Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse or animal neglect, is the human infliction of suffering or harm upon non-human animals, for purposes other than self-defense or survival. More narrowly, it can be harm for specific gain, such as killing animals for food or for their fur, although opinions differ with respect to the method of slaughter. It usually encompasses inflicting harm for personal amusement (see zoosadism). Diverging viewpoints are held by jurisdictions throughout the world. Laws concerning animal cruelty are designed to prevent needless cruelty to animals, rather than killing for other aims such as food, or they concern species not eaten as food in the country involved, such as those regarded as pets.
Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to the issue. The animal welfare position holds that there is nothing inherently wrong with using animals for human purposes, such as food, clothing, entertainment, and research, but that it should be done in a humane way that minimizes unnecessary pain and suffering. Animal rights theorists criticize this position, arguing that the words “unnecessary” and “humane” are subject to widely differing interpretations, and that the only way to ensure protection for animals is to end their status as property, and to ensure that they are never used as commodities.