“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind; and God saw that it was good.” (Gen. 1:20-21)
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind; and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and Every living thing that creepeth upon the earth, after his kind’ and God saw that it was good.” (Gen. 1:24-25)
The above creation story tells us several important things. First, it was God who created all the animals, and it was good that they were created. It is good that they are on this planet, and they belong here. Moreover, they were here first, before any people. Although the Genesis account states that God gave humans dominion over all other creatures, the account does not elaborate upon just what that dominion would consist of. It does go on to say that the food for humans is to be the fruits of trees and seeds, and the food for other animals is to be every green herb. The creation story does not say anything about anybody killing and eating anybody else. Therefore, we may conclude that God’s original, ideal intention was that all creatures are good and valuable, and that they should all co-exist upon the planet in peace, using plants for nourishment, which don’t feel pain.
For literally thousands of years, mankind has believed that “dumb” animals didn’t know hardly anything anyway, and did not feel pain, so it was all right to treat them in whatever ways were convenient or useful. Hence animals have suffered at the hand of man apparently ever since man was capable of inflicting damage on anything. I sometimes wonder how God can continue to bless mankind at all, knowing about the unspeakable carnage man has inflicted on His dear ones of other species.
Do we really realize, and can we accept the biological fact that we humans are really animals? We are mammals, with bony spines, and we belong, biologically, to the animal kingdom. For thousands of years, the belief was prevalent that animals don’t have souls, or spirits, as we do, but nowadays many deep thinkers are saying, “Oh, yes, they do!” Because of very careful research and observation in recent years, animal scientists and others have discovered that countless animal species have far more sophisticated abilities and sensibilities than we have before known. They have their own cultures, their own communication systems, their own family structures, their own friends, and their own ways of surviving in their environments (often doing a much better job of all that than we do!). Moreover, the entire range of human emotions has been observed in animals – anger, fear, grief, joy, sorrow, jealousy, attachment, empathy, and so forth. Over 98 % of chimpanzee genes are identical to human genes. Well, one might argue that humans can do things no animals can do. We have a thumb that opposes our fingers (but so do chimps). We have language (so do dolphins, even if it isn’t English). We can reason abstractly (an ability also found in some animals, although at a much more elementary level). The more humans learn about other animals, the more the dividing line between them and us blurs! They want their lives and well-being just as much as we do! Their need for quality of life is just as acute. They have individual personalities, too.
A couple of points really in the animals’ favor are that:
(1.) they don’t destroy their environment to anywhere near the extent humans have, and
(2) they don’t make war (although I have read that there is one species of ants which actually does make war).
It seems to me that we can lump ways of befriending the animals into two major categories. One category is to stop hurting them and to kindly provide for them. The other category is to communicate with them, socialize with them, live our lives with them, and be with them, in all sorts of companionship, friendship ways.
Because of the learning, values, and habits we have grown up with, due to the pervasive influence of the culture all around us, we, directly and indirectly, hurt animals every single day. So many of the things we do which hurt them we don’t even know about or think about. For example, do we know that millions of very attractive sport shoes on the feet of millions of Americans were made from the hides of little doggies and kitties in the far East, often skinned while still alive, in terrible agony? When we go to a nice restaurant and have a delicious halibut dinner, are we informed that many other sea creatures were snared in the nets and died, just to catch the halibut we are eating? The examples are endless, but I hope I’ve made my point. We need to really look at our lives, and think not only about how we personally treat animals, but how we support the activities and incomes of others who impact negatively upon animals. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life – all I can think of doing in support of animals. I surely don’t eat beef, pork, or fowl anymore, knowing now that that flesh comes from real animal persons I deeply loved, even though I didn’t see them personally when they were alive. We need to be well informed about how to live to avoid harming animals, and to avoid contributing to their harm indirectly. An animal is not an object, he or she is a person.
We can provide kindly for the care of animals by taking wonderful care of our own animal family and also by supporting the efforts of animal rescue and refuge organizations. Not only are animals’ physical needs for clean food and water, shelter, exercise, a species-appropriate environment, and veterinary care extremely important, but they also need kind, gentle handling and companionship. Animals get lonely, too (some are solitary by nature). For instance, providing a dog with a fenced yard, a dog house, food, and water, but otherwise ignoring the dog, is not sufficient. Such pets are no doubt terribly lonely and scared to death, as the hours and days go by and they are so alone. Pets are not back yard ornaments after their newness has worn off. Also, they need protection from those that might harm them. When we shop, and take our Labrador retriever, Sierra, we leave one person in the truck with Sierra, or, if both of us go into a store, we lock both doors and are only away from the truck for a few minutes, and only do the latter in familiar, safe parking lots. I make sure my cat, Sparkles, is in the house during the night, and am “nervous” until she shows up at the door to be let in. My visiting nephew once said, “Your animals are pampered.” My son said, “Good!” Sometimes I’ve made mistakes and have done something, or failed to do something, which hare not been in an animal’s best interest. I have “beat myself up” mentally about those things, but, at any point, I can only do the best I can with the knowledge and wisdom I have at the time. However, I know I have a responsibility to become well-informed! Humans who do not have the time or inclination to become well informed and provide quality lives to their companion animals shouldn't have them, They should go and do something else instead!
What better way can we spend our lives than with the animals? They are interesting, loyal, loving, and dependable in maintaining long-term relationships with us. They enrich our whole beings, bring us comfort and joy, and actually help us to be healthier. In today’s world, when trust among humans is at a really low ebb, we can truly trust our animal family members with our hearts. Any sensitive person who spends a lot of time with animals, learns to communicate with them. Animals communicate through body positions, gestures, looks, and vocalizations. My cat, Sparkles, tells me she wants some treats by sitting on the kitchen stool, paws placed evenly in front of her, and looking straight at me. My new cat, Puff, tells me he’s hungry by coming to me, sitting and looking at me, and then moving to the table where he is fed. Animals and humans develop patterns of communications, wherein both parties know exactly what’s going on. It’s wonderful! Nowadays, animal communicators seem to be springing up all over the country who claim telepathic communications with animals. Animal’s healing power is well known. People with pets are healthier and live longer. Contact with animals lowers our blood pressure and sends good, pleasure-producing neurotransmitters and hormones coursing through our systems. Animals help us with our stress. Animals have rescued and save the lives of humans countless times, and are increasingly used to guide vision and hearing impaired humans – mostly still dogs, but miniature horses are also getting “into the act!” Animals are increasingly used in all kinds of therapies with humans. They have amazing healing qualities.
Many confirmed animal lovers (including me) maintain there is a spiritual connection between the humans and animals who are “connected.” Being connected, or “on the same wavelength” seems subtle and elusive, but very real, and can even have transcendent qualities. In my experience, this spiritual connection can best be felt when animal and human friends are responding in harmony with one another. Behaviorally, emotionally, and mentally, their state of being is as “one.” This kind of harmony and “oneness” is very much sought after by dressage riders and their horses, for instance. The horse and rider act and feel like one being, which is deeply satisfying and exhilarating for both. In fact, a well-trained dressage horse will make a movement before his rider actually gives the command, by responding to anticipatory tiny muscle movements in the rider. Or maybe they also read the rider’s mind before the rider can make a movement to ask the horse to do something.
After reading all of the above, if you were not already convinced, are you now convinced that animals need and totally deserve relief from harm, and all the kind treatment we can give them? Our joy is so much more complete when we are people who hold them in fond regard, and do nothing but good for them as we go through every day of our lives. They are truly our brothers and sisters. Spending a lot of time with animals, especially as caregivers, changes us at a core level. In a very real way, animals teach us how to love. They teach us what life is all about. They teacher us what the Kingdom of God is all about. Maybe that’s why God created them first. He knows how much we need them. He created them incredibly beautiful, and incredibly appealing. What treasures!
My goodness, as I reflect on all I have written here, it seems that animals are among God’s most wonderful and marvelous works! We are indeed fools if we do not feel incredibly privileged to share this planet with them, and to be more than glad to allow them safe, healthy living space here.
Dr. Joyce at firstname.lastname@example.org