Reflections on Respect for Animals

ant

Sorry, it has been a long time since I’ve done this, but I had to address something that was bugging (no pun intended) me since the afternoon. I hope you all can get a chance to read this and reflect upon it. If there are any errors, please let me know and forgive me. I tried to write this without bias, but I know this is impossible, so forgive me.

There was a fly spiraling upwards. I noticed it buzzing around, while I was sitting down. I pushed it gently to the side and later it buzzed away from me.

Later, I was talking with a friend and I noticed this person smack hands together. I asked the person why they did that and the person responded that it was a fly. The person rolled their eyes and said, “please!” I told the person I was serious and was trying to explain why it was wrong. The person said it was just an animal and I explained we were animals. However, the person didn’t agree with this. The person became frustrated and shot, “It’s JUST a fly,” and that caught my attention.

The statement was so ignorant and careless. I went on and explained that we should respect all living things and we shouldn’t kill things just because. The person answered back, “if that is the case, why don’t you stop eating meat,” which is a good point. However, although I will admit that it is a good point, I will argue that the two scenarios are different, which I will explain below.

Firstly, I believe that those who are vegetarians are spiritually stronger people than me. I can admit this. However, killing for food and killing “just because (in this case, a nuisance)” are two separate matters. After all, humans are omnivores and, as such, we are programmed to eat meat and non-meat. Therefore, killing for food is a matter of nourishment and shouldn’t be compared with killing “just because”.

Secondly, when we eat food religion (I bring this up, because religion was brought in to this) teaches that we should be conscious of our food. We do this by blessing our food – either by making it halal, kosher, or saying grace. Why? We do this to reflect upon God who has sacrificed this animal for our benefit – our nourishment. It teaches us to be aware of where our food comes from. It teaches us to be cognizant that an animal died for our nourishment. Ultimately, we are taking the life of a living organism with the permission of God. Therefore, respect should be paid for the animal that becomes our food.

butterfly

I hope this illustrates the difference between the killing of animals for food and “just because.” On the matter of it being, “just an animal,” is also a horrible answer. I questioned, “aren’t human animals, as well?” and the person answered apathetically, “NO!” for spiritual reasons.

Scientifically, human are part animals. After all, we are part of the animal kingdom. Nevertheless, I can understand that, in religion, we are considered to be above animals. Many people will argue this and I can see the logic. However, this does not give permission for us to kill animals, “just because.” This logic explicitly says it is alright for one to kill or mis-treat another because one is perceived to be “dominant” over the other. This idea, which is inherent in many, shows no humility or respect for life – and if one has no respect for the smallest or weakest of things then how can one have respect for humans – or even God!

On the contrary, our dominion over the animals give us more responsibilities to handle and treat animals with care and respect. To say otherwise is repulsive and disgusting. Even animals, don’t have this logic of killing just because – rather, they do it for their own nourishment or fear. Both of these reasons, are reasonable. Ultimately, a human that kills an animal intentionally “just because” is worse than an animal itself because animals don’t have use this logic. “If” we are better than animals than we need to show that we are better by treating them with respect and awareness.

dog

Nevertheless, lets see what religion has to say on this matter for those that are still not convinced. From what I have been taught animals are to be respected. This can be related by the prophet (PBUH);

Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, God will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.

Sunnan An Nasai

There are many hadiths similar to this, for example;

A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being

and also in the Holy Qur’an;

Seest thou not that it is Allah whose praises are celebrated by all beings in the heavens and on earth, and by the birds with extended wings? Each one knows its prayer and psalm, and Allah is aware of what they do. Yea, to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth; and to Allah is the final goal (of all).

Quran 24:41-42

However, this isn’t just in the Holy Qur’an, but also in the Old Testament;

For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; the same thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man has no advantage over a beast: for all is vanity

Ecclesiastes 3:19

I don’t mean to make it a religious argument, but I desperately hope to show that it is a serious matter when it comes to religion.

deer

Lastly; although I can go on, killing animals “just because” is not just a spiritual dilemma. It has affects that are visible in our daily lives. For example;

The killing of wolves in Yellowstone led to the overpopulation of elk. This as a result led to more elk grazing for food by eating berries and shrubs. More elk grazing meant more berries and shrubs were eaten. Consequently, this meant less food for birds, bears, and beavers. [paraphrased]. 

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/26/endangered-species-carnivores-extinction

Animals play a big role in ecosystems. The loss of one species can have huge repercussion within an ecosystem and consequently other organisms that are part of the ecosystem – which includes humans.

This is also visible within the human itself. Aside, from the spiritual decay that results from killing “just because” it can also cause physical decay. The logic is this: Those who don’t have sympathy for the killing of an animal will have no sympathy while eating. As a result, one eats based on satisfaction and not nourishment. Therefore, the person doesn’t stop eating until one is satisfied and therefore eat more to satisfy this desire. This ultimately leads to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, cancer, and so forth.

It is imperative that we, at least, have respect for animals. Otherwise, if we don’t, there can be serious and unfortunate repercussions. Unfortunately, these consequences go beyond the self, albeit important, but also to entire ecosystem, the planet, and our humanity.

humanity

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