By Yonela Z. Njisane

As my academic mentor always says, it’s important that we tolerate each other, otherwise the wars and destructions in the world will never end. It’s good that you know who you are as a person and stick to it; it’s also good to realise that we are all different and our beliefs and morals differ.

While I was busy with various meat sample analyses in the lab the other day, I recalled a shocking comment I once heard about us (meat scientists and those who eat meat). Apparently, we tend to cover up our cruel actions by saying we are eating “meat” instead of calling it what it actually is, “Body parts”… My first reaction to this statement was laughter

Putting meat samples in the water-bath in prep for tenderness analysis
Putting meat samples in the water-bath in prep for tenderness analysis

with disbelief. I found it quite funny…

But, I attended a seminar on “critical animal studies” earlier this year and I later found this video on YouTube, which basically covers the main points the vegans and/or activists raised in the seminar that day. It turns out; this animal activism is a worldwide movement. One of the speakers that day said there should be no hierarchy placing some lives above others; everyone and everything is equal on this planet. This made me think, rather than laugh.

And then I realised:

As a Christian, I don’t think I should even be debating this issue. It is obviously a matter way outside my league. The Bible clearly states in the book of Genesis 1:28 that from the beginning God granted humans dominion over all creatures on earth. I know that even back then, the Israelites followed this idea, and so did early Christians. So there is a certain rank order, which I was even taught in primary school.

My background taught me:

Growing up, I knew that livestock and poultry are food animals. As strongly as I feel about animals, I never had problems with that fact. There was a time I was even eager to learn how to slaughter a chicken, mostly to impress, and I did it. I’m still capable of doing it, I just choose not to.

My animal science journey exposed me:

Harvesting the sub-samples for the Instron machine (tenderness determination)
Harvesting the sub-samples for the Instron machine (tenderness determination)

Through my studies and career, it’s only recently that I grew fond of other domesticated animal species apart from dogs and cats. I almost missed out on how cute they are in nature; I just never looked at them that way. But still, that doesn’t change the fact that they are food animals.

My point of view through knowledge and education:

Of course, that does not mean we have a right to abuse and ill-treat these animals. Our responsibility is to ensure their good well-being from birth till the end. We are their shepherds and a shepherd looks after his own. The Bible does not just say humans are the bosses, but that we are stewards of the earth – everything on this earth still belongs to God – we are just managing the planet for Him. So, we may be placed at the top, but we have been given a large responsibility with this rank; it’s not just a case of ruling and doing as we please.

Maybe I am saying all this because I love meat so much (chicken and pork) or maybe it’s because I am a fan of eggs and milk. I don’t know. We were born omnivores after all.

The famous Instron machine, in the process of tenderness analysis... meat or body parts?
The famous Instron machine, in the process of tenderness analysis… meat or body parts?

But does this really mean that I don’t love animals? Does this mean a farmer does not love his flock/herd? Does it mean that, because I am an animal scientist working on animal production, as they put it, a murderer? Is it ok to label the scientists working with animals murders? Aren’t we being hypocrites in all this?

Despite it all, I vow to love all animals (ok, most animals) the best way I know how, till death do us part.
Despite it all, I vow to love all animals (ok, most animals) the best way I know how, till death do us part.

For me, it boils down to some important thoughts:

  • Some of the medication we use, how did its approval come about? Or should we stop taking medication for conditions like Alzheimer’s and other diseases that still require the use of live animals to test different cures?
  • The leaves and vegetation we eat; how do we know it’s not needed by some hungry animal, or that its harvesting didn’t cause hundreds of tiny deaths?
  • What if these plants also have feelings, as some people believe? Are we going to say they are crazy?
  • How do we think a cow feels when she loses her new-born calf in the freezing weather outside while we are locked inside our houses by the fire place?

Think about it…

The truth is:

No one is perfect, and somehow you are missing the point if you try forcing your beliefs onto other people. We all have a way, a system, and morals we were brought up by. The world has plenty of grey areas, and the more we learn about this beautiful planet, the more we realise that there are two sides (or 10!) to every issue. I think we are building a better world if we remember:

“Religion is like a pair of shoes…..Find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes.” (George Carlin) (More quotes on tolerance)

One thought on “Animal rights and liberation: A Christian and Animal lover/ Scientist’s opinion

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