I found this wonderful article in the January/February issue of the Humane
Society of the US - ALL ANIMALS magazine. I had set it aside temporarily, but I
found it again today. So, in reality, it made my day twice.
Entitled "Creed of Compassion" it is about Matthew Sleeth an emergency
room doctor, his wife Nancy, and their two children who gave up a life of luxury
to follow their convictions. It meant moving into a townhouse in Lexington, Kentucky
where they hang their clothes in the garage to dry.
In reality, Nancy had been the impetus for their embracing a new life,
because when on vacation one time, she asked her husband the question which would turn
their lives around. The question was -- What's the biggest problem in the world? He
responded by saying that it was the destruction of the environment, the extinction
of species, and the pollution sickening and killing many of his patients. The next
question would change their lives almost completely -What are you going to do about
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So now both of the Sleeths lecture and write books. "Serve God, Save the
Planet" was his first book, and it turned many evangelical Christians into
In his talks and books, Sleeth expresses concern for animals. Through his
association with the Humane Society of the US's Faith Outreach program, he and his wife encourage people and institutions of faith to focus on animal welfare. In
2012 they invited the HSUS staff to speak at Duke University at a faith and food
Later, when Interviewed by senior writer Karen E. Lange, Sleeth recalls how
growing up on a small dairy farm in Maryland he remembered that the Sabbath can help
people treat animals better.
On their farms he noted that they gave their cows names and they recognized
that each of them had a personality. Farmers were respected on how well they cared
for their animals, and it was a place that children would enjoy seeing. Not so today he
notes. When for the first time he entered a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) with a
thousand chickens in the barns, he was shocked. No, he reflected, you could not
bring children to see this.
He rightly saw that we have moved from an agrarian society to an industrial
one --so different from the farm where as a kid he remembered the great care one took for the
animals. This care is no longer there.
In his Book "Serve God, Save the Planet" " he wrote --"Caring about where
our food comes from...It is good for the soul." I agree, and in another place he said,
"If we're the kind of people who worry about how animals are treated, we are by definition better
In the Bible he sees a consistent theme re how humans are to care for
animals as well as how to treat them with some dignity. He recalls there that if your enemy's
donkey is stumbling under a load, you are supposed to stop and help the donkey. How sad when I think
of the countries where they are still used as beasts of burden, and they suffer greatly from
the huge loads they have to carry. Compassion for their suffering is greatly lacking.
He refers to another instance where Christ said that not a single bird
falls from the sky without God taking notice. And even though the sparrow is only worth a couple of
cents, Christ was trying to say "How can you get your head around how much God loves you, unless you
can first wrap it
around how much he cares about this tiny bird?"
I also enjoyed reading another of the familiar Biblical accounts he uses as
an example of concern for animals. He wonderfully describes this one involving Eleazar who in
Genesis was sent by Abraham to look for a spouse for his son Isaac. He noted that when
Eleazar and his 10 camels arrived in the vicinity where Rebekah and the other women drew water, that
this watering hole would be a great test for Rebekah. If she was the right one for Isaac, she
would not only assuage his thirst, but his camels as well.
And lo and behold -Rebekah not only gives him water but she then turns to
the task of drawing water for his 10 camels. And the amazing thing per Sleeth -- is that each
camel required between 20 and 40 gallons of water. So you can imagine how tiring this
must have been for Rebekah to bring up from the well - at a minimum -200 gallons to accomplish
And even her brother Laban sees to it that the camels are rubbed down and
fed. For Eleazar, this was a clear sign that these people were good and decent people who
stopped and cared for animals.
While Sleete is not vegetarian, he says his concern for animals makes him
careful of finding out where his food comes from. He wants to know if the animals connected
with his purchase are being properly cared for. If he buys eggs, he wants to know how the
chickens were raised. And he noted that he probably now only eats a tenth of what he did when he
And finally, I am so glad that Lange asked him the question which is so
often posed to us who care about animals: When people say that it's more important to focus
on human concerns than animal welfare, how do you respond?
"They're inseparable. If we're the kind of people who worry about how
animals are treated, we are by definition better people. "
Simple, direct, and compassionate. Thank you Matthew Sleeth.