Proclamation for Animal Compassion

From All-Creatures
Christian Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth

Proclamation for Animal Compassion

By Reverend Michael Bruner

California is burning, Mexico is drowning and Sub-Saharan Africa is dying of thirst. In the wider context of these disasters, how we treat animals seems to be a disproportionately small concern. But why is California burning, and Mexico drowning and Africa parched?

We hear talk about this country's addiction to oil. It's nothing compared to our addiction to meat. A recent U.N. report found that the methane produced from the flatulence of cows causes more damage to the atmosphere than all the exhaust from trains, planes and automobiles combined. Turns out, how we treat animals is a lynchpin to so many other pressing issues of the day, particularly when it comes to the environment. Quite literally, animals are the environment, so their fate is our own. And if we can't muster enough character and compassion to look after their welfare, we, too, will go the way of the kiwi and soon the polar bear and perhaps already the honeybee.

When people look back at this point in time, they'll say one thing: that instead of simply carrying on with business as usual, we radically altered our priorities and reassessed our relationship to the planet. I'm confident they'll say this because if we simply carry on with business as usual, there will be no posterity. Which means that right now we have a chance, not simply to change the course of history, but to actually keep it going.

I was born and raised in the outback of the Philippines to missionary parents, right on the edge of a jungle and near a farm. I grew up with animals of all kinds, our pets (dogs, cats and bird), farm animals (cows, goats, pigs, chickens) and the wild native animals (snakes, bayawaks, monkeys and birds of every kind). I had a holistic view of animals and from a young age felt quite an affinity to them... well, to some of them, at least. I grew up, in other words, understanding that they were, quite simply, an indispensable part of the fabric of life.

And now here I am, some thirty years later, essentially making the same claim. But now, according to the stereotype of an Evangelical Christian, I'm supposed to care about animals primarily for how they taste and not, as I did when I was child, for who they are. But who says? Certainly notScripture. Certainly not Jesus. And certainly not this Proclamation.

As a minister in the mainline evangelical tradition, I have a very compelling reason to treat animals with compassion: because they are a part of God's creation, and dominion is not domination. The center of Christ's commands is, in fact, a radical call to compassion. Indeed, to love. But there's no place here for tawdry theological sentimentalism. Leave my dog or cat to its own devices and it will kill for meat. But an animal takes only what it needs, and that's the difference between them and us. We don't stop at need. We want and want and want, and as a result, we're killing our planet out of sheer greed. So at the end of the day, this Proclamation is fundamentally about two things: compassion and restraint, which are really opposite sides of the same coin.

So what's the verdict? Are we going to drown ourselves in gluttony and greed at the expense of animals and their suffering and as a result forfeit not only their future but the future for our children, or will we, in a bold, difficult, even audacious move, restrain our appetites and, for one exalted moment, stay the knife?

May God bless the work before us.


Religious Proclamation for Animal Compassion Conference, November 7, 2007  http://www.network.bestfriends.org/

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