by Barbara Baptiste
Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. Then isn’t it rather amazing for man to presume to rule the earth? From whence does this authority come? The human psyche, being a bully, or justification from the well-known Bible passage: Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)
Is this really what God (or whatever deity one would like to attach to a Creator) literally intended? I, for one, would not think that God had meant for man to have the right to persecute, impose suffering or indiscriminate murder. The use of the Genesis passage may be a well-worn excuse for man’s ego to do as he pleases, ignoring the balance of nature—but, it is not nice to mess with Mother Nature. We mere mortals will pay the price. Haven’t we already seen the fallout with the ecological system since the 19th and 20th century Industrial Revolution? The primary question may be, “From where has man received such blatantly irreverent and presumptuous authority?” Isn’t it time for changing our way of living before it is too late?
The aim and premise of this essay shall be to question the presence of possible fallacies—on which man has presumed justifiable authority—in order to impose suffering, prejudice, and the slaughtering of any species which he/she deems less than their own; thereby, having the reader become cognizant of the need for change.
I was born and raised in northern New Jersey, The Garden State. (Yes, I am a Jersey Girl!) Six years ago, I relocated to Paradise—euphemism, describing Florida, which I am still not entirely certain is an accurate accounting of the Sunshine State (a topic for another day). Having lived for years in a different world, there are many wonderful experiences I value, many people. One such person is the late Reverend Father Kenneth Moore, who ranks way up there on the list of special people I have had the privilege of knowing in my life. Father Ken was a brilliant man, theologian, and humanitarian. When I met Father Kenneth Moore, in the late 70’s, he was semi-retired and living at the rectory of the small parish to which I belonged; he still had a Chancery Office at the Archdiocese of Newark (NJ); served as chaplain for the New York Giants; and was fast friends with Vince Lombardi. Needless to say, this priest was extremely intelligent, educated, well-versed, interesting—a very kind and caring, down-to-earth gentleman, in the true sense of the word.
Though I had attended a Catholic High School, I was a little taken aback when Father Ken invited me to join the group for his Bible class. Interpreting/reading the Bible was not something done by traumatized, catholic school girls. (Not necessary, there was sufficient guilt instilled from years of attending Catechism Class.) Nevertheless, I respected the man enough to give it a whirl. As it turns out, this Bible Class was one of the best, most enlightening experiences of my life. It changed the way I viewed the world; not from a religious standpoint, per se, but from a realistic view of life. Therefore, when groups and/or individuals cite the Genesis passage for man’s justified right to rule over all the earth, I just shake my head in wonder, while silently (or sometimes not so silently) expressing, “I don’t think so!”
To help the reader have a better understanding of how different from today was the Word of God’s initial meaning, I would like to share one of the many enlightening lessons I had learned in this Bible class. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25). I used to angst over the absolute impossibility of accomplishing such a goal in order to enter the pearly gates. Pass through the eye of a needle? Not possible, at all. Literally taken, it would mean that, to have any financial means of consequence, one was doomed at the gate (no pun intended). Then, Father Ken, quite simply, explained and clarified the passage as it related to the times about which it was written. Back in the days of Nazareth, the “eye of a needle” was a narrow path that camels had a hard time passing through—difficult, yes, but certainly within the realm of possible. With that said, the literal words of the Bible, for me, were evermore viewed from a new perspective.
Personally, I believe that if the Good Lord did indeed create man to reign over all the creatures of the earth, He would not have intended for man to abuse the earth, the plants and animals—no, quite the contrary. Wouldn’t it be reasonable for the Genesis passage to have meant for man to be the caretaker, not wield the sword—same as parents rule over children, but do not have the right to cause harm? This Lord had given man, His “masterpiece,” many gifts with which to rule justly, compassionately, intelligently, and kindly. I certainly am not presuming to be privy to God’s intentions, but if one believes in the Ten Commandments (not the Ten Suggestions) and the basic instincts of nature, then there is no conceivable way “man’s reigning over all things on earth,” could possibly be interpreted to include running amuck with nature or cruelty towards any living thing on, below or above this earth.
Here is the kicker, the part left out by, supposedly, God-fearing men who quote the bible to justify animal factories, inflicting animal suffering, or just being carnivorous—the subsequent verse in the Creation, Genesis passage: And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” (Genesis 1:29-30)
Now, you cannot get much clearer than that. Whether we choose to be believers (of the Bible) or not, all human beings only have to look and listen to the cadence of nature to find a perfect rhythm, designed to sustain life.
Though it is not practical, if we take time from our helter-skelter lives, and open our eyes to the perfectly staged machinations of all surrounding nature, it will become quite evident that there is a connection, a thread which runs through every fiber of life on earth—a harmonious natural balance. “Literary conceit is that nature is opposed to culture,” Michael Pollen.
As well said by John Francis, We Walk the Earth, “We need to be activists,” but then that just might involve the C word—change. “Leave the place we’re in to get to the other place.” And, we know how much the human condition welcomes—even the thought of—change, not a favorite sport. It has been said that the definition of a fool is one who expects different results by continuing to do the same thing. Isn’t resisting change one of the primary causes of today’s endangered environment; a world perpetuated by—presumably, well-intentioned—fools? “We are the environment. How we treat each other is how we treat the environment” (John Francis). This is a very telling and profound statement.
Most people are appalled (and, rightfully so) at the Korean practice of selling dog meat as a big business. Yet, it is fine to do the same with cattle, fowl, etc? Where/how can the distinction be drawn? This is an example of man’s presumption of preordained dominance. Once again, is this prerogative a God-given right? If so, it seems a pretty weak case with which to justify fighting the obvious laws of nature. Isn’t it this same narrow mindset that allowed for slavery (of negroes) in our country, and the same arguments used today for Animal Factories? Negroes were/are less than whites, only ranking slightly higher than animals? For that matter, in many cultures, still today, women are considered less than men; therefore, expedient whenever inconvenient.
“The argument is that, despite obvious differences between human and nonhuman animals, we share a capacity to suffer, and this means that they, like us, have interests. If we ignore or discount their interests simply on the grounds that they are not members of our species, the logic of our position is similar to that of the most blatant racists or sexists—those who think that to be white, or male, is to be inherently superior in moral status, irrespective of other characteristics or qualities.” (John Francis)
Of course, not everyone who eats meat is a racist or would ever intentionally harm an innocent animal. More often, it is just a matter of the familiar—that to which we have become accustomed. I do not especially care for meat, it does not sit well with my fickle digestive tract—definitely nature’s way of letting me know, “This is not good for you.” However, I do love hot dogs, and, occasionally, a steak or chicken, never connecting the origin, Animal Factories. Are most people of the same thinking, rooted in—quite simply—ignorance? Perhaps that is the answer. Maybe it is not fallacies of Bible interpretation, or uncaring cruelty, or even financial gains (though that is a major issue). Is it possible to be just a matter of not accepting change, reprogramming our psyche to the unfamiliar? Only through education can change be affected, first with attitude and then behavior. After having researched and written this essay, I will certainly think twice!
If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is Nature’s way.
~ Aristotle ~