“God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Have many children. Fill the earth with your people. 2 Every animal on earth, every bird in the air, every animal that crawls on the ground, and every fish in the sea will be afraid of you. All of them will be under your control. 3 In the past, I gave you the green plants to eat. Now every animal will also be food for you. I give you everything on earth—it is yours.'” (Genesis 9: 1 – 3). This is the covenant God made with mankind near the beginning of civilization. Even if you are not a person of faith, this tenet has been at the root of mankind’s physical and cultural development from the beginning. Yet, individuals and organizations are now questioning this concept as a way of advancing their social and political agendas. Radical activist groups like HSUS and PETA are actively promoting to churches a theology that equates people and animals as equals. This ideology does not allow for the eating of animals or the domestication of animals. The growing number of adherents to this religion do not believe that livestock agriculture has the right to exist.
Going beyond just simple vegetarianism, this ideology is a rejection of the morality of raising and eating animals. This is not a lifestyle choice, but rather an issue of morality. It is a worldview that sees humans and animals as the same and ascribes human attributes such as personality, self awareness, and even a soul to animals. One video posted on an anti-animal agriculture web site asserts that animals are capable of “praising God” and that livestock agriculture denies them the ability to praise God. This kind of proselytizing is a core element of the strategic plan of some of the nation’s largest and richest animal activist organizations.
Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, a theologian, ethics expert, and popular author, said activists will use and misuse religion to advance their cause. Speaking recently at the Midwest Pork Conference, he challenged livestock producers to address this threat and to “take the moral high ground” in this battle for survival. He said the livestock industry has not mounted an appropriate response to the accusation that livestock agriculture is not morally justifiable. He asserted this is especially unfortunate since there is scriptural, historical, and theological support for the raising of animals for food. He said PETA’s claim that Jesus was a vegetarian is laughable in light of dozens of scripture passages showing Him serving and eating meat.
Kloosterman suggested that the livestock industry focus more on the concept of animal husbandry rather than productivity. He suggested we replace the phrase “pork producer” with “animal steward.” While not likely to catch on, it does make a point: livestock farmers do more to care for animals that anyone else. The concept of mercy is a powerful one in our society today; and the technology we use to raise and process animals today is very merciful, something we have not stressed to consumers. This is one of the reasons the pork industry has lost the sow housing issue; since, from the beginning, we did not position gestation stalls as being more “humane” or “merciful” than letting sows farrow in an open field in January.
Kloosterman stepped on a few political toes when he suggested the livestock industry focus less on advocacy and more on customer service, “Customer service is not a self-oriented preoccupation, it focuses on the end user.” He suggested that feeding the world is a noble and morally desirably vocation. This is a mindset he suggested producers adopt.
Proverbs 12: 10 says, “Good people take good care of their animals, but the wicked know only how to be cruel.” This is the kind of message producers need to share with consumers. Most livestock farmers are good, but we must be vigilant and visible in rooting out those in the industry who are not. We must claim the morality of livestock production and communicate it to those outside agriculture, both inside and outside of our churches.
By Gary Truitt