Animals shouldn#039;t take precedence

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 29, 2002

Moving from California to Chicago, a colleague entrusted his pets to good friends out there whom he knew would care for them well. He didn't want to subject the animals to a cross-country trip and planned simply to obtain replacement pets upon arrival at his new home. Sensitive to the problem of unwanted pets, he and his wife went to a humane society to adopt one and were required to submit to an interview. "You left your pets behind? Well, why didn't you leave your children behind, too?" "Because they are humans, and humans are more important than animals." They were rejected as being unfit to adopt an animal inasmuch as they considered humans more important than animals.

If animals are as good as humans, humans are no better than animals; the issue is human responsibility, not "animal rights."

The ridiculous call of PETA to change Austin "Packers" to "Pickers" is just the most recent example of the foolishness of those who take respect for animal life to inhuman extremes. Unless, of course, we are hit with yet another example before this can get into print.

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Just a year ago there was the worship of a tiger. Como was, indeed, a wonderful specimen of a noble animal and his death was a loss. But he had, by state law as well as compassion, to be put to death possibly to save the life of the innocent little girl the animal attacked and injured. It was not by indifference to animal life but greater respect for human life.

Yet, some people verbally and emotionally attacked the child's parents for not "doing something" to save the animal's life. And, of course, there was nothing they could do. The owners tried, nonetheless, and the statements I heard from one of them gave me the impression the owner was quite willing to risk human life to save animal life. Then a memorial service was held for the offending animal that had all the trappings and flavor of a human funeral.

In April, the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo refused to release medical information on animals to the Washington Post on the grounds that it would "be an intrusion into the zookeeper-animal relationship."

I truly love animals. But I love animals because I am human, and it is our joy as well as responsibility to care for them. This care must, moreover, be in serious respect for creatures God has created for a specific purpose. Yet, my Chicago colleague is both factually correct and morally right: Human are more important than animals.

If we were not, animals would be left to themselves to attack and destroy each other until there is the survival of only the fittest. Animals are just that way.

The reason humans should treat animals humanely is not that the animals possess some kind of "right," but that humans have the obligation of managing animals both for animal welfare and human benefit.

If hogs have the "right" not to be slaughtered for food, rats have the same right not to be killed as pests. A disease-carrying rodent and disease-infested insects are as much animal as a hog or a cow. If we may not morally slaughter hogs and cows, we may not trap rats or swat flies. Humans by the thousands, then, must out of moral obligation die of diseases carried by "sacred" animals. Mice and monkeys may not be used for medical research to learn methods of healing diseases in humans as well as other mice and monkeys.

Worse, animal activists regularly endanger human lives by illegally freeing captive animals. This is tantamount to manslaughter.

Let's not kill any animal unnecessarily. When it is necessary, let it be done as kindly as possible.

Humans are more important than animals. Forget the nonsense about animal "rights" and take seriously human responsibility for animals.

-- Dr. Wallace Alcorn's column appears in the Herald on Mondays