Wednesday, September 22, 2010

For the Love of Food Animals (3)

Post 9

I was going to move on to another topic, but an article by Peter Fricker in the Vancouver Sun caught my attention. The title is “Are Food Animals Victims of Their Poor Image?” (Vancouver Sun, 20 Sep/2010). Fricker is a departmental director for the Vancouver Humane Society and has given me leave to use his article as I see fit. For not knowing me at all, that’s pretty generous and daring. So, thanks, Peter.

In the previous post, I dealt shortly with how food animals are treated and insisted that they must be treated with respect, compassion, mercy and in ways appropriate to their nature. They are, after all, creatures of God who are entrusted to us for care, protection and, where necessary, control.

Fricker wonders why not more outrage is expressed at cruelty to animals in general, including food animals. His is not the only one. A couple of years ago there was a public campaign against Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)for the atrociously cruel way they treat(ed) their chickens. It was fought on various fronts, including on the sidewalk in front of KFC outlets. I understand the company promised to do better and the street campaign, at least, has ceased. I hope it is true.

Chickens seem to be among the most vulnerable of food animals. They run into the billions. According to Fricker, Canadians slaughter 580 million of them annually. Our giant cousin, no fewer than 9 billion p.a.! Now that’s some chicken!

How do they suffer? Well, they are bred to grow so fast that “their bones cannot support their weight, leading to chronic painful conditions and injuries.” When they are to be transported for slaughter, “they endure rough handling, often breaking (brittle) bones.” En route, they are “exposed to extreme weather over long distances, with some dying” along the way. Survivors so far are often “shackled upside down, dragged through a sometimes ineffective stun bath and having their throats slit.”

Though Christian tradition and the Bible allow animals to be used for human consumption, that does not make it acceptable for them to “be treated so inhumanely.” Fricker suggests that “breeding for unnaturally fast growth could be stopped” Based on the responsibility for treating animals according to their kind, I would see that such breaking should be stopped. An imperative, especially for Christians who should know better. They should also be allowed more space to move around beyond the “half-square foot of space,” as Fricker puts it. While en route, they should be fed and watered more frequently. Slaughter methods should become more human—by gas perhaps, as Fricker would prefer to see.

Like our pets, chickens “feel fear, pain and distress. Capacity for suffering is something all animals share,” but “it appears that, for most of us, that is acceptable.” Thanks, Fricker, for this pungent article.

One of the things that bothers me in all this is that Christians are among these poultry keepers. There are several of them in the Fraser Valley of BC’s Bible Belt. Why is that we do not hear them speak up in protest as professionals and as people who are aware of Biblical teachings? It is perhaps because few people write about it and few express outrage. Preachers hardly ever preach on the subject. I have never heard one sermon on the subject, not even from my own mouth!

The problem I believe is that handy little escape hatch many Christians use as an excuse. It goes by various names. My favourite name for it is “<dualism.” It describes the worldview held by many Christians that divides religious, spiritual and churchly concerns from the rest of culture. We are left with two realms: religion and the world. In the world you do as you please, as long as you do God’s things in the religious real. Chickens are part of that world cut off from religion. So, therefore you can do with chickens as you please. It is not of God’s concern.

I’ve got news for you, you Christian dualists. That ain’t the way things are or go. The entire world and all that’s in it belong to God and they are to be treated accordingly. That’s one of the time-honoured emphases of the Calvinistic tradition. That dualistic perspective is a secular worldview with which Christians ought to have no truck. The Christian Religion is not that cheap or easy.

The same reasoning and perspective hold for keeping any other animals for profit. Profit is legitimate; it is the oil of the economy. But it cannot be the sole bottom line. I invite you to take it from there.

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