Blessing of the Animals
by Delisa Renideo

(twelfth article)

Those of us who write this column love animals, as do most of you who read it, I imagine. This is something we have in common with Saint Francis of Assisi, who died on October 3, 1226. He is considered the patron saint of the animals, and he is honored each year on October 4. In his honor, churches around the world have a “Blessing of the Animals” service or ceremony, to which people bring animals of all kinds to be blessed. Although it began as a Catholic tradition, it has broadened to include many other denominations. Unity Church of the Valley, in Wasilla, will be holding its third Blessing of the Animals service at noon on Sunday, October 5. For more information, please call me at 373-1526.

Our community has many organizations working to improve the lives of animals, and I’m grateful for everyone making this effort. Each of these efforts makes a difference in the lives of the particular animals receiving help. But in order to change the conditions that continue to create homeless, neglected, abandoned, or abused animals, it is going to take more than programs. It will take a change in consciousness.

When animals are viewed as objects, it leads to exploitation. Using animals for our purposes without thinking about the emotional, physical, and social needs of the animals is exploitation. Animals are exploited in innumerable ways in our culture: rodeos, factory farms, testing laboratories and circuses are just some of the ways.

Buying or adopting an animal can also lead to exploitation. Few of us can resist a cute puppy or kitten, especially if we have a small child begging to take one home. But these puppies and kittens are not toys. They need love, attention, exercise, and room to play. They grow up to be adult animals that aren’t quite so cute and cuddly, and many of the dogs end up living out their lives on the end of a short chain in a back yard, heartsick for lack of companionship, or dropped off at the “pound” when they become inconvenient or hard to handle. Cats are often thought to be so independent that they don’t need attention and are ignored completely.

These sad stories happen in perfectly good homes all over the country because the animals are seen as objects to be used by humans for our ends, until we tire of them. Even when we “love” our animals, we often forget to take into account their basic needs because we love them as an object. (We do the same in some human relationships!)

Programs will not cure this problem. The cure for this is a change in how we view animals and our relationship to them. Saint Francis referred to animals as his brothers and sisters and treated them with great respect. Humane education programs seek to teach compassion for all beings. Whether we think of animals as our brothers and sisters or simply see them as beings deserving of compassion, we will begin to develop a very different relationship with animals. We will consider their feelings and needs as well as our own. We will make lifestyle choices that reflect respect and compassion rather than exploitation. No longer will a dyed chick be seen as a cute Easter toy for our toddler. And we will begin to think about the food we put on our plate and where it came from. Not only will the animals benefit from these changes, we will benefit by expanding our circle of love to include all who share the earth with us.

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