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An old poster depicting cruelty, including selling slaves in Algiers, execution, burning, and other cruelties.

Cruelty is indifference to suffering, and even pleasure in inflicting it.[according to whom?] Sadism can also be related to this form of action or concept. Cruel ways of inflicting suffering may involve violence, but affirmative violence is not necessary for an act to be cruel. For example, if a person is drowning and begging for help, and another person is able to help, but merely watches with disinterest or perhaps mischievous amusement, that person is being cruel — rather than violent.

George Eliot stated that "cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside of itself; it only requires opportunity." [1] Bertrand Russell stated that "the infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell."[1] Gilbert K. Chesterton stated that "cruelty is, perhaps, the worst kind of sin. Intellectual cruelty is certainly the worst kind of cruelty."[1]

Usage in law

The term cruelty is often used in law and criminology with regard to the treatment of animals, children, spouses, and prisoners.[2] When cruelty to animals is discussed, it often refers to unnecessary suffering. In criminal law, it refers to punishment, torture, victimization, draconian measures, and cruel and unusual punishment.[3][4] In divorce cases, many jurisdictions permit a cause of action for cruel and inhumane treatment.[5]

In law, cruelty is "the infliction of physical or mental distress, especially when considered a determinant in granting a divorce." [6]

In consumer products

Cruelty Free International certifies the Humane Cosmetics, Household Products, Retailer and Purchaser Standards signified by the Leaping Bunny Mark trademark. Cruelty Free International was founded by the BUAV and is dedicated to ending animal testing for consumer products worldwide. In 1963, Beauty Without Cruelty was founded in England by the trustees of BWC Charitable Trust, an animal welfare organization. Its goal was to manufacture and distribute natural, color cosmetics that were NOT tested on animals (as was the norm) and did NOT contain any animal ingredients. In 1989, Beauty Without Cruelty was introduced in the United States. It offers a full line of cruelty-free, vegetarian skin, body, and hair care products made with the finest natural ingredients and aroma-therapeutic essential oils and a full line of colour cosmetics.

In sexuality

In a sexual context, sadomasochism is the giving and/or receiving of pleasure—often sexual—from acts involving the infliction or reception of pain or humiliation. A subset of BDSM, practitioners of sadomasochism usually seek out sexual gratification from these acts, but often seek out other forms of pleasure as well. While the terms sadist and masochist specifically refer to one who either enjoys giving pain (sadist), or one who enjoys receiving pain (masochist), many practitioners of sadomasochism describe themselves as at least somewhat of a switch, or someone who can receive pleasure from either inflicting or receiving pain.


The term comes from Middle English, via the Old French term "crualte", which is based on Latin "crudelitas", from "crudelis".[7]

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Cruelty Quotes". BrainyQuote. Retrieved 2013-08-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Cruelty". Retrieved July 12, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Cruelty to animals". Retrieved July 12, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Animal Cruelty Law & Legal Definition". Retrieved July 12, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Cruel and Inhuman Treatment Law & Legal Definition". Retrieved July 12, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
  7. "cruelty: definition of cruelty in Oxford dictionary (British & World English)". 2013-08-13. Retrieved 2013-08-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links