Perspectives: Dominion is no license for animal cruelty

OPINION – The story of Elsa, the young filly found frozen to the ground near Enoch, has sparked a lot of discussion about animal cruelty throughout Southern Utah.

Her death this past weekend is prompting a great deal of outrage as well.

If there is a degree of good that can come from this sad story, let’s hope it begins with dialogue about what man’s relationship with animals should be. As may be expected, this can be a highly polarizing subject.

On the one extreme, animal rights groups like People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals are well known for placing equal value on human and animal life. PETA president Ingrid Newkirk made the infamous remark:

Animal liberationists do not separate out the human animal, so there is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They’re all mammals.

Of course, if this were true, our criminal courts would be filled with dogs that killed chickens, cats that have eaten mice, and bears that ate other bears. Obviously, the concepts of guilt and innocence don’t apply within the animal world.

This raises the question of whether the goal of PETA and other groups is to raise the value of animal life to that of human life, or to simply lower the value of human life.

Writer David Dieteman points out that one result of PETA’s claim, “that ‘a dog is a rat is a pig is a boy’ is that children are now exterminated as if they were rats. Abortion on demand, anyone?”

The polar opposite of this viewpoint is one which distorts the biblical account in Genesis where God gives man, “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth,” into an absolute right to be cruel.

This indifferent attitude toward animals is rarely found in old-fashioned farms. But it can be a real problem in the larger commercial animal farming operations.

The efficiency of factory farms allows them to outpace what traditional farms can produce. But this increased efficiency can also come with a measure of cruelty and misery that seldom crosses the mind of the supermarket shopper.

This is not to say that all factory farms are engaged in inhumane treatment of their animals. But dominion and efficiency on a large enough scale can become indistinguishable from cruelty and misery for the animals.

This doesn’t mean that we should all become vegan, but it ought arouse our sense of stewardship toward those creatures that serve a useful purpose yet have no voice.

In between the two extremes there is a natural balance to be found.

For instance, I’ve made it clear to my children that should our house ever catch fire; their human lives will take clear priority over our pets’ lives. If an opportunity arises to save our pets, I would gladly take it. But any attempted rescue would only take place after I knew with certainty that my family was accounted for and safe.

It’s not that I don’t love our pets. But the value of the lives of my children and spouse is necessarily higher.

To build a working knowledge of what dominion should look like, a case can still be made for keeping and raising our own animals where possible.

Our family keeps chickens and we raise rabbits. Our stewardship over these animals differs from the one have with our pets. These animals exist to provide us with eggs and meat.

This means that there comes a point where they must be harvested. For people who have always purchased their food from a grocery store, this can be a horrifying thought. But anyone who has spent time on a working farm or who was raised to hunt food for the table, it’s something quite different.

We do our best to keep our animals well fed, comfortable, clean, and safe. When the time comes to butcher them, it is done as humanely as possible and with a mixture of gratitude and resolve.

We understand that we are taking part in a cooperative art with nature. This engenders respect and appreciation for our animals, but also an understanding that the measure of their creation is different from our own.

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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  • Steve D January 20, 2014 at 10:55 am

    “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth,” The way I see it, this means there are three sort of people. the firsts and biggest group is the people who are not familiar with that text; of the other two however, are 1. The people who are privy to the WORD, and wholeheartedly believe those are truly sanctified words and still abuse animals, neglect, mistreat, or whatever else, so they are–well, they are not the pro-god people as are those people who heed the words and because of them, do right by his gifts e.g., “the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and cattle, ex” In other words, anyone who knows that quote by heart, and is abusive to animals, is sinning against more than just that which creepeths.

    • Steve D January 20, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Also, for the layman, the image of the cow there, is of a chute, the safest way to preg-check, vaccinate, or medicate livestock while preventing injury to the famrer, vet, and animal.

  • Mikki January 20, 2014 at 11:23 am

    All creatures on this earth are spirits sent from Heaven by God and deserve to be treated with respect. Even if they are being utilized for food by humans. No creature, large or small, mighty or weak, deserves to be treated poorly by another on this planet.

    Matthew 25:40

    Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    I believe the “least of these” includes animals.

  • Agnes smith January 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Abuse is abuse ! Whether it’s an animal deemed for consumption or a family pet! I think what is missing in your statement is holding the person responsible for what happened to this horse. Dominion is an ugly word, interpreted by the sick minded to be in humane . Shame on us , this is not what god intended us to do .

  • skippy January 20, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Again, more drivel disguised as wisdom-speak. Ingredients: a pseudo concern, the extreme positions (always a crowd-magnet), a more balanced perspective (or, better yet, an “arousal” to caring, contemplative dominion– the writer’s, “naturally”), and a few quaint illustrations, including the crucial distinction lacking in modern secular-induced society: that people come before pets. Makes me a bit worried, though, when I realize that my papa never outlined such a domestic hierarchy when we had fire drills. Shoulda watched my back more often…

  • aasdfghj January 20, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Bryan’s article in a nutshell: PETA thinks animal’s lives are more valuable than human’s (LOL). Be nice to the animals until it’s time to kill and eat them…

  • Carol Furnée January 21, 2014 at 7:22 am

    Re: “On the one extreme, animal rights groups like People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals are well known for placing equal value on human and animal life.” What a joke THAT is! PETA kills over 95% of the animals it can get its hands on. That’s why they have the biggest walk in freezer east of the Mississippi, to store the carcasses until the trucks come to haul them away.

    • bub January 21, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      It’s true. PETA has no qualms about killing unwanted domestic pets. Heck they might even make money doing it.

  • Johnny Gold January 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

    You misquote Ms. Newkirk. This is what she said: “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. Each one values his or her life and fights the knife.” Very true words, although they are probably the most misquoted words in history. We do have dominion over animals, but dominion does not give us a right to treat them like slaves and then slaughter them. Even if we house the slaves in a merciful way, it doesn’t make it right or good. We have dominion over animals in that we have control over them; we have the capacity to treat them however we want, and they are defenseless. Couldn’t this be viewed as a test of our level of compassion? Mahatma Gandhi said, “To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. The more helpless the creature, the more that it is entitled to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” I have found that the more closely I live by those words, the more beautiful my own existence becomes. By showing compassion, respect, and love for every being on earth, my life is fuller, my heart is warmer, and I see the world in a more intricate way. I am blessed by simply respecting and caring for all of those around me, even the tiniest and most insignificant seeming being. This world is full of beautiful life, and it is not necessary to for humans to kill in order to survive. So why kill at all?

    • bub January 21, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      Some folks love a good burger.

    • My Evil Twin January 24, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      Hey Johnny, do your part. Feed the mosquitoes!
      Actually I agree that wanton cruelty to creatures of any kind is wrong. However, I’ve got no problem with swatting a mosquito before it bites me. And I will be happy to dispatch any snake that has the temerity to come around my home. I won’t bother one in its natural habitat, but if it encroaches on mine, well, bye bye.

  • asparagus lover January 24, 2014 at 10:47 am

    I like asparagus

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