By Jan Fredericks, M.A., Godís Creatures Ministry
Increasingly, Christians from all denominations are
finding common ground in their concern for Godís creatures. There is a
growing movement among Christians to relieve the unnecessary suffering
of billions of animals each year, for example for furs, for
entertainment, and on factory farms.
Modern factory farms treat animals like machines.
Innocent animals experience painful mutilations without anesthesia,
suffer greatly from stressful, crowded conditions, and are unable to
perform any of the behaviors God designed them to do. Then, they
experience terror, and often great pain, at the slaughterhouse. Many
Christians justify such callous treatment of animals by citing Adamís
"dominion" over all the creatures in the Garden of Eden (Genesis
1:28). But, immediately afterwards, God prescribed a vegetarian diet
of seed-bearing plants and fruits for everyone in the Garden. So,
"dominion" must have meant benevolent stewardship, because God found
this harmonious, peaceful, vegetarian world "very good."
Matthew Scully, a special assistant and senior
speechwriter for President George W. Bush, has generated widespread
interest in animal issues in his book Dominion: The Power of Man,
the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. Scully believes
that we are Godís agents of love and mercy for all animals, including
those in puppy mills and those used for food, sport, and
experimentation. Scully notes that the pain and misery inherent in
factory farming is inconsistent with Christiansí calling to be
merciful, and he encourages all Christians to avoid animal products,
particularly those from factory farms (www.matthewscully.com).
Psalm 145:9 reads. "The Lord is good to all; he
has compassion on all he has made." (NIV) One rapidly growing
organization that applies this to dietary choices is the Christian
Vegetarian Association. Cochair Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D. says,
"Plant-based diets honor Godís Creation by sparing animals the misery
of factory farms; conserving scarce water, energy, and land resources;
alleviating world hunger; and benefitting our bodies. We do not hold
that eating meat is inherently sinful. Rather, we believe that it
constitutes good, responsible stewardship of Godís Creation." The CVA
began in 1999 and has 1,800 members.
About 30 years ago, Rev. Frank Hoffman became
aware of the suffering of calves raised to make veal. He and his wife
Mary subsequently stopped eating all animal products, including eggs
and dairy. Seeing animal advocacy as integral to their Christian
calling, they later began an Internet ministry (www.all-creatures.org),
which now averages more than 250,000 hits per day. Rev. Hoffman
strives to heal Christians who have been met with indifference or even
hostility after theyíve tried to encourage fellow Christians to apply
Godís love and compassion to animals. He says, "We are ministering to
many thousands of people a year who have been hurt by the hardness of
heart they have encountered in churches."
Like Rev. Hoffman, Rev. J.R. Hyland, an
Evangelical minister, was inspired to help animals because of a single
form of abuse. She was disturbed by the suffering and death of animals
in a psychology lab class in the early 1970's. She has a book
defending humane treatment of animals based on Biblical principles
(now titled Godís Covenant with Animals) and several tightly
argued essays on the topic (www.HumaneReligion.org).
She says that stewardship is humankindís sacred responsibility: "The
role that God assignedĖthe role of the compassionate caregiver for
Catholic Concern for Animals (www.catholic-animals.org)
was founded in England 70 years ago and now reaches 52 countries. It
works closely with the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (ASWA;
www.aswa.org.uk) in the U.K..
Sue Grisham, is the U.S.A. Representative for ASWA
Despite diverse theological positions, these Christian groups and
authors agree that animals belong to God, not humankind, and therefore
animals deserve our compassion and respect.
Most Christians oppose cruelty to animals and
recognize their duties toward them. Consequently, animal exploitation
businesses go to great lengths to hide their mistreatment of animals.
The agri-business industries (breeding and raising animals for food)
have also invested heavily in misleading advertising to falsely
convince people that animal products are necessary for good health.
Godís Creatures Ministry (GCM;
encourages all churches to have their own animal ministry. GCM offers
suggestions for parishioners to help pets/animals in their own
congregations and communities, and gives general educational
information about animal issues.
Despite theological differences, Christians
universally recognize that animals belong to God. Many Biblical
passages, cited in the web sites above, call for kindness and mercy
toward animals. Contact these organizations to learn more about Godís
concern for animals and how this applies to our daily lives. In a
world desperately in need of compassion, perhaps one unifying concern
will be for the animals.