How many times have you heard “God spelled backward is dog?” This is true in an orthographic sense, but also in other ways (more on that blow). Dogs have been on my mind lately. They seem to be popping up all over. As a kid we had (at various times) gold fish, tropical fish, gerbils, a cat and a rabbit, but no dogs. I'm not sure why not, but I always had enough friends with dogs to satisfy any dog cravings I had.
Last week I had lunch with my friend Mike. Mike is an EMT and was telling me about a call he had gone on. A woman saw a dog in the road and, rather than hit the dog, swerved into an oncoming car and put a whole family in serious condition in the hospital. Mike said in frustration, “Car full of kids...dog...hit the damn dog!” Mike, I will note, is a dog owner and dog lover, but as much as he cares for dogs he cares for people more. And as much as I would hate to hit an animal, I have to agree that a carful of kids should take precedent.
The third story is about the “Crush Act”. It seems there is a relatively recent law, (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:H.R.1887.ENR:) prohibiting the sale of material “in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed”. First off, I would think that ti would be a no-brainer that selling material depicting illegal activities would itself be illegal, so I don't know why this is a special case, but it certainly sounds like a reasonable law.
It seems one Robert J. Stevens was convicted in 2005 for marketing three dog fighting videos. The amazing (and disturbing thing) is the following (http://www.aspca.org/news/national/10-16-09.html#3)
In July 2008, a United States Court of Appeals overturned Stevens’s conviction, ruling that the Crush Act was “an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” Due to this ruling, the Crush Act is no longer in effect. Internet trafficking in crush videos, which had slowed significantly since 1999, has reportedly surged—and in April of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review U.S. v. Stevens to determine the future of the Act.
“This is only the second time in history that the Supreme Court has taken on a case directly related to animal cruelty,” says Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty Field Services. “It represents a difficult conflict between two traditionally ‘liberal’ values—freedom of expression and animal protection—so it is unclear how and if the court may be divided.”
Difficult conflict? I see no conflict. Aside from the fact that this is “commercial” speech, which is (and should be) under a stricter standard than “free” speech, these videos are evidence of a crime. Any supreme court justice who finds this decision "difficult" should be disbarred.
I'll throw in a bonus fourth, non-dog story. GE Healthcare has formed a biotech partnership to develop products based on human embryonic stem cells in hopes that their use will replace lab rats in drug development and toxic drug tests (http://www.cnsnews.com/PUBLIC/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=5074)
GE Healthcare, the medical research subsidiary of General Electric, has formed a partnership with a leading U.S. biotech company to develop products based on human embryonic stem cells that can be used to develop new drugs.
On June 30, GE Healthcare and Geron Corporation announced a multi-year alliance where Geron will provide GE scientists with an undisclosed amount of human embryonic stem cells.
The human cells will be used “to develop and commercialize cellular assay products derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) for use in drug discovery, development and toxicity screening,” according to a news release.
GE Healthcare, which is based in Britain, hopes that human embryonic testing will spare lab rats from having potentially toxic drugs in or on the animals.
So let's save the poor lab rats by killing human beings to use in these experiments. You have to be seriously ignorant not to see the irony of GE's attempt at “more ethical” drug testing.
As usual, the church worked out the ethics of all these situations long ago. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us (http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a7.htm):
Respect for the integrity of creation
2415 The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity.194 Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.195
2416 Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory.196 Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.
2417 God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image.197 Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives.
2418 It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.
In other words you should not love animals instead of people, or place them above the needs of people. On the other hand, one should love and protect them and give them the respect due them as God's creatures. Causing an animal to suffer needlessly is contrary to human dignity, not just the animal's dignity. Likewise ignoring human suffering for an animal is to reject human dignity. We should love our dogs, but not put diamonds on them while children starve.
One of the reasons why I love the Catholic Church is that Her positions are middle of the road. Rather than taking a biblical passage out of context and using that to support a position that is popular or convenient (or unpopular or inconvenient), the whole of sacred scripture is considered, as well as tradition, science, and other factors.
I'll leave you with this video that was posted by another friend, Barb.