July 15, 2013
Should We Care About Animal Suffering?
By Suzana Megles
I have lived over 4 score years already and I am still waiting for the greater majority of people to be compassionate towards their fellow living creatures- the animals. I hope you are one who is.
The question posed in my title seems to be a no-brainer.
But is it? If you look around the world today in every
corner of it, you will find animal suffering.
Some of you will tell me that you will find human suffering
there too. I can't quarrel with that, but, by and large, I
believe that there is much more animal suffering even in
places where the people are supposedly "educated" and informed re it. The animals are dependent on us and sadly, we have let them down in all too many instances.
We have exploited them in every way possible- stowing farm animals in the cafos from hell, cutting, irridiating, and burning the poor research animals in our laboratories, making circus animals perform unnatural and uncomfortable acts for our pleasure, divesting fur from animals for vanity. Really,
I have only touched the tip of the iceberg re how we exploit
animals and could go on and on in this shameful regard.
So when I found Larry Brown's post on All-creatures.org, I
was completely drawn to its title - "How Can so Many Christians Be Indifferent to Animal Suffering?" His first paragraph is so complete in its reasoning on this subject- that it needs to be quoted:
"In 50 years as part of various congregations, never once did
I hear a concern raised regarding the terrible cruelties animals routinely endure. How, I've asked myself, can we properly reverence the Creator without respecting the creation?....I believe there is cause for honest concern in the Christian community when so many have become so comfortable trading opportunities to display mercy, compassion, and selflessness, for the sake of maintaining their pleasure, convenience, and tradition."
In my opinion -what a truthful, succinct view of our Christian
world where I, too, believe we have dishonored the Creator with our often callous, and cruel indifference to the animals re their welfare and needs. Really, that paragraph should be a meditation piece for anyone who who considers him/herself a Christian. And even non-Christians may find compelling reasons to be more caring and compassionate for the animal world.
As Brown noted, he has witnessed Christian indifference to animals
for 50 years. I have noticed it for the past 35 plus years when
a little dog named Peaches came into my life and completely changed
my perspective about animals. Now when I look into an animal's eye -
I try to see God. After all, they are His creatures too as w e are.
Why don't others try to see God in them too?
Brown continues by saying that the essence of a Christian life
should be one of mercy, love, humility, compassion, selflessness,
and treating others the way we want to be treated. Of course,
he includes the animals under this umbrella of virtues which
should characterize Christians. I also believe that other
people of different religious persuasions may feel the same way
How I wish that I could have heard even one priest utter the same
profound thoughts as his, but have never to this day heard anything
re animal suffering -despite my efforts to write them and the
Bishops to have teachings on animal care and compassion.
I only wrote letters to my church's hierarchy. Brown did so much
more. He visited 25 area Protestant churches asking them to
consider two simple and beautiful thoughts:
"Let's acknowledge 'Care of Creation' as a neglected
form of stewardship.
Let's examine the impact of our daily choices."
So beautifully stated- but I was not surprised when he didn't
get any response from the pastors. Though he admitted he
didn't expect enthusiasm for the topic, nevertheless, as he
noted possibly tongue in cheek- af terall, we are only talking
about God's creative handiwork. Still, he was disappointed
in their obvious lack of interest in his non- threatening and
He finally resorted to calls and e-mails and fourteen pastors
did agree to meet and discuss the issue. Those who chose to
NOT meet with him gave these reasons:
"I am not interested."
"Animals do not have souls."
"You are elevating animals to human level."
"Our focus is on souls." (Not one asked about my soul)
"You are excessive and a heretic."
"Mercy does not apply to animals."
"Yes, I can picture Jesus hunting with a gun."
"Jesus ate fish."
"I feel no mandate concerning animals."
I don't know about you - but I found these responses from men of
the cloth unworthy and even shameful. I can also believe that
some priests might agree with some of these statements since
they too do not preach animal compassion.
Brown certainly knows his Bible, and I was impressed by all
his thoughts in this wonderfully illuminating piece. I
especially was happy to read that "Contrary to the popular
self-serving belief, animals were created, NOT for human use,
but as Adam's companions according to Genesis 2."
Sadly, Aquinas didn't read Genesis 2 very well- though it may
not even be in the Catholic bible. Whether it is or not, I
found his "Utiliity Principle" which says that God made animals
for our use to be unworthy. And to think that at one time I
taught my Catholic pupils this principle which today I cannot
accept. I think it opened up a Pandora's box of tacit approval
for animal abuse of all kinds.
Personally, I find the more compassionate view to be Brown's. I
do not believe that God made animals for man's use only. Yes, in
the past, man has had to kill animals or die of hunger. But let's
look at today. Some of us vegans are doing very well on a plant-
based diet. If more would join us or eat less meat and meat products,
maybe we wouldn't need to incarcerate farm animals in cruel cafos.
Because of these wonderful insights of Brown's, I began to think
that the more we try to go back to Genesis in our daily lives - eating
fruits and grains and living with the animals in harmony, the more
blest we will be as a people. BACK TO GENESIS may well be a
worthwhile aspiration for all of us.
I am grateful to Larry Brown and All-creatures for the opportunity to
read and condense Brown's beautiful compassionate thoughts on the
animals. Hopefully, others will be as impressed as I by his loving
and caring views.
I would like to quote him again verbatim re his reading of Creation
from Genesis 2. I found it truly thought-provoking:
"After creation was pronounced good, its care was the first example
of stewardship given humans. God then prescribed a plant-based diet
for all beings. When sin entered the human state, however, three
relationships were broken:
Humans to God
Humans to humans
Humans to nature
While Christians have sought to repair the first two, the third has
been conspicuously neglected."
I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the past 30 years and I thank God every day that I am. I am most disturbed at how little the Catholic Church and Christian churches generally give to concern re animal suffering in their ministry. I wrote to 350 bishops in 2001 and only 10-13 responded. I feel that the very least they can do is to instruct that the priests give one sermon a year on compassion to animals. I am still waiting for that sermon. I also belong to Catholic Concern for Animals - founded in England in 1929. (They are on the internet) I recently sent a sample copy of their bi-monthly publication called the ARK to the 8 Catholic bishops of Ohio. Only ONE kindly responded. Somehow we have to reach the Christian teaching magisterium. There is next to nothing re animal concerns and compassion for them. They basically believe that animals are the lesser of God's creation and that gives us the right to do anything we want to them. Way wrong. We need to change their mindsets. The animals are God's first and He expects us to treat them compassionately.