Empathy and its influence on Duty of Care


In the past week the NSW government has shut down the Greyhound Racing industry in light of widespread overbreeding, injury, cruelty and neglect to not only the dogs involved, but also other animals involved in ‘live baiting’. It is a sad, but true picture of what happens when human adults are put in charge of other living creatures dependent on them for care and kindness.

Not too many generations ago most vulnerable children were also treated in a similar fashion and in many parts of the world are still worked, abused and neglected with little chance of happiness in their, what sometimes end up being quite short lives. The child soldiers of Nigeria are one example of this, the child prostitutes of Thailand another. We know this is wrong….so why does it happen?

My belief is in part greed, in part power….but supported mostly by a lack of empathy. The understanding of what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes, to feel their joy and more importantly their pain.

This is teaching that begins at home when children are young through parental reinforcement and modelling, socialisation and pet husbandry. It then should continue at school and in clubs, groups and teams with further codes of expected behaviour towards others.

It is true that some children and adults feel empathy more naturally than others, however the capacity to think and feel as another might and act accordingly is a matter of choice and as such is re-enforced by societal and familial reinforcement. If we consider ourselves to be ‘developed’ then acting on this should set us apart, not JUST the ‘appearance’ of caring.

Then maybe fewer animals and children will face the prospect of cruelty or an unnecessary death. I applaud what the NSW Government has done in this instance to protect dogs and can only hope that other states and countries follow suite in due course as societies awareness and empathy influence the morality of these practices.

Remember we used to hang, draw and quarter people once to make an example of them.

As Winston Churchill succinctly put it ‘Evil triumphs when good men do nothing’.