You might have noticed a bit of back and forth in the Mail-Times recently about a controversial advertisement from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) condemning shearing. The original ad emphasised the cruelty sometimes suffered by sheep during shearing. PETA as an organisation seems philosophically opposed to using animal products. For example PETA’s website states that “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.” However, shearing is part of the human stewardship of creation. It’s abuse is not an argument against shearing but an example of human corruption and only Jesus solves the problem of human corruption.
God made the world as a good gift, from God to human beings. Originally it was undamaged by evil. God then gave human beings the job of being stewards to care for creation. To build houses, name plants, plough fields, play music and shear sheep. The world is ours to care for and cultivate and this includes animals. Animals are different to people, we have a moral conscience and a capacity to reflect on our own instincts in a way animals cannot. They, like us, are part of creation but we have different places in it.
Sadly though, not only do people hurt each other but they also sometimes abuse animals. This can either be when people cut corners in their care for animals or deliberately harm them. This mistreatment of animals and the example of rogue shearers targeted by PETA are a product of human corruption. Stewardship implies care, not harm. Mistreatment of sheep by itself however is not a good argument to stop shearing. The cultivation of sheep for shearing is part of our stewardship of the world. The wool sheep provide and our fair treatment of them together contribute towards human flourishing.
While groups like PETA may raise awareness of cruelty to animals and organisations like the RSPCA may help stop some abuse, human corruption will remain as a problem. We need a solution that deals with the cause of animal abuse. God’s good gift of creation foreshadows the good gift of salvation. If human corruption is the problem that damages both us and animals, Jesus is the solution. Jesus solves the problem by being the king who will restore the world to its original goodness and the saviour who will rescue us from corruption.
Rev Luke Isham, Horsham Presbyterian Church on behalf of the Horsham Minister's Association.
[No links for the opinion pages.]