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Zoosadism is pleasure derived from cruelty to animals. It is part of the Macdonald triad, a set of three behaviors that are considered a precursor to psychopathic behavior.[1]


Some studies have suggested that individuals who are cruel to animals are more likely to be violent to humans. According to The New York Times:

Helen Gavin wrote however in Criminological and Forensic Psychology (2013):

Alan R. Felthous reported in his paper "Aggression Against Cats, Dogs, and People" (1980):

This is a commonly reported finding, and for this reason, cruelty to animals is often considered a warning sign of potential violence towards humans.

Legal statusEdit

In the United States, since 2010, it has been a federal offense to create or distribute "obscene" depictions of "living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians ... subjected to serious bodily injury".[5] This statute replaced an overly broad 1999 statute[6] which was found unconstitutional in United States v. Stevens.

Criticism of alleged link to violence against humansEdit

Critics of the concept of a propensity for cruelty to humans cite the fact that animals can be cruel to some animals yet caring to other animals, combined with Ivan Pavlov's studies using metronomes at different rates to test conditioned learning showing that humans can discriminate in fine ways that animals cannot,[7] and conclude that there is no such general basis. The exact way these critics explain studies that seems to show links varies, but most of them state that psychiatric and criminological studies are subject to institutional bias and self-fulfilling prophecies.[8][9] It is also pointed out that correlation does not prove causation.[10]

On the other hand, Piers Beirne, a professor of criminology at the University of Southern Maine, has criticized existing studies for ignoring socially accepted practices of violence against animals, such as animal slaughter and vivisection, that might be linked to violence against humans.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ J. M. MacDonald (1963). "The Threat to Kill". American Journal of Psychiatry. 120 (2): 125–130. doi:10.1176/ajp.120.2.125.
  2. ^ Goleman, Daniel (7 August 1991). "Child's Love of Cruelty May Hint at the Future Killer". New York Times.
  3. ^ Helen Gavin (2013). Criminological and Forensic Psychology. p. 120.
  4. ^ Felthous, Alan R. (1980). "Aggression Against Cats, Dogs, and People". Child Psychiatry and Human Development. 10: 169–177. doi:10.1007/bf01433629.
  5. ^ Robson, Ruthann (2010-12-14) Animal Porn - Criminalized by Federal Law Again Archived 2011-04-15 at the Wayback Machine, Constitutional Law Prof Blog
  6. ^ "18 U.S. Code § 48 - Animal crush videos". LII / Legal Information Institute. Archived from the original on 21 November 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  7. ^ Catania, A.C. (1994). "Query: Did Pavlov's research ring a bell?". Psycoloquy Newsletter, June 7.
  8. ^ Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, 2002 RobertWhitaker
  9. ^ The Unpredictable Species: What Makes Humans Unique by Lieberman, P 2013
  10. ^ Fox, Michael Allen (23 April 1986). "The Case for Animal Experimentation: An Evolutionary and Ethical Perspective". University of California Press. Archived from the original on 5 June 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2018 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2017-11-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit