Factory-Pig-FarmWho doesn’t love a good story involving adorable animals? Websites like The Dodo and The Fluffington Post thrive by giving folks their daily dose of cute creatures online. As a species, we humans are often fascinated with our planetary cohabitants and indeed many spiritual traditions honor them.

For a long time, we as a society have operated with a sort of disregard for the plight of animals. Animals are losing their habitats with deforestation or having their waters tainted with oil spills. The American food industry has some less than savory practices in the treatment of their “products”.

While we are happy to watch a video online of a cat riding a Roomba vacuum around while wearing a shark costume, I’m afraid we’ve short changed our furry friends when it comes to meaningful action.

The Universal Life Church, while comprised of members with diverse views, is itself an open organization believing that we are all children of the same universe, and though it might not be apparent from a casual interpretation, we mean that to include all creatures.

Instead of a broader discussion of animal ethics, we have three stories that put a face on how we affect individual animals. These have been making the rounds in emails and on social media lately. Let’s see the vast difference in the respect for life (or lack thereof) we see between them.

Three Stories

swan and dolphinMacedonia – A Bulgarian tourist visiting Lake Ohrid decided the local architecture just wasn’t enough to make for some wonderful photos of her trip. Onlookers report that she stepped into the surf and grabbed a swan by the wing. It promptly tried to get away but the persistent woman yanked and pinned it into submission in hopes of getting a selfie.

Not only does a picture of a person dragging around a swan against its will not make for a good selfie, but witnesses claim that after she walked away, the swan lay injured and motionless on the shore for some time. One man claimed that it later hobbled back into the water while other accounts claim that it was roughed up too much and died on the sand and rocks.

Argentina – In a beach resort town of Santa Teresita, a man spotted a baby dolphin swimming along in shallow water. He ran over and plucked it from its home. A crowd quickly swarmed, eager to touch it and pass it around.

While dolphins breathe air, they cannot stay out of the water for long. As the intelligent creature squirmed while suffering from dehydration, people pulled out their cameras and smiled for pictures. They set him down in the sand where he quickly died. It’s one thing to mean to kill an animal but to just be so selfish and oblivious that its life isn’t even a concern to you is something so horrific it sounds like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

While in any case this would be tragic, it’s heartbreaking when you know that the dolphin was an endangered type known as a La Plata dolphin.

Brazil – This last one is an example of someone doing the exact opposite of the selfish disregard seen in the previous stories. A retired bricklayer found a tiny penguin on the beach covered in oil and very near death. The man showed compassion and cleaned off the feathers and nursed him back to health with a daily diet of fish for about 11 dindim penguinmonths.

The penguin, named Dindim by his caretaker, then received his new coat of feathers and set to sea to live the life that was nearly taken from him by the oil spill. Animals are smarter than many of us give them credit for. Dindim has returned every year for the last five years to spend some months in the company of his rescuer.

He honks with delight when he first comes ashore and is reunited. While many people see the little guy and attempt to pet him or pick him up, Dindim reserves those privileges only for his human friend. “No one else is allowed to touch him. He pecks at them if they do. He lays on my lap, lets me give him showers, allows me to feed him sardines and to pick him up,” reported the elderly man.

Legal Protections for Animals

Many people see the value and intelligence of animals and seek to give protections to them from abusive behavior or bad business practices, much like Dindim’s rescuer. Even some regional governments have jumped in to stop harmful practices.

In 2015, the government of New Zealand codified recognition of the complex thoughts and emotions experienced by non-human animals in deeming them as sentient in the Animals Welfare Amendment Bill.

The bill lays out treatment conditions for animals under the guiding thought that when people interact with animals, care must be taken to “attempt properly to the welfare of those animals”. This includes places bans or heavy limitations on animal testing, wherein the burden of proof is on scientists to show why they cannot use non-sentient or non-living things in tests.

people-and-animalsThe year prior, India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests declared dolphins to be non-human persons, providing new protections for the intelligent creatures. The primary effect was to ban keeping dolphins in captivity for any reason, but specifically targeting public entertainment.

Similarly, public perception of Sea World in the United States has greatly shifted after the popular documentary Black Fish brought to light many concerns of abuse and animal distress. Laws have already been crafted restricting the ability of staff to swim in the small tanks with Orca Whales and park attendance has taken quite a hit.

Whether or not you believe humans to be a fundamentally superior type of creature, we should be good stewards of the wonderful gifts of life we have been given. We have more in common with them than anything else in the universe we have yet come across. Let’s focus less on ourselves (and our selfies) and take a global perspective; we’re in this together.


  1. Brother John says:

    Are we really God’s masterpiece? The epitome of Creation?

    In Genesis, the first humans are instructed to “be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

    Of the millions of animal species currently inhabiting the Earth, Homo sapiens sapiens have a number of traits, beliefs and actions that are unique amongst all of God’s creations. Read through the following and ask yourselves if this is how God wanted us to rule over and subdue his creation.

    Capture other species to keep in captivity as pets for personal amusement

    Operate zoos and rodeos that use captive species for entertainment and profit

    Breed other species in captivity for eventual slaughter and consumption

    Kill for sport, sometimes mounting the kill for display

    Harbour deep seated bigotry and hatred for members of their own species based on perceived religious or racial differences

    Directly cause the extinction of thousands of species every year

    Consciously destroy their own habitat and those of other species, often for profit

    Expend huge amounts of resources for technologically advanced war against members of their own species

    Build and maintain structures and organizations to worship hundreds of self created deities

    Sacrifice members of their own and other species to appease their deities

    Amass, hoard and defend resources at the expense of other species including their own

    Permanently change and damage the global environment

    Pollute their supply of life sustaining water

    Cultivate and maintain a culture of entitlement

    Genetically alter both plants and animals

    Threaten the extinction of all species by the development and use of nuclear energy and weapons

    Believe they are the epitome of creation

    This list could be longer. Are we really God’s masterpiece, or an out of control plague that is threatening the existence of life on Earth?

    1. Ron Forzani says:

      Thank you for your contribution…it is well thought out!

    2. Lyn Anton says:

      Thank you for that. We are the only species to breed incoherently. The animals of the earth breed to replace themselves and to account for the inevitable loss of some of their children. We breed wantonly, without regard of our ability to provide for our children. I fail to understand why, we as a species, do not demand of ourselves a responsibility to undertake proper and intelligent ethic for breeding. The abuse of many of our own children is appalling. To expect a respect for “lesser” of our earth mates is almost ridiculous. Yes. It is true what you say……………who are the true masterpieces?

    3. William Bogart says:

      Hello Brother, I am an animal lover and the cruelty of animals goes against every thing I believe. I am a theology student and I am a student of reformed theology. In scripture, in the book of Revelation, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ comes to earth riding on a horse. Therefore, all of God’s creation is under the care of humans. Praise God for the wisdom He imparts on us.
      Peace, Reverend Bill Bogart

  2. Brother John says:

    I’ve always loved animals and have donated much time and money to the local SPCA. Here are a few quotes I identify with…..

    “For millions of years, on average, one species became extinct every century.… We are now heaving more than a thousand different species of animals and plants off the planet every year.”
    ~ Douglas Adams (born:1952-03-11 died:2001-05-11 at age:49), author of Last Chance to See

    Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is — whether its victim is human or animal — we cannot expect things to be much better in this world… We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the progress of humanity.
    ~ Rachel Carson (born:1907-05-27 died:1964-04-14 at age:56)

    Takeover consists in diverting some fraction of the earth’s life-supporting capacity from supporting other kinds of life to supporting our kind. Our pre-Sapiens ancestors, with their simple stone tools and fire, took over for human use, organic materials that would otherwise have been consumed by insects, carnivores or bacteria. From about 10,000 years ago, our earliest horticulturalist ancestors began take over land upon which to grow crops for human consumption. That land would otherwise have supported trees, shrubs or wild grasses and all the animals dependent thereon — but fewer humans. As the expanding generations replaced each other, Homo sapiens took over more and more of the surface of this planet, essentially at the expense of its other inhabitants.
    ~ William R. Catton Jr. (born:1926-01-15 age:90), Overshoot 1980
    From the point of view of the other species on earth, we humans are as welcome as Viking invaders or pancreatic cancer.

    Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.
    ~ Charles Darwin (born:1809-02-12 died:1882-04-19 at age:73)

    Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.
    ~ Thomas Alva Edison (born:1847-02-11 died:1931-10-18 at age:84)

    Killing animals for sport, for pleasure, for adventure and for hides and furs is a phenomena which is at once disgusting and distressing. There is no justification in indulging in such acts of brutality.
    ~ Tenzin Gyatso (born:1935-07-06 age:80) the fourteenth Dalai Lama

    We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.
    ~ William Ralph Inge (born:1860-06-06 died:1954-02-26 at age:93) Outspoken Essays

    Out of 135 criminals, including robbers and rapists, 118 admitted that when they were children they burned, hanged and stabbed domestic animals.
    ~ Ogonyok Magazine 1979

    Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever. Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving and the rest he keeps for himself.
    ~ George Orwell (born:1903-06-25 died:1950-01-21 at age:46) Animal Farm

    The earth does not belong to us.
    We belong to the earth.
    ~ Chief Seattle (born:1786 died:1866-06-07 at age:79) 1834

  3. michael hagelberg says:

    How can we say we are compassionate toward animals and congratulate ourselves about saving dogs or cats or dolphins or penguins and then sit down to eat a chicken, a cow, a pig or any of the 10 Billion animals we torture and kill each year in this country?

    All animals are entitled to their lives and should be respected and protected from our “appetite” for their flesh.

    1. Debbie Anderson says:

      I absolutely agree. A vegan lifestyle is the only truly moral lifestyle.

  4. Steven Horowitz says:

    I’m with a friend and go to an Amish house for lunch. We are waiting and look outside and through the window I see the Amish man dragging a calf who is violently struggling to be free. I said are they going to put it in that car? His wife said no, they are going to butcher it now. I said that small cow? I said we can’t stay here when this is happening. As I’m leaving I see that he has wrestled it to the ground and an arab family is watching him kill and slaughter it and chop it up. These arabs have them slaughter baby lambs also. What the fuck are these people thinking?
    I have lost respect for this Amish man for him doing this and while I was there. He will surely be going to Amishuga Hell I hope. You had to see how that poor young cow struggled to be free.
    Don’t Eat Meat or participate in Animal Cruelty

    The Amishuga Society Right to All Life

  5. brianbalke says:

    While the first two stories are indeed distressing, I think that they also reveal the degree to which humans hunger for that which we are destroying. Many of us, coming into contact with the dignity of wild things, are compelled to try to hold them captive. Hopefully those that end up destroying that which they admire (as in the case of the baby dolphin) learn something from the experience.

  6. Sandy Hubert Rasmussen says:

    I have mixed emotions about all of this–I am a huge animal lover and have saved and adopted many fur babies through the years — not just dogs and cats but horses and bigger livestock too–
    I cannot stand the sight or even the thought of someone abusing or torturing a poor animal into submission– yet,humans are doing that to their own kind as well–
    The meat industry has gotten way out of hand!!
    They pump antibiotics and God knows what else– inside those animals to make them bigger and beefier– The workers that abuse the animals before slaughter send them right through so the consumer can eat them — yes, bruised and diseased meat!!
    Studies show that man does not have the proper enzymes to digest meat– it will lay in your system hours, if not days before it is digested in your stomach!
    Doctors even stress that cancer patients should stay away from redmeat,sometimes all meat, including seafood, given the toxicity of the water they live in– actually I don’t think that we are safe from eating much of anything– because even fruits and vegetables have pesticides applied to them to keep bugs off them–
    I was raised to be a meat and potatoes person, as I came from farm family– The animals were not tortured and abused beforehand, and my grandmother would say a prayer before she slaughtered them for food– my grandfather couldn’t do it– he was an emotional mess if he tried– he is the one that promoted my love and respect for all creatures ,Great and small–
    Every time I shop at the grocery store or go out to eat, I am constantly battling within whether I should buy meat or just have a salad– The latter usually wins–

  7. Michael Click says:

    There is a quote that states: “Nature red in tooth and claw” – Please note that a bear or a wolf or other carnivore will just as happily eat YOU in place of its normal prey if you can’t defend yourself. However, that being said, an animal only kills when it needs to. Whereas most humans kill (or have someone kill for them) when it is merely convenient or pleasant or appeals to their vanity

    Killing an animal to feed yourself and your family and making full use of the animal’s body I don’t see as being wrong. But the current use of fur or feathers to make some pampered human feel “special” is some kind of “sin” in the Creators eyes, I’m very sure.
    Killing of wild animals (mustangs) to make food for captive animals (pets) has got to be special case of barbarism.

    The present wave of high-blood pressure disease, cancers of various kinds, obesity run rampant etc.. I’m sure is due to, the over- consumption of animal products.

    A careful reading of the Bible will show that eating meat was NOT part of God’s original design. Man wasn’t given permission to eat meat until well after Noah’s Flood, and then only under extreme conditions!

    Western society’s wide-spread over consumption of meat is rapidly destroying the environment in many, many ways. We need to be caretakers of the Earth, not it’s exploiters!

  8. Brother John says:

    For those of you who haven’t watched “Cowspiracy” on Netflix it’s an incredible expose about the meat/dairy industry. The website is conspiracy.com Check out the “Facts” section and watch the documentary.

  9. Brother John says:

    Relating to my original post about human hubris and stupidity threatening all life on the planet, news about the continuing catastrophe at Fukashima has all but disappeared from the news (and most people’s minds). This is one of, if not the most serious threat to life on the planet (both animal and plant). The best news aggregator I’ve found focusing on this on-going disaster is enenews.com
    Be informed – Stay informed

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