I killed an animal today. I struck it as swiftly and squarely as I could with a hammer. I wanted to do a better job than the last time I killed a rodent with a blunt instrument.
The last time it was a gopher. It had been injured by my pet dalmatian and it was now backed in a corner and looking to defend itself with its buck teeth and little claws. If I hadn’t intervened the dog would have continued torturing it to death, and it was already bleeding. So I took a pipe and whacked it as hard I could, but my strike was off center and I had to strike again. Its innards had bursted out, and the entire operation was far from clean.
This time, it was a mouse. My wife had laid a trap, and the little creature had managed to trigger it. Unfortunately, the trap had merely caught its little leg. It squeaked repeatedly, crying out in obvious pain, and when I took stock of the situation I worked quickly to search for something to put it out of its misery.
I reasoned in my head how even driving somewhere remote and releasing the mouse would likely prolong its suffering. Mice need to scurry to eat and survive, and this particular mouse’s scurrying days were over.
“Lord, please guide my hammer” I prayed silently and somberly. With one swift struck aimed squarely at the mouse’s head I brought my hammer down, leaving an impact crater in the dirt. My wife assured me the mouse was dead, and immediately so.
To some this might sound somehow farcical or simply cringe-worthy. But to me? It’s emotionally taxing. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” How sobering it is to act as executioner to one of God’s creatures.
“I have a blind cat,” I tell myself. Seems odd to be concerned about the health hazard a mouse poses to a cat, but given the situation I think my concern is legitimate. That’s not to mention the hazard it poses to my wife and myself.
We’re like Eldil, you and I. Like Lewis’ planetary angels, we have the power–and sometimes the obligation–to take the life of lower creatures. That’s the graver part of being this planet’s collective steward.
This experience reminds me of my convictions. I consider myself vegan, and I stand by that conviction. It’s not for “health reasons” and it’s also not out of some misguided understanding of animal rights–as though the life of a beast has just as much value as a human being. It simply does not.
We are not all created equal–not even amongst men. It’s simply a convenient legal fiction that we insist that all people are equal under the law. Under God they most certainly are not.
But if some people are dirtbags, how sacred is that dirt. Every human being is made in the image of God. We may one day shine like angels or scurry in the dark like devils, but for now we all have a massive potential deserving the greatest respect for each other. It’s a burden Lewis (him once again) described in the Weight of Glory. It’s a burden we all should consider when dealing with friend and foe alike.
So what about the beasts? They are not men. But they are not nothing. They are greater than the most sacred of groves or the most majestic of mountains. For in them is LIFE, mind, and heart. Their consciousness is unlike ours, one might say simpler, but it is consciousness nonetheless. It is the presence of subject in consideration of object. They are, in fact, our subjects. The only subjects perhaps we were ever intended to have.
I fear we walk this Earth too lightly. God made this world to inhabit it. Perhaps it’s time we started imitating Moses and take off our sandals, lest we run too quickly to our own destruction. For one day we will all be called to make an account. Of that, I’m sure.
I don’t believe God put the animal life here for our “use.” If we recoil at the thought of destroying a mountain on a whim, how much more so a forest, and how much more so than both the creatures that inhabit that forest.
There may be times where it becomes necessary. Do we destroy a bit of the scenery to make way for homes and roads? Perhaps. There are priorities. But they are priorities we should *very* thoughtfully consider.
I fear that the way animals are treated, irreverently tossed aside, torn apart and destroyed so that we can thoughtlessly consume another cheap meal we don’t need… it’s immoral. Dare I say, it’s blasphemy.
The greatest gift God ever gave was to sacrifice His son on our behalf. That was prefigured with the sacrifice of beasts. It should remind us that if we are symbols of God, then the beasts are symbols of ourselves.
This is why I have so much more respect for hunters than I do for the average self-described “carnivore” here in the US. Like the priests of Israel, they have seen what it means first hand to take life. They have shed blood themselves. They have watched the horror of death and appreciated the sacrifice.
Not all hunters, mind you. I’m sure there’s some irreverent bastards that hunt merely for sport and have objectified the creatures they kill just as much as any fat American exiting a McDonald’s. But can we say they’re really any *worse*? At least these folks aren’t duplicitous in their objectification. They have embraced it thoroughly and live consistently with the consequences of their actions–whether those consequences inspire reverence or not.
And now I return to the consequences of my own actions. I hope that mouse died swiftly and as painlessly as possible as my wife assured me. I hope that I never have to do it again.
Perhaps it’s just that I’m too lazy to live with such unpleasantness. But knowing this about myself, I can’t live with my conscience if I were to simply ignore it altogether, and let someone else do the unpleasant thing for me.
I would like to think if it became necessary for my survival, I would take the life of a beast to save my own. Considering the station to which I am called as an image-bearer of God, the equation would need to be balanced in this way. But it’s not always necessary, is it? I struggle with the necessity of killing pests who have invaded my home, let alone an intelligent beast miles away that poses no bother to me in the slightest. And if somehow I did find it necessary to kill such an animal like a cow or a pig, under the strange logic that consuming its all-too-often disease-ridden hormone-injected flesh after it is subject to the systematic cruelties of our day was somehow *good* for me… I would feel obliged to take the creature’s life myself. Anything less would be the height of hypocrisy.
I’m sure not everyone agrees with me, but this is how the facts of the matter strike me. And so, I suppose in closing, I say this to all my Christian friends who might invite me to dine on the flesh of beasts at the table of fellowship I would quote Sir Thomas Moore as depicted in A Man For All Seasons: “When we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me… for fellowship?”