World Animal Day
"Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name." Genesis 2.19
The account of creation in Genesis confirms the intimate relationship between humankind and animals. As humans name our children when they are born, so God afforded us the privilege of naming the animals with which we share planet earth. Furthermore, in books like Psalms and Job all creatures great and small join the chorus of praise offered up to our creator. Prophets and the teacher in Proverbs appeal to animals for the lessons we can learn from them, while Jesus himself frequently alludes to our fellow creatures for illustration and inspiration. Even when it comes to our glorious inheritance in a future liberated from the strife which has infected the world in its fallen state, animals have their place according to Isaiah (11. 7-9):
"The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra's den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea."
Yet we are on course for ruining this utopian vision before it has a chance to take effect: driving cherished species to extinction, poisoning the air, rivers and oceans, destroying natural habitats and the fragile ecosystems they support, to say nothing of the cruel treatment inflicted through inappropriate farming practice and the abuse of pets. Lord, forgive us!
Time to mend our ways? What better resolution for such a day as this! And we have no excuse. Abuse is always wrong, whether of fellow humans, animals or the earthly home we share - and now we know the effects of the harm we are causing. On the positive side, the work of naturalists, environmentalists, film-makers and journalists like David Attenborough have drawn our attention to the wonders of nature. In so doing, have they not re-introduced us to that special moment in creation where God parades the animals in front of Adam (lit. earthling), so that he can name them?
Perhaps the key lesson in all this is that our response needs to be holistic. The more science confirms divine revelation, by demonstrating the inter-connectedness of nature, the more urgent our need to reconsider every aspect of our lifestyles - and then reform them...