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A user posted a pretty disturbing description of actual animal torture in an answer. Instead of flagging the whole answer I tried to remove the offending passage while keeping the actual answer, but to my surprise it was rejected.

Is content like that actually acceptable on this Stack Exchange?

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  • $\begingroup$ It didn't seem gratuitous and was there to demonstrate what happens when the sacs get damaged. So yes, it's allowed. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Mar 12 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles please express your position in an answer not a comment, so people can vote in both directions. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Mar 13 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ I have no idea why you would think that the answer in question contains a "pretty disturbing description of actual animal torture". It contains an anecdote about a dog (who got better) and its stupid former owner (who became dogless). Do you believe that White Fang should be consigned to the dustbin of history? It does actually contain very disturbing descriptions of actual animal torture. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 13 at 1:21
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP No. I can make an informed choice not to read it. I was not presented with that option here. $\endgroup$ – pipe Mar 13 at 7:34
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    $\begingroup$ @pipe I am sorry that you read something that you find disturbing, but when reading the answers to a question named "What wound would be of little consequence to a biped but terrible for a quadruped?" you already made the conscious decision to read something about terrible wounds for a quadruped. Therefore you should expect terrible wounds to be described. If you don't like that kind of content you are free to show that by downvoting. For gruesome topics that's expected. Just look at the torture tag to see the behaviour (warning: quite often brutal and disturbing content). $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Mar 13 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ pipe, I agree with Secespitus: if you read any of the answers at all, you'll find depictions of injuries! So yes, in asking a question that demands such answers, you give explicit & informed consent regarding such answers. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Mar 16 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I have read all the other answers again. None describes depictions of injuries except the post I linked to. They may depict hypothetical scenarios. There's a world of difference between those. $\endgroup$ – pipe Mar 16 at 19:30
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We have discussed gruesome content on this Stack quite extensively in the past. See for example Reasoning behind deletion of gruesome content and the linked discussions such as Should questions about painfully killing people be welcomed on this site?.

It's an incredibly important discussion and it's good to revive it from time to time to check what the stance is and where the limits are.

Basically it boils down to: we accept a lot here as long as it's written in a clinical voice, but there definitely is a line once stuff simply gets too extreme. In that case it's okay to delete content. Questions about how to brutally rape humans for example. That's not okay and will never be allowed on this site. Especially when the author seems to take the topic lightly.

The specific example in this case illustrates why the author thinks this is a valid answer to the question. Without the example the answer becomes less useful. The author doesn't encourage the illustrated behaviour. He even mentions that "The poor dog required meds for pain for quite a while." which to me sounds like the author was not okay with what he witnessed and condemned the behaviour.

I think the edit rejection is valid. The answer would be less useful without the content and it's not anywhere the really extreme stuff we've seen on the site already. If you want to talk about pain, which this question tries, you need to talk about pain, which the answer does. The language and level of detail provided don't look to me like they are crossing a line.

Personally I'd recommend to downvote in this example and leave a comment explaining that you think the description was too much to show what you think about such content.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you. "which to me sounds like the author was not okay with what he witnessed and condemned the behaviour" Indeed, I think the aggression I described is punishable with jail time in most countries. "Personally I'd recommend to downvote in this example and leave a comment " my instance too. I'd rather be downvoted than edited out in any situation. $\endgroup$ – Renan Mar 13 at 2:20
  • $\begingroup$ There is a big difference between fictional content and actual events. $\endgroup$ – pipe Mar 13 at 7:32
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    $\begingroup$ @pipe, but the fictional content often requires a real world example to show its validity. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Mar 13 at 8:27
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One man's meat is another man's poison

Our Stack is unique. Stack Exchange was developed to concisely answer factual questions — but that's not us. As I understand it, there was quite a discussion when Worldbuilding.SE was proposed because people realized that our sometimes non-concise and non-factual leanings would lead to difficulties.

And one of those difficulties is that what one person considers useful information another may think obscene.

In another life I was a micropublisher. One of the books we were editing for publication was a children's picture book about life among the ancient Israelites. We had random readers review the product before publication (we did this for all our books). All returned strong, positive reviews — except one. A lady who objected to using the word "sacrifice" or referring to the ancient Jewish tradition of the daily sacrifice in a children's book. She invited us instead to use the phrase, "the heavenly gift."

A great many people might believe that the woman was overly sensitive about the issue. Perhaps she was, but we took her review seriously and further analyzed whether or not the intended audience (children ages 1-6) would be harmed by our presentation. We did not accept her recommendation, but did make some modifications and moved on.

My point?

I had not seen the question nor the answer before reading this Meta question. When I clicked on your link and read Renan's answer I had to re-read it, then read the question, then read Renan's answer again, because I was expecting to read a graphic description of abuse, not an anecdotal reference to abuse.

Please remember, I've been a micropublisher. I've read tens of thousands of manuscripts, including manuscripts that actually do have graphic (and detailed) descriptions (page after page) of animal and human torture — and that despite a submission rule that clearly stated it wasn't the kind of book we were interested in. Once (only once) we found a book that would have been wonderful to publish if only all the violence were removed. When we approached the author with our request, his response was, "there's no way for the reader to understand the depth of my antagonist's evil if the violence is removed."

Well, yes... and no... but it's his book so we parted company.

How does this affect Worldbuilding.SE?

  • We generally adhere to the U.S. desire for free speech. This means that, all other things being equal, we do not censor what people write here.

  • We do follow (and are required to do so), SE's Code of Conduct and Expected Behavior. Normally, this means don't be mean and don't be (too) vulgar. But we have had questions and answers that the community strongly downvoted as inappropriate that were subsequently deleted.

And therein lies what's important. We are not a small group of people imposing morality on a large group of people. We are a community that talks through our differences. The downside to this is that some policies that reflect the desires of the majority will go against the wishes of the minority.

I know, I've tried to change the culture of this site on a number of issues: sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn't. And that's actually a good thing because, despite a fervent self-delusion that I'm right about everything, I'm not.

Conclusion

I believe Renan acted in good faith to use a real-world example to justify an answer. He was brief, so brief that one could legitimately flag the answer as "low quality." To my knowledge, it has not been so flagged and I agree that it should not because in this case the brevity is (to me) an obvious effort to avoid gratuitous excess. Indeed, I felt that his answer, while making a valid point, also included the compassion and concern over the issue reflecting an equally (to me) obvious understanding that his answer met a writer's need for background information and nothing more.

I'm also grateful for the opportunity this Meta question gives to evaluate specific examples of what we believe is morally and ethically responsible on this site. Users have joked in the past (and with good reason) that most of us are probably on the U.S. Homeland Security Watch List because of some of the questions about weapons of mass destruction, public disobedience, etc. and the answers to those questions. Balancing the right and privilege to speak freely with necessity and good judgment is something we should (and I believe do) take very seriously. When a question like this Meta post arises, it adds to the body of analysis that we use to draw a responsible line.

Regrettably, no drawn line will accommodate all people. And with that I close, knowing that my response won't make the OP content.

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Dogs and wolves have those, but humans don't. So if the lycanthropes take a stab to their anal sacs it may hurt a lot - but when they revert to human form they will not have the sacs, so no pain.

By the way, I think damage to the anal sacs may be very painful. I once saw a dog whose previous owners tried to castrate him with a slingshot, the poor creature had lesions on a sac. The poor dog required meds for pain for quite a while.

I see nothing especially disturbing or gruesome in that answer; nor any activity that rises to the level of "animal torture". People behaving (very) badly? Yes.

I would have rejected the edit request as well, reason being, the answer is stated matter of factly, without particular malice and without obvious intent to graphically depict cruelty.

The other answers depict similarly "disturbing" matters such as "gruesome" injuries (broken bones and so forth) as well as "torture" (vegetarian diet for a carnivore). Why pick on this one answer? Is it because it's entitled "anal glands"?

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  • $\begingroup$ No, it's beacuse it happend. I'm sorry if that was unclear. $\endgroup$ – pipe Mar 16 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ um... and? Honestly, I fail to understand what the issue is. Whether the described injury is "hypothetical" or "happened" is of no consequence. What is of consequence is how it's depicted. And to be honest, we get some pretty graphic answers. I've written some pretty graphic answers! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Mar 16 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, well if you can't see that difference I don't think we have a common ground to discuss. To me there is a huge difference between a police video of someone actually shooting and killing a suspect, and a staged Hollywood movie where someone shoots and kills. Virtually every answer on this website goes into the second bin: imagined scenarios, and I have no problem with those. $\endgroup$ – pipe Mar 17 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ Well, pipe, you just answered your own question, right there! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Mar 17 at 17:34

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