Other posts related to creation-care

Dominion’s Challenge

 | June 8, 2009 6:00 AM

Matthew Scully doesn’t challenge us to become vegetarians.  He doesn’t challenge us to become animal rights activists.  He simply challenges us to reconsider our everyday decisions about what we eat.

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to MercyPhilosophically, one can look at it this way.  Broadly speaking, for as long as people have engaged in moral thought, mankind has acted upon two fundamental beliefs: (a) It is morally permissible to raise and slaughter animals for our own consumption – a material good – because doing so is necessary for our survival and well-being – a moral good.  But this very claim of moral sanction attested to the belief that there was a sacrifice involved and that (b) even in livestock production we do have at least certain minimal obligations of kindness to animals – a moral good…

And the problem is just this simple.  The moral component of (a) is gone.  We have no valid claims of need anymore, only our claim to the material good of fare to which we are accustomed.  Meanwhile, in an … economy of six billion consumers … livestock animals simply cannot be raised under humane conditions.  We are left, then, with exactly one material good and one moral good, our pleasure weighed against our duty of compassion.  And these can no longer coexist.  One or the other must be abandoned…

Here’s a good question to ask yourself: Would you give up eating meat if you were persuaded that factory farming was cruel and unethical?  Hypothetically, in other words, how difficult and inconvenient would it be to act upon your own moral concerns?  Or indeed how socially embarrassing would it be, how troublesome to have to make a choice and explain and stay with it?  The next question would be whether it is, in fact, the absence of moral concerns that prevents the change, or the prospect of the difficulties and inconveniences.

Likewise, if you must have meat, regarding it as a right and necessary thing while viewing factory farming as a bad and unnecessary thing, do you … act on that distinction by buying only meats raised by humane standards?  And if not, why not?  Why is industrial farming wrong by your own standards, yet not a serious enough wrong to warrant a change in your own daily choices?  Think of the effect that this decision alone would have on modern agriculture, more millions of consumers making that one little effort every day to spare the creatures from needless misery.

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , pp. 315-317.

My personal response has been the following.

  1. To reduce meat consumption as much as possible.
  2. If I do eat meat to only eat humanely raised or wild meat.
  3. To not eat veal (I actually made this decision a long time ago) and to try to avoid pork and beef.
  4. When I do eat meat to choose fish or seafood.

The truth is that because of the much higher cost of humanely raised or wild meat I have to reduce my meat consumption.  Fortunately I like tofu. 🙂

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Factory Farms

 | June 6, 2009 6:00 AM

In the blog article, Compassionate Dominion and the Factory Farm Industry, Pastor Greg Boyd lists many of the unspeakable horrors of today’s factory farming which provides the meat for you, me and our children.  Matthew Scully however focuses on the pork factory farms.  Maybe he does this because pork factory farms are newer and modeled after the poultry industry’s farms.  Or maybe he did it because pigs are probably the smartest livestock.  Pigs have a keen sense of smell, are very clean contrary to popular belief, and are smarter than dogs which hold a much higher position in our society as witnessed by the outrage leveled at Michael Vick for his cruel dog fighting business.

Matthew Scully toured a pork factory farm and wrote down his observations in verbose detail.  Here is what he saw in the Gestation Barn.

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy“Baby” is lying there covered in feces and dried blood, yanking maniacally on chains that have torn her mouth raw, as foraging animals will do when caged and denied straw or other roughage to chew…

To lie on their sides, a powerful inclination during months of confinement in twenty-two inches of space, they try to put their legs through the bars into a neighboring crate.  Fragile from the pigs’ abnormally large weight, and from rarely standing or walking, and then only on concrete, their legs get crushed and broken…

NPD 40-602 appears to have a tumor as well, I tell Gay.

“That’s just a pus pocket…”

How are they treated?

“Kopertox,” says Gay…  A topical fluid that forms a hard coating over the wound, but made of copper naphthenate and dangerous if licked by another pig or absorbed into the flesh and ingested by a human, Kopertox carries the warning: “Do not use on animals which are used for food production…”

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , p. 267.

It doesn’t get better in the Farrowing Barn.

… the sows must remain in confinement before, while, and after they give birth, barred even from caring for the piglets emerging from their bruised bodies…

the piglets are deposited from the womb, slipping out one by one onto concrete and with great labor crawling back to suckle from their immobilized mothers, who can hardly trun to see them.  This is for their own good because, if the mothers could move about, they would only crush their young.

… piglets seven to ten days before weaning, compared with the thirteen to seventeen weeks that nature had planned… the little ones will be swept away.  Up one chute, down another, pouring into the Nursery Barn for an orientation of vaccinations, ear notching, teeth cutting, tail docking, and, for the males, castration… without the use of a local anesthetic.  On a shelf in the Nursery there is only a bottle of good ol’ Kopertox.

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , pp. 276-277.

What is interesting is that when you get to the slaughter house the ones who seem to pay the greatest price are the workers!

The electrocutors, stabbers, and carvers who work on the floor wear earplugs to muffle the screaming.  What it’s like for them we may gather from the 100 percent turnover rate every year…  “You hear people say, ‘They don’t kill pigs in the plant, they kill people.’”

At 16,000 kills per eight-hour shift …, 2,000 per hour, and 33 every minute, all of this done by transient, unskilled laborers, there are mistakes.

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , p. 282.

Factory farms are modern and efficient but because they maximize throughput there is a high cost.

“Because if you’re killing 16,000 hogs a shift, those guys aren’t going to stun all them hogs all the time.  Some hogs come out kicking and raising hell…  Running across the table or floor isn’t a good sign neither.”

”You get a stubborn hog that doesn’t want to go, employees can get to beating that hog all they want to.  They use a shackle, a pie, anything they can get their hands on.”

Often, we learn, they still can’t be killed because they’re still moving and flailing.  So they are dropped alive into the scalding tank…

… Ramon Moreno, whose job is to cut off the hooves of strung-up cattle passing by at 309 at hour.  When they reach him, they are supposed to be stunned and killed already, but often they’re not, as Mr. Moreno tells it.  “They blink.  They make noises.  The head moves, the eyes are open and still looking around.  They die piece by piece.”

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , pp. 283-284.

All of this for cheap, lean, uniform, consistent meat.

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The Shooting Field

 | June 5, 2009 6:00 AM

Monty Hunting 2009-05-12

Hunting is not really an endeavor most people participate in.  Obviously we no longer need to hunt for food so it is now just for pleasure.  Some people think of it as a masculine, courageous sport though with today’s technology it’s hardly a fair fight.

The Safari Club International, not to be confused with the Sierra Club, exists to promote hunting and is becoming increasingly defensive as it realizes its cherished hobby is in danger of extinction.  They market the sport, lobby for hunting grounds to be opened all over the world, and fight against any animal rights legislation.  They try to portray themselves as “promoting global wildlife conservation” to somehow legitimize their existence and their sport.

A recent modern day development is canned hunting where wildlife is harvested to be killed within confined grounds.  This makes it convenient for weekend hunters to hunt lions, tigers, etc. here within the United States.

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to MercyThis is what sport hunting looks like in modern America.  Your typical trophy hunter today is hunting captive animals, and for all the skill and manhood it requires might as well do his stalking in a zoo.  Indeed, many of the “exotic livestock,” as they’re now termed in the industry, actually came from zoos…  It is legal, and not all that rare, for even our larger zoos to sell off their older or sick animals to hunting concessions – the reward for a lifetime in one cage to be transported to another cage, released, and, as in the case of one aging tiger caught on film by ABC’s Primetime Live, executed on the spot for the trophy.  The San Jose Mercury News, in a two-year investigation, found that “of the 19,361 mammals that left the nation’s accredited zoos from 1992 through mid-1998, 7,420 – or 38 percent – went to dealers, auctions, hunting ranches, unidentified individuals or unaccredited zoos or game farms.

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , pp. 63-64.

I have always felt ambivalent at best about zoos except for the Toronto and San Diego Zoos.  I thought of the leopard, jaguar, and snow leopard caged in Stone Zoo, which we used to visited a few times when we lived in Boston, and how they might be sold in a few years to be hunted down for sport.

Elephants seem to be the prime target of the Safari Club because it recognizes that the elephant (and the whale) are symbols of the animal rights movement.  This is even more tragic considering how social and almost human-like elephants are.

Below a Safari Club hunter talks about what it is like to kill elephants.  As I read his words I thought of the parallel between killing whole elephant families as like judgment in the Old Testament, as though we’re God.

“Elephants are like us,” he answers. “They live to be eighty and they are sexually mature at, what, eighteen or twenty. When you kill them, like when they have to cull the herds from helicopters, it’s terrible because you can’t just kill some individuals. You have to kill them all. Men just cry like babies. I have been there.”

You have to kill them all because we have lately discovered the intricate family relationships at work in the herd. The calves, without their mothers’ care, will become rampaging, social juveniles, and so they, too, must go.

“Elephants, are very sociable animals – when you kill the adults the younger ones become dysfunctional. Africa is full of wild, dysfunctional elephants…  Where I am in Namibia, we have a road that divides the hunting area from the protected area.  The water is in the hunting area.  And i see the elephants come into the area, rushing, to get a drink.  And then they rush back.  And when they’re across theroad you can see them relax.  You can see the relief.  They know.”

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , p. 87.

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Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

In those pre-Fall days, after all, animals were off the Garden menu:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.  Genesis 1:28

In the very next breath man is told to keep his mitts off the critters (and vice versa) and be content with the herbs and the fruit of the trees:

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.  Genesis 1:29

If any passage in Scripture lends credibility to the writers, it is this, for of course they were not themselves vegetarians.  The alternative vision must simply have seemed inconceivable – a world in which it actually pleased our Maker to see His creatures stalking and slaying and absorbing one another.  The Catholic “meatless Friday” … came to us … from this same idea of predation as a consequence of the Fall and corruption of the world, as does the “grace” before meals.  Indeed there was a time when Christians fasted from animal products throughout all forty days of Lent…

The next step seems obvious to me.  If sanctity is the goal, and the flesh-eating a mark of the Fall, the one is to be sought and the other to be avoided.  Why just say grace when you can show it?  …. I am betting that in the Book of Life “He had mercy on the creatures” is going to count for more than “He ate well.”

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , pp. 44-45.

Mr. Scully, like Mr. Webb in On God and Dogs, argues that vegetarianism is an ideal that Christians should seek.  And I think that slowly Christians are starting to listen.

Pastor Greg Boyd, senior pastor of the evangelical megachurch, Woodland Hills Church, blogged a year ago about the five reasons he became a vegetarian.

  1. God Told Me To
  2. Increasing the Capacity to Love
  3. Seeing the Sacred Beauty in All Living Things
  4. The First Fruits of the Coming Non-Violent (and thus, non-carnivorous) Creation
  5. Compassionate Dominion and the Factory Farm Industry

Of the five of these, increasing the capacity to love appealed to me the most.  It might have been coincidental but I remember that at the moment I made a decision to reduce my consumption of meat I found myself forgiving certain people that up to that point I could not completely forgive.  Greg Boyd mirrors this experience in his own life.

Almost immediately after making this pledge I began to understand why the Lord had wanted me to make it. Scripture says a little yeast leavens all the dough (1 Cor 5:6). Well, I discovered that the little yeast of my willingness to engage in violence towards animals and other creatures for self-serving reasons (e.g. appetite, convenience) was polluting my heart and to some degree compromising my capacity to love. It felt like – and still feels like – my commitment to total non-violence has had, and is yet having, a purifying effect on my heart.

Along the same lines, my commitment to purge violence completely from my life has increased my sensitivity to the ugliness of violence, both in my own heart and in the world…  I have found that my commitment to non-violence has helped me wake up to all of the violence I have in my thoughts and speech, which in turn has helped me get free from this ugly violence. And this, in turn, has deepened my capacity for love.

Five years ago I never dreamed there was a connection between eating meat, anger in the heart and my ability to love. But for me at least, there definitely was. A little yeast leavens all the dough.

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No Fur. No Meat?

 | June 3, 2009 6:00 AM

In our generation it is quite uncommon to see anyone wearing fur.  Most people recognize we don’t need fur and that killing animals just for their fur seems cruel.  This is a generational change because in my parents’ generation such concern generally does not exist.

This kind of logic can now be further extended to meat.

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to MercyIt was the use of livestock that first freed us from the chase, allowed man to settle and civilize himself…  Meat and dairy products undeniably furnished a wide array of protein sources, like the soybean today…  For ages people needed furs to survive in the severe elements we faced.

When substitute products are found, with each creature in turn, responsible dominion calls for a reprieve…  What were once “necessary evils” become just evils.  Laws protecting animals from mistreatment, abuse, and exploitation are not a moral luxury or sentimental afterthought to be shrugged off…

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , pp. 42-43.

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How Many Should We Kill?

 | June 2, 2009 6:00 AM

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to MercyIt began with one pig at a British slaughterhouse.  Somewhere along the production line it was observed that the animal had blisters in his mouth and was salivating. The worst suspicions were confirmed, and within days borders had been sealed and a course of action determined. Soon all of England and the world watched as hundreds, and then hundreds of thousands of pigs, cows, sheep and their newborn lambs were taken outdoors, shot, thrown into burning pyres, and bulldozed into muddy graves. Reports described terrified cattle being chased by sharpshooters, clambering over one another to escape.  Some were still stirring and blinking a day after being shot.  The plague meanwhile slipped into mainland Europe, where the same ritual followed until, when it was all over, more than ten million animals had been disposed of.  Completing the story with the requisite happy ending was a calf heard calling from underneath the body of her mother in a mound of carcasses to be set aflame.  Christened “Phoenix” … the calf was spared.

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , p. ix.

Ten million animals killed.  And it was completely needless.

Foot-and-mouth disease is a form of flu, treatable by proper veterinary care, preventable by vaccination, lethal neither to humans nor animals.  These animals, millions of them not even infected, were all killed only because their market value had been diminished and because trade policies required it – because, in short, under the circumstances it was the quick and convenient thing to do.

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy pp. ix-x.

As they say history repeats.  In April and May 2009, Egypt slaughtered all of its pigs, about 300,000, because of their fear of the H1N1 flu despite the fact that not a single case had been reported.  The World Health Organization said there was no scientific basis and that “it is entirely unnecessary because the illness is being spread through humans.”

A leading animal rights group criticized Egypt on Monday for using “shocking and cruel” methods to slaughter the country’s pigs over swine flu fears, responding to a YouTube video that showed men skewering squealing piglets with large kitchen knives and hitting others with crowbars.

Egypt criticized for ‘inhumane’ killing of pigs

(I looked on YouTube myself but was unable to find the mentioned video.  I found an AFP news account about the world outrage and the video it cited about the cruel slaughter.)

And finally, as is typically the case with any animal and/or environmental abuse, there is a human cost.  In this case it is the loss of most of their income for the tens of thousands of Coptic Christians.

In both of these cases there was world wide outrage.  But what’s both sad and hypocritical is that this kind of cruelty happens everyday in our factory farms where we get the meat that we eat everyday, in our scientific laboratories, in our oceans, zoos, parks, etc.

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Dominion

 | June 1, 2009 2:31 PM

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to MercyIn fact, let us just call things what they are.  When a man’s love of finery clouds his moral judgment, that is vanity.  When he lets a demanding palate make his moral choices, that is gluttony.  When he ascribes the divine will to his own whims, that is pride.  And when he gets angry at being reminded of animal suffering that his own daily choices might help avoid, that is moral cowardice.

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , p. 121.

This paragraph I think sums up the book Dominion for me.  As a society we have created systems, the most egregious being the factory farms, which cause unspeakable abuse of animals yet are designed so that we never have to know about any of these abuses.  Matthew Scully’s book brings to light the myriad ways we cruelly exploit God’s creation for profit and/or pleasure.

Though not a Christian book, this book gets it title from Genesis 1:26.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have 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.

God gave man dominion over the earth and Scully argues, convincingly in my opinion, that man has abused this privilege almost beyond redemption.

I first learned about this book in 2003 after reading a review of Dominion in Christianity Today.  Afterwards I endeavored to only purchase meat that was humanely raised.  But over time my concern for the bottom line became stronger than my concern for animals so I slowly stopped doing this and tried to justify it in many ways.

However I never forgot the image on the cover of Dominion.  And recently I became convicted again to reassess the moral implications of what I eat.  So I requested Dominion from the library and read it cover to cover.  You can read much of Dominion for free online.

I will be writing a few more posts about different things I learned from Dominion.  I hope you will enjoy them and/or find them thought provoking. Thanks to my vegetarian friends for inspiring me.

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On God and Dogs

 | May 24, 2009 9:52 PM

on-god-and-dogs

Recently I was inspired by Pastor John March and his post Animals: Another Other to Love (Or, Why I’m a Vegetarian) to read the book On God and Dogs: A Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals.

Halfway through Chapter One I realized Pastor March is much smarter than me and that this book is far too academic for me.  However just in that short amount of reading I felt I had learned quite a bit.

Stephen Webb’s audience for this book is those that are interested in animal rights and those who study Christian theology.  These “two different audiences … ordinarily do not read the same books.”  I happen to be a Christian who is not too interested in theology but is becomingly interested in animal rights and how they affect my everyday decisions.

It is obvious that Mr. Webb’s love for animals originated with the special relationship he had with his pet dog as a boy.  The moving story of his elderly arthritic dog painfully climbing up two flights of stairs to comfort a sick boy caused me to reflect about whether we should get a family dog.  We have had three dogs and for various reasons gave them up which reflects on what poor dog owners we were.

Mr. Webb is a vegetarian which seems to be typical for people who care about animal rights.  The trend of vegetarianism seems to be growing, even within Christian circles.  This is a trend I can no longer ignore even if I do enjoy so much the taste of meat.

Mr. Webb’s book’s goal seems to be to explore the relationship between people and their pets and to expand that.  However I did not really get very far in that exploration but instead read the beginnings of understanding how God cares for not just humans but all of his creation.

The Genesis account of creation provocatively portrays a vegetarian world (“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”  Genesis 1:29) in which the humans exercise authority over the animals but do not use or kill them.  Indeed, land animals are made on the same day as humans, showing their similarity to humanity, but they are also made before humans and pronounced good independently of humans, showing that they too are created out of love…  The use of the phrase “all flesh” in Genesis joins together the human and the animal in a basic kinship of creatureliness under the shared providence of a merciful God (Genesis 6:12, 13, Genesis 9:11, 17).

Meat eating is later permitted but Mr. Webb argues it was far from the ideal.

In Deuteronomy 12:20 God seems to allow meat eating due to the uncontrollable cravings of the Israelites…  When Deuteronomy 8:7-10 describes the ideal land and diet for the Hebrews … meat is excluded (also see similar descriptions in Jeremiah 29:5; Amos 9:14; and Hosea 2:22).

I don’t think any of the above verses are particularly persuasive for arguing that vegetarianism is Biblical but no one could disagree that until after the flood God did not permit meat eating which seems to point to a vegetarian diet being at least Edenic.

Eating and animals are thus more than symbols; food becomes part of the daily struggle of obeying God.  The Book of Daniel … Daniels and his friends … ate only vegetables, and at “the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” Daniel 1:15.

Mr. Webb goes through the Bible pointing out various places where the rights of an animal and creation itself were to be considered.  The most interesting to me was Hosea 4:1-3 which pictures a time of immorality evidenced by the land mourning.  The “beast of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.”  This sounds remarkably like current times.  Many of the other verses Mr. Webb highlights I think are not necessarily as much about animal rights as about being practical, for example including animals in the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10).

Interestingly Mr. Webb says Jesus was often described as “a lover of animals.”

… Jesus declares his Father’s love for the sparrows (Luke 12:6, Matthew 10:29), portrays God as a feeder of birds (Luke 12:24; Matthew 6:26), and compares himself to a hen gathering together her brood under her wings (Matthew 23:37) ….

However Mr. Webb would not say the same thing about Paul.

Most Christians follow Paul in showing little concern for the world of animals, although with Paul, too, the evidence is ambiguous…  Paul established the very influential idea for Christianity that vegetarianism must be a form of superstition and that Christian freedom must mean the complete secularization (and thus indifference) of food preparation and consumption (see, for examples from the Pauline tradition, 1 Timothy 4:4 and Colossians 2:16-17)…  Paul’s influence continues today, when many North Americans look at the mass production of animal flesh in factory fams as one of the chief signs of our country’s freedom, prosperity, and equality.

Mr. Webb concludes that the Bible is favorable to animal issues and compares it to how the Bible implicitly opposes slavery.

Clearly, it is possible to interpret the Bible (especially the Hebrew scriptures) favorably on the issue of animals but not without a struggle with the dominant theological tradition.  After all, animals are used, eaten, and traded in the Bible, and humans are clearly the main focus of the biblical narratives…  Gary Comstock has stated: “I have come to interpret the Bible’s views on the killing of animals in the way I interpret its views on the owning of slaves.  Even though each practice is implicitly, if not explicitly condoned, the practice is still shown to be wrong by the larger story of salvation in Jesus Christ…”  Jonah 4:11 is a most revealing scripture.  Here God reprimands the recalcitrant Jonah, saying, “Should I not be concerned about Ninevah,” a great city with thousands of people and “also many animals?”

Mr. Webb then talks about the Christian tradition and how some “equated gluttony and flesh eating.”  There were vegetarians like St. Benedict, James, the brother of Jesus (according to some traditions), John Wesley, etc.  But most of the time these Christians and their groups were considered on the fringe or even heretical.

At this point I stopped reading the book and picked up Dominion which was much easier to read.  I appreciate though what I learned from Mr. Webb within the first thirty-seven pages of his book.

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