Two counter thoughts coming to mind.
1.You are right. If a thief is punished here by cutting his hand, then there is no mercy and also, he will suffer for his whole life and logically should not be subject to further punishment on the day of justice. This is not possible, as every deed will be dealt. Also to cut a hand on a piece of bread is not logical, since his depriviation may be due to society's injustice, and there is an element of innocence. Lots of one handed people is not a very appealing view of Islam.
On the other hand,
2. If Allah says that Quran is simple and easy. (22/16, 54/17, 55/2), then word Qataa mean Qataa. (cut is cut).
Quran is for all human beings, including commoners, illitrates, and villagers to understand and follow as they read, and not for only Aalims, professors, educated societies or big cities. Why would Allah make this interpretation so complicated that people need very intellegent teachers even in remote villages.
Although it looks brutal , but has its advantages. The nature of mankind is such that only fear stops them from crime. If we see yeasterday's or today's world then we will notice that places, where laws are tough and enforced, are comparitively safer. Saudi arabia has minimum crime rate. The word Qataa is an icon. If followed once then fear will stop people from theft of all kind, weather piece of bread or huge banking frauds. We have to strive for a crime free world wide society. Why so much stealing is going on today, in every country at every level. Stealing is no more a crime or even a bad deed. In fact the bigger the thief, more powerfull he is. Most State heads are biggest thieves. Zardari, now President of Pakistan is a known criminal, an all time thief of state.
Question. is there any history that this practice was followed during Prophet's or first four Caliphate's period. If yes, then, were they wrong or brutal.
Both views are in contrast. we would appreciate your further guidence.