When you think about it…what is animal cruelty?

Photo by NHES

Is animal cruelty like pornography—we know it when we see it? In the case of the courts in Wisconsin, it appears that seeing the same evidence has led to two different conclusions in a clear disagreement as to what constitutes cruelty toward wildlife.

Defendants in the case of Wisconsin v. Kuenzi were exonerated of the charge of animal cruelty but the case was appealed, and the Wisconsin State of Appeals Court reversed the lower court decision dismissing the charges and remanded the case for consideration on its merits.

The issue of whether it’s cruel to kill deer, who are hunted actively in Wisconsin, was at the center of the legal contradiction. The defendants were charged under the state animal cruelty statute for deliberately charging deer with their snowmobiles, ramming and running over at least five. The lower court found that while hunting does involve the infliction of pain and suffering, it did not mean that hunters were subject to prosecution under the cruel mistreatment statute. The higher court found the conclusion “absurd.”

Hunting does inflict pain and suffering. Animals are killed, some severely injured and left to die a slow death. The hunted are terrified and may injure themselves in their efforts to get away from their two-footed predator. However, some people hunt to sustain themselves and their family. For them it is not a “sport,” but rather a way of life. They acknowledge they are taking the life of another so they may live; therefore, they choose to end that life with dignity.

When you think about it, deliberately chasing deer, or any wildlife, with a snowmobile is outside the boundaries of normal hunting etiquette. Whether we support hunting or not, there are customs or rules that all who hunt should abide by. Hunters who have respect for nature typically do abide by them; those who do not should be prosecuted for cruelty to animals. A number of Wisconsin residents apparently agree. Rewards topping $12,000 were offered for the capture and conviction of the perpetrators.

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