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The deliberate and malicious infliction of mental or physical pain upon persons or animals.
As applied to people, cruelty encompasses abusive, outrageous, and inhumane treatment that results in the wanton and unnecessary infliction of suffering upon the body or mind.
Legal cruelty involves conduct that warrants the granting of a Divorce to the injured spouse. Phrases such as "cruel and inhuman treatment," "cruel and abusive treatment," or "cruel and barbarous treatment" are commonly employed in matrimonial law. The term comprehends mental and physical harm, but a single act of cruelty is usually insufficient for divorce; a pattern of cruel conduct must occur over a period of time. This ground of divorce is of diminished significance due to the enactment of no-fault legislation by most jurisdictions.
Cruelty to children, also known as Child Abuse, encompasses mental and physical battering and abuse, as defined by statutes in a majority of jurisdictions.
Cruelty to animals involves the infliction of physical pain or death upon an animal, when unnecessary for disciplinary, instructional, or humanitarian purposes, such as the release of the animal from incurable illness.
A person commits a misdemeanor if he or she intentionally or recklessly neglects any animal in his or her custody, mistreats any animal, or kills or injures any animal without legal privilege or the consent of its owner.
n. the intentional and malicious infliction of physical or psychological pain on another. In most states various forms of "cruelty," "extreme cruelty," and/or "mental cruelty" used to be grounds for divorce if proved. This brought about a lot of unnecessary (and sometimes exaggerated or false) derogatory (nasty) testimony about the other party. There was little standardization of what constituted sufficient "cruelty" to prove a divorce should be granted. Starting in the 1960s "no fault" divorce (sometimes now called "dissolution") began to replace contentious divorces in most states, so that incompatibility became good enough grounds for granting a divorce. (See: cruel and unusual punishment, divorce)
crueltynoun atrocity, austerity, barbarity, bloodthirstiness, brutality, crudelitas, cruel act, cruel conduct, deliberate mallce, deviltry, enmity, ferity, ferociousness, ferocity, fierceness, harshness, heartlessness, ill-nature, ill-usage, infliction of pain, inhumanity, intolerance, malice, mallce aforethought, malice prepense, maliciousness, malignancy, malignity, mercilessness, oppression, outrage, persecution, rancor, relentlessness, ruthlessness, savageness, savagery, severity, spite, sternness, torture, tyranny, uncompassionateness, unremorsefulness, viciousness, victimization, violence
Associated concepts: cruelty of treatment, cruelty to aniials, cruelty to children, extreme cruelty, habitual cruelty, mental cruelty, unneccessary cruelty
See also: bestiality, brutality, inconsideration, mischief, oppression, severity
CRUELTY. This word has different meanings, as it is applied to different
things. Cruelty may be, 1. From husband towards the wife, or vice versa. 2.
From superior towards inferior, 3. From master towards slave. 4. To animals.
These will be separately considered.
2.-1. Between husband and wife, those acts which affect the life, the health, or even the comfort of the party aggrieved, and give a reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, are called cruelty. What merely wounds the feelings is seldom admitted to be cruelty, unless the act be accompanied with bodily injury, either actual or menaced. Mere austerity of temper, petulance of manners, rudeness of language, a want of civil attention and accommodation, even occasional sallies of passion, will not amount to legal cruelty; 17 Conn. 189; a fortiori, the denial of little indulgences and particular accommodations, which the delicacy of the world is apt to number among its necessaries, is not cruelty. The negative descriptions of cruelty are perhaps the best, under the infinite variety of cases that may occur, by showing what is not cruelty. 1 Hagg. R. 35; S. C. 4 Eccles. R. 311, 312; 2 Hagg. Suppl. 1; S. C. 4 Eccles. R. 238; 1 McCord's Ch. R. 205; 2 J. J. Marsh. R. 324; 2 Chit. Pr. 461, 489; Poynt. on Mar. & Div. c. 15, p. 208; Shelf. on Mar. & Div. 425; 1 Hagg. Cons. R. 37, 458; 2 Ragg. Cons. Rep. 154; 1 Phillim. 111, 132; 8 N H. Rep. 307; 3 Mass. 321; 4 Mass. 487. It is to be remarked that exhibitions of passion and gusts of anger, which would be sufficient to create irreconcilable hatred between persons educated and trained to respect each other's feelings, would, with persons of coarse manners and habits, have but a momentary effect. An act which towards the latter would cause but a momentary difference, would with the former, be excessive cruelty. 1 Briand Med. Leg. 1 ere part. c. 2, art. 3.
3.-2. Cruelty towards weak and helpless persons takes place where a party bound to provide for and protect them, either abuses them by whipping them unnecessarily, or by neglecting to provide for them those necessaries which their helpless condition requires. To expose a person of tender years, under a party's care, to the inclemency of the weather; 2 Campb. 650; or to keep such a child, unable to provide for himself, without adequate food; 1 Leach, 137; Russ. & Ry. 20 or an overseer neglecting to provide food and medical care to a pauper having urgent and immediate occasion for them; Russ. & Ry. 46, 47, 48; are examples of this species of cruelty.
4.-3. By the civil code of Louisiana, art. 192, it is enacted, that when the master shall be convicted of cruel treatment of his slave, the judge may pronounce, besides the penalty established for such cases, that the slave shall be sold at public auction, in order to place him out of the reach of the power which his master has abused.
5.-4. Cruelty to animals is an indictable offence. A defendant was convicted of a misdemeanor for tying the tongue of a calf so near the root as to prevent its sucking, in order to sell the cow at a greater price, by giving to her udder the appearance of being full of milk, while affording the calf all he needed. 6 Rogers, City Hall Rec. 62. A man may be indicted for cruelly beating his horse. 3 Rogers, City Rec. 191.