Animal Rights and Catholic CulturePosted: June 22, 2009
I’m an art school kid, so I have to write maybe a single paper in a quarter, unofficial and hardly checked beyond reciept. In high school I used to think about and discuss pyschology, english literature, and social norms. I used to speak spanish for at least an hour every day. I used to analyze everything. Having been exempted from the greater portion of my liberal arts courses due to ap credits (which I recommend to all as a worthy pursuit to save you lots of money and give your brain a boat-load of stimulation) I very often feel that the left side of my brain is underworked. I hardly write about anything anymore and my political opinions have fallen by the wayside for lack of keeping up-to-date on current events. Because of this, I am dedicating a section of my blog to my thoughts. I may end up moving this to an alternative location, but I find it an interesting mix to my crafty and fashion-centered postings. Just an FYI for you. Sometimes I have thoughts that I ponder. This is a good venue for me to share them, and possibly start some great conversation.
Alright, so on to the actual post:
I have been trying to find a good place to volunteer my time, primarily searching local animal shelters and pet rescue foundations. During this search, I became curious as to the Catholic standpoint on animal welfare. I wondered if there is an established obligation towards humane treatment beyond God granting dominion:
And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth.(Gen 1:26)
I have always been a lover of animals; currently there are two dogs, a turtle, a frog and an anole living in the house, each receiving the proper care according to its needs. Countless childhood memories include stopping on the way to the lake to go fishing so that my dad could help a turtle across the road or scare a deer away. I also remember squishing voles in grandma’s shed and the show-and-tell turkey being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. My dad grew up on a hobby farm that has seen its fair share of cows, pigs, goats, chickens and horses; my grandmother still lives there to this day, boarding a couple of horses, raising chickens, and feeding the occasional barn cat.
A couple of summers ago, I took a volunteer position at the Minnesota zoo each Monday, basically serving as a farm interpretor: answering farm-related questions, facilitating safe petting of chicks and of course, cleaning up the goat yard for the public to feed and brush our pen of goats. It was hot and crowded, and often I answered the same three questions all day (particularly from small children), but I really liked it.
So it would seem that animals are simply embedded into my life.
It occurred to me that maybe I was being called to know and teach the proper treatment and overall regard toward animals. But I didn’t know what that was, officially. I had a general idea that we are allowed to eat them, keep them as pets, but abuse of any kind is uncalled for. In my curiousity, i searched for catholic obligation to animals and came up with this very interesting article written in 2004 by Santa Clara University alum (then junior), Jesse Ramirez entitled “Fath Seeking Food: Animals, Factory Farms, and Catholic Social Teaching”. I highly suggest reading it.
A brief abstract would argue that factory farms pose a moral conflict with Catholic social teaching according to both anthropocentric and theocentric views, by way of our obligation to respect creation and the viewpoint of the treatment of animals as a reflection of human dignity.
I hope that does justice to the article, though really you should read it in its entirety. Certainly the article provides something for your brain to chew on.
Personally, I find that I am against puppy mills, factory farms, and the generally shady manner in which pet stores acquire their pets. I do not feel obligated to abstain from meat though I am not fond of the commercial meat industry practices from what has been told to me (I cannot truly say for I have yet to look into this one). I believe in the responsibility of spaying and neutering pets not needed for breeding purposes (and therefore disagree with the rampant casual dog breeding for profit). I stand behind shelters and rescue teams that attempt to care for all the abandoned pets out there and reduce any further problems of this through workshops and lectures. I feel that the Humane Society, World Wildlife Fund, and various similar organizations are great helps to the animal world. The implementation and enforcement of the Endangered Species Act is a great cause so long as it is kept separate from ill-informed political platforms (I maintain that the polar bear is NOT endangered and am sad at the misuse of power on the part of political figures and the lack of media responsibility in skewing this so).
I believe it is our obligation, certainly as Catholics, but as humans, to maintain a respect and proper regard toward all living creatures, though I often find that PETA takes things too far, and that we cannot view ourselves on an equal or lower level than animals if simply for the impossibility that we can ever be satisfied in any other way of life than that of a human existence, clearly different from the preferred lifestyle, if you will, of both wild and domesticated animals. We are a very special breed. Cue up the Mickey Mouse Club song “you are a human animal” if you need clarification.
Disclaimer of sorts :So that’s that. My thoughts, you can reason your own ideas from it, whatever. Just remember to be repectful. I’ll argue/discuss/converse with anyone, just so long as we maintain civility. We all have opinions, no sense biting off heads.