By all accounts I was an odd child. I openly preferred the company of my dog over most humans and retreating into the lush Danish forest with said canine after school on a daily basis was pretty much the norm. While my pre-pubescent class mates poured over the latest Glamour magazines, I devoured Illustrated Science and Freud’s collective works with unparalleled enthusiasm. My dad was thrilled and my mom slightly concerned.
The human mind and the complex ways in which it functions has always held a special fascination for me. I fancy myself a fairly intelligent individual governed by reason and hence convinced that heinous acts committed by humans must have a psychological explanation. There must be a cause and effect. I eventually earned a university degree in psychology with a special interest in psychopathology (i.e. The extra, super cray-cray ones).
Until Cecil’s brutal murder I’d never really been confronted with the unsavory trophy hunting lot but of course now they have been thrust out on the world stage and scrutinized by laymen and psychologists alike. I started to wonder what would compel someone to do such a thing (kill animals for ‘fun’). Most psychologists agree that individuals who exhibit strong traits of the ‘Dark Triad’ would be likely to engage in trophy hunting. No, the ‘Dark Triad’ is not the latest uber-violent video game or Tolkien adventure tale but a real group of psychological traits (detailed in the DSM) used to diagnose and treat crazy people. There I said it. The 3 traits are: narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. The first one is self explanatory (we currently have a loud-mouthed, orange-faced textbook example running for president), the second has to do with the amoral manipulation of others and the last (the most malevolent by far) causes low empathy, impulsivity and thrill seeking behavior. Sound familiar? Of course, these traits are also shared by serial killers so that’s just a fantastic group to be a part of..
In a well-known essay, Gareth Patterson (‘Is Trophy Hunting a Form of Serial Killing?’) has detailed the startling similarities between serial killers and trophy hunters. Here are some:
- Compelled to keep a trophy souvenir from their victims
- The killing is addictive and leads to more killings
- They seek fame, attention, and notoriety
- The kills are premeditated.
- The stalking and killing gives a surge of adrenalin (“thrill kill”)
- The killing is seen as a “sport” or “game”
- There’s a down time (“cooling off” period) between killings
- Gives the killer a feeling of power, dominance, and control over their victim
- They are titillated by “the hunt” and fantasize about the kill
Many document their kills via photos and/or videos to gratify themselves later.
Serial killers David Berkowitz (also known as Son of Sam), who killed six people; Jeffrey Dahmer, who raped and murdered 17 men and boys; and Albert DeSalvo (also known as The Boston Strangler), who confessed to killing 13 women but was imprisoned for a series of rapes, all stated animal torture as their first acts of violence
Since the 1970s, research has shown that the majority of adults who commit violent crimes have a history of animal cruelty in childhood. Some studies suggest that up to 70% of the most serious and violent offenders in prison have repeated and severe episodes of animal abuse in their history.
Indeed, cruelty to animals, along with bed-wetting past the age of five and fire-starting, are together known as the “homicidal triad”. This potential indication of violence in adulthood was first suggested by forensic psychiatrist John MacDonald in a 1963 article in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
The FBI has finally acknowledged this undeniable link between cruelty to animals and subsequent violence towards humans by counting acts of cruelty against animals alongside felony crimes like arson, burglary, assault, and homicide in the FBI’s expansive criminal database.
On January 1, the Bureau’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) began collecting detailed data from participating law enforcement agencies on acts of animal cruelty, including gross neglect, torture, organized abuse, and sexual abuse.
Based on all the evidence I think it’s fair to conclude that those who take pleasure in killing innocent animals are indeed suffering from psychopathy (and I would add pronounced sadistic tendencies) and cannot be considered sane nor mentally stable. We must continue to expose trophy hunters and the vile organizations that reward them for their murderous acts (SCI, DSC etc) and teach kids that killing animals for ‘sport’ is not acceptable nor healthy.
Written by Ines Romero of Cecil’s Angels cecilsangels.com
Mass murderer and a known animal abuser/killer Jeffrey Dahmer who also enjoyed keeping trophies of his slain victims.