[MUSIC] When stories about animal cruelty appear in the media, they often evoke intense responses from the public. Most people expressed outrage, surely only a monster or a psychopath would do such a thing. If a perpetrator is charged, members of the public will often petition for the strictest possible penalties. Not everyone responds sympathetically to animal cruelty, however. Some people consider the victims just animals and the investigations a diversion of law enforcement's limited resources. Moreover, judging from the common acceptance of cruelty in popular culture, many people selectively ignore it. Think about the suffering behind some of the colloquialisms in the English language. We use the phrase killing two birds with one stone, and being a guinea pig, and caution against beating a dead horse. In addtion, people often find depictions of animal suffering humorous. Over a million website offer jokes about animal abuse or cruelty. Movies and television shows often make light of animals being harmed or even killed. These examples point out the ambiguity surrounding the meaning and significance of animal cruelty, and the ambivalence that characterizes our treatment of animals. Cruelty can be considered a crime against innocence and a sign of psychopathology. It can prompt collective sympathy and anger or indifference. It can function as a metaphor, a joke, or a cinematic device, an act intended to make a point in a movie takes on an entirely different meaning if inflicted on an actual living dog or cat. How then do we define cruelty? Legal definitions give courts discretion by specifying it as the infliction of unnecessary suffering. This recognized that quote unquote normal interactions with animals might inevitably involve some suffering for them, and some might even occur legally. The question of how much suffering, if any, is necessary depends on the context and the aim of the activity. For example, while undergoing reasonable and ordinary treatment for an injury, a pet might endure pain even to the extent of suffering. In treating the animal, a licensed veterinarian doesn't engage in cruelty. A boy who sets a dog on fire to see what will happen inflicts unnecessary suffering. The researcher who burns the skin of pigs to study how burned skin heals escapes charges of cruelty, whatever one might think of his actions. Some methods of dog training include physical corrections, quote unquote such as jerking, shocking, and hanging or swinging the dog by a leash. Critics of these methods consider them cruel, and some people have reported dog owners who use them. Cruelty laws provide exemptions for training, however, and courts have ruled that quote, a beating inflicted for corrective or disciplinary purposes without an evil motive is not a crime, even if painful and even if excessive, end quote. Cruelty laws also make exceptions for hunting and farming, practices considered acceptable and necessary in agriculture. Such as branding, castration, tail docking, and beak trimming, all without anesthetics or analgesics, would be considered inhumane if someone performed them on a pet. So the infliction of pain, even to the point of suffering, doesn't necessarily constitute cruelty. The nature of cruelty is situational, and the same treatment in one context can be regarded as cruel while in another it can be considered acceptable, even necessary. Some definitions of cruelty emphasize motive, specifying it as the willful infliction of harm, injury, and intended pain. The willful aspect also suggests that perpetrators take pleasure in the act, yet not all perpetrators of abusive acts are sadists. Some feel no pleasure in inflicting suffering, and some don't seem to feel anything at all. Some perpetrators dismiss the victims as just a dog or just a cat. Insensitivity to suffering, not just sadistic enjoyment of it, can also count as cruelty. Consequently, many statutes include not only intention but also reckless indifference to an animal's pain in their definitions. Some cruelty might result from ignorance, carelessness, or neglect. In fact, these are the primary sources of companion animals suffering. Hoarders for example, often consider themselves saviors of animals while keeping those same animals in unsanitary, substandard conditions, and providing little, if any, veterinary care. Although some experts argue that the lack of deliberate maliciousness makes the resulting abuse less serious, statutes often ignore this distinction, and take cruelty to include both deliberate infliction of harm and harm that arises from neglect. The ambiguity of cruelty makes it difficult to estimate its prevalence, some studies have examined reported and prosecuted cruelty cases. The pitfall in using reports as humane law enforcement agents will attest, is that well-intentioned citizens often report animal welfare offensives were nothing prosecutable exists. And only a small number of reported cases actually result in prosecution, many cases never advanced to prosecution because of unknown perpetrators or insufficient evidence. Researchers have also used reports from veterinarians to estimate the prevalence of cruelty. However, this is also likely to underestimate its prevalence. Most animal victims of abuse will never be brought to a veterinarian for treatment by an abuser, and some veterinarians have reported that their fear of retaliation by clients would make them reluctant to report animal cruelty. The veterinarian gives the client the benefit of the doubt based on their long standing relationship. Some studies have estimated prevalence through anonymous surveys of undergraduate students asking whether they have ever witnessed or engaged in acts of animal cruelty. Estimates based on surveys are also likely to be low because students are more likely to underreport than over report their former cruelty. Despite anonymity, the student completing a survey engages in what's known as impression management, by denying involvement in behavior that has always caused shame in recollection. Another challenge in determining the prevalence of animal abuse stems from the definition of animal cruelty used and the specificity of acts described. For instance, one study included ripping wings off insects, an act many people might overlook when asked about cruelty to animals. Overall, results vary too widely to make definitive claims about the prevalence of animal abuse. Depending on the study between 1.8 and 72% of people have witnessed or engaged in cruelty to animals at some time in their lives.