A while back my mother pointed me to an admirable article written by Rev. Leonard Vander Zee for The Banner of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. The article is titled ... Also Many Animals, a reference to Jonah 4:11 in which God tells Jonah, who is anxious for Nineveh to be judged for its wickedness and to save his own psyche in the process, "Should I not have concern for the great city Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people ... and also many animals? (Today's New International Version).
Vander Zee goes on to say, "Page through the psalms and notice how often animals are pictured as the objects of God’s care and delight (see Ps. 104). Notice how the birds and animals chirp, bleat, and roar their praises to the Creator." And he concludes that if animals hold such worth to God, than we need to see and treat them in a similar light.
He points to a powerful book by Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, which I couldn't recommend more highly. Scully "reminds us that dominion means lordship, authority exercised with love and care. It means caring especially for those creatures that are dependent on our care and mercy." In direct contrast to this understanding of dominion as stewardship, Vander Zee bemoans the shift in the farming industry from "animal husbandry" to "factory farms," which violate the most basic decencies which God's creatures are entitled to.
Vander Zee points to other Christian examples of concern for animal welfare, including a powerful story from Bernard Rollin, professor of philosophy and animal sciences at Colorado State University. Rollin recounts a talk he gave to 300 pig farmers in Ontario on caring for their animal charges, and the silence which followed. But one farmer responded: "I have been feeling lousy for 15 years about how I raise these animals. And so, in front of my peers, so I can’t back out later, I am pledging to tear down my confinement barn and build a barn I don’t have to be ashamed of!"
The article is a wonderful testament to the place for considering animal welfare in a solidly biblical and Christian light, as a matter of conscience and morality like any other issue we take up in faith. And don't miss the second half of the farmer's story just alluded to, or Vander Zee's resounding conclusion ...
(originally posted 8/23/08; photo credit Bancha Atsawatawon/123rf.com)