Thursday, August 16, 2007


Is there someone in the United States of America who has not heard about the dog fighting story involving Michael Vick? For the record, here is my personal take on animals in general.
Animals are creatures of God and as such they are to be respected. They are creatures that have a degree of mental capacity. They have the abiblity to live side by side with us. We recognize that from the moment of creation, we human beings have been entrusted with the management of God's handiwork, one part of which are the animals with which we share the planet. Animals in general do not need our direct and continued intervention for their survival. Some, however, have entered our circle of life and have developed a degree of necessity for our presence, not just for survival but to maintain a style of life that is generally better than they would have in their natural habitat. Some have entered our circle of life for the purpose of sparing us the difficulty of hunting them in the wild. We call them domesticated, but that doesn't necessarily equate to a longer life for them. Some have been domesticated and tamed to help us with work that we could do but with a lot more effort than what we can usually maintain for long periods of time. Finally, we keep some of them for no other reason than for our companionship and some respectful amusement.

In the case of dogs, it is generally accepted that they have been co-existing with humans in a friendly relationship for some 30,000 years. Our relationship with them is rather complex. The beginning of the friendly relationship between humans and wolves, the source population of our domestic animal, remains a mystery. According to one scenario, it would be the wolves themselves who took the first steps to approach humans. They are said to have learned to approach camp fires of hunters, both for warmth and scraps from the meals that had been incompletely consumed. It is believed that wolves and dogs can read the intentions of humans more than any other animal. Dogs provide many important things to us, from food to highly trained companions for the weakest of our brothers and sisters. They even make good movie stars! Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Bengie are good examples.
I don't know if Scooby Doo qualifies, being but a 'toon.

One of my favorite stories about dogs cooperating with high human achievement is the saga of Roald Ahmundsen, the Norwegian explorer who was the first to reach the South Pole. Roald was in a heated race with the British explorer, Robert Scott. Roald won because he had the best strategy. He rushed in with his dog teams and his sleds heavy with equipment. He got there first, left a note and the Norwegian flag for Scott, unloaded all non-essentials from the sleds, turned around, empty sleds, extra dogs and all and ran back to the base camp. On the way he chopped up the extra sleds, used the wood to cook the weaker dogs and came home safely, soundly and proudly. Sad to say, Mr. Scott and all members of his team reached the Pole but perished on the way back.

I like this story because it is a strong illustration of how creatures of vastly different existential capabilities can work together to cause advances in scientific knowledge. We are accompanied by animals and plants on this earth for their good and our good. We are entrusted with the dominion [management] of the earth by God. It is not for us to play games with. It is not for us to exploit beyond repair. It is not for us to disrespect. In the case of training dogs to fight to the death, such as happens more often than we like to think, I am convinced that this is a level of brutality towards animals that should not be tolerated. It is so brutal because it contributes to the degradation of the humans who participate in the activity. The immorality of the behavior has a two-fold source, the unnecessary destruction of a living being as well as the demeaning and degradation of the human spirit. I have to say that I see this as a sin against creation. It is a sin against the commandment of God to care for his creation. True it is that as humans we have the right to use creation for our own good and to perfect it as we go along. We are called and mandated by God to be pro-creators. When we fail to live as such, we harm not only ourselves as individuals but our actions reflect poorly on the community of humans.

I am not an animal lover. I respect them. I don't give them any of my emotional currency. I don't abuse their bodies and I respect what psychology they have. When I think that this is one more life that can contribute to God's glory, I can't help but respect it. I dare say that this respect for animal life is tucked away in a small corner in the back of our human conscience. Rarely, if ever, do we mention animal life as a "pro-life" issue. It is true that animal life exists for the service that it can provide for human beings. I maintain that this life has to be at the service of noble human activity, not to be destroyed for humans to exercise their base desires. I also know that I may never hear a pro-life presentation that will include a plea for respect due to animal life, but the crass and brutal activities of dog fighting, cock fighting and bull fighting don't ennoble the human reason for living, and should therefore disappear from the face of the earth.

So, brothers and sisters, don't expect to ever see me with a pet. The reflections presented here address an extreme action. There are other ways that humans abuse animals. Some are more reprehensible than others. They should all be avoided. Let us all maintain a high level of regard for the animals that God gives us and with which we share the earth.
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