Karl Marx

Michel Foucault


TR Young

Dragan Milovanovic

Peter Manning

Stuart Henry

Charlene Myers

Simon Reynolds Bill Bogard Angus Carlyle Mark Fisher

Postmodern Criminology

Violence Against Humans and Other Animals:
A Comparative Analysis of Serial Murder and Animal Abuse

Charlene Myers July, 1999


Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


It is understandable that acts of violence exhibited against victims of serial murder by their perpetrators are viewed as reprehensible. On the other hand, similar violence inflicted upon animals by their human perpetrators goes relatively unheeded. This paper will examine violent behaviours which are inflicted on both human and animal victims, including hunting, "meat"-eating and cannibalism, forcible confinement, and "scientific" experimentation. It will be found that although both humans and animals are exposed to abuses that are similar and could thus be presumed to cause similar degrees of suffering to the victims (for instance, those which are hunted, eaten, or used in experiments), the amount of concern displayed for humans and animals subjected to these types of violence is incongruous. This is a phenomenon which is worthy of investigation. It will be argued in this paper that the difference in response to human and animal victims of violence and abuse is partially as a result of speciesism and the patriarchal notion that humans have "dominion" over the other animals. The argument will be made that dominant discourse, particularly scientific and religious discourses, has had a profound impact on the treatment of both animals and women. There are links between the victims—both categories of victims are objectified and exploited by their perpetrators, a phenomenon in which gender is a common theme—and neither women nor animals will be liberated unless they are both liberated from patriarchy. Thus, in attempting to understand particular behaviours exhibited by those who commit serial murder, it may be important to examine deeply entrenched attitudes which sustain an animal-abusing culture. Simply because animals other than humans are not of the species homo sapiens does not lead to the conclusion that they are unworthy of protection from abusive treatment—to suggest otherwise perpetuates a culture of violence toward all sentient beings.


Serial murder is a phenomenon which garners a great deal of attention from professionals and lay persons alike, possibly because the acts committed by serial murderers are considered by many to be unthinkable. This paper will examine violent acts committed by serial murderers, behaviours which most of us find difficult to conceive of, including forcible confinement, torture, and cannibalism. The types of violent acts that will be considered would most often be associated with sadistic, sexual, and serial offenders rather than those who commit crimes of passion. This is important to keep in mind, because the amount of attention placed on acts of violence committed by serial murderers seems to suggest that they are perceived as far more abhorrent than are acts committed by those who kill in the heat of the moment.

The violent acts committed by serial murderers will then be compared with violent acts committed against other animals by humans, and it will be shown that the behaviours are remarkably similar. Both categories of victims are subjected to equally horrific treatment, which I would suggest should result in similar concern for the welfare of the victims. The current situation for the animals is that they receive little, if any, protection, which is a conundrum worthy of investigation. It will be argued that although these violent acts (and the cruelty contained within them) are nearly identical, as is the harm caused to the victims, simply because they are committed on two different species of victims they evoke extremely divergent societal responses. The difference in response to these types of violent behaviour begs the following question: why are the responses so radically different when the behaviours are nearly identical and cause severe harm (often to the point of loss of life) to both categories of victims? This is an important question(1), which I will attempt to address in this paper.

The discourses arising out of the modernist era have certainly had an impact on beliefs about the worth of animals other than humans. An historical account of the influence of Western ideologies, particularly Judeo-Christian religion and science, will set the stage for the comparison of violent behaviours inflicted on both human and animal victims by human perpetrators. As we will see, a "logic of domination," (Warren, 1990; cited in VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994:246) consistent with a patriarchal, modernist viewpoint, has led to relative acceptance of abusive treatment of animals. Furthermore, "speciesism" (Ryder; cited in Singer, 1975:7), a form of bias which favours human interests over animal interests (Singer, 1975), has had a profound effect on the treatment of animals other than humans, and its impact, too, will be examined.

On the other hand, modernist discourse which sanctions the exploitation of animals other than humans is no longer accepted unquestioningly. In response to dominant modernist discourses, postmodernist and ecofeminist discourses provide support for the notion that we can no longer support ideologies which serve to justify horrendous treatment of animals simply because they are not humans. Robbins (1987) and Adams (1990, 1994) are among those who challenge current truth claims about the necessity of "meat”(2)-eating for nutrition and health, and Singer (1975) has questioned the validity of much of scientific experimentation on animals. These postmodernist challenges to the "truths" established by modernist discourse will prove useful in the examination of violence inflicted upon victims of serial murderers and animal victims of violence.

The widespread social acceptance of dominant modernist discourse which sanctions cruelty to animals (and marginalized humans) is not generally contemplated when considering possible factors contributing to serial murder. Perhaps sociogenic factors should be more closely examined when attempting to understand serial murder. It is not unthinkable that sociological factors, such as the ingrained social acceptance of institutionalized animal abuse, may have an effect on violence toward humans—violence begets violence. In any event, attempting to understand the causes of serial murder is not the major focus of this paper. Serial murder was chosen as the focus of violence toward humans because it is the most striking example of the gulf between the amount of concern for human and animal victims of violence. The main goal of this paper will be to attempt to demonstrate that violence inflicted upon humans and animals is of a similar nature—it causes nearly identical harm to the victims—and should thus garner like concern for the victims. The possible effects of patriarchy and modernism as it pertains to human victims of serial murderers and animal victims of human violence will now be examined, as will the alternatives espoused by ecofeminism.

Some Background: Patriarchy and the Promise of Ecofeminism

The patriarchal institutions of Western society originated in the modern era. Modernism "had its origins in the Enlightenment period," and "was a celebration of the liberating potentials of the social sciences, the materialist gains of capitalism, new forms of rational thought, due process safeguards, abstract rights applicable to all, and the individual" (Milovanovic, 1992a, 1994a; Dews, 1987; Sarup, 1989; Lyotard, 1984; Baker, 1993; cited in Milovanovic, 1997). The effects of the domination inherent within modernist institutions, namely Western (especially Judeo-Christian) religion and science/technology, on Western society have been far-reaching, particularly the myths of man's dominion over the rest of the earth's creatures and women's responsibility for the "fall from grace" (Cartmill, 1993; Merchant, 1996; VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994). The Holy Bible, King James version, Genesis, Book 1 (cited in Merchant, 1996:29; emphasis added) contains the story which suggests that God instructed Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it," and added that they were hereby given "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." This biblical dogma has been a major source of justification for the exploitation of animals (VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994).

Linked with the notion that man has dominion over the earth's creatures is the story in Genesis 3 of man's "fall from grace," which occurred after Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden (Merchant, 1996). According to the myth, it was Eve, not Adam, who was ultimately responsible for the downfall of humanity. A considerable dose of the elements of gender and domination are contained in the symbolism found in these myths. Lynn White, Jr. (1967; in VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994:49) states that "[e]specially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen," and adds that "Christianity . . . not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God's will that man exploit nature for his proper ends." With the advent of the scientific revolution, man's perceived ability to restore himself to grace by subduing nature and the animal population was significantly bolstered (VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994).

Science and technology, which are directly responsible for experimentation on animals and factory farming, are patriarchal, modernist endeavours which have traditionally been dominated by males (Birkeland, 1993). Thus, scientific knowledge is given more weight or value in a patriarchal society than are non-dominant (e.g., feminist) forms of knowledge (Milovanovic, 1997). This is problematic in the sense that feminist and other minority discourses have difficulty competing for status within the established dominant "knowledge base" (Milovanovic, 1997; Zimmerman, 1995). The alternative viewpoints expressed within these minority discourses are thus lost on the majority of society. Therefore, it could be argued that the discourse which has been constructed by those historically participating in science and technology (namely Caucasian, middle-class males) is male-biased and thus biased toward protecting the male-dominant status quo.

In fact, despite her assertion that the dualistic concepts of nature and culture, women and men, emotion and reason, are socially constructed, the fact that men have historically been the privileged gender with respect to the production of "knowledge" is important (Merchant, 1996:50; emphasis added):

The authors of such powerful narratives as laissez-faire capitalism, mechanistic science, manifest destiny, and the frontier story are usually privileged elites with access to power and patronage. Their words are read by persons of power who add the new stories to the older Biblical story. As such, the books become the library of Western Culture. The library, in turn, functions as ideology when ordinary people read, listen to, internalize, and act out the stories told by their elders—the ministers, entrepreneurs, newspaper editors, and professors who teach and socialize the young.

Historically, it has been men who have created, participated in, and espoused the ideologies of Judeo-Christianity and science, ideologies which have permeated Western thought to its very core. As a result, beliefs about animals and nature which are inconsistent with those upheld by the church and science appear to have been, for the most part, dismissed.

On the other hand, ecofeminism, a postmodernist influenced mode of thought, is one response to the modernist notions about the worth of animals and women. Postmodernism "had its roots in poststructuralist French thought of the late 1960s and the 1970s" (Milovanovic, 1997), and arose in opposition to the structures created by modernism:

Out of the debris of planned structures and controlled knowledges, an active critique of modernism was to unfold. Postmodernists . . . were to question the optimistic assumptions of modernist thinkers. They were to challenge their theories, their knowledge, and especially their claims to truth. The target of attack was especially profound with regard to modernism's structures: monopolies, manipulative advertisement industries, entrenched bureaucracies, dominant and totalizing discourses, and the ideology of the legal apparatus (Henry and Milovanovic, 1996:3-4).

One of postmodernism's greatest contributions is its critique of modernism and the institutions modernism has spawned, and it lends itself well to the current analysis of the reasons for the seeming lack of concern over violence inflicted upon animal victims when compared with concern for human victims of serial murder.

Ecofeminism draws a link between the domination of women by men and the domination of animals other than humans by humans (Adams and Donovan, 1995; VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994). Although there are many "ecofeminisms," (Merchant, 1992) just as there are many "postmodernisms" (Milovanovic, 1997), many ecofeminists argue that women will be liberated only if the currently prescribed to hierarchy of domination is addressed—this necessarily includes addressing the treatment of animals by the human species. Adams and Donovan (1995) submit that the importance of understanding the oppression of animals is related to an understanding of the oppression of women, due to the fact that neither will be liberated unless and until both are liberated. Furthermore, they posit that the oppression of animals deserves to be addressed for the sake of the animals themselves, and not simply for the advances feminist theories can obtain on behalf of women. Ecofeminism, then, is an attempt to expose a "logic of domination" (Warren, 1990; cited in VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994:246).

Ecofeminists suggest that patriarchy is a form of domination associated with modernism (VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994). According to ecofeminism, the myriad of ways in which the earth (and the living creatures inhabiting it) is exploited can be partially explained according to gender. "Masculine" ideologies are paramount in society, and thus permit the domination of objects (or subjects) considered "feminine," within which the earth and the animal kingdom are arguably included (VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994). For instance, Karen Warren suggests that ecofeminism "is the position that there are important connections—historical, symbolic, theoretical—between the domination of women and the domination of nonhuman nature" (1990:125; cited in VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994:246). Warren adds that ". . . the conceptual connections between the dual dominations of women and nature are located in an oppressive patriarchal conceptual framework characterized by a logic of domination" (cited in VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994:246).

VanDeVeer and Pierce (1994:246-247) assert that a "logic of domination" is problematic for the following reason: "[c]rucial to the logic of domination is the assumption that in situations of diversity, differences (real or alleged) such as those between humans and rocks or men and women, are interpreted as moral hierarchies" (emphasis added). Thus, gender is related to the domination of animals in a number of ways. The "logic of domination" and its effect on those members of society considered to be the least powerful, including women, sexual minorities, racial minorities, and animals other than humans, is important to the discussion about violence against humans and other animals. It is the least powerful members of society who are most often oppressed, controlled, and exploited by their victimizers, who are most often male.

Beyond being linked to the discriminatory treatment of human women by human men (sexism), the domination of other animals by humans exposes yet another category of discrimination, based upon "speciesism" (Ryder; cited in Singer, 1975:7; also see note 4, p. 25). Speciesism is at least one type of prejudice which informs the belief that "moral superiority justifies subordination" (VanDeVeer and Pierce, 1994:247), and is thus an impetus for discrimination against animals. Singer (1975:7) defines speciesism as "a prejudice or attitude of bias toward the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species." Thus, it can be argued that animal abuse, as well as the lack of concern expressed over this violence, occurs as a direct result of speciesism, and is simply one example of the belief that humans have the "right" to dominate any species considered "lower" than humans on the evolutionary ladder. An examination of hunting, "laboratory" experimentation, and flesh eating will now be undertaken with a view to shedding light on the violent acts exhibited toward humans and other animals, the domination inherent within them, and the reasons for the different responses the acts evoke. I would argue that it is hypocritical to deplore violence against humans while sanctioning acts that are nearly identical toward the other animals, and the following examples will clearly demonstrate the similarity of these acts of violence.

Restraint, Forcible Confinement and Torture—The Research Lab and the Factory Farm

Atrocities routinely committed against animals that are raised for human consumption or used for "research" purposes(6) are often considered torture when performed on humans. These animals are restrained, confined, and tortured to a degree which is incomprehensible. Chickens are confined to cages which are so crowded they are unable to lay down or spread both wings at once (Adams, 1994; Robbins, 1987; Singer, 1975); sows are restrained so that they may be forcibly raped in order to be inseminated (Adams, 1994); and all types of animals are utilized as "subjects" in experiments (Adams, 1994; Singer, 1975). The restraint, confinement, and additional torture of anyone against her will, be it either human or other animal(7), is both harmful (physically, psychologically, and/or emotionally) and unethical. The similarities between acts of torture that are committed against humans or animals who are forcibly restrained or confined will now be examined.

Information about cases of forcible confinement seems to be less plentiful than that of those who murder their victims, as it may be that it is not considered as noteworthy as murder. Nonetheless, confinement can be considered as torture and is harmful to the victim. Section 279(2) of the Canadian Criminal Code(8) reads that "[e]veryone who, without lawful authority, confines, imprisons or forcibly seizes another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years" (in Rodriguez, 1990:154). Serial murderers often restrain their victims, and some have been known to hold their victims captive for periods of time prior to killing them. For instance, Paul Bernardo held both his victims for a number of days prior to killing them (Burnside and Cairns, 1995). Robert Berdella held some of his victims for weeks, and photographed them with a Polaroid camera while he subjected them to acts of torture prior to their deaths (Jackman and Cole, 1992). Although Berdella is not a typical case (Jackman and Cole, 1992), many who have not eventually murdered their victims have nonetheless held persons captive and tortured them for months and even years(9).

Like some human victims, many animals are also subjected to restraint and confinement by their human captors. For instance, animals used in research labs are often contained within small cages, with little room to move. Singer (1975:60) verbally and photographically documents a case where monkeys were "kept for over a year in 'restraining' chairs," in an experiment at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research which was designed to study "the physiological reactions of the monkeys to this stress" (Singer, 1975:60). Furthermore, Singer (1975:61) recounts an experiment quoted in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour (15(1), p. l69) undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in which baboons were severely restrained in these apparatuses for long periods of time:

Noting that "the difficulties of restraining increase markedly with the use of electric shock" they "anchor" the baboons' arms so as not to allow the animal to straighten them. At the same time they allow room for the "considerable growth" to be expected in a long-term study.

Singer adds that the report from the study states that several of the "subjects" of this experiment were restrained for "one-and-one-half years of 'continuous experimentation.'" (Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour, 15(1), p. l69; cited in Singer, 1975:61).

Animals reared for human "food" on "factory farms" are also subjected to forcible confinement, and to a degree which is incomprehensible. Adams (1994:99) points out that "[i]ntensive factory farming in the United States [alone] involves the denial of the beingness of more than seven billion animals yearly." Robbins (1987) puts the total number of animals killed yearly in the United States for human consumption at roughly nine million. This is a staggering number, and the majority of these animals are forced to live in conditions that are appalling. Although legislation has been enacted in the United Kingdom which would prevent birds from being confined to the point where the animal is unable to "stretch its [sic] wings freely," "poultry" is exempt (Singer, 1975:106). Thus, "broiler" chickens (those raised for their flesh) are kept in strictly confined quarters (Singer, 1975:100):

In order to allow total control of light and some control of temperature (there is usually heating, but rarely cooling) the broiler sheds have solid, windowless walls and rely on artificial ventilation. The birds never see daylight, until the day they are taken out to be killed; nor do they breathe air which is not heavy with the ammonia from their own droppings.

"Layers" (hens which are raised strictly to produce eggs) are subjected to even harsher constraints (Singer, 1975; Robbins, 1987). They may be forced to live nine to a cage (Singer, 1975). Singer (1975:110) suggests that:

Watching the hens is like watching three people trying to spend a comfortable night in a single bed—except that the hens are condemned to this fruitless struggle for a whole year rather than a single night. An added irritation is that after a few months in the cages the birds start to lose their feathers, whether from rubbing against the wire, from feather-pecking by other birds, or because of the general diet and sunless conditions I do not know. The result is that their skin begins to rub against the wire, and it is common to see birds that have been in the cages for some time with skin rubbed bright red and raw, especially around the tail.

Farrowing sows and "veal" calves are kept in cages in which they are unable to lay down comfortably (Singer, 1975; Adams, 1994; Robbins, 1987). Unfortunately, animal cruelty prevention legislation that had been created at the time of Singer’s writing did not generally apply to "farm" animals (Singer, 1975:119):

As for the cages themselves, an ordinary citizen who kept dogs in similar conditions for their entire lives would risk prosecution for cruelty. A farmer who keeps an animal of comparable intelligence in this manner, however, is more likely to be rewarded with a tax concession or, in some countries, a direct government subsidy.

It is obvious that, similar to human victims, animals raised in factory farms and used in experiments suffer as a result of being forcibly confined.

Forcible confinement, while being an act of torture itself, provides that the victim is constrained, a condition which thus allows for the infliction of further torture—human and animal victims are often subjected to torture while being held in forcible confinement by their captors. Serial murderer Robert Berdella's confession demonstrates the horror to which his human victims were subjected (Jackman and Cole, 1992:286-287):

Over the next several hours, Berdella sodomized Ferris with his finger, his penis, a carrot and a cucumber. Ferris was tied to the bed and gagged, occasionally reacting slightly to the repeated assaults. At midnight, Berdella noted that Ferris was fighting, so he restarted his program of 7,700-volt electric shocks. He ran the electric current through kitchen spatulas this time, and . . . "used the electricity on his buttocks, his shoulder, testicles."

Jackman and Cole (1992:361; emphasis added) recount how Berdella not only injected his victims with drugs and drain cleaner, and tortured them in various ways, but also kept a log of his activities:

Cole, after sitting through Berdella's confession for three days, likened the situation to a sadistic doctor-patient relationship, with Berdella drawing enjoyment not only from the domination but the carefully noted experiments with the drugs and the electric shocks.

Jackman and Cole (1992:306) rightfully concluded that Berdella had been operating a "pain laboratory." Berdella (cited in Jackman and Cole, 1992:279; emphasis added) confirmed that the records he kept were useful, as he was able:

to keep a kind of record of the responses, what reaction each one would have to what drugs. This wasn't a sat-down-and-planned scientific experiment by any means, but just to have some record or reference to it in the future or at that time.

In keeping with the "pain laboratory" theme, Jeffrey Dahmer attempted to perform "makeshift lobotomies" on some of his victims, in which he "first drug[ged] them to knock them out, and then drill[ed] a hole in the head and with a syringe injected muriatic acid into the brain" (Schwartz, 1992:200).

Similar to their human counterparts, other animals have been subjected to electric shock and other forms of torture in lab “experiments” (Singer, 1975). Singer (1975:37) quotes an excerpt from the research report of research undertaken by Seligman et al. at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania:

When a normal, naive [untrained] dog receives escape/avoidance training in a shuttlebox, the following behavior typically occurs: at the onset of electric shock the dog runs frantically about, defecating, urinating and howling until it [sic] scrambles over the barrier and so escapes from shock. On the next trial the dog, running and howling, crosses the barrier more quickly, and so on, until efficient avoidance emerges.

Lest one be tempted to find relief from the fact that the tale of cruelty recounted above is less atrocious than that committed by Berdella on his victims, Singer points to the following experiment which was written up in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour in 1973 (cited in Singer, 1975:39):

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, D.E. McMillan starved four pigeons to 80 percent of their normal weight and implanted electrodes around their pubis bone (near the genitals) for delivering electric shock. The birds were trained to peck a key to obtain food, and they were then "punished" with a shock for pecking. Various drugs were injected into the birds to test their effects on the number of pecks the birds made while being punished.

Furthermore, Singer (1975:39) adds that:

The use of the pubic regions for the delivery of electric shock, as in the preceding experiment, is a fairly standard procedure for experiments on birds; so much so that an article appeared recently in one of the scientific journals advising researchers that instead of using gold wire for the electrodes, which can be expensive, stainless steel wire should be used.

It appears the "scientists" who participated in the preceding animal research studies had a fascination with the genital areas, the possible importance of which may be linked to feminist theories of pornography and objectification of the victims. A discussion of pornography is beyond the scope of this paper, but objectification will be discussed later in the paper.

A striking example of the similarity between violent acts of torture committed on animals and humans is that of Berdella’s use of drain cleaner on his human victims and "Draize" testing (named after J.H. Draize) used to test cosmetics and other substances on animal victims (Singer, 1975:48; Adams, 1994). Singer (1975:48) describes the test, most often performed on rabbits:

Concentrated solutions of the product to be tested are dripped into the rabbits' eyes, sometimes repeatedly over a period of several days. The damage is then measured according to the size of the area injured, the degree of swelling and redness, and other types of injury. One researcher employed by a large chemical company has described the highest level of reaction as follows: "Total loss of vision due to serious internal injury to cornea or internal structure. Animal holds eye shut urgently. May squeal, claw at eye, jump and try to escape" (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, 1962; cited in Singer, 1975:48).

Singer (1975:49) adds that because the rabbits would tend to rub the substance out of their eyes, the testers resorted to restraining the animals so that only their heads were exposed, thus rendering them unable to remove the noxious substance from their eyes. Furthermore, the use of clips to keep the rabbits' eyes forced open was not unusual (Singer, 1975).

Berdella's use of drain cleaner on his victims is amazingly similar to the "Draize" test. Referring to his log book notes, Berdella (cited in Jackman and Cole, 1992:266) recounts how he introduced the drain cleaner to his victim: "Then 11:25 a notation of 'DC,' which is drain cleaner, to the left ear—no, left eye, I'm sorry. That he had pinpoint pupils at that time. And after the drain cleaner to the eye he was screaming, although a muffled scream, for about one or two minutes." Although the motives for the Draize test and the introduction of drain cleaner by Berdella would generally be believed to be vastly different(10), the outcomes are the same—innocent victims suffer. These "experiments" demonstrate the similarity between violent behaviours which may be inflicted upon the victims of serial murderers and animals in research labs.

Restraint, forcible confinement, and other acts of torture are obviously performed against the victim's will, are cruel, and cause harm (which is often severe) to their victims. Berdella admitted that many of his victims died, not as a direct result of being killed by him, but inadvertently, as a result of the torture he inflicted upon them (Jackman and Cole, 1992). The effects on the animals are no less severe. Singer (1975:60) cites text from an experiment undertaken by J.V. Brady, at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, DC, which subjected monkeys to live in "restraining chairs":

Monkeys were kept in restraining chairs in which they could move their head and limbs, but not their bodies. . . . This, coupled with various "conditioning procedures," "seemed to impose considerable emotional stress on the animals," and the physiological reactions of the monkeys to this stress were studied; however, one study involving nineteen monkeys "was brought to a halt when many of them died."

Obviously, the monkeys in question were severely affected by this treatment. Similarly, "tail biting" (pig cannibalism) is a behaviour that is common in pigs who are kept in confinement (Singer, 1975; Adams, 1994). It arises mainly as a result of boredom brought on by a "monotonous diet and the pigs' natural tendencies to root and chew on objects in their environment" which are not made available to them (Adams, 1994:98). To solve this "problem," farmers dock the pigs' tails, which is extremely painful (Robbins, 1987). Chickens that are severely confined also resort to pecking each other to death and cannibalism (Singer, 1975; Robbins, 1987). "Producers" attempt to quell this behaviour by having the animals "de-beaked," a procedure which involves a portion of the beak being removed, "causing severe pain" (Brambell, 1965; cited in Singer, 1975:99). Singer (1975:97) adds that "[f]eather-pecking and cannibalism are, in the broiler producer's language, ‘vices.’ They are not natural vices, however—they are the result of the stress and crowding to which the modern broilerman subjects his birds." It is obvious from these examples that both humans and other animals suffer substantially as a result of being restrained, confined, and tortured.

The fact that information about animal experimentation used in this paper was derived mainly from Singer, who wrote his treatise in 1975, must be addressed. Since the material is dated, one might tend to believe that the types of cruelty he describes no longer continue, given numerous campaigns denouncing it. However, cases of abusive treatment of animals continue to be reported in the media, and as Adams (1994) argues, it is difficult to obtain first-hand information about animal research. Those who actually express interest in making themselves informed consumers are restricted from observing the treatment of animals in factory farms and research labs (Adams, 1994:43) based on the argument that those places are "private property." In fact, Adams (1994:43) points out that "most videotapes of animal experiments are as closely guarded as the laboratories themselves." The case is similar with factory farming, as the livelihood of people who run these operations depends on their ability to brainwash consumers about the necessity for eating "meat" (Robbins, 1987). The exploitation of animals other than humans within North American society has become commonplace and is perpetuated by the dominant discourse about animals. The matter of "meat"-eating and its effects on both humans and other animals will now be examined.

"Meat"-eating: Flesh Consumption and Cannibalism

Flesh eating is prevalent in North American culture, but is generally considered taboo only when it is human flesh which is being consumed. Although billions of animals are tortured and killed each year in order to supply the "meat" (dead animal flesh) many eat for dinner, the rare incidents of human cannibalism receive overwhelming attention in comparison. In a recent trip to a used book store, I found two books entirely devoted to serial murderers who cannibalize their victims. There are a number of serial murderers who are believed to have eaten parts of their human victims, including Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Albert Fish (see Woods, 1995; Schwartz, 1992; and Schechter, 1990, respectively). Upon discovering the crime scene in Ed Gein's farmhouse, officers found that, among other gruesome findings, "[a] human heart sat gently simmering in a pot on the stove" (Haines, 1988:134). Gein denied, however, participating in cannibalism (Woods, 1995).

Albert Fish, on the other hand, readily admitted to cannibalizing one of his victims. He told the investigating officer that he had "cut the child's flesh into smaller chunks and used them to make a stew, with carrots, onions and strips of bacon. He had consumed the stew over a period of nine days, drawing out his pleasure for as long as he could" (cited in Schechter, 1990:224). According to Schechter (1990:224), during the nine days in which Fish consumed the flesh of his young victim, "he had remained in a state of absolute sexual arousal." According to a clinical psychologist who testified at Dahmer's trial, Dahmer had discussed cannibalism with her. Dr. Judith Becker (cited in Schwartz, 1992:205) related that "[h]e tried tasting the flesh and the heart," and that "[h]e bought a meat tenderizer, tenderized the heart, and ate it and the muscle meat. It gave him a sexual thrill while eating it. He felt that the man was a part of him and he internalized him. He reported having an erection while eating it."

Although it is probably impossible to determine whether the cannibalistic events recounted by these murderers did, in fact, occur, it is interesting that sexual arousal associated with the consumption of human flesh has been mentioned in at least two of these cases. Related to the notion of sexual arousal, the internalization of attributes of the person whose flesh is being consumed is a common theme in cannibalism (Askenasy, 1994). Both these phenomena (internalization of victim attributes and increased sexual arousal) also emerge in relation to the consumption of some animal body parts. For instance, tiger penis is consumed as an aphrodisiac in traditional Chinese medicine (Hemley, 1994; Gaski, 1994) and is believed by those who consume it to aggrandize a man's sexual virility or physical power. Thus, in some cases, consumption of flesh, whether from human or other animal sources, seems to be associated with male sexual arousal and perceived potency. Similar to hunting, the importance of gender in this regard cannot be overlooked—domination of the victim appears to occur, at least in part, in order to satisfy male sex and gender role expectations.

Although the consumption of human flesh by serial murderers is a popular topic, consumption of animal flesh does not garner similar attention. This is possibly as a result of the fact that the practice of eating animals has been normalized by speciesism, and as Adams (1990; 1994) suggests, before one learns where animal flesh comes from, one has already developed a taste for it. It is important to note that historically (and currently in third world countries) the majority of "meat" is consumed by men, while women traditionally subsisted on vegetables and grains as a result of men's dominant status within the society (Adams, 1990; Adams, 1994). Adams (1994:101; emphasis added) adds that justifications for eating animal flesh are prevalent and are perpetuated by the use of the "absent referent," which serves to obscure the relationship one has with the animal one is eating and to preserve the established human-animal hierarchy:

We interact with individual animals daily if we eat them. However, this statement and its implications are repositioned through the structure of the absent referent so that the animal disappears and it is said that we are interacting with a form of food that has been named "meat." The absent referent also enables us to resist efforts to make animals present, perpetuating a means-end hierarchy.

Furthermore, Adams (1990:48) argues, fragmentation of the animal occurs at every step along the way:

Animals are rendered being-less not only by technology, but by innocuous phrases such as "food-producing unit," "protein harvester," "converting machine," "crops," and "biomachines." The meat-producing industry views an animal as consisting of "edible" and "inedible" parts, which must be separated so that the latter do not contaminate the former. An animal proceeds down a "disassembly line," losing body parts at every stop. This fragmentation not only dismembers the animal, it changes the way in which we conceptualize animals. . . .

After being butchered, fragmented body parts must be renamed to obscure the fact that these were once animals. After death, cows become roast beef, steak, hamburger; pigs become pork, bacon, sausage. Since objects are possessions they cannot have possessions; thus, we say "leg of lamb" not a "lamb's leg." We opt for less disquieting referent points not only by changing names from animals to meat, but also by cooking, seasoning, and covering the animals with sauces, disguising their original nature."

Adams' (1994) use of the concept of the absent referent is important. It demonstrates how "meat" is a socially constructed term which serves to obliterate the life of the animal and justify humans' use of animals. Objectification of animals and humans also becomes justifiable as a result of the fragmentation (e.g., separation of mind/emotions from body) of animate objects (Adams, 1990), the consequences of which are discussed in the following section.


The Point of Convergence: Objectification of Human and Animal Victims

Objectification permits an oppressor to view another being as an object. The oppressor then violates this being by object-like treatment: e.g., the rape of women that denies women freedom to say no, or the butchering of animals that converts animals from living breathing beings into dead objects. (11)

Although the previous comparisons of violence toward humans and other animals is important, its crux lies with the resemblance between the victims. Adams (1994) suggests that, although analogies are interesting, it is the "intersections" which are important. Thus, it is imperative that the previous illustrations of parallel acts of violence are examined in terms of the domination inherent in patriarchy, which fuels such violence. Adams (1994:79-80) posits that "in intersectional thinking we apprehend the shared ideological beliefs that exist as the foundation of a white supremacist and speciesist patriarchy" (emphasis added). She adds that her presumption is "that systems of violence are interlocking, thus insights from one elucidate experiences of another" (Adams, 1994:17).

A major point of convergence (or "intersection") between the victims of serial murderers and animals used for food or in research is that their abusers objectify them, possibly in order to justify inhumane treatment of the "subject" become "object." Just as a person eating animal flesh is able to refer to that flesh as "meat," thus obliterating the relationship with the animal from whence it came, so a perpetrator is able to obliterate relationship with his human victim, leading to the objectification of the subject. For instance, Ted Bundy (in Winn and Merrill, 1988; cited in Leyton, 1986:93-94) stated that he avoided talking to his potential victims as it would have established a relationship. According to another offender, he avoided relationships with his victims because "the more I got to know about the women the softer I got" (anonymous; cited in Ressler, Burgess, and Douglas, 1988:129). Presumably these men attempted to avoid establishing a relationship with a potential victim because it would make it more difficult for them to objectify (remove the "life" from the body), and thus justify victimization of, their victims. As Ted Bundy expressed, his victims were like "potted plants" (Michaud & Aynesworth, 1983; cited in Holmes and Holmes, 1998).

Objectification of the subject also occurs within the "research laboratory" (Adams, 1994). The comparison made between Berdella's placement of drain cleaner into his victims' eyes (as well as electric shock to the eyelids) and the Draize test is an example of this objectification. Adams (1994:41), referring to the Draize test, suggests that "[i]t is remarkable how many experiments fetishize the animals' eyes in a way that guarantees that the animals will be injured or blinded and thus physically unable to return the experimenter's look." Obviously, without sight, these animals are also completely dependent upon their "keepers." Berdella attempted to blind his victims for similar reasons. When asked why he was attempting to permanently blind one victim, Berdella replied, "To disable him as far as any long-term captivity" (Jackman and Cole, 1992:297). Adams (1994:42) concludes, "[t]he patriarchal subject is turning subjects into nonseeing objects, thus robbing them of the notion of subjectivity and being." Objectifying the subject and thus denying personhood (of both humans and other animals) is a means whereby harm that has been or will be inflicted can be rationalized.


The examples of violence perpetrated by both serial murderers on their human victims and humans on animal victims demonstrate that the behaviours committed are similar in many ways. When hunting, many perpetrators utilize a selection process to look for victims with specific traits in mind and rely on camouflage in order to successfully capture and/or kill their targets. Animals used in research or subjected to lives of misery in factory farming operations are forcibly confined and tortured, as are many human victims of serial murderers. The element of gender appears to be a common thread in these behaviours, as the majority of those who participate in such behaviours are males. Furthermore, the activities have been historically supported by patriarchy, in which the domination of both women and of animals is a recurrent theme.

It is generally accepted that "meat"-eating and experimentation on animals are necessary, or at least acceptable (Adams, 1994), which is a result of the dominant discourse about humans' right to use animals as we see fit. Although the dominant discourse supports the notion that eating animals is both necessary for human survival and "natural" (Adams, 1990; Adams, 1994; Singer, 1975; Robbins, 1987), all these authors posit that eating food products derived from animals is both unnecessary and cruel. Animal experimentation and factory farming continue partially because of the claim that they provide benefits to humans that would otherwise not be obtained. Modernist discourse sanctions the use of animals in these ways because it provides a healthy income to scientists and agribusinessmen who live within a capitalist society, and because the existing "logic of domination" supports it (Singer, 1975; Adams, 1994).

If the alternative view that animals are not subordinate to humans is taken, it might then follow that it is morally wrong to use them for our own purposes without their consent. However, speciesist arguments, beyond providing justifications for exploitation, create the situation whereby instrumental use of animals by humans does not even need to be questioned. If the other animals are presumed to be in existence, either in full or in part, for the use of humans, the debate is concluded before it begins. This is the crux of the problem with philosophical and ethical arguments informed by speciesism—they have been perpetuated within the dominant discourse for so long that they have become entrenched in many societies, and those who question the "logic" of such arguments are deemed "irrational" (Adams, 1994; Robbins, 1987). However, the arguments in support of utilizing animals for whatever purposes humans desire are not based on logic, but rather on religious tenets which were created by, and for the benefit of, males within a patriarchal society, and which were given further sanction upon the advent of the scientific revolution.

The arguments which are used to justify the violent treatment of animals would certainly be questioned if they were used in relation to the violent treatment of human beings, which affirms that they are speciesist arguments. Most would be loath to accept the argument from Jeffrey Dahmer, for instance, that he cannibalized his victims because they "tasted good." However, this rationalization is utilized by millions of human beings who consume animal flesh on a regular basis. Similarly, we would be incensed if humans were subjected to many of the experiments which are currently performed on animals, or were forced to live in conditions similar to those of animals raised for food. Singer (1975:62) concludes that "we tolerate cruelties inflicted on members of other species that would outrage us if performed on members of our own species."

The major justification utilized with respect to the exploitation of animals for human purposes is, as we have seen, that animals are placed on the planet for this purpose. As Adams (1994) points out, however, this is a convenient way to avoid taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Furthermore, similar arguments were utilized to justify enslaving Africans (who were once believed to have been here for the benefit of whites), preventing women (who were once believed to have been here for the benefit of men) from becoming citizens with equal rights to men, and other actions which were both discriminatory and harmful to their victims. Discrimination not only robs individuals of their dignity, but robs societies of considerably more if it goes unchecked. Robbins (1987:124) points out that:

[w]hile there were always some people who resisted, who did what they could to save the lives of those hunted by the Nazis . . . most others tried to ignore the horrors, tried to keep a stiff upper lip and pretend nothing amiss was happening. Though it was hard to avoid knowing at least part of the horrid truth, they found ways of blocking the impact. They busied themselves with other matters, conjured up rationalizations, narrowed their awareness, and looked the other way.

Arguments justifying unacceptable treatment of human "minorities" have been readily accepted throughout history—social movements or revolutions essential to change have often arisen in response to such treatment. It is hoped that the same result will soon be obtained for animals other than humans.

Despite the fact that humans' domination of animals is currently generally accepted does not lead to the conclusion that it is acceptable. It is sincerely hoped that postmodernist discourses will be successful in challenging the authority of those who suggest other animals exist on this planet either solely or in part for the benefit of humans. Apart from the advantages that can be obtained for humans by treating the other animals with respect, the other animals are entitled to live their lives free from violence at the hands of those who are presumed to walk the higher moral ground. I am unable to express this sentiment more eloquently than did Henry Salt (cited in Adams, 1990:126), who in 1921 declared the following:

As long as man kills the lower [sic] races [or species] for food or sport, he will be ready to kill his own race for enmity. It is not this bloodshed, or that bloodshed, that must cease, but all needless bloodshed—all wanton infliction of pain or death upon our fellow-beings.

Blessed be all the innocent victims.


(1) Geertrui Cazaux (1998) has argued for the inclusion of "the animals issue" into criminology—I agree wholeheartedly with her position.

(2) Please see Adams (1994:101) for a discussion of the concept of the "absent referent" and thus the usage of the term "meat" in quotation marks, which I have chosen to use in this paper.

(3) Ressler, Burgess and Douglas, 1988:51.

(4) Gasset, 1985 (cited in Adams, 1994:104).

(5) I use the term "stalking" here in relation to those who use a selection process to choose a victim with a particular attribute or attributes already formulated in their mind, as opposed to those who stalk without an intent to seriously harm or kill the subjects they are stalking (for instance, stalkers of celebrities who are fixated on the objects of their obsessions).

(6) A limited number of sources are used in this paper in relation to animal abuse because the topic has received minimal attention to date, particularly as it relates to domesticated animals raised for food or used in research. As Adams and Donovan (1995:6) suggest, "to be concerned about chickens' welfare is to be concerned about the most trivial of the lowly, at least so most people (including most feminists) would maintain."

(7) An animal's inability to communicate in human terms about his or her dislike for confinement and torture does not lead to the conclusion that the infliction of such pain is acceptable to the animal.

(8) Criminal Code: An Act Respecting the Criminal Law. Revised Statues of Canada, 1985; Chapter C-46 and Amendments.

(9) For instance, see the case of Justine Bisheimer as written by Stall in The Province [Vancouver] newspaper, 09 April 1995.

(10) Whether they actually are is a matter of opinion. Adams (1994:54) suggests that "the human male gaze—the arrogant eye of patriarchy—constructs animal experiments." So, too, may it construct "human" experiments.

(11) Adams, 1990:47.


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