Saturday, November 01, 2008

on the farm

I am jumping on the blogger bandwagon and posting about a controversial subject.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at home sick & I watched Oprah. Now, I love Oprah’s show…sometimes. When she has cool guests on the show, or when Nate is on there talking about decorating, or even when Suze is on there talking about finances, I’m all about it. However, I’m not really interested in the shows that display a political agenda; they tend to bore me. So, I was hesitant to watch the special that Lisa Ling did on the treatment of animals on farms. {BTW, if any of you went to public school in Montgomery, did you get Channel 1 at school when Lisa Ling was on? That’s right, I knew ole Lisa before she was all Oprah famous! I digress…} The reason for this story on the show was in response to a proposition that the state of California would vote on, but I'm discussing it for a different reason.

Lisa Ling did a report on the conditions that animals are raised in on farms. Chickens, pigs, cows…they are raised in what is basically a huge barn with cages in it for each animal. Some of the “cages” were so small that the animal cannot even turn around in it. I’m sure a lot of you have seen or heard about these situations, so I won’t bore you with the details. Anyway, Lisa also visited a couple of organic farms, where the animals are raised free range. She spoke with a farmer who raised chickens, where the chickens could roam around the land as they please.

Obviously there is a stark difference between regular farms and free range farms. And obviously I would love for all of our food to come from the free range organic farms. Here is my problem: 1) there are not enough animals raised on these free range farms to provide for all Americans. We eat a lot. More food comes from the regular farms. 2) Organic food sure does cost a lot more. I love the idea of it, and in an ideal world we would all eat organic. But seriously, Chef Boyardee and Hamburger Helper is SO much cheaper.

I'm not saying I prefer that we raise animals in these regular farms, where they cannot live in a "natural" environment. But here's a question: do they know the difference? Are the animals on the free range farm "happier"? Are animals ever "happy"? Do they even experience emotions? I'm not so sure about that. When I say my dog is "happy" because he is wagging his tail, is he actually feeling an emotion, or is he just acting on some reflex that he has no control over?

Wednesday night in ladies' bible class at church, we discussed "Lies Women Believe About Emotions". Phoebe Dunn taught the class, and she made an observation about emotions that I'd never thought of before: Emotions are what "connect" us to God. Think about it. Think about a time when you felt really close to God. You were probably emotional in some way - overjoyed, humbled, or perhaps discovering a new revelation. Anyway, so if emotions connect us to God, by way of our souls, why would animals have emotions? Animals don't have souls. {Ok, that might be a whole different topic of discussion right there.} Animals don't fall in love, or cry, or celebrate when a baby is born. Granted, they do have actions that can be perceived as these feelings, but I think perhaps those actions are simply reactions that come naturally. So do animals have emotions? I'm not sure, but I tend to think not.

My point is this: we don't know for sure what those animals on the farms are thinking. I'm not so sure they are "thinking" at all. No, it is not nice to mistreat animals. But I don't think the best argument against animal cruelty is "that pig is unhappy". I think the best argument against animal cruelty is that we should treat God's creation with the respect it deserves, just like we wouldn't litter or pollute (oh wait...we do those things too...).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to eat some eggs that were produced by chickens in crowded cages that hold 5-7 birds each, where they poop all over each other and don't even get to go outside.


  1. Oh my goodness. I watched that one, and I rarely watch Oprah. And I have to agree with you. I think we obviously would all love to eat organic if it were more cost-effective. (on another note--did you know jon and kate plus 8 eat ONLY organic?? talk about some moolah) anyway, until they can remedy the money situation, i will be eating regular ole' cows, chickens, pigs, etc.

  2. Okay, I am going to resist writing a book here, but good job pushing buttons. Anthropomorphism is hilarious. That is where we ascribe human thoughts and characteristics to animals. It is fun and funny up to a point. That point is crossed when people treat animals with more regard than people. For those that believe the Bible, God clearly gives man dominion over animals in the beginning. I think the harm in cruelty is not the feelings of the animal, but rather the callous attitude it produces in the abuser. Watch this prediction; we are not far from demanding universal health coverage for pets.

  3. I'm not really sure how controversial this really is.

    I do not think its that outlandish to suppose that animals may very well be in heaven. The garden of Eden is how God originally intended it, so I would like for someone to point out where in scripture it says animals will not be in heaven.

    I do not agree with you that they do not feel. I do think that God gave us the right to use them as food and what not, but there is a fine line between fair treatment of animals, and the outright abuse of them. I think that people will be punished for out right abuse. I do think they feel. I don't think the argument Pheobe gave is a good argument to use against animals themselves having feelings. That's not an all inclusive statement. Its a good theory, but not all inclusive.

    God made us in his image, and wishes to have a relationship with us, But I also think God can work through animals. I think my Dog can show me things about God and about his unconditional love for us, just as well as other illustrations can. We don't know what they feel. We can't really prove anything. So in the meantime, I will treat that with respect, and care for the animals that I can.

    I don't think we should just keep ignoring it, and I do think that is wrong.

  4. IMO, having a soul means you are created in the image of God. You have a connection with God & the opportunity to have a two-way relationship with God. I don't believe animals have that. I won't say that there won't be animals in heaven, because I'm not sure about that. Maybe there will be, maybe there won't. My point is that they are not created in the image of God, and I personally don't believe they experience the emotions that we as humans have inherited from our maker. Having said that, I do believe God can use animals to teach us about his character, just as he uses all of his creation - humans, nature - to demonstrate his personality. But I don't think that means animals have souls.

    I just took this in a completely different direction than this post was intended...sorry everybody. :-)

  5. Excellent points. I find it most interesting that people like Oprah value the life a chicken more than the life of an unborn human!!! I'm sure they would never show the conditions or the experience of partial birth abortions; it would be too graphic. But when it is talked about, it's all about the choice...