Monday, February 4, 2008

a previously censored portion of my "I like bacon" post

I considered opening this with a disclaimer, but then I remembered: this is my blog, and I'm not forcing anyone to read it, let alone agree with it. So here goes.

I am Catholic, an actual Catholic who believes & agrees with the Pope. (Ok, at least most of the time. There are, admittedly, some doctrines I struggle with.) With that in mind, Pope Benedict summed up so much of my Catholic-worldview beliefs in his message delivered on the World Day of Peace this year (January 1, 2008):
Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests...
With that context, we should respect and be good stewards of our environment, but not at the expense of human life; we should respect and have compassion for all God's creatures, but, again, not at the expense of human beings.

One question this raises for me is whether we should eat meat, since we can survive without it. I'm still not going to expound on that issue yet.

The bigger issue for me, though, is the hypocrisy that I have encountered regarding the value of animal life versus that of human life. I know there will be some out there who'll take offense to my separation of the two, but human beings are not just "other animals," and animals are not human and should not be afforded the same rights as human beings. They deserve humane treatment, yes, absolutely, but not human rights.

However, human life deserves human rights.

Anyone who knows me knows I am adamantly pro-life, something that is reflective of my Catholic beliefs, but that is based in much more than religion for me. That's not to say I can't put myself in the place of the single woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, the impregnated rape victim, or the woman with health issues that could prevent her from carrying a baby full-term safely. However, as empathetic and codependent as I am, I know in my core that human life begins at conception.

A little over a month ago on December 31st, I had the opportunity to visit the Body Worlds exhibit while it was in Charlotte. The exhibit was one of the most amazing, grotesquely beautiful things I have ever seen. It was uncomfortable to view, yet incredibly magnetic. (This blog covers the exhibit well.) One part of the exhibit focused on fetal development. The curtained off area included human embryos from 4 through 8 weeks, fetuses from 16 weeks (I think) through 34 weeks, and a woman who was eight months pregnant, with her in utero baby exposed. As awesome (and hard to take) as the pregnant woman and babies were, the embryos probably amazed me most: I'd read it before and seen photographs, but to see the spine on a 4 week old* embryonic baby and to see the fingers on an 8 week old baby the size of a nickel, there is no doubt that these are children.

So, back to the beginning: where I see hypocrisy is in those people who are adamant animal rights advocates...and card-carrying pro-Roe supporters. I have a hard time understanding how someone can argue that hogs should have the right to move in their pens without being passionate that a child has a right to live.

My issue is really that simple.

* A baby's gestational age is calculated from the mother's last menses, typically about 2 weeks before her ovulation. Hence, a baby is 2 weeks old gestationally before s/he is even conceived! For me, that fits so perfectly with Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you."


Ginger said...

i agree with you that life starts at conception and that an unborn child has just as many rights as a human outside of the womb. and yes, there are people who are hard core animal rights activists who are have a valid point for them.

this is a good post and it takes a lot of bravery to put yourself out there like that, i respect you for it.

i don't think that treating animals humanely means giving them human rights though. i think it means respecting them as God's creatures.

i stopped eating meat because i personally don't think there's anything good about eating a corpse, i just thought it was gross and it usually made me sick anyway so i stopped. however, what i've learned since then would make me stop eating meat because of the way most animals are treated within the factory farming industry...many of them are tortured and abused and i respect them as God's creatures so i wish to have no part of that. i don't even kill spiders in my house.

i read a comment you left, i think on jenn's page, about your family giving you a hard time about changing their diets. you're right, such a pain. my oldest sister is vegan for religious/health reasons (7th day adventist) and her husband and 2 boys still eat meat. sometimes it's rough for all of them. i'm certainly lucky in that area, i live alone.

artjewl said...

Ginger, thanks for your response. I'm getting a lot from our back-and-forth on this.

To clarify (though I think we're on the same page here), I don't equate "treating animals humanely" with "giving them human rights" either; I think it's dangerous and morally wrong when people DO make those synonymous. That slippery slope is the one that suggests "speciesism" is akin to "racism" and that inhumane practices on chicken farms is equivalent to the Holocaust. If killing a cow is "murder" and the cow has human rights, the a third party would have the right to forcibly stop the "murderer" ... that leads to a dark and dangerous place.

Anyhow, right now, I'm aware that I'm as much as a hypocrite as anyone, since I disapprove of and disagree with much of the commercial treatment of livestock, yet I continue to consume it.

But that's part 3 of this diatribe, to be addressed in another post... but hopefully I'll break it up with something not so depressing. ;)


Ginger said...

i do believe we are on the same page julie...and you're no more of a hypocrite then any other human trying the best they can.

thanks and peace to you ~

Chucka Stone Designs said...

You really hit on exactly how I feel with this post and I probably never would have been able to verbalize it until reading your words. Animals are alive, part of this earth, universe, everything and should be treated with the respect that should just come with that fact.

It is about basic rights & respect for all things...harming nothing and doing what we want. It is a principle that I try to follow in my own life (although admitedly difficult at times) and one that is as old as any recorded beliefs. It is even part of the oath that doctors take!

I was raised Catholic as well but because of my own personal feelings toward many institutions in that particular sect of religion I moved away from it but that really has no bearing on how we interact with each other or other living beings. Don't get me wrong, I think it is great that you follow your faith so closely, it is commendable because I think a lot of people just adopt whatever belief is convenient at the time and abandon what isn't, just to revisit it later when it "works" for them. Basic rights for all living things (including the Earth itself in my opinion) is one of those things. No matter what faith we follow that is something we should all be taught at a young age and try to hold true our entire lives. Hope I didn't ramble too much here, this is a great post!