Horrific animal abuse should have been a red flag

Toula Foscolos
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The Luka Rocco Magnotta murder case

Even as the search for Luka Rocco Magnotta recently came to an end, the entire city has been riveted - and repulsed- by the details of this monstrous crime. This town simply isn’t used to being in the vortex of such malevolent evil. This is a man who murdered another, videotaped it taking place, and then dismembered the body and mailed a total of six body parts through the mail. In what was certain to send chills down everyone’s spine, he had made it clear that he intended to murder again.

Toula Foscolos

While report after report was coming in on Twitter, journalists and readers debated the question: “Is it really necessary to watch such a video for research purposes?” My personal opinion on the subject is that only the police on this case are warranted in watching it. What anyone could possibly derive out of viewing something so gory, revolting and inhumane is beyond me…

To add to the utter strangeness of it all, it was then discovered that Magnotta had also dated Karla Homolka; proving once and for all that reality will always be stranger than fiction. So, let me get this straight; this woman has dated not one, but two deranged homicidal killers? I don’t know about you, but if I were part of the legal team that negotiated the deal she received (a reduced sentence for helping to nab Paul Bernardo) I would have trouble sleeping at nights. This isn’t a woman who has bad taste in men; this is clearly someone who should be in jail.

But the crime itself and its sordid details don’t interest me. What does interest me, were reports that this was the same man who had previously killed animals – and, once again, videotaped the acts. Magnotta was a name well known in the animal rescue community. In 2010, a video surfaced of him on YouTube, torturing and killing two kittens. While he had been the subject of an international social media campaign, and animal rights activists had mobilized to arrest him – even offering a reward of $5,000 for information on him – he was never apprehended. Why?

How is it possible that this man had not been charged and arrested? How is it that this man was allowed to remain free and therefore able to commit murder – on a human this time?

While animal abuse doesn’t always lead to violence against people, there has been enough substantiated evidence that it can be a pretty predictable precursor to antisocial violence as an adult. If nothing else, it’s a huge red flag.

Acts like this are not minor personality flaws or just a silly adolescent phase. They are indicative of someone emotionally disturbed. Someone who lacks the empathy and compassion to, not only choose to do no harm, but on the contrary, someone who revels and takes pleasure in inflicting pain – and eventual death.

And as in all things, it’s about escalation. You start with something small; something you can easily control, and move your way up. History is full of serial killers who first killed animals before moving on to humans. Mass murderers Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer committed heinous acts involving pets and stray animals before committing them on humans.

"One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it." Anthropologist Margaret Meade

According to a 1997 study done by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Northeastern University, animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people than are individuals without a history of animal abuse.

Many studies in psychology, sociology, and criminology during the last 25 years have demonstrated that violent offenders frequently have childhood and adolescent histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children.

"One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it," wrote anthropologist Margaret Meade.

The association has been documented for decades. As far back as 1705, philosopher John Locke observed that cruelty to animals can lead to cruelty to humans.

“They, who delight in the suffering and destruction of inferior creatures, will not be apt to be very compassionate or benign to those of their own kind.”

And yet, here we are… Even when there was substantial evidence to arrest and prosecute this man, we (as a society) chose to downplay it and refused to recognize it as the vile, cruel, and cold-blooded act that it was. There’s a lesson to be learned here.

Move Over Law

Now on a completely unrelated note. News that the Quebec National Assembly just adopted a law making it mandatory for drivers to slow down and move over, when an emergency vehicle (police, ambulance, fire truck) is stopped with flashing lights, baffled me.

My first reaction was: “Do we really need a law for this?” But, as it turns out, and much to my surprise, most of the U.S. and at least five Canadian provinces already have such laws, so I guess we do! Call me naive, but there’s always a part of me that finds it incredibly sad that we need to legislate common sense and courtesy.

Forgive my current pessimism, but weeks like this, I can’t help but think that Stephen Hawking may have been on to something when he said: “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.”

 

 

 

Organizations: Northeastern University, FBI, Quebec National Assembly SPCA Luka Rocco Magnotta

Geographic location: U.S.

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