Four goats have been slaughtered in the British village of Tipton St. John. Some had their horns removed. Photo by Flickr user Velo Steve.
Roughly 350 people live in the rural village of Tipton St John, located about 12 miles east of Exeter, the largest city in the western British county of Devon. Home to a former key railway station, the village now boasts country lanes perfect for strolling or bicycling, as well as a tennis club, a cricket club, and a bi-monthly magazine, the Tipton Times. It’s a small, tightly knit place.
Understandably, residents were shocked and upset when someone recently slaughtered four goats. The killings took place over multiple nights, and the details are gruesome: the goats’ heads were twisted backwards or their throats were slit. Some had their horns removed. One was reportedly foaming at the mouth as it died.
Unfortunately, at least one local journalist is running with a goat-owner’s fears that the slaughter had “something to do with the occult.” FOUR GOATS SLAUGHTERED IN ‘SATANIC RITUAL’ IN RURAL DEVON VILLAGE blares the headline. Note that “Satanic ritual” is in quotes, implying that an expert interviewed for the article said these words. They’re repeated in the first paragraph: “Four goats have been found brutally slaughtered in a rural village – sparking fears of killings linked to a ‘satanic ritual’.”
Who said it was a Satanic ritual? An anonymous goat owner:
“When I told my vet he advised me to read a book on occult. He seems to think the way the goats were killed and because they were horned, it may have something to do with satanic ritual.”
Oh. Since when are veterinarians experts on Satanism?
The village is already in a froth over these deaths. Now a reporter is trying to frighten them (and sell newspapers) by making it sound like a Satanist is on the loose. It sounds like it’s time to clear up a few things once again.
1) Killing animals without a permit is not Satanic or occult, it’s criminal.
2) Satanists do not sanction animal sacrifice. Anton LaVey, former head of the Church of Satan, himself wrote, “Under NO circumstances would a Satanist sacrifice an animal or baby!”
3) There are places in the world — including the United States — where animal sacrifice is permitted under law, but only within very specific parameters and by specific spiritual groups. I don’t know what the laws are in the UK, but I can tell you that randomly slaughtering other people’s goats wouldn’t qualify.
4) Animal sacrifice (including goats) is much more common in Abrahamic traditions, in other words, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. That’s not to say it’s common — but it did happen.
There are times when teenagers get the wild idea that they’ll seem bad-ass if they kill the neighbor’s cat or a pigeon. There are other times when a burgeoning psychopath tortures and kills local animals, almost as an experiment to see what will happen. Killings like the ones that took place in Tipton St John are much more likely the work of a prankster — potentially a disturbed one — than an occultist. If you suspect your teen is harming local animals, it’s a good idea to get some help as soon as you can.
Readers, when you see stories like this one, who do you imagine is responsible for the animals’ deaths?