A whole lot of harshness

Published May 16, 2024

By Lib Campbell

Much about this life we live is harsh. We live in a survival-of-the-fittest, dog-eat-dog world. The hawks and coyotes in the neighborhood carry off bunnies and squirrels and chipmunks. Natural predators survive by killing their prey. The big animals eat the little animals; the big fish eat the little fish. It is the way of the world.
Life on the farm or ranch teaches lessons of living and dying in hog-killing, the wringing of chicken necks, beef slaughter and so forth. Having seen some of this before it gets to my dinner table, I wonder why we are all not vegetarian.
In ancient Israel, the sacrifice of animals was a sacred act in the Temple. The lamb without blemish was brought to the altar and burned as a pleasing offering to God. Then the priests ate the roasted lambs. They said the blessing first. 
The cycle of life goes on regardless of the interjection of self-righteous pontification about protecting the littlest creatures among us. I am a carnivore. I am the beneficiary of the slaughter of cows, chickens and pigs. I turn a blind eye to the harshness of the slaughterhouse, pig parlor and chicken coop. I do say the blessing and am thankful for the farmers and ranchers who do this hard work. 
I remember last year’s Kentucky Derby. Twelve horses were euthanized during the preliminary races. Thoroughbred legs are thin, and horses are not built to use crutches. Alleviating misery is not animal cruelty; it is merciful. That said…
The stories of animal cruelty that I am seeing and reading about now lead to a whole other conversation about what is necessary, what is merciful, and what is just plain cruel. Take Kristi Noem, for instance. Please. The story of her leading her 14-month dog to a gravel pit and shooting her in the head is shocking, disgusting and sad. She killed a goat along with the dog. No differentiation in the two, evidently. 
A lot of dogs are not mature at 14 months; they are still puppies. Dogs have a natural tendency to chase critters. Our own dogs chase bunnies and chipmunks in the back yard. They have only caught one. Dogs have been domesticated for hundreds of years. They are trainable but need training and they require oversight. The problem of an untrained dog is the owner’s. Noem evidently could not provide that. Wonder how her children fare? 
Noem is not the only poster child for animal cruelty. The internet and television are full of dog and cat stories showing mistreatment and neglect of animals. Puppy mills overbreed dogs till the dogs are worn out and nearly dead by the time they are turned over to shelters. Puppies and kittens are often left in boxes or bags on the side of the road or chained in back yards with little food or water or hope.
We have friends who rescue dogs. Dogs come into shelters nearly dead, emaciated, wormy, mangy. And saints I know take these dogs into their homes to foster. They come sometimes for rehabilitation, sometimes for hospice care. One of the foster moms gives her pups names like Rambo, and Eli, and Tankini. She posts pictures showing their rehabilitation. She markets them for adoption wearing sombreros and cowboy hats. And she loves them into health and homes. She takes responsibility for people who evidently know nothing about responsibility.
We have a friend who is a breeder. She sees the problem of overbreeding and she takes in puppies who have nobody to take care of them. She takes in so many puppies! She feeds, loves, gets vet care and does what good humans do. She is a saint.
Years ago, I heard of a young person in my town who tortured and killed cats. He evidently found cats dispensable. And the very killing gave him delight. I think he was a sociopath.
I think there is a special place in hell for people who are cruel to animals, who abuse children, who beat wives. What on earth is wrong with us that we think cruelty is the answer to anything? 
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite www.avirtualchurch.com. She can be contacted at libcam05@gmail.com