St. Francis Day, a.k.a. World Animal Day, is celebrated by many churches in October. On Capitol Hill in 2007, Christopher Shays – who was then co-Chair of the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus – spoke of the need for the faith-based community to play its part in the work of animal protection. These are his remarks.
By Christopher Shays
Native Americans had an incredible appreciation of the world we live in. They would name beautiful lakes in ways that expressed the true value of the lake. They might call a beautiful lake The Smile of the Great Spirit. But they understood our connection with the rest of God’s creation. We would do well to think like Native Americans.
I grew up with a tri-color Collie named Mac. When I was in fourth grade, we moved about three miles away and this confused Mac and he would go back to the house that he lived in. We lost him and we learned that the owner threw rocks at him to get him to move and not stay at the house that he had always stayed at. We lost him, and for a number of years I didn’t have a pet.
When I was in fifth grade, my parents moved again. They were gone on Christmas Eve day, and on Christmas Eve night they came in and I was with my three older brothers. They came into the garage and they called out to me, and I opened the garage door and they were carrying this beautiful precious Collie pup, whom we named Lance. That night I slept on the kitchen floor with him right next to me.
The way a society treats its animals speaks to the core values and priorities of its citizens. We as a society have betrayed those core values of compassion, mercy and decency. We have reduced those living, feeling, sentient beings – God’s creatures – to meager units of economic production. And in the process, we have not only brutalized the animals but also degraded the workers in those industries and degraded ourselves.
Matthew Scully, former speech writer to George W. Bush, has written that “The persistent animal welfare questions of our day center on institutional cruelties on the vast and systematic mistreatment of animals that most of us never see.” If the general public knew, truly knew, how animals are treated particularly those on factory farms, they would be outraged. And their outrage under the proper leadership could be transformed into real reform.
Those of us who make up the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus are seeking to address many of these issues through the legislative process. You, the faith based community, are crucial to this effort, as you have been in all social justice movements throughout our history.
You can bring the message to your congregations and by doing so lead and transform the core spiritual values of kindness, compassion and mercy into effective legislation and ultimately respectful, responsible stewardship of God’s creatures.