An Australian study on the relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse found a link between women and child abuse and animal abuse. Picture: Dimpho Maja/ANA

Cape Town - There is a correlation between domestic violence and the abuse of animals.

So said Sheena Swemmer, a researcher at Wits University, who spoke at the second iteration of the Cape Town Animal Conference at UCT at the weekend, where animal issues were discussed.

She said an Australian study on the relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse found a link between women and child abuse and animal abuse.

“The study shows there is an intersection of violence, where we see violence against women at home, in a form of intimate partner violence. We also see violence against children and companion animals,” she said.

Swemmer added that the recent statistics on gender-based violence indicated a scourge of violence against women and children and, without statistics, assumptions could be made about violence on animals, especially companion animals within homes.

The conference about issues animals faced, non-human and human, and intersections between animal and human issues, featured a full animal law round-table discussion with experts in the field.

Swemmer said the Domestic Violence Act was vague in who it protected because it did not specify or look at the different types of violence and animals that might succumb to violence. She said the Act did not protect animals.

“We cannot use the same approach for animals on the farm as we use for companion animals, as it has an added element of domestic violence,” she said.

Michael Glover, from Animal Coalition Southern Africa, said: “The conference was inspired by the mind-numbing scale and intensity of the issues animals face in South Africa and southern Africa, including industrial animal farming, extinctions, loss of habitats, animal testing, companion animal neglect, and animal rights and welfare issues, to name a few.”

The presenters included academics, activists, legal scholars, NGOs, and people and organisations working on animal issues, who discussed and shared information and insights.

Glover said: “In South Africa, laws for animals are mostly relics from the colonial era, and animals endure considerable hardships and oppression, but are unable to articulate their concerns and woes in human language.”

Chloe Kingdom, from We Are Animals (UCT), said: “We use the conference as an opportunity to challenge our society’s current speciesist views and treatment of animals and sentient beings. This will provide students with the fertile ground to challenge the moral and legal status of animals in our human-centric society, and to raise awareness of the plight of their current position.”

Glover added: “There is little to no animal welfare and animal rights education at school level in South Africa. At universities across the continent there is some, but little education.”


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Cape Argus