We explain what cruelty is and its relationship with the concept of humanity. In addition, we tell you what cruelty against animals is.

A group of men observe the cruelty of destruction in a war
Even in extreme situations like war, cruelty is socially rejected.

What is cruelty?

The cruelty It is an attitude that involves the lack of pity, that is, the enjoyment or indifference to the pain and suffering of others.. It is generally considered an “inhumane” attitude, that is, closer to the behavior of animals, since the latter lack moral codes. Those who practice cruelty are often called “cruel” people.

The terms “cruel” and “cruelty” come from the Latin crudelis, which translates as “raw”, in the same sense of raw meat, that is, bloody. Hence, cruelty is associated with violent and primitive acts. The first use of these terms in Spanish dates from the beginning of the 13th century.

Usually, cruel attitudes are rejected by the vast majority of religions and moral codes, even in situations where some violence and pain are unavoidable, such as war. Also in these cases, humanity tries to abide by ethical and moral norms, and for this reason it seeks to protect civilians from incursions by armed forces into enemy territory, since otherwise it is considered an unnecessarily cruel approach to the conflict.

However, the relationship of the human being with cruelty is very ambivalent, since cruelty is often seen as a uniquely human trait. That is to say, animals hunt and devour their prey or violently defend their territories without much sense of pity or compassion, but they do so motivated by their instincts, thoughtlessly and unaware of consciousness. The human being, on the other hand, is fully capable of understanding and rationalizing the suffering of others, and even so is capable of committing vile actions.

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This is why cruel actions they are usually considered indicators of a psychic or psychological imbalance in the individual who commits them. Whether they are directed towards other people or towards animals, the enjoyment and indifference towards the suffering caused by one’s own actions can be interpreted as a symptom of an emotional and moral disconnection, that is, a lack of empathy.

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cruelty to animals

Protesters hold a sign and reject cruelty against animals
Different vegan and animal protection groups fight against the exploitation of animals.

Cruelty to animals means the ruthless, sadistic or inhumane treatment of animalsbe they pets, pack animals, farm animals or even wild animals.

The idea that human morality is put to the test against animals is not new, in fact many religions see cruelty towards animals as an immoral gesture or contrary to divine mandates. In addition, in the fields of psychiatry and psychology, cruelty to animals is considered a clear indication of potential emotional or affective disorders.

Examples of cruel treatment of animals are:

  • Inflicting beatings or bloody physical punishment.
  • Sentencing them out in the open, to prolonged confinement or to the absence of food, water and company.
  • Subjecting them to conditions of agony and prolonged suffering, especially when this makes no sense.
  • Forcing them to carry out acts that are demeaning, unnatural or that make them a danger to others.

Though In most countries there are laws to protect animals and penalize cruel treatment, many animals are born, grow up and are slaughtered in suffering conditions within the food industry. Different groups and vegan and animal protection organizations fight against this reality, rescuing the moral legacy of political and religious figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, author of a famous aphorism on the matter: “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way their animals are treated.”

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More in: Animal rights


  • “Cruelty” on Wikipedia.
  • “Etymology of Cruelty” in the Online Spanish Etymological Dictionary.
  • “Cruelty” in the Dictionary of the Language of the Royal Spanish Academy.
  • “Society and cruelty” by Fernando Ulloa in the National Library of Teachers and Teachers (Argentina).
  • “Cruelty” in The Britannica Dictionary.