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.
- News Short: Rescued horse passes away
- St. George man arrested on multiple counts of animal cruelty
- Enoch horses rescued from near-death, improving; need for donations, support
- Wild turkeys doing well in Utah; spring hunting permits
- State, commercial leaders partner in ‘Hunting Works for Utah’
- New Harmony dog shooting sparks moral, legal debate on animal cruelty
- City launches inquiry into allegations of abuse at St. George Animal Shelter
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.
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