Sunday, February 16, 2014

What Are Animals For?

I'm always up to addressing other people's concerns in my posts and this one just happens to be one of those posts. A friend of our family had been in their ward in a primary class and the children had been learning about the creation, I'm assuming because the teacher asked the kids at one point, "Why did God create animals?" and then immediately answered his/her own question with, "For us to eat."

This friend's mouth, probably if it were capable, hit the floor. Is that what we are teaching our children? That animals are merely there for our indulgence? In fact, I hope I'm not overstepping spiritual bounds when I point out the fact, that in the church, we've learned that animals are to "fulfill the measure of their creation and to have joy." I sure hope you all recognize that line, because if I were to show you pictures of factory farmed animals (the animals that probably 95% of your meat comes from), you'd see that there has not been one moment of joy in their entire lives. And it breaks my heart--to see God's creations being used so flippantly.

So, let me spell out the ways that animals are far beyond the feral use of mankind's stomach:

  • To bring us true joy
    • In my lifetime, our family has been stewards over a rabbit-Bucky; a hamster-Mickey; four dogs-Shady, Peebo, Winnie, and Nilla; three cats-Spook, Oreo, and Sicko; two horses-Wizard, and Gunner, and endless bottles of pill bugs. Not one of them have we ever used to eat. In fact, Peebo, lived to an age of 18 which is quite old for a dog. He stank towards the end, and was covered in tumors, but the memories we'd made with him when we were kids ensured joy in his life as well as ours. When I  visit my parent's home these days I have "sleep overs" with Nilla and Winnie where we have a girl's night, sleeping in my bed. My mom has video of me, as a kid, reading a rabbit Bucky. In other words, these blessed animals have been family. They have made us laugh, they have comforted us when we're sick and sad, they have played games with us, protected us, and more. In short, these animals were made to be our friends. In fact, animals are known to help reduce and eliminate depression.

  • To use FOR food
    • For centuries, mankind has worked by the sweat of his own brow, and animals have been used to work right beside him. The horse and ox have pulled man's plow, hogs used to hunt out truffles, insects and birds used to maintain pests in crop fields, bacteria (yes, an animal) lives in our guts to help digest food, their uninfected manure used to fertilize plants (my parents put their horses' manure in their garden beds), bees and other insects and animals are used to pollenate plants. Goat herds can be used to eat weeds, ladybugs used to eliminate garden worms and other harmful insects, snakes manage rodent populations that threaten crops (although I hate snakes, I see them non-stop in my garden, which makes me happy!),
  • To serve us
    • Not like slaves, but look at canines who are wonderful seeing-eye dogs to serve the blind, look at the animals that are used in hospitals and nursing homes as a means of therapy for the patients. Dogs are also used to sniff out cancer and warn epilepsy patients when a seizure is coming on. Bomb sniffing dogs to detect threats, seals and dolphins are trained by the Navy for security. Elephants, horses, mules, kine (that would be animals like cows and oxen), llamas, dogs, and other animals are used for packing and transportation. Cats help eliminate the overpopulation of pests, wolves control the excessive deer population, and the list goes on and on. Those snakes I mentioned earlier? In cutting down rodent populations, it helps protect us humans from disease. During wars in the past, birds and other animals have been used to transfer messages. Animals have and can warn us of natural disasters. Canaries have been used to warn miners of deadly gas. It's easy to see signs of animals serving us every single day...and this is just scratching the surface.

  • To bring beauty to the eye
    • Peacocks, flamingos, giraffes, horses, elephants, whales, fish, beautiful are these creatures? How amazing are they to look at? They fill us with wonder, with appreciation, and gratitude. Not everything has a "practical" use. And I have a belief that God wanted to give us things to please the eye and gladden the heart. Like a sunset, a beautiful valley, a majestic mountain range, or deep canyon, there are creations in existence to amaze us. Not for our carnal desires.

  • To clothe us
    • In the coldest climates of the world where man has lived for centuries, the wool of sheep, alpacas, llamas, goats, oxen has been woven and spun into warm clothing and blankets. In extreme climates, yes, the animals are skinned to protect the wearers from frostbite and protect them from the elements.
  • As food
    • As the Word of Wisdom explains, animals are also here as food for times of cold, winter, famine, or extreme hunger. I do not feel it is right to NEVER eat meat. Where would the Martin Willey Handcart company have been without the fatty meat of the buffalo that was brought to them? How would Nephi and his family had survived all their travels to the promised land without access to animal flesh? As Genesis explains, the flesh of animals is meant to save our lives. And I'm so grateful for that.
In the end, the purpose of animals "as food" for us to eat, is miniscule compared to all their other duties on this planet. Are there any other purposes for animals that you can think of?


  1. My dear, this is AWESOME. In eight years of being a plant-based Mormon, I have never seen this thought. What ARE animals here for?! You should write a whole book on it. The first book I read when I went vegetarian was Diet for a New America by John Robbins. I was really moved by the many stories of how animals saved humans from great harm, whether it was dolphins saving shipwreck victims in the ocean or dogs and cats awakening us to harm in our households. If we could move beyond seeing them as merely to use and be abused, what would we learn about why they are here? Oh, wonderful, wonderful thoughts you've given us. Thank you!

  2. All of these are amazing reasons, one I feel could have been added is reverent respect for the sanctity of living beings. These creatures are amazing and all of us form a symbiotic circle, when something is lost or changed - we cannot get it back and it causes problems that we cannot even identify. One of the guiding factors in my slow and steady shift into plant-based eating is reverent respect for the sanctity of all living things, in the event I do eat animal products - it will be with reverence and thankfulness for its sacrifice.

  3. Excellent article! Although I would take exception to the end about the eating of animals. I would add that the biggest reason I believe animals are here for is to show us what unconditional love really is! If you have ever heard my dear friend Sarah Menet speak you will have heard her say that during her near death experience she learned that animals do not have the veil of forgetfulness. I was at first surprised by this but instantly felt a confirmation. They see us for who we really are.

    While attending a Hollywood Awards night for film makers who were honoring those standing for animal rights in the media I saw something I have never been able to get out of my mind. An undercover reporter from the Washington Post had gone into a slaughter house and filmed cattle being skinned while yet alive. He got a perfect shot of a cow's face as this was being done to it. The look clearly said to me, "How could YOU (of all people) do this to ME!" It was really clear that this animal knew this person for who he really was and could not fathom how this individual could commit such a barbaric act! Instantly in recalling that experience I knew Sarah's words were true!

    And Hugh Nibley's Man's Dominion article is a must read for all with that question. He points out several critical things. #1 Adam and Abraham both had animal refuges. #2 Noah had his calling and election made sure by the way he treated the animals on the Ark. #3 According to the Dead Sea Scrolls the animals will sit on the judgement seat and judge us in their own language.