Why is violence towards animals a deal breaker for so many readers? Miss Snark won’t represent writers who kill off animals in their books. More to the point she won’t even read such books. No matter how good. I’ve heard the same sentiments from many others.
Now, don’t get me wrong—despite the subject header—I don’t want any puppies to die. Big or small, I like dogs. And even if I didn’t, I am against people being horrible to any animals. Even really annoying ones. (Though, yeah, I do eat them from time to time. Not dogs. I have never knowingly eaten a dog.)
Back to my question: Why is violence against animals in books a deal breaker when violence against humans is not?
Someone told me recently (hi, Harriet) that it’s because animals have no choice. I pointed out that many people who are murdered in books have no choice either. But I do think the choice thing has something to do with it. Because it’s definitely not that people don’t care about other people being murdered, or otherwise having violence inflicted upon them. Perhaps it’s that we’ve read much more of that kind of violence. Crime is a whole genre where you can depend on violence being visited upon at least one person in the course of a book.
And it’s not like these same readers aren’t upset when a character they’ve bonded with gets offed or is harmed in some way, but it’s not a deal breaker. It’s not something that means they will put the book down and back away. Why is that?
Violence towards animals in books is not the only deal breaker. I know several parents who can no longer read books about missing children. I’m not sure I have any deal breakers. I’ve read books where the depiction of sexual violence really really upset me. But if it’s a necessary part of the plot and the book doesn’t suck, I’ll read it.
What are your deal breakers? What are the things in books that you find too upsetting to read?