While once passing through the woods I carlelessly fired at a bird, caring only to discharge my gun, so as to make my next fire sure. I wounded a bird which sat upon the fence. I felt guilt stricken at once, and tried to catch it. Failing in that, I thought it would be humanity to shoot it. Before I could load my rifle, it fluttered across the field, where I followed it, and found the panting sufferer at its nest, and the blood dripping upon its young. My cruelty flashed upon me in all its nakedness, and I cringed under my reflections like a guilty butcher as I was." Animal World.
When I was a boy, something like this happened to me and it was not long before I lost interest in hunting. Now I don't condone the animal worship that oozes here in the West. We spend far more on our pets than we do on the orphans or widows; but suffice to say; cruelty in any form is evil in its fullness.
While looking for a picture to go with this post I found the following piece on the Four Stages of Cruelty. I think it pretty much covers the issue --
Hogarth's Modern Moral Series: The Four Stages of Cruelty.
Hogarth tells us that the images ‘were done in the hopes of preventing in some degree that cruel treatment of poor Animals which makes the streets of London more disagreeable to the human mind, than any thing what ever, the very describing of which gives pain’.
First Stage of Cruelty
This street scene shows a group of youths, almost all of whom are participating in or encouraging the abuse of animals and birds. Boys are seen tying a bone to a dog’s tail, cauterising the eyes of a bird, stringing up kittens from a signpost or cockfighting.
The worst abuse is being inflicted by Nero, who pushes an arrow into the anus of a terrified dog being restrained by two other boys. Another youth is distressed by what Nero is doing and attempts to stop him by offering a tart. To the left of Nero, a boy draws a hanged man on the wall and points at him, underlining the inevitable: that Nero’s behaviour will deteriorate further and cost him his life.
Second Stage of Cruelty
This scene suggests that the abuse of animals is widespread in the streets of London. On the left Nero (now grown-up) beats his horse, the poor creature having collapsed under the strain of the cart. This is overladen with four lawyers, who are too penny-pinching to hire two carts and insensitive to the suffering they are causing.
On the left a poster displayed near the door of ‘Thavies Inn Coffee House’ advertises ‘Broughton’s Amphitheatre’, a well-known venue for boxing. ‘James Field’ and ‘George Taylor’, named below, were celebrated pugilists.
Importantly, Field was hanged for highway robbery eleven days before Hogarth’s print was published, thus establishing an interrelationship between violent sports, entertainments and criminality.
Cruelty in Perfection - Third stage of cruelty
Nero has embarked on a life of highway robbery. He is seen here being apprehended after committing a murder in the dead of night.
As with Tom Idle in Industry and Idleness, Hogarth underlines that the reality of being a highwayman is far from the glamorous, romantic existence presented by popular heroes such as Captain Macheath in The Beggar’s Opera.
Indeed, Nero’s grotesque appearance conveys the inherent viciousness of his character and brutalising way of life. His victim, Ann Gill, his lover and partner-in-crime, lies prostrate on the floor, her throat slit. Her swollen stomach makes it clear that she was pregnant.
As a piece of propaganda, this macabre image was calculated to deromanticise criminality and its consequences. It takes place in the Cutlerian theatre near Newgate prison.
Nero has been hanged at Tyburn and, as was the case with other executed criminals, his body is being dissected for the purpose of studying anatomy. The chief surgeon sits in the centre on a high-backed chair with the royal coat of arms hanging above, thus resembling a high court judge. This neatly represents the official process of judgement and punishment, which in the case of hanged criminals could extend beyond death itself.
The skeletons of dissected criminals were usually refused a Christian burial and subsequently displayed as specimens, as can be seen in the niches to the left and right.