When I got home from work tonight I checked the BBC News website as I’m prone to do. One of the tragic headlines that caught my eye was about two MET Police Dogs suffocating in an unventilated vehicle. This report describes an avoidable situation, whether a simple accident or careless neglect, it is a really sad story and one that I couldn’t read without feeling angry and sad for both the animals and the people involved. I believe this story went live on the BBC Website at 7pm today (27 June 2011), by the time of writing (11pm) the article has been shared over 2000 times. Quite rightly too, it is sad and newsworthy, and preventable, so sharing the message makes sense.
Now, let me rewind to four weeks ago when a BBC Panorama reported on serious institutional abuse against people with learning disabilities in Winterbourne View – I blogged about it here. This hour long documentary reported on hideous treatment of some of the most vulnerable members of our society. I think you’d struggle to watch it, or read the news item describing it, and not feel incredibly angry or sad.
This story went live on the BBC Website mid morning on the 1 June 2011, by the time of writing (27 June) the article has been shared almost 14,000 times. Again I’d expect as much, it is *also* sad and newsworthy, and *also* preventable, so sharing the message makes sense.
So, what’s the point?
I’m sure most of you will have worked out where I’m going with this. The story about animal cruelty was shared 2153 times in 3.5 hours, the adult abuse story was shared seven times as much – but in four weeks. Now I appreciate that the rate of sharing will drop off sharply once the story is removed from the BBC front page, over time, and I’m not claiming this is some scientific observation. That said, I am shocked at the high levels of concern for animal cruelty when viewed in relation to abuse of our fellow humans.
I dug a little deeper with this and checked out the statistics for the RSPCA Cruelty Line. “On average every 30 seconds someone in England and Wales dials 0300 1234 999 – the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line – for help. We received more than 1.1 million phone calls during 2010″. RSPCA Key Information
The next place I looked was for an equivalent adult abuse line – but no such thing exists. Action on Elder Abuse run a free national helpline for those concerned about abuse of elderly people, but that does not speak to all adult groups. I was unable to find any figures about it’s use.
So desperate to explore my theory that we care more about animals than people, I checked up on stats from NSPCC, I couldn’t find 2010 figures but what follows is the stats about calls made by children to ChildLine (which covers any concerns they have, including abuse) and calls from adults to the Helpline in 2009-10: “ChildLine counsellors dealt with over 500,000 contacts from children calling about various problems including bullying, sex abuse, violence and mental health issues. Nearly 12,000 allegations of children suffering abuse were passed from the NSPCC Helpline to police of social services” NSPCC Facts and figures about child abuse.
I’d like to conclude by offering the suggestion that we really do love our animals more than our fellow people.
I’m not sure if I believe that, but I think it’s relatively easy to see that we appear to be more appalled by animal cruelty and if not more appalled, more likely to act about it. Whether it’s a self-protection, not wanting to consider the reality situation; or a lack of awareness; or a lack of knowledge about what to do about it, I’m not sure. What I am sure about is that no animal or person should be subjected to abuse or neglect and as a society we should be more appalled and more proactive in preventing it.
RSPCA Cruelty Line 0300 1234 999
NSPCC HelpLine 0800 800 5000 and ChildLine 0800 1111
Action on Elder Abuse Helpline 0808 808 8141
If you are concerned about a vulnerable person (adult or child) suffering abuse and don’t know what to do about it contact 999 if it is an emergency or a crime or contact your local council or police force for other concerns. Usually if you Google ‘reporting adult abuse’ and ‘the area where you live’ you will usually find what to do.