Having spent the last weekend in the beautiful confines of Pittsburgh, PA, I had the occasion to visit the National Aviary, home to more than 500 birds from around the world. As with most zoo-type places, the natural splendor was replete with tales of devastation and extinction befalling its denizens at the hands of evil human beings.
Now I'm just as awed by the sights and sounds of these beautiful creatures as the next person -- the panoply of their colors alone makes one eager to someday meet their author -- but what ruffles my feathers is the notion that man is solely responsible for their demise; that he is somehow not a part of nature, but outside of it. They cite the hundreds of species threatened by human progress while conveniently pooh-poohing the millions eliminated by nature herself, countless centuries before the advent of man.
One doesn't have to hold the Biblical view of the relationship between mankind and the animal world to see that survival of the former would have been impossible to sustain without its dominion over the latter. But those of us who do believe that man was made in the image and likeness of God to rule over the Earth, also acknowledge that as such, we have a responsibility to act with kindness:
The service of man is the end appointed by the Creator for brute animals. When, therefore, man, with no reasonable purpose, treats the brute cruelly he does wrong, not because he violates the right of the brute, but because his action conflicts with the order and the design of the Creator (Tommaso Maria Zigliara, Philosophia Moralis).
The recent accusations of animal cruelty against Michael Vick transcend both religious and political lines. Witness this denunciation of followers of dog-fighting by Democrat, Senator Robert Byrd:
The Book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible, the King James Bible, tells us a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. The immortal Dante tells us the divine justice reserves special places in Hell for certain categories of sinners...I am confident that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for the souls of sick and brutal people who hold God's creatures in such brutal and cruel contempt!
While the passion of the venerable senator is worthy of admiration, one also wishes that he and his party would apply the same sentiments to God's most supreme creatures; human beings, and more specifically, to their babies. And that's the downside to all of this compassion for Vick's victims: as respect for human life from the moment of conception to natural death declines, reverence for other life-forms increases.
The outrage evoked by the Vick case reflects the increasing fanaticism Americans show toward their pets. Unheard of mere decades before are health insurance, home-delivery of "pet meds," animal chaplains and crematoriums for the dearly departed cats and dogs. It's almost as if, in a society that aborts over one million of its children per year, domesticated animals have taken their place. Indeed, People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals' well-known slogan, "a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy," takes this thinking to its most radical conclusion. PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk states that, as human beings, "we're the biggest blight on the face of the earth."
Indeed, an unfortunate offshoot of all this is that PETA is getting great press from this mess. They and their affiliates are, after all, quasi-terrorist organizations, that equate animal husbandry with the Holocaust and believe that, "The leather sofa and handbag are the moral equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of people killed in the death camps." Fellow traveler Pete Singer, author of Animal Liberation, knows (PDF) who the enemy really is:
[H]owever sympathetically you interpret the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, it puts animals in a fundamentally different category from human beings....I think in the end we have, reluctantly, to recognize that the Judeo-Christian religious tradition is our foe.
And their influence is growing. In addition to the scolding warnings at various zoos, the cities of Berkeley, CA and Boulder, CO have passed laws stating that people who have pets do not "own" them; rather, they are the pet's "guardian."Animal rights activists insidiously play on the emotions of pet owners in their campaign to devalue human life, and the Vick case plays right into their hands.
But America is still overwhelmingly a country under the Christian influence, and hopefully as such, its citizens will see through the "animal rights" canard and enjoy their steaks without guilt, and their pets without cruelty, and thank God for both.
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