traditions and cultural values that deny the child or children the rights guaranteed by the Convention” - UN General Comment 14 (2013) CRC/CGC/14.
Violent Animal Abuse Practices & the Children – VIDEO: Click on this image to view an extended video of violent animal abuse practices & testimonies from children who have witnessed the violence
It should be noted that the video contains harrowing scenes & for child protection professionals unable to continue viewing, please consider that the children have no such choice.
It should be noted that although on these practices may be a nocturnal activity, the children are affected by hearing the sounds of violence, can witness this from their windows & also see animals dying on the streets after only being severely wounded.
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.
The disregard of the unique bond between children and animals and consequential societal indifference to or condonation of childhood awareness or exposure to such cruelty, damages communities through pathways of cumulative and cascading negative consequences (Cao, 2013). Numerous studies from across the globe consistently show that children who witness violence against animals are at a significantly increased risk for a variety of maladaptive behavior including mental health issues such as suicidality, lack of empathy, development of callous traits, and perpetration of violence against humans and animals (Miller & Knutson, 1997; Becker & French, 2004; Gullone, 2014; Plant, 2019; Ladny & Meyer, 2020) When animal cruelty is an accepted part of society, regardless of whether it is for religious reasons or control of stray populations, such violence against animals becomes wide-spread (Lockwood, 1999). Consequently, it becomes the norm for youth to be aware of such violence and exposed to this cruelty on an everyday basis (Flynn, 2001).
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)  and Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, (FVE)  as the ONLY effective homeless animal management practice replaced the killing practices.
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 many countries in relation to children and violent animal abuse practices violates 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's 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.
40 years of research has provided academic resilience to the 'link' between animal abuse & its associations in the human domain. This now informs many authorities including the FBI (USA) and College of Policing (UK).
Children exposed to violent practices suffer sometimes life changing effects.
Effects include empathy erosion & a normalisation of violence.
3. Domain Unification of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with UN Sustainable Development Goals
Following a body of research into the effects on children exposed to violent animal abuse traditions & practices, a resultant report was submitted to the UNCRC. During the 87th Session of the Committee these issues were raised as a recommendation to the authorities of Tunisia, to prevent children from exposure to societal animal abuse. This had been an expansion of the Committees recommendation that children should not be exposed to bullfighting because of ‘Harmful Effects’ caused to the child.
Significant research conducted over decades also attests to effects on children exposed to violent practices. These can include erosion of empathy & a normalisation of violence which is often taken into adulthood & enacted in the form of domestic violence & child abuse. Effects are caused to the child exposed to violent animal abuse because of a child’s empathic engagement with the sentience of the animal.
Relating the UN Committee recommendations for 2030 Agenda & each relevant SDG :-
Agenda Point 8 ‘ children growing up free from violence ‘ Concerns of the UN Committee was that children can normalise violence by watching public animal abuse. UN Convention Articles 3, 6, 19 & 27
Agenda Point 9 Envisage a world where …humanity lives in harmony with nature & in which wildlife & other living species are protected’
SDG 3 UNCRC concerns about the mental health of children exposed to violent practices against homeless animals. UN Convention Article 19 ‘to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence’
SDG 4 Quality Education UNCRC Article 27 & 29 ‘a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development’
SDG 15 Life on Land. Recognition that empathic connection with other sentient beings is a natural human function & one which can be eroded by exposure to external influences.
SDG 16 Perception of injustice to fellow sentient beings.UNCRC Article 29.
SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals
Protection of children from experiencing violent practices against homeless animals requires a partnership solution to humanely remove animal numbers from the streets. The sole solution is a WHO, OIE & FVE recommended national neutering program. UNDP had already engaged with such a program in Bosnia even before learning of the human impact & the recommendations of UNCRC.
4. Children’s Right to Be Heard
Article 12 1. State Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
Children Expressing Their Feelings -VIDEO: Click on this image to view a short video which includes children expressing their feelings about having to see violent public animal abuse practices.
The video is being shared globally on social media platforms to 'inform & invite' public awareness & involvement
It is recommended that because the UN Committee has recognised 'Harmful Effects' to children exposed to societal violence against animals, independent of species but because of a child's empathetic connection with fellow sentient beings, States Parties are required to 'Evaluate and eliminate societal violence against animals in all its forms'.
It is recommended that violent government homeless animal management practices are both historically proven to be unsuccessful but also unnecessary. WHO, OIE & FVE all advise national neutering programs as the ONLY effective solution.
It is recommended that State Parties adopt the appropriate legislative or administrative measures to prevent the violent killing of animals witnessed by children & violent government policies which encourage societal violence against animals..
That State Parties adopt national neutering programs of dogs as being the only proven management practice which could prevent children from being exposed to this kind of violence.
It should be noted that where societal violence against animals is conducted for religious reasons, children should be safeguarded from witnessing the violence and that the 'best interests of ther child shall be a primary consideration' UN CRC Article 3.
“Although preservation of religious and cultural values and traditions as part of the identity of the child must be taken into consideration, practices that are inconsistent or incompatible with the rights established in the Convention are not in the child’s best interests. Cultural identity cannot excuse or justify the perpetuation by decision-makers and authorities of traditions and cultural values that deny the child or children the rights guaranteed by the Convention” (section
That UNICEF, in compliance with the recommendations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, seek to ensure protection of children from experiencing 'Harmful Effects' caused by exposure to violent public animal abuse by informing all UNICEF country offices & challenging respective governments to cease all violent animal abuse traditions & practices which affect the children.
6. Academic Study Papers
Ascione, F. R. (1993). Children who are cruel to animals: A review of research and implications for developmental psychopathology. Anthrozoos, 6(4), 226-247.
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.
Dutton, D. G. (2000). Witnessing parental violence as a traumatic experience shaping the abusive personality. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 3(1), 59-67.
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.