Ethics Quiz: The Worst Grandmother of the Year

hammer71-year-old Josephine Bell told police officers responding to a call at her home that she had warned her grandchildren that if they did not clean their rooms, she would take their pets away.  They didn’t, she said, so she killed the children’s cat and four kittens with a hammer. The oldest child found the dead cat in the freezer, and called the police.

Granny was charged with a felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals, and is in custody at Madison County Jail on $15,000 bond.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is…

What should be society’s response to conduct like this, and what should happen to Bell?

You’re on your own on this one. What Bell did is obviously cruelty to children, but not the kind that statutes cover. It is cruelty to animals, but should a 71-year-old go to jail for killing cats?

My grandmother was an immigrant from Greece, who was raised on a farm. Cats weren’t pets; they lived on the farm and killed mice and rats. Litters were drowned, and my grandmother carried on the tradition after she came to America. My mother had no use for dogs or cats, and the horrifying stories my uncle told of being assigned the job of dropping sacks full of kittens into the stream behind her parents’ home didn’t seem to bother Mom much.

The grandmother is caring for multiple children, a task that is neither fair to her, good for the kids, or, apparently, avoidable: would the children be better off in foster care?  (You will be relieved to learn that the family dog was taken to a new and apparently hammer-free home.)

Doesn’t society have to send a strong message that killing what a child loves is a form of discipline that society won’t tolerate? How should that message be delivered?

I have no answers, only questions for this one.

Good luck.


Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Facts: KTLA


63 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Worst Grandmother of the Year

  1. I still have horrible nightmares about my father’s kitten reduction techniques growing up on our farm. They are my worst childhood memories and can still make me cry to this day. (I’ll spare everyone the details, but there were several times that I stumbled across the efforts and results — as young as 5 or 6 years old.)

    We didn’t have the money to spay/neuter cats, and the truth is that when you live on a farm, the stray cats (and dogs) will gravitate there. Others will be dropped off by people who decide they don’t want their pets anymore. There were years that we had 20 cats or more — my dad wouldn’t kill them if they reached adulthood, so I spent considerable effort trying to hide litters from my dad. This was a rural area, so there were no catch and release programs like you see in DC.

    That being said, what this grandmother did was as a punishment to the children — and she has no business being their caregiver. These children will grow up thinking that it was their fault that these cats died. What my dad did scarred me as well, but he never did it to hurt me and I never thought it was my fault.

    • One of my great-aunts had a homestead and she was quite the lover of animals (as apparently all that set of brothers and sisters were, and I have my theories why). She had 100s…literally 100s of cats and just let them breed breed breed.

      Well, her brother, one of my great-uncles, though an animal lover himself, was also quite a realist and pragmatist. Having been somewhat desensitized in the war, he calmly acted on his convictions and carried on his business.

      During family gatherings (which happened often as everyone lived very close), he’d always advise her to get rid of the cats, as that many were guaranteed to spread pestilence and disease. She never listened. He always used her back field area for target practice. Oftentimes, I’d heard, during target practice, the more-than-occasional shot would happen to eliminate one, two or twenty of the cats during target practice.

      • Yep, I stumbled on target practice once. My dad didn’t know that I was home sick from school — I ran outside in my nightgown to stop him and one of my cousins from shooting them. Horrifying. My dad and my cousin were upset too.

        The problem with this story is that the killing was deliberately cruel and was done to mentally torture these children. And the freezer? I can’t even begin to process that piece of it.

        Animal control methods are necessary — especially in rural areas. But there are ways to do it without unnecessary cruelness. And I have a feeling this wasn’t the first litter hammered to death by this crazy woman.

  2. I dont think killing animals that you own is cruel in and of it’s self. And I was going to write in defense of the grandma on this one, but this case is kind of forcing me to add a rider to my usual stance. Killing an animal that you own is not cruel in and of itself so long as there is some non-low hanging fruit to be gained from it’s death.

    Killing dogs because you don’t have the time, money, or desire to deal with them? I don’t care. It’ll make me sad but it’s not unethical.

    Killing those gentle bovines for their delicious burger meat? It makes me less sad than the dogs but it’s delicious and clearly not unethical.

    Killing deer that you have no intention of eating as a form of resource/population control in a larger conservation effort? Sure – a smaller more constant population is better than a boom and bust cycle one for many reasons, so the math works out and it’s not unethical.

    Killing cats as a disciplinary tool? … … … looks like I found a limit I didnt know I had. There are a million other ways to discipline kids that dont involves taking the lives of animals, so in this instance they died needlessly. Provided they didn’t suffer (and make no mistake blunt instruments can and do produce humane kills) I’m not prepared to say that this is cruelty to animals in the legal sense but certainly cruelty to animals in the ethical sense.

    • Killing the dog, or anything else for other than food or defense, is unethical. OK, there is euthanasia. Your example is especially unethical.
      Killing the cows as you described, as long as humanly done, is of course ethical.
      Same goes for the deer. In truth, if the game department does it, the meat often goes to shelters and soup kitchens. If a hunter kills the deer without it being used for food it is a crime as well as being unethical. In Wyoming, wanton waste is up to $1K fine. The third strike is a felony, with a much higher fine and up to two years.

      • I think you suffer from city sensibilities.

        By your logic, having starving stray dogs running around is somehow preferable to population control killing. Canadian reservations have a particularly virulent problem with res dogs, and answers range from tranquing the dogs and spaying or neutering to having bounty culls. We’re talking thousands of animals sometimes.

        And as to the legality of killing deer and not harvesting them, I don’t know the law in Wyoming, although I would love you to cite that law, but I can say with certainty that is not the law elsewhere. In Manitoba, most the people who get deer tags wouldn’t waste the tag leaving the animal on the ground, but if a farmer had a particular problem with crop destruction, it happens.

      • And I think you highlighted one of the biggest contradictions of someone with city sensibilities: ”Animals can have utility to people that includes their death only if we also happen to eat them.” I mean really… It`s either ethical to kill animals for human needs or it isn’t.

        • It isn’t “city sensibilities” it is simply applying specific rules to other species. Since I have never lived in a city, how can you describe them as “city sensibilities” other than use it as an Ad Hominem?

          • You can call it whatever you want. What I was talking about was a set of mores I tend to find most common among people in a city, where they are just so out of touch with things like the food chain and animal mortality that any imput they have to the conversation comes from a place of such abject ignorance that it is so very hard to take them seriously. I don’t need to know your life story to read what you say and compare what you’re saying to those beliefs, Which is why I said “I think” and not “You are”.

            • Sure we can call it whatever we want. The set of mores you find most common in the city, I find pretty much everywhere. I have known only two people who subscribe to what you might call “country mindset”, neither of them were country. Both were the suburb types that dump dogs off by the farm.

      • Humble Talent nailed it. City sensibilities. You may not be from a city but you’re definitely suffering from them. For comparisons: I am from the city and don’t suffer from them. Animals are property with special rights – those rights don’t include the right to life and so long as there’s a reason for depriving them of it (money, time, effort, food etc.), it’s not particularly unethical to do so. I figured most of the push back would be related to cats and dogs – people are just too in love with the family pet to separate those feels from their thinking process (Killing cats is okay? I have a cat. I would never kill my cat. You monster!)

        • In this society it is dogs, cats, and horses. It isn’t a matter thinking vs feeling. While the cats were property, they were not the grandmother’s property. Also, they were living beings, unlike a laptop or a car. It isn’t so much “feeling instead of thinking” it is more like thinking based on current science on animal self awareness vs rationalizations of old.

  3. All she had to do was take all the animals to a shelter, or just call for a pick-up, since she didn’t have the time, energy or inclination to take care of them. Is she living on a farm? Is this 1950? Prosecute her under animal cruelty and let whatever social welfare agency decide who should take care of the kids. Is she a flight risk? Why hasn’t she been released on her own recognizance? Where are the public defenders? I can’t imagine she’ll be sentenced to any time in jail.

    But isn’t it funny how people are outraged about animal cruelty and yawn at beheadings and people being thrown off buildings in the Middle East. Oh, I forgot. Diversity is everything. We have to respect their culture. Ever seen how dogs are treated in India? I bet the phrase “treated like a dog,” like “thug,” comes from India.

    • Shelters here won’t take stray pets anymore. They demand appointments and a fee to take them and some people just don’t have it. If she’s suddenly raising children and doesn’t have enough energy for the kids and pets or time to search for a shelter that takes them…

      Strays can be a big problem in cities, I remember the stories during the last Russian Olympics. City people think there are always the resources to deal with extra animals and there just isn’t. I’ve seen too many abandoned pets in rural areas and it’s both cruel and cowardly, they don’t know how to survive.

      Now putting the bodies in the freezer is just sick. I can understand her frustration as a similar influx happened in our neighborhood and adding both kid and attached pet is too much for someone older or with physical limitations. But keeping the bodies is someone overwhelmed and needs relief. Visiting grandma is much easier than an invasion. I’m not sure of the grandmother overestimated what she could handle, or others assumed she could or forced it. A grandmother who is 40 can handle a lot more than one who’s 70.

  4. You know… I’m torn. I’m at this weird place where I know what Bell did was wrong, and that she had better alternatives than killing kittens with a hammer, but I have this visceral reaction where I`m temporarily on her side before recoiling.

    I think it has something to do with follow through. Often I hear stories about parenting that make me cringe, where kids run roughshod over their parents, and the parents are either too weak to stand up to their kids, or they do and the state labels them abusive. I think that we’re approaching a society without consequences. It doesn’t matter what you do, or how far you fall, something will be there to catch you, dust you off and send you on your way. There is no incentive for excellence, no disincentive for ineptitude. In fact, apparently you can be an inept ass and still be president of the United States. So it’s… refreshing to see someone taught the value of consequence, even in this cruel way. When dealing with kids, I find that it’s most important to promise things, and follow through with those promises, and never promising something that you aren’t willing to follow through with.

    I think that Bell’s problem was a matter of scale. Killing the pet with a hammer and keeping it in a freezer was wrong. Killing the pet period was probably wrong. But let`s take it a step back from there: Is taking something away from children and destroying it to teach them a lesson wrong? If instead of kittens we were talking about a laptop, would that be abuse?

    • No, because the laptop is not a living creature. So long as the laptop was not the property of someone else, like a friend of the child’s or a school system-issued one, then you can destroy non-living possessions. Even then, I would urge caution, though, with regards to how often this punishment occurs and for what offenses. There is something to be said for the punishment fitting the crime.

      • Exactly, and that’s where I’m struggling: What’s the difference between the laptop and the cats? One is alive. But why does that matter from the perspective of child abuse? Are we really discussing child abuse, or are we discussing animal abuse, or are we discussing behaviors that if they happened in a vacuum would be OK, but because they happened together aren’t?

        • In my case, I got over the destruction of childhood property. I *never* got over the threats toward pets, who thankfully weren’t harmed. Guess which was more scarring.

        • “that if they happened in a vacuum would be OK, but because they happened together aren’t?”

          Though the destruction of one’s own non-living private property is something that cannot be *legally* punished, I don’t think that automatically makes such destruction ethical.

          Happily destroying your possessions with no need to do so is wasteful, which in and of itself IS UNETHICAL. But it’s a kind of unethical that can’t be punished by law without the law stepping into places it shouldn’t go.

          This is rationalization territory.

          • In addition, one’s property still may have utility, values and meaning to others. And it is a rationalization, a variation of “The Compliance Delusion” that needs its own category. “It’s my right!” perhaps. If someone owns a priceless work of art or antiquity, they have the right to destroy it, but doing so is unethical.

            Thanks. I’m going to revise and reorder the Rationalizations List, and I hope I can use you as a consultant.

      • Time for a controversial opinion, but I would argue that destruction of a laptop in the manner described is might actually be unethical…

        With few exceptions, no actions occur in a vacuum. The wanton destruction of any electronic device is, simply, pollution. On the scale of an evil grandmother, it seems almost trite to discuss smashing a laptop as punishment as pollution.

        But where does that smash-top go? She is 80, and evil, so into the trash!Multiply this by 900 Million electronic devices into the trash (low ball estimate of three per American), and this becomes an ecological disaster.

        When that laptop was made, toxic chemicals were realized in the environment as the iron and copper ores were smelted, as the oil was rendered to produce the plastic casing, as the rare earth metals were extracted and molded into circuit components. These effects, though marginally small per device, add up substantially when examined over the domain of 8 Billion people on earth.

        Now, with intact electronics, many parts can be reused, and other parts melted down and recycled. Reusing and recycling take significant pressure off mining and smelting raw materials, and requires far less energy. Further, reused chips are a very healthy market, and intact circuit boards are far more valuable than the raw metals and silicone that constitute it.

        Smashing the laptop, however, makes every component dubious even if it made to the recycling center. At best it might be shredded and recycled, but this is less profitable, and less likely to occur. The other option, trashing it, allows toxic metals to leach out.

        Now, the predictable argument is, “But the laptop is my personal property!” This argument does not work. The solvents dumped by factories 50 years ago were the owner’s “personal property”. The oil vats stored under Love Canal Elementary School were the personal property of Hooker Chemical (although Hooker STRENOUSLY objected to the school being built there, but I digress).

        We all have an ethical duty to be stewards of the resources we are entrusted with. The “tragedy of the commons” occurs when far too many people see that their omission of duty has only a tiny effect, but those tiny effects add up quicker than one would suppose.

        Thus, is destroying a laptop with a hammer, with the goal of chastising a child, proportional against one’s duty to preserve the environment?

        I will not presume to answer this globally, and will leave it to the parent to rationally weigh the benefits of such a stunt.

        However, let us up the anti: what about when destroying the laptop with a gun?
        Is the shock value of blowing up a laptop to motivating the teen to use her time and resources more responsibly proportional to the parent’s duty to teach responsible use of the firearm? Does the irony of wasting the laptop’s ecological scrap value undermine the lesson that the teen should be more responsible?

        The gun and laptop, I think, provides a good link back to the original topic: the hammer and cat.

        Is smashing a “putty tat’s” head in with a hammer proportional to the parental figure’s duty to ensure that the children learn to clean there rooms? Against the duty to teach the children to care living things in their charge?

        Even if the kitty-smashing stunt successfully taught the children to care to their non-living possessions, does the stunt potentially teach the children to be wantonly cruel to living possessions? It is said that wanton cruelty of children to animals is a sure sign of poor mental health and potential aggression towards other humans.

        Is the stunt proportional against potential adverse impact to the children’s emotional and social health?

        Humans have evolved with a poor sense of probability; if there MIGHT be a tiger in that bush, I shouldn’t go there! When your BEST judgment says that killing a cat is the most probable way to get your kids to clean their room, I simply will not believe that any sort of rational consideration of the risks took place.

        I therefore declare the Grandmother’s actions unethical and undefendable.

        (Any possible defense could only be made in retrospect; consequentialism; it wasn’t the worst thing; etc.)

        • “described is might actually ” oops (plenty of other typos, but this one undermines my eventual point!)

        • I’m not sure that was controversial…. It definitely moved up the discussion to new places.

          I think you failed to see the forest for the trees as a response to my comment, because my comment was about depriving a child of something they cherished and destroying it, I used the laptop as an example, but it isn’t the rule. So if the determination of ethics in this situation is the pollution it might cause then ad lib in something that didn’t pollute. This was a red herring. Heck, go back to the kittens.

          So I go back to my original question: Is depriving a child of something they cherish in order to teach a lesson unethical? How I think you answered is: It depends on how reasonable the punishment is to the lesson being taught. I don’t disagree by the way.

          Where I disagree is the lesson being taught. It wasn’t just to respect their non-living (as you put it) possessions, it was to respect her, with a side of possessions.

          And on that track… I think you hit the nail on the head there, but not in the way you think, when you said ‘non-living’. I don’t think we are having a child abuse discussion, I think we’re having an animal abuse discussion. I think that if Bell had destroyed a laptop, or a set of sidewalk chalk, or a widget, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Look your example: The laptop and the gun. I remember that! There were people praising that father as a hero, and most of the controversy revolved around the gun and the pollution. That doesn’t make them right, and this could still be abuse… But I think it’s perhaps a little closer than people think.

          And then…. Is killing a cat with a hammer animal abuse? No. It’s unusual. It’s perhaps not the best tool for the job. But it isn’t cruel, per se.

          And so that’s the train of thought I took to be conflicted. I separated the child abuse angle from the animal abuse angle, rejected the animal abuse angle and sat contemplating the child abuse. I honestly think I need to know more…. I have a hard time believing this came out of the blue, but it might have. Does it change the situation if the kids had been neglecting the cat, or if Bell had seen the cats as nuisance and decided to have a teachable moment as a bonus?

          • I think you accurately sorted out my muddled thoughts. The gist of the argument I was trying to make was that every action has external consequences, and that even effective actions that do not achieve a goal proportionate to the external consequences are unethical.

            And so that’s the train of thought I took to be conflicted. I separated the child abuse angle from the animal abuse angle, rejected the animal abuse angle and sat contemplating the child abuse. I honestly think I need to know more…. I have a hard time believing this came out of the blue, but it might have. Does it change the situation if the kids had been neglecting the cat, or if Bell had seen the cats as nuisance and decided to have a teachable moment as a bonus?

            Good place to start over. I concluded that Bell’s actions are undefendable because there is simply no responsible path of logic that leads to her actions. The exact steps to get here may need to be rethought out…

            I will stipulate a broad point that it is sometimes necessary and ethical to euthanize a beloved pet. I find the need to kill a cat to punish the children dubious, but like you, I will not press the issue and call it animal abuse; here could be mitigating issues, etc. Once ethical to euthanize a pet, the method is of little added relevance; I will give the use of a hammer a pass.

            Where Bell’s case falls apart is that she saved the animal remains in freezer for her grandchildren to find! This is “Godfather” territory; horsehead in the bed territory – the Don too had “teaching moment”! There is no responsible line of reasoning that leads to this course of action.

            Now, relooking the original post, Jack asked, “What do we do with Bell?”

            I find it hard to believe that this is an isolated incident. The grandmother’s parenting skills are obviously lacking if she could not find a better way to influence her grandchildren (one might even venture to wonder if they were lacking when raising the grandchildren’s parent).

            At a minimum, I think there should be some sort of probation, with a requirement to attend parenting classes. Voluntary or involuntary surrender to a responsible Aunt/Uncle, if available, might be the next step if this is part of an unhealthy pattern. Putting the kids in the system should be a last resort.

            I find it very sad that I fear some worse than a smashed pet cat in the freezer is too likely to occur in foster care…

      • “you can destroy non-living possessions.”

        Sure, you can. But that isn’t something you want to teach as a behavior, nor is the destruction of possessions a very purposeful punishment anyway.

    • If it has something to do with follow-through, I’d say even threatening to kill household pets is an ethical breach. Then again, I’m from a family where my dad would scream and threaten to kill pets all the time, over the most trivial things, and it was just one of many reasons for me to lose respect for him.

    • I’m surprised to find people defending this here. Killing a sentient being solely to punish someone else is sociopathic behaviour, it’s frightening and cruel. The purpose is to cower into submission, not teach a worthwhile lesson. There are a plethora of justifications for killing animals without malice (many outlined above) but being fed up with your children’s ingratitude is not one of them. It would be so traumatising for a child to see an animal brutally killed (or the results of it) and told that it was because of something they did. That’s not discipline it’s spite… you can be a strict parent without resorting to viciousness. And why should an animal suffer because of some disagreement that has nothing to do with them? Totally unjust. Is it so hard to know the difference between being a no-nonsense, tough parent and just being a POS to your kids? I agree that a lot of parents are too passive but that’s doesn’t mean over the top stunts like this are at all praiseworthy.

      I also think that with few exceptions permanently confiscating or destroying your children’s non-living property is wrong too (if it is their property and not just something you let them use.) I wouldn’t say it is child abuse but a gift is a gift and has no conditions.. it irks me no end when I hear of parents taking back Christmas presents to the shops or giving their stuff away because the child hasn’t been pulling their weight around the house or whatever. It’s not really a gift if the receiver is indebted to you ever after and has to comply with your future demands in order to keep it.

      • I don’t think anyone defended the act itself, rather clarified that not much, ethically, can be done about it…

        Kind of like it’s unethical to say racist things, but it’s more unethical to punish someone for saying racist things.

        • Well I could be wrong but I read HT’s comments that he was initially on the grandmother’s side, at least she followed through with her threat and is it really any different to breaking an inanimate object anyway as a defense.

          I don’t know if she can or should face criminal charges for what she did. I suppose unless the authorities can prove that the animals suffered a lot due to her method she will be let off (?) I’m more concerned about her grandchildren. She either needs a lot of help from social services to cope with raising them or needs to be relieved of her duties. She just isn’t a trustworthy caregiver IMO. Whether or not her actions were strictly legal in regards to the pets, they were sadistic and displayed very poor judgement in regards to the children.

          • Well, I think I read into all these comments with 3 facets in mind:

            1) Is the grandmother’s choice of punishment ethical – I don’t think anyone has defended that.

            2) Can people dispose of their property without consequence – I’d submit Humble does defend that. Which I don’t *generally* have an issue with.

            3) Can people *ethically* dispose of their property at will – I am not sure about Humble’s opinion on that, and I don’t think he’s fully meditated on it either.

            • Humble is playing devil’s advocate, because while he’s 99.9% certain that he knows that what he feels is right is actually right in this situation, but something is tickling the back of his head and he wants to sort it out. I think there’s some ick factor involved here, and people seem to have an irrational fondness for animals (that doesn’t always transfer over to people), but sometimes a spade is just a spade.

              • 1. Intentionally taking a life of any kind for no good reason is unethical. Yes, that includes insects and shellfish.

                2. Destroying something loved—not liked, admired, needed, appreciated, but loved, by another for no good reason is unethical.

                3. It is also cruel, and unnecessary most of the time, when the good reason is justifiable punishment.

                4. Taking life in a cruel and gratuitous manner is signature significance. This is why killing small animals is considered a marker for future serial killers.

                5. There was a recent case involving a girlfriend killing her boyfriend’s goldfish as revenge. We eat fish, but that’s still cruelty, gratuitous, and also destroying property, lower species or not.

    • “Often I hear stories about parenting that make me cringe, where kids run roughshod over their parents, and the parents are either too weak to stand up to their kids, or they do and the state labels them abusive.”

      But that’s a false dichotomy. There is a middle road.

      What seems to be the case here, is a weak parent finally had enough and their only option was to overreact and come down like a hammer. The weakest people can become the most brutal tyrants.

      A pendulum can’t just stop in the middle…

      • Perhaps I worded that poorly…. Of course there is middle ground, it’s probably the most common option out there. It was more to say that either of those things could happen, I’ve seen them happen, and they seem to be becoming more common.

    • “Is taking something away from children and destroying it to teach them a lesson wrong? If instead of kittens we were talking about a laptop, would that be abuse?”

      Yes. A different kind of abuse than direct abuse – but the same kind of manipulative and emotional abuse as killing the pets (though the emotional connection is not as strong).

      You teach the child that wanton destruction is ok. This violates the value of stewardship and teaches the child that nothing has value. It also teaches the child that the punishment is permanent and the child cannot be fully reconciled.

      • See, that’s another thing that the story wasn’t clear on and I’m not sure if it changes the connotations. Bell said that if the kids didn’t clean their rooms they would lose their cats, not that she would kill them. She did kill them, but it sounds like the kids only found out when they went looking in the freezer. If instead of killing the cats, she had given them away to strangers, where would it fall on the abuse spectrum?

      • Yipes! Glad I came back to this post (I don’t get any signals when responses appear and I don’t review for them frequently because there usually aren’t any). Those excuses out of the way — oh, one more, other than saying I am extremely sorry I insulted you. It is this: I always try to use words precisely, if in original and often unsuccessfully convoluted ways, but rarely have I been so embarrassed to discover I have been misusing this one disastrously, applying it in what I thought was both a positive and a complimentary connotation (“pretending that one knows less about something than one really does”) as in being clever, subtle and unpretentious about it; as in the opposite of its root “ingenuous” which had come to mean, as I learned it, naive and simple to the point of simple-mindedness. It never occurred to me that the root word was dropped because it had taken on the same negativity as its “dis” form. Back to apology

        It was my pretentious way of welcoming you back … and I do hope you are back — it’s awfully scary when one of one’s presumed companions-at-arms goes AWOL — even if we do fight on different fronts at times. And I believe that your battle scars go deeper; you live in a much tougher war zone. I will not take your presence for granted again. I hope you will trust that I value your opinions, wit and style. And I am most grateful for your correction.

  5. How does PETA fit into this discussion? Jack wrote in a previous post that they routinely euthanize (kill) dogs and cats.

    • The “People for the Ethical Treatment” of Animals is to “Ethics” is what the “Most Transparent Administration Ever” is to “Transparency”…

  6. I’m a cat lover. I think people who abuse and kill cats and other animals should have done to them what was done to the animal they abused or killed. I think Bell should be hammered to death.

  7. 1. Disposition of Property

    We ought to start off by discussing the details of property. Certainly property is anything you create through your own effort with no intent to exchange anything you acquire through exchanging some other property of yours, or anything that has been given to you. Or from another angle private property is anything the community mutually agrees is private property – be that agreement come from custom, tradition or brute force. Now, by first analysis, since property is *solely* yours, in the hyper-free market sense of the word- then you are the king who may dispose of it at will – use it for profit, give it away, wantonly destroy it.

    But that is too simple for this scenario. Let’s break property down into categories:

    A) Non-living entities. This category would form the vast portion of property. This could be sub-categorized or even organized on a continuum, with the most consumable or utilitarian objects on one end, such as pencils or paperclips or Democrat talking points—items that represent little value and are easily consumed with little to no impact on anything else. Whereas on the other end we would find the most culturally valuable items – perhaps consummate works of art. Certainly these objects wouldn’t be sorted purely by their market value.

    B) Living, but non-human entities. This category as well would be placed on a continuum. I would probably say that at one end of the continuum we would place entities that share the greatest affinity as well as usefulness to humans.

    C) Humans. Yes yes yes, I know. We’ve decided that humans cannot be *ethically* treated as property. But, since for the longest time, according to the definition of property above — “private property is anything the community mutually agrees is private property” — humans have been property. Either as slaves…that is to say property acquired through exchange or even outright kidnapping via war or other methods… or as children – most cultures saw children as property of their parents until some “coming of age” event. Of course, down to the purest arguments, the only way the baby-killing Left can justify abortion is ultimately by defining unborn children as a type of property…therefore granting disposability.

    Since category 1 is the most numerous of the categories we recognize as ethical property, it is easy to slip into the rule that “sure, it’s your property, destroy it all you want…who cares? It’s yours!” But that rule doesn’t hold up to scrutiny with Category 2 property (and I’d argue that to an extent, it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny on the “high” end of the Category 1 spectrum. Why not? Simply put, though they be non-human animals, they still suffer, and the ethical person minimizes suffering, ideally, to the point in which suffering is only inflicted with a justifiable purpose.

    Therefore, though your pets are your property and, in purist terms, you can dispose of your property at will, it is NOT ethical to wantonly hurt animals you own (without a reasonable need to do so).

    2. Punishment

    So we see this grandmother wishes to punish the children for their misbehavior. That is of course a noble objective. Punishment comes in, essentially, two forms…reconciliation and separation. Separation sees a particular act as so heinous or so detrimental, that the only effective punishment is to deny contact between the perpetrator and some positive element, forever. In practical terms, this means life imprisonment or capital punishment. Apparently, in lunatic terms, this also means killing your children’s pets. Reconciliation, however, sees a particular act as heinous, but not one which cannot be fixed and the conditions before the misbehavior reset, or the individual is still capable of learning and rejoining the community.

    3. This Event

    In this case, we see the grandmother seeking to use her role as a property owner who can dispose of property at will to inflict a punishment on children who need some sort of correction.

    A) The children failed to clean their rooms, as instructed. They were certainly in the wrong at this step.

    B) The grandmother was then compelled to punish the children. This is reasonable: rules are not capricious, therefore consequences are not capricious either. Grandmother’s first clear mistake is deciding what is proportional and *relatable* to the offense. When rooms don’t get cleaned, it would seem simple enough that children lose free time to clean their rooms plus some for not doing it on their own in the first place OR perhaps what the child LOSES (for a period of time) are the items they failed to clean up.

    C) Grandmother chose to kill their pets. This, surely, is cruelty to animals…as #2 category property, you may dispose of property, but you are unethical to inflict needless suffering. There was no need for the animals to die. Additionally, this is cruelty to the children, not because of the cruelty to the animals, but because we can assume there was a valuable emotional bond between the children and pets which was absolutely violated. Therefore, this is how the scenario enters into child abuse.

    D) The method that Grandmother chose to kill their pets is only material if it increased the already unjustifiable suffering. A hammer to the head may very well have been quick and generally painless.

    4. Community Response

    This is a great crossing of continuums – one in which we allow ourselves to dispose of our property at will, except for the special class of property involved in this scenario and the other in which we allow parents considerable leeway in the raising of their children. In the first, we draw a line on cruelty to animals – which becomes punishable in this instance; in the second, we draw a line on cruelty to children – which we can’t decide if this is punishable in this scenario because we cannot fairly quantify how the cruelty to this particular set of animals translates into child abuse. Since there is no law governing the child abuse in this scenario (and I don’t think there ought to be either because it is too murky), what is the community to do?

    A. The community could overreact to everything the grandmother does now as a lesson, but that is tit-for-tat.

    B. The community could make a pariah of the grandmother, but that would vicariously make pariahs of the children as well.

    I would submit that the only option the community has is to educate each other on proportional punishment, and subtly employ only slight shunning on the grandmother in the community…something she can recognize while not isolating the children.

    • This is really terrific, tex, and the Comment of the Day…it would have been up earlier, but I’ve been in a situation not conducive to thinking, researching and writing except for short bursts. I also apologize for not fixing the formatting earlier.

  8. Now that this situation has been analyzed to death, I would like to come from a different perspective:

    Not all of us seniors are able to live in those landlocked vertical cruse ships called retirement communities. Some of us live in godawful circumstances and some of us live in between.

    I’ve got a few years up on Grandma Bell, raised four of my own kids (and half the neighborhood’s), at different times lived with all five of my grandkids, and am now an adoring great-grandmother. I’ve been a caregiver for more than twenty years to family and am still a full-time 24/7 caregiver for my husband. My free-time is almost non-existent, my days are long, and my stress level is high. On a good day. But I survive (admittedly, sometimes ruefully) and occasionally can still muster up a sense of humor.

    BUT – I WOULD NOT TRADE PLACES WITH THIS WOMAN! I cannot imagine anyone over the age of 70 raising kids today and not going off the deep end. While I don’t condone what she did, I can certainly understand it and won’t sit in judgement of her, especially not knowing any more details of what happened and why. But I can say that now that the poor thing, in a calmer atmosphere, probably regrets her actions and needs assistance more than censure right now.

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