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The lower animals are created by God for the service of man.

The benefits we derive from the animals are these: They supply us with what is essential to life, e.g., food, clothing, etc.; they help us in our work, they cheer us by their amusing ways, their song, their beauty, etc. Some instruct us by their example; bees, for instance, incite us to industry, storks to filial affection, sheep to the practice of patience, etc. Moreover they all proclaim the omnipotence, the wisdom, the bounty of their Creator.

In our relations to animals it is our duty to care for their well-being, to refrain from tormenting them, not to kill any useful animal without a special reason, and finally not to treat them with exaggerated tenderness.

We ought to take care for the well-being of animals. “The just regardeth the lives of his beasts, but the bowels of the wicked are cruel” (Prov. xii. 10). Those who keep animals are bound to provide them with necessary food, to keep them clean, and in good condition. Our Lord says: “Not a sparrow shall fall on to- the ground without your Father” (Matt. x. 29). This should teach us to care for the welfare of animals. Some treat brute beasts as if they had no feel ing, overtaxing their powers, beating them unmercifully, not giving them enough to eat, or depriving them of the one day of rest out of the week which the law of God ordains for them (Exod. xx. 8-11). Those who have to kill animals for the table, and medical men who make experiments with them, ought to be careful to cause them no needless suffering. It is not right, either in the interests of science or for the sake of amusement, to give pain that can be avoided. Wanton cruelty is to be condemned; so is the destruction of harmless or useful animals. Noxious insects and dangerous animals must of course be killed, but others that are not hurtful, but rather useful, should be spared. Finally, animals are not to be pampered and petted over much. There are people who make an idol of some pet animal, preferring it to their fellow-man, and devoting every thought to it. Such persons resemble the ancient Egyptians, who worshipped cats, calves, bulls, etc.

Men who are either cruel to animals or ridiculously fond of them, often are very hard-hearted towards their fellow-men.

Children who take pleasure in teasing animals torment men when they are grown up. All who were tyrants in after years, were cruel to animals in their youth. Criminals have sometimes confessed upon the scaffold that their course of crime began with torturing animals as children. On the other hand we often find people who pamper and show great affection for animals, utterly hard-hearted in regard to their neighbors.

Both extremes, cruelty to animals and foolish fondness for them, are at variance with the order that God has established in the universe.

To torture animals wantonly is an abuse of the sovereignty given to man by the Creator over the brute creation. Man thus becomes a tyrant, and sometimes it pleases God to make him suffer in the same way wherein he made beasts suffer. For instance, a peasant who used to strike his horses on a tender part of the foot, causing them intense pain, was later on crippled by gout in the feet, being confined to his bed for years. He then acknowledged and deplored his fault. The Areopagus of Athens once condemned a child to death who was guilty of wanton cruelty to animals, for they judged that no good could be expected of one who, at a tender age, displayed such evil qualities. Exaggerated fondness and solicitude for animals is also a violation of the appointed order of nature.


This article, 3. OUR CONDUCT IN REGARD TO THE LOWER ANIMALS is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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