Monday, September 20, 2010

For the Love ofAnimals (2)--and Control

Post 8

Yes, it is a cause for celebration that we are so much more humane in relationship to the animal world around us. But, based on the Bible, theology and well-established Christian tradition, animals are not our equals. We need to respect them and protect them. We are meant to enjoy them, but we need also to control them. The safety and well-being of people have priority over those of animals.

When in emergencies we are forced to choose between rescuing people or animals, we choose the former. When animals become dangerous to the human community, we must do what we can to accommodate them, but they must give way. When deer and bears attack people in their towns and villages as they do in some BC communities like North Vancouver and Grand Forks, then ways have to be found to move them away or, under extreme circumstances, even kill them. When rabbits on a university campus as in Victoria, threaten to take over the place, government regulations should not prevent authorities from taking the necessary steps to alleviate the problem. When Canada geese poop all over the lawns of Stanley Park so that they can no longer be used for recreational purposes by the tax payers, then there must be freedom to solve the problem, probably by killing them. When large birds endanger airplanes or disrupt power supplies, the community must protect itself against such onslaughts, possibly by killing them.

Biblically, we have priority. An early Bible account has Adam and Eve giving names to animals. You don’t give names if you don’t have the authority to do so--except perhaps place names changed arbitrarily by colonial adventurers—or if you don’t have the required insight into the nature of the individual animal. Our earliest ancestors in the Bible stories are given the assignment, the obligation, to rule over the entire world and all its creatures. The fact that the human race has often messed up this assignment due to the fall does not reduce our authority over animals or our obligation to rule and control them.

We have zoos, where we keep animals out of their natural habitat for human entertainment, but also for education. Is this legitimate? Purely for recreation, probably not. For education, I believe it is, especially if they are kept in humane ways and in environments as natural as possible. How many children have not enjoyed and profited from seeing wild animals, perhaps even petted them? It should lead to awareness, admiration and respect on their part.

For a long time, people have hunted and fished to supply themselves with food and this continues to be so. This is a legitimate use of the creatures placed under our authority. However, when hunting and fishing is reduced to recreation, then it becomes another issue. Recently my grandson and I watched some recreational fishermen on the White Rock BC dock roughly pull the hook out of small fish or even cut them with knives and then throw them back in the water. My 8-year old grandson was rightly horrified and indignant. I know of people who derive pleasure from shooting elephants in Africa, those magnificent beasts! Just imagine: pleasure! The fact that the villagers got to eat their meat does not undo the affront of the pleasure. That is not the authority over and responsibility for our animals that can be Christianly justified.

But hunting and fishing as part of a community’s food chain is legitimate—as is the raising of animals for meat. At least, in my estimation and understanding, though I have considerable sympathy for the vegetarians among us. I may well be ever so slowly moving into that direction, but I am not ready for it—yet! But raising chickens or hogs or any other meat for human consumption must take into consideration their nature, something that has been ignored for too long. Thousands of chickens in crowded batteries is no Christian way to treat them. The Bible says, they all have their own nature and must be treated accordingly. Filling them with chemicals for greater profit is an abuse of human authority and cruel, quite apart from the human disease such practices cause. At the same time, raising rabbits on the ground may be natural to them, but will lead to their disappearance and, quite likely, lead to an out-of-control rabbit plague.

And with this,I leave you to ponder.

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