Exploring Animal Cruelty and Mistreatment in “Potter”

Exploring Animal Cruelty and Mistreatment in “Potter”

It’s a well-known fact that throughout the Potter series we’re introduced to a number of different animals, both “Muggle” and magical, each of which are uniquely portrayed by Rowling in their own way. In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Rowling expressed that she typically liked to derive many of these creatures from folklore and mythology, and many, even the seemingly “normal” ones, exemplify magical properties (think owls delivering mail).  Further, though, I think it’s important to recognize that a lot of the different creatures in the Potter series haven’t necessarily been given happy endings, or stories for that matter.

 Nowadays, it’s no secret to anyone that Rowling created Dementors to facilitate and embody that which she had been feeling in her life outside of Potter – depression.  Look at house-elves, too; their lives are certainly miserable if enslaved by the ruthless (e.g., the Malfoys).  Werewolves are declared evil, and their human forms see much discrimination in the wizarding world – and although we have Lupin to thank for slightly bending those stereotypes, he is met with none other than death in the end.  Buckbeak is immediately sentenced to death when his provoker is rid of any ridicule, and I won’t even mention Hedwig and Dobby, for I am sure it causes many pain to recall.

Interestingly enough to add, Care of Magical Creatures class is an elective at Hogwarts, not a requirement – why? Hagrid, who loves nothing more than to care for these beasts, is laughed at by many and portrayed in the series as, some would argue, naïve and weak.  And what about the dragon that was kept prisoner in the depths of Gringotts protecting the most valuable of vaults, only to fall victim to terrible pain and mistreatment by goblins and wizards alike when one thought a visit to their private stash was necessary?

There are a ton of other scenes in the books and movies that seem to support this (e.g., the torturing of a spider by Barty Crouch, Jr. by use of the Cruciatus Curse or the slaughter and drinking of unicorn blood in Philosopher’s Stone).  We’re taught to fear “The Grim” (a large, bear-ish-sized black dog) in Professor Trelawney’s class, and the centaur colony found in the Forbidden Forest is known to have poor relations with most wizards and witches.  Some argue that the transfiguration of the animals in the series is cruel – do you?

The list goes on and on, and despite there being many individuals and groups associated with caring for magical creatures (Hagrid, Luna Lovegood, SPEW), one simply cannot ignore the signs of mistreatment and suffering endured by animals in the Potter series.

What do you all think?  Let us know your opinion in the comments below!

  • Jacqueline Frank

    I think the way animals are treated in the wizarding world is just as bad as animals are treated in our world. Why should magical animals be treated better than non-magical? That would be racism towards animals. As long as everyone eats meat, it is just as bad to misuse owls, dragons and so on. They should not be getting special treatment just because they are magical. In my opinion, it is wrong to hurt any kind of animal. Human, non-human or whatever. Anything else, I would call speciecism

  • Mariah

    I see your point but I don’t agree with classifying house elves, werewolves, centaurs, and dementors as animals. They aren’t human, but this does not make them animals. They are just other beings.

  • Ida

    Well this is just my opinion, but I think that on the contrary to what has been suggested in the other comments here, eating meat shouldn’t be classified under the heading “animal cruelty and mistreatment”. We can discuss about the conditions in which animals are reared for meat, of course, but not eating meat as such. Let’s not go overboard.

    As far as animal treatment in the Potter series goes, I think that overall the underlining thought is that the heroes of the series stand up for proper treatment of animals (unless those animals happen to attack them with the intention to eat/bite their head off, which I think is the understandable exception to the rule). The trio frees the dragon in Gringotts, Hermione fights for SPEW, Harry shows true affection and appreciation for Dobby, Norberta is sent home to other dragons, they all love and care for their pets (Ron might talk against this but of course we know he’s just not that good at showing affection) and the trio stands by Hagrid (the ultimate animal-creature-lover an carer) even at times when not many people do so.

    I can understand the argument of transfiguration practise being considered cruel, but then again, this is fictional, and in this fiction those transfigurated objects are depicted as happy and lively as ever, skipping around on tables, and not by any means being in pain. If it makes someone feel better, they can imagine, that the animals don’t feel a thing and are always returned to their original form at the end of class. That’s the beauty of fiction.

  • Summer

    For the most part the treatment of animals in the wizarding world seems to parallel their treatment in modern/recent society. They’re used for transportation, as test subjects, and for fighting/protection. What I’m curious about is the source of animal products used for food/potions/clothing/etc. Other than a few mentions of chickens and goats I don’t remember any mentions of animal farming. I wouldn’t expect them to use the same factory farming method that goes on in most developed countries today, but their methods are probably equally as cruel and unnatural. I’m picturing cattle that have been engorged to the size of trucks permanently suspended in midair to save on space and keep their muscles tender. Chickens enchanted to lay dozens of eggs a day. Dragons covered in floppy, cumbersome wrinkles so more pairs of gloves can be made from one hide. The same sad and gross moneysaving tactics modern farms use, but caused by spells and potions rather than artificial hormones and selective artificial breeding.

  • Erin

    One thing that I’ve always found a bit disturbing in the series is the use of animals in transfiguration or charms classes. Their cavalier attitude about transfiguring hedgehogs into pincushions or vanishing mice is a bit frightening. We know that it often goes wrong (e.g. the pincushions curling up when you stick a pin in it) and we are never told what happens to the animals after the lessons. Where to vanished animals go? Do they use the objects after or change them back? And considering how passionate Hagrid and Hermione are about magical creatures, it’s odd that they don’t question this practice. Hermione wants it free the house elves, who seem to enjoy their work at the school (another topic for another day) but she has no problem with the mistreatment if these animals by children in the school.