This topic was inspired by Lauren @ Lose Time Reading. She asked us if we have deal breakers in books, and one of hers was animal abuse. It’s one of mine, too, and I feel the need to talk about it!
My first question is: Why do authors feel the need to do this? To get a reaction? To create controversy? Maybe we’ll never know. But what I know is: 9 times out of 10, it is not necessary. There’s absolutely no need to add in senseless animal death in any novel, especially if it’s fantasy or science fiction. Or horror, for that matter…because that’s the genre I’ve noticed has the most of it. Books and movies both. If I start watching a horror movie and see an animal, the very first thing out of my mouth is “That cat/dog is going to die.” And 90% of the time, I’m right (thank you, Ridley Scott, for proving me wrong).
WHY?! Why have a vampire eat a cat (Sookie Stackhouse), or make your main character MURDER a baby kitten to prove how awful some lab is (Origin), or have the cat get killed for absolutely no reason at all other than it’s a horror book (Anna Dressed in Blood)? Authors need to ask themselves, Is this important to the plot of my story? Will it really make a difference if you cut that scene out? Because the odds are, you’re just going to piss off your readers. When I got to the kitten murder scene in Origin, I was bawling and I DNFed the book immediately. (It wasn’t anything special to begin with, so it wasn’t that hard of a decision.) If it hadn’t been on my Kindle, I would have thrown it at a wall and probably burnt the book afterward. I refuse to ever touch that book again – in fact, I hate the sight of it. I don’t even want to read Vitro because it’s by the same author. A little harsh, maybe, but I have a very strong opinion on this matter and I have a major soft spot for cats.
Now, there is one exception to this. Just one: Kinslayer. (I’m including this whole paragraph in a spoiler tag because it could ruin part of the book for you if you haven’t read it – so beware!) View Spoiler »This is the only book I’ve read with cat murder that I have been able to finish without holding a grudge against the story. Probably only because Jay Kristoff is an epic writer and the story is amazing. Jay pulls no punches, and has no qualms about killing off characters, no matter how important they are. Or no matter what species they are. Which is probably why Daken’s death didn’t make me quit: It was a character death. Daken wasn’t just a cat. He was a sentient being that could speak to one of the main characters, and his death was a sacrifice to save her. This is probably the only time where it would be an exception, because it actually mattered to the story. But that didn’t make it any easier to read. I was bawling for hours after that scene, and it was quite a while before I could pick the book back up again. « Hide Spoiler
I know, I know: I’ve only talked about cat killing. It’s not that I don’t care about dog killing, but I have yet to read a book where a dog was killed (not that I can remember, anyway). I know it would affect me, but it probably wouldn’t get to me as much. Sounds horrible, but I’m not really a huge dog person. I’m not okay with dog killing by any means, I just don’t have as much of a soft spot for them as I do for cats. Cats are very special to me. If you’re not a cat person, you wouldn’t understand >.<
Cat people UNITE!!!
I’m the same way about animal killing in books. I don’t even like thinking about that sorta thing. :/
Same here! I just can’t deal with it!
Eeek. It was hard to even read this post, haha. I hate that kind of stuff in books, and I agree with you that it’s usually for no reason other than to get an emotional response from the reader, and that really annoys me. Sometimes it’s justified…but it’s usually not.
Also, while I think this is a great post, I really wish that you hadn’t mentioned that the main character has to murder a kitten in Origin! I just started reading that book, and now something’s spoiled for me :/
Exactly! I really think that most of the time it’s just for the shock factor. There are other ways to get a reaction from your readers!
The reason I didn’t include that in a spoiler tag like I did with the other one is because I think that’s something people should know going in, and it isn’t a main plot point in my opinion. If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have had such a violent reaction to it (or probably wouldn’t have wasted my time with it in the first place). I really wish someone had told me before I picked it up!
That’s a good point (about the spoiler tag)…but I still sort of wish you hadn’t told me :/ I totally get where you’re coming from, but I honestly hate knowing ANYTHING remotely spoiler-y about a book beforehand, so I was kinda bummed. It’s really not that big of a deal, but I feel like even if you personally might’ve wanted to know that before reading the book, it’s still good form to warn your readers, just in case they don’t. You know, like “an example of this occurs in the Lux series…small spoiler ahead!” Or something like that.
I’m really, really not trying to be a jerk. I hope you aren’t annoyed at me! I’m a huge fan of your blog :) I guess I’m just kinda touchy about spoilers and felt like it’d be good to mention it to you, because I’d want somebody to tell ME if I accidentally spoiler-ed them on something. But I feel like I’m probably way more bothered by this than other people are! I’ll totally admit to that, haha. It’s just a friendly suggestion, though :)
No worries! It’s just a difference of opinion, it happens. I get where you’re coming from, I really do; I typically despise any kind of spoiler and I almost always will include anything even remotely spoiler-ish in a hidden tag. However, I am not going to change this one because I feel very strongly about this issue. Believe me, I hate spoilers too, but this subject is the exception for me!
I’m with you…I get very upset with animal abuse in books. Even knowing it’ll be there (The Madman’s Daughter) I still hate it and typically it lowers my rating or at least gets a mention in my review. The Diviners was a bad one too. Ugh. I’m not sure why authors include it in their book for the most part. A lot of times I guess it is relevant to the story but I hate it all times. I feel books need a warning sticker—This book contains violence towards animals.
Oh gosh I didn’t know The Madman’s Daughter had it! Thanks for the warning! Same with Diviners. But I’m not a big historical fan, so I don’t know if I really want to read either of them. I agree, there should be a warning!
I suggest you take the name of the book outside the spoiler tags. I actually had to open it up because I didn’t know what book you were even going to spoil until I opened it up and read the first line!
But anyway, I agree. Animal abuse/death really upsets me. :( I actually can’t think of any examples I’ve read (except perhaps Game of Thrones, if I remember rightly… it’s been a while). But just the idea of it really puts me in a bad mood. I agree that it’s just completely unnecessary. >_<
Oops haha that might help, right? My bad >.< Me too! Hmm, I haven't read that one and I don't think I'll be getting to it anytime soon but thanks for the warning! I like to know going in that it's going to be part of the story. At least then I can prepare myself! And yep. I tend to lower my rating (if not completely DNF) for that sort of thing, unless it really matters (like Kinslayer). It's probably unfair, but I feel very strongly about it!
I feel like I’m in the minority with this topic. I do love animals, dogs especially, but I’ve seen people claim that animal abuse should be completely absent from books/movies/etc. without fail and I…don’t agree with that. Obviously, my caveat is that it has to serve the plot somehow and isn’t just being used for the shock factor or to generate a false emotional response (because that definitely falls into the ‘you sick fuck’ category) but I’m not going to knock off a star or two automatically just for animal death being included, like I know some people do (and are well within their rights to do).
For me, 99% of them fall into that ‘you sick fuck’ category. Perhaps just because I feel strongly about this (I personally just can’t handle animal torture). I feel like they are almost always to get a rise out of their readers. But there was that one book I read where the part didn’t make me hate the book (actually, I freaking love the book because it ripped my heart out!), so it can work if done right!
I didn’t knock off a star rating for Anna Dressed in Blood, even though the part really bothered me, but if I already don’t like the book that’s like the last straw for me so it gets a worse rating >.<
I can’t read about animal murder/abuse… I just CAN’T. It’s not enough for me to DNF a book (more than enough to make me hate the character doing it though), but I always, always skip those scenes and then try to bleach my brain.
I’m more of a dog person, though :)
Yeah! I wish there were spoiler tags in the book with a warning label that the animal abuse is coming so I could save my poor brain from that horror :(
Animal abuse is sooo controversial. On one hand it can kind of help with the story and show how toxic someone or something is, but on the other hand it’s kind of meaningless. I haven’t read many books with animal abuse in it, but I also feel the same way about killing innocent people. Like most of the times the book doesn’t need that aspect in the book because killing/abusing any kind of living thing always makes me so uncomfortable, even if it’s a bug. Come on I can barely stand if you abuse a plant because even if it doesn’t have nerves so it doesn’t feel pain, it still makes me squirm whenever I imagine my plants dying because of water deprivation >.< And animal murder seems even worse because most times an animal will willingly love you and they'll never attack you unless you did something against them. But fantastic post, Jessi! I totally agree with you animal murder is never okay :(
Yep yep. The sad part with me is: I’m fine with the human death. But not the animals. Lol, what does that say about me? There’s just something that disturbs me to my core when an innocent animal (that can’t speak up for itself or defend itself) is harmed.
Uh oh, you’d hate me then O_O I have a brown thumb, lmao. I have tried to raise plants and learned very quickly that I suck at it…
I started not to read this post…but then curiosity got the better of me. I will DNF a book in a heartbeat once I come across animal murder. It is NOT okay EVER, to me, and I don’t care what the reasoning behind it is.
I’m ok with animal deaths sometimes. If they serve a purpose. At the same time, I’ll definitely bawl my eyes out, much more than the death of a human character. I totally with how pointless the cat’s death in Anna Dressed in Blood was. And Cas reaction. “You killed my f***ing cat!” Yes sir, he did.
Exactly! Sadly, though, I feel like most of them don’t serve a purpose. Maybe the author saw it that way, but I think the book would have been fine without that scene. ME TOO! I feel kind of twisted because human death doesn’t bother me as much (in movies and books) but animal death strikes me hard…
I’m a huge animal lover but I’m also a realist. Animals get killed daily by everyday people like you and me. Some get run over innocently, some are caught by bored kids, duct taped and thrown in rivers to drown and others are just killed en masse by shelters whose numbers have spiraled out of control. As long as the death in the book serves a purpose then I don’t take issue. I’ve actually read very few books where an animals death has felt senseless. You know shock factor over story and I’m the first to criticize them but you know for me (and I read a LOT of Horror) those instances are few and far between.
True, but I’d rather not read about it in fantasy/science fiction. If I was reading a book on the subject, then that’s fine, but I’m not okay with it otherwise. Most of them (in my opinion) don’t serve much purpose and the book wouldn’t be affected much if the scene was cut out. I feel like 99% of them are for the shock factor, not for the actual plot. But, I am a major animal lover and I just feel very strongly on this! It’s just not my thing.
I get your position, I just think its unrealistic to never show an animals death as difficult as they may be to read about. Most psychopaths start out by killing animals and those deaths show the progression of crimes. What about vivisection? The Madmans Daughter is a book I can think of off the top of my head that details animals being used this way. Its cruel and hard to stomach but shows again what lengths people will go to achieve their ends. Then you’d have to bring up animal deaths from hunting. Are those OK? Usually those animals are shown being trapped,skinned,gutted and eaten.
Totally understandable. Even so, it is not for me and I do not want to read about it.
I totally agree with you. I remember even in fourth grade I read a book where in the first ten pages someone hits a goose with a stick; I was like “I’m out”.
Really thought provoking post! :)
Oh gosh! That’s horrible for a fourth grader to read :(
Thank you Remy!
I am not a cat person, but I still hate to see them killed. I am a dog person though, and I would cry for days if I read about one getting killed senselessly. Marley and Me about broke me, and I am still scarred from it, although it was beautiful. I am crying thinking about it. I might not be a cat person, but I am a dog person, so i do get it….
I refuse to watch that movie! It was beautiful, but I cried like a baby at the end. When it’s on, I might stick around and watch a little bit of the puppy parts because it’s funny, but I turn it off before Marley gets old!
I am the exact same way! I refuse to watch the end. I read the book, and it was horrible. I have dogs and they are my babies, so I can’t handle watching that movie or hearing about anything along those lines. It messes me up for days!
Don’t read Cujo whatever you do (the movie doesn’t cound).
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I’m simply a dog person because of the fact that I’m allergic to cats :( I think they’re cute and all, but when they start making my eyes water and my throat scratchy, it makes me miserable.. I guess I shouldn’t say I hate cats, but I do hate what they do to me!
I haven’t encountered a book (that I remember anyway) where an animal is killed off, but I DO remember watching The Hills Have Eyes and when they killed off the German Shepherds Beauty & Beast I about DIED. German Shepherds are by far my FAVORITE dog breed ever and I sat there crying for I don’t know how long. Actually now that I think about it I have a read a book that ended in the animal dying! It was called Where the Red Fern Grows and we had to read it in fifth grade!!! It was horrible and I sobbed uncontrollably! :'(
OH GOSH YES! I hated that part!! I actually kind of hate the movie in general because it grosses me out…it’s the only movie that ever disturbed me (and I’ve seen every last one of the Saw movies)!
Hmm, I used to love German Shepherds until I had to work with them lol. They are beautiful but psycho!
Ohh I remember that book! It made me cry, too!
I’m going to agree with Kristin above and thus be in the minority. I hate animal abuse, don’t necessarily care to read about it, and even turn away when ASPCA commercials come on, yet I’m also a realist and think that while books should be an escape from reality, they also have to have an aspect of reality to them. I have a similar theory about rape in books. I get nervous when authors go there, but it won’t ruin a book or series for me if it is handled well. Everybody has topics they don’t like to read about, for you it’s animal murder, for others its vampires.
True. Everybody has their likes and dislikes!
I have never read a book where a dog was killed. (u know how much i love dogs). UNTIL RECENTLY!!!!!!! My favorite character in The Knife Of Never Letting Go was killed!!!! And because of Todd. He could choose between the girl he met 2 weeks ago, and A DOG WHO LOVES HIM AND HELPED HIM AND STUFF AND WHO HAD BEEN HIS ONLY FRIEND. Why kill the dog??? In the book, man are showed as heartless, and we already knew that, so why kill the dog? Like, after reading that scene, i had to stop what i was doing and just sit there for a minute and think. THAT is the moment I realized that I love dogs more than people. AND BY FAR THAT IS.
I do not support animal murder in books. The main character can be killed, for what ever reason, but not the animal.
Sorry for my long comment.
Wow, yikes! I didn’t really want to read that, but now I definitely don’t!
Ha, I know how you feel! I get more emotional over a cat dying in books/movies than I do humans. Human deaths in fiction only affect me maybe 50-75% of the time, depending on how good the writer is and how attached I am to them, but cat deaths affect me 100%. Is that sad? Lol.
It’s okay, I like long comments :)
I agree with you completely! Animal murder in a book can ruin the whole thing for me, especially if I’m not convinced it’s essential to the plot. Great post!
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YES! I think the same thing in a horror movie. Actually in any movie honestly, I’m always saying.. they are going to die I’m not watching.
When you commented on my post, I couldn’t remember which abuse happens and NOW I REMEMBER. Ugh, it’s so weird, because cats are like my absolutely FAVORITE i would definitely put it down as well if it was a cat over a dog but why didn’t I notice this? It’s bothering me that I kept reading now :/ Granted, these books were my train books on the way to work so I’m not sure I absorbed everything. I will never read Origin. Ever. Ever. Thanks for telling me.
I just read Shadow and Bone and the only problem I had with that book was the Stag (i think you read this one but I can’t entirely remember so I won’t say much). And GOSH MY HEART. I was bawling crying and I hated that part. Because of the way it was in the story though it bothered me, but I kept reading.
Normally not though. I love that I inspired this topic! I love finding fellow animal lovers because I find there arent enough of us around :) AND thanks for the warnings of those books!!
You’re welcome! I really wish someone had told me! It was an awful experience. I had a few people tell me I was overreacting, and I think I upset a few readers because that’s technically a spoiler, but I feel very strongly about it and I won’t back down!
Oh yeah! I do remember that. It was sad for sure :(