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beef cow in sunset

Is It Fair To Use Religion In The Animal Rights Debate?

A few days ago, someone rang my doorbell. I’m always a little hesitant to answer the door when I’m home alone on the ranch, but the woman looked nice enough. I opened the door and she passed me a book, urging me to read it. I politely took it and thanked her for stopping by. That evening, I started flipping through the pages. Hours later, I was engrossed in passages of theology and Biblical verses explaining why we should abstain from eating meat.

This isn’t the first time someone has used religion in a debate with me about my profession in beef production. In fact, a recent tactic of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) is to appeal to Christians. According to HumaneWatch.org [3], “HSUS launched a religion department about five years ago to churn out anti-farmer and animal rights propaganda with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other religious tints to it. The department is run by CEO Wayne Pacelle’s former live-in girlfriend. (We wonder how Wayne’s fiancée feels about him and his ex still working together.) The entire purpose is to repackage animal liberation – meaning the idea that using animals for just about any reason is wrong – by cloaking it in religious language. Show mercy for animals, HSUS says. Show mercy for animals by not eating cheese, is what HSUS means.”

Furthermore, HSUS even has its own religious manual, “The HSUS Bible -- The Revised PETA Version,” which tries to appeal to Christian’s practice of self-denial through fasting. But instead of fasting on Fridays through Lent, HSUS would prefer if we abstained from eating meat and dairy on a regular basis [4], to further our Christianity, of course.

If the aforementioned woman ever comes to my door again, I might read her this Biblical verse about animal care:

Genesis 1:26 reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

As a rancher, I’m not senselessly killing God’s creatures. When I harvest a beef animal, I know that I’m not only providing steaks and burgers, but by-products, too, including insulin for diabetics, stearic acid for roadways, makeup, deodorants, crayons, paint brushes, leather, and the list goes on and on. One of my favorite quotes on this topic is from Nebraska rancher Trent Loos, who says, “Everything lives and everything dies, but death with a purpose gives full meaning to life.”

This is a topic I often ponder while doing chores. The other day, we lost a 16-year-old cow after a tough calving. She should have been on the cull list [5] last year, but you know how it is with a good one [6] that produces good calves -- she always has “one more year” in her. As the snow pelted down on me and the tears flowed from the loss of my cow, I wondered, do cattle go to heaven? If so, she sure deserves to be there. I hope I see her one day in that grassy pasture in the sky.

Were the tears and thoughts of heaven just irrational emotions based on the loss [7] of a beloved animal in a tough calving season? Sure. But, this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about life after death in regard to my animals. Every time we harvest a show steer after the state fair, or a calf doesn’t make it, I think the same thing. I was reminded of this train of thought when I read a blog post titled, “Till We Meet Again,” [8] by Emily Moore.

 

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After Moore lost one of her old show heifers she wrote, “No matter how old I get, losing a show heifer or a favorite animal will never get any easier for me. It is just something about that special bond between a person and their livestock that grips my heartstrings in a special way. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the circle of life [10] and how things work, but it still leaves a little mark on my heart. My girls have lived a long life, and I get by hoping there is a cow heaven. So here is to my show heifers past and those soon to pass a tribute to each of you.”

I’m a regular church-goer, though I certainly am not an expert on the church’s teachings. I can, however, certainly wax poetic about my life experiences [11] with these beef animals. Some might ask that, if I love them so much, how can I eat them? Cattle are not pets. I know that each time I harvest one of these creatures, I’m nourishing others, including my family. It’s the circle of life -- one of the first lessons I learned as a kid on the ranch.

This is a tough topic of discussion, but it’s important that you all realize that the religious focus from animal rights activists is certainly growing. The push to convert our society to a vegetarian one is great, and the biggest obstacle for its proponents [12] is the conservative middle and right, where steak and potatoes is center of the dinner plate, and taking care of the land and the animals is just a part of daily life. Needless to say, I’m proud to be in that category, and at the end of my life, I hope I make it to heaven. I picture God waiting for me with green grass and old show heifers grazing in a pasture in the clouds.

What is your take on this topic? How would you respond to the anti-meat folks’ contentions about the Bible and vegetarianism? Share your thoughts, philosophies, concerns, arguments, etc., in the comments section below.

 

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