The Making of Modern Cruelty

  • Li Way LeeEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Advances in Behavioral Economics book series (PABE)


Modern cruelty to animals is both more extensive and more intensive than it was before Industrial Revolution. I attribute these trends to the ascendancy of distancing institutions (such as slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants) and the growing capacity for willful blindness. As we continue to specialize in tasks, find more distancing institutions, and invent ways of promoting willful blindness, we grow more oblivious to our cruelty to animals. We continue to weaken the link from cruelty to compassion, thereby inflicting more cruelty on animals. Further, when there is more cruelty, there is more incentive to promote willful blindness. Cruelty and blindness feed on each other.


Distancing Willful blindness Cruelty 


  1. Balcombe, Jonathan. What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins. New York: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016. Google Scholar
  2. Bandura, Albert. “Moral Disengagement in the Perpetuation of Inhumanities.” Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3 (3), 1999, pp. 193–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bazerman, Max H., and Ann E. Tenbrunsel. Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do About It. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Frank, Joshua. “Process Attributes of Goods, Ethical Considerations and Implications for Animal Products.” Ecological Economics, 58, 2006, pp. 538–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Heffernan, Margaret. Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril. New York: Walker and Company, 2011.Google Scholar
  6. Joy, Melanie. Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism. San Francisco: Conari Press, 2010.Google Scholar
  7. Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011.Google Scholar
  8. Lee, Li Way. “Ethical Consumption.” In Morris Altman, ed. Real-World Decision Making: An Encyclopedia of Behavioral Economics. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2015.Google Scholar
  9. Maccoby, Hyam. The Sacred Executioner: Human Sacrifice and the Legacy of Guilt. London: Thames and Hudson, 1983.Google Scholar
  10. Pachirat, Timothy. Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  11. Serpell, James. In the Company of Animals. Cambridge, Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
  12. Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Classics edition, 1759/1976.Google Scholar
  13. Thaler, Richard H. “Toward a Positive Theory of Consumer Choice.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 1, 1980, pp. 39–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Wu, Tim. The Attention Merchants. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

Personalised recommendations