Oxford theologian calls for animal cruelty register

Photo: Sande Hamilton

An Oxford University professor is calling for a National Animal Cruelty Offenders' Register.

Professor Andrew Linzey, who is also director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, will present his ideas in an address at St Albans Cathedral on Sunday.

He wants to see animal abusers placed on a register and forbidden from keeping an animal, or working with them. The register would be available for individuals and employers to consult.

"Our society hasn't yet appreciated what is at stake for human beings," he will say.

"Cruelty is not just a vice; it is a social vice. There is a well-established link between animal abuse and human violence supported by hundreds of psychological, medical, sociological, and statistical studies.

"A world in which animal cruelty goes unchecked is bound to be a less morally safe world for human beings."

In addition to a register, he wants to see compulsory empathy training for offenders as part of a two-stage approach based on the Christian principles of repentance and compassion.

The proposal is a response to the thousands of cases of animal cruelty each year.

While some have called for offenders to face jail time, Professor Linzey will argue that prison is "not the answer".

"We know that around 40% of prisoners reoffend and prison frequently dehumanises people," he will say.

"We have to find a way in which the seriousness of animal cruelty can be registered, offenders
effectively treated, and animals saved from cruelty. This requires a radical rethink."

The empathy training proposed by Professor Linzey would see offenders attend classes over a period of months or even years that would require them to confront their own violence and "learn to empathise with the suffering of animals".

The courses would be funded and run by animal protectionists.

"It is too easy just to condemn. Animal protectionists need to invest in the change they want to see in the world," Professor Linzey will say.

"For those who cannot or will not undergo empathy training, or those who do not successfully complete the course, or those who reoffend, then their name needs to be placed on a national register."