Are Animals Really Our Best Friends?
How we treat those we have power over reveals our true nature.
By Matthew Priebe
The Bible shows that we have dominion over the animals as God has dominion over us. Genesis 1:26. Nearly everyone agrees that animals should not be mistreated, but we should realize that, by what goes on our plates and in our closets, we have much influence over the suffering and death of God’s creatures.
PAYING THE PRICE
The Golden Rule should guide our interaction with the world’s inhabitants. The most important step to save the lives of animals is choosing not to eat them. For much of history humans had to eat animals, but now in developed countries, it is unnecessary and unhealthy. Americans eat animals because they like the taste. Considering how many food animals are treated, is this a good reason?
Confined chickens and turkeys are too crowded together to move normally. Many cows and pigs are also in concrete stalls. Most animals in such unnatural conditions live short, unhappy lives. If injured while taken to be killed, they are left where they fall to die slowly. Fishing fleets push sea creature populations to biological collapse. Not only are fish slaughtered, but many whales, birds, and dolphins are killed.
This is the pain contained in our store-bought meat. How can God bless the consumption of these brutalized creatures? Every person that stops eating animals directly reduces the number of animals being killed, since the killers only supply what we will buy.1
The same applies to animals killed for fashion. When we buy items made from animals, another is killed to fill the vacated space, so we cannot say they’re already dead. Steel traps catch all that touches them, leaving the animals in agony. On fur farms, animals are caged, unprotected from weather extremes until they are painfully killed. Fur coats or fur trim, snakeskin boots, alligator wallets, and ivory items are status symbols in American and other Western-influenced cultures. Would Jesus, who lived simply, approve of money spent for clothing to only satisfy vanity?
In modern society people often hunt solely for sport. Many hunted animals are only wounded and never recover. Animal families are ripped apart and their lives painfully ended to become trophies in the den.2
Many who fish for recreation do not realize that fish have the same nervous system and pain receptors as birds and whales, therefore fish experience pain in the same way as other vertebrate animals. Most people know that hunted mammals and birds suffer, but few realize that fish suffer terribly from hooks in their sensitive mouths. They often can’t eat until they heal, and studies show that even most released fish eventually die.3 When we kill or maim only for sport, we fall far short of Jesus’ example. Neither He nor His disciples ever fished for sport.
ANIMAL ABUSE—OVERT AND COVERT
Many of our actions economically support a system that abuses animals, and much abuse exists because it is profitable. For example, when we buy eggs from large, commercial hen farms we support the cruel conditions in which these eggs are produced. The hens’ beaks are severed. They are raised in tiny, cramped cages with dirty surroundings. There, the birds develop raw wounds which become diseased from their unsanitary environment. Millions of hens are abused so that Americans especially, can have eggs for breakfast.4
Similarly, the dairy industry imprisons cows in a constant cycle of being impregnated, giving birth, and having their day-old calves taken from them. Male babies are sent to veal stalls, fed nutrient-deficient food, and prevented from moving.
Today, there are many non-dairy substitutes for meat, eggs, and milk available at major supermarkets and health food stores to help us avoid supporting these practices. Cookbooks and seminars are also available to learn about preparing dairy substitutes.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Jesus’ love was freely given to all. Do we demonstrate this love when we acquire pets, and then abandon them because of inconvenience? Dogs and cats dumped by the roadside almost never survive, and many abandoned pets in animal shelters are ignored because people buy from pet stores. There are too many strays because people do not have their pets spayed or neutered, so repeated litters glut our neighbourhoods. Having a pet involves financial, physical, and even emotional care for the duration of its life.5
Students and teachers can help save animals’ lives by choosing non-animal alternatives to dissection. This would help reduce the destruction of wild frogs, pet-stealing by unethical suppliers, and painful deaths that are often the norm in supply houses. Studies have shown that students learn as well or better with non-animal methods, including detailed charts, slide shows, computer programs, videos, and models of animal or human organs. The American Anti-Vivisection Society has developed an alternatives lending library available to students and teachers throughout the U.S.6
Beauty products, such as cosmetics and shampoos, are tested on animals in painful experiments which generally do not help people and may be solely for the company’s benefit. Liquids are poured into rabbits’ eyes or toxic substances rubbed onto their bare skin. Lists of companies that have promised never to use animal tests are available from animal protection groups. We may help convince others to buy from “kind” companies. Cruelty-free products are obtainable through the Internet at reasonable costs. Also, look for labels that say “not tested on animals.”7
One of the most hidden sources of animal abuse is medical research. The public believes that this saves human lives, but this is rarely the case. Repetitive tests sometimes have only minor variations that show nothing new. Results vary with each kind of animal used. Only volunteer clinical human tests reveal how substances affect us.
The animals pay with their lives as they sit in the dark between painful tests. Without normal interactions they become neurotic and insane. Finding out how animals react to pain and what they will do to avoid it, does not benefit people nor animals. Donating to health charities that refuse to fund animal experiments can help change things.8
COMPASSION FOR ALL
How we treat the weak reveals our true nature. A Satanic nature destroys, but Christ’s nature ends suffering and protects the helpless. With His Second Coming near, we need His compassion in all areas of our lives. Whether our faith is merely theoretical or a living connection, will be felt by the people and animals around us.
It is our duty and joy not to support practices that harm others, including God’s creatures. Only then will we fully reflect Christ’s love and have perfect peace.
- John Robbins, Diet for a New America, Stillpoint Publishing, Walpole, NH, 1987.
- Ron Baker, The American Hunting Myth, Vantage Press, New York, 1985.
- Kestin, S.C., “Pain and stress in fish,” A report prepared for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1993.
- Karen Davis, Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs, The Book Publishing Co, Summertown, TN, 1996.
- Larry Shook, The Puppy Report, Lyons and Burford, New York, 1992.
- Gary L. Francione; Anna E. Charlton, Vivisection and Dissection in the Classroom, American Anti-Vivisection Society, Jenkintown, PA, 1992.
- Lynda Dickinson, Victims of Vanity, Gordon Soules Books, Seattle, WA.
- Robert Sharpe, Science on Trial: The Human Cost of Animal Experiments, Awareness Books, Sheffield, U.K., 1994.
* Matthew Priebe travels the U.S. observing animals in their natural habitats.