I work for a county probation department in the United States. I noticed a co-worker had dropped a piece of her garment, a flower ensemble made of feathers. It was pretty. Yet as an animal advocate, I get concerned whenever I see animal products whether for food or clothing being used by us. She is a nice woman, I like her, and we have an amicable working relationship as professionals’ helping offenders of the law with the problems of their lives that bring them to commit crimes.
I have learned it is best to develop relationships with people before trying to speak into their lives. Since we work together quite closely, have spent some time together outside of our workplace, since I did not know what she knows about animal exploitation’s spiritual and cultural origins, I decided to step a little further into this person’s life and ask some questions about her apparel as I returned her pretty feather flower ensemble.
The vest she was wearing of which the item I was returning was a part of looked to be made of black rabbit fur. So I inquired – and yes, it was. I asked her if she knew that most animals raised for fur, especially fur from China, are raised in horrifically cruel conditions, often skinned alive for the garment she was wearing? What followed I am certain every animal welfarist has likely heard and dealt with at some point. My question is, “how do I as a Jesus follower address what was said in order to proclaim the message of Christ’s love for all that he has made while also stepping alongside a possible non-believer in order to plant seeds for the Gospel?”
I paused to ask God for the words. The conversation that followed went something like this:
She knows about the exploitation of the animal kingdom, as well as that of people groups. She knows that much of the earth and what is on it is being exploited and reduced to the monetary price it will bring in the marketplace. She knows that the way we raise animals in large numbers for food and other products is cruel and is contributing to the pollution of the planet and global warming. She knows that buying these products as well as any other item causes harm somewhere – to people in sweat shops for example, as she pointed out when I said we could buy man-made items that do not cause harm to animals. She respects my opinion, and picks which battles to make a difference in. It became apparent animal welfare was low on the list as she added she has a full length mink coat as well as a fox fur coat in addition to the bunny fur vest. Then she says in general about exploitation, “it will never end.”
“It will never end,” a short sentence and a telling one. The way I read this from her is that because she sees the world in such a way as though the exploitation will never end, it doesn’t matter much what we do. She picks an area in which to make a difference in and that is the best she thinks can be done. I wanted to continue the conversation, convince her there is a God who loves all of us and there is hope! That what we buy as consumers does make a difference. I wanted to show her what it looks like on the farms and in abattoirs for the animals whose fur she was wearing. I wanted her to know that to some degree though we may not be able to avoid exploiting someone somewhere, we can try and minimize the damage our choices make. I wanted to tell her about the Good News of the Gospel – the exploitation will end! It became apparent that this conversation would need to happen another time if it happened at all. Now it is God’s to water any seeds planted; it is God’s to open another door for further conversation, or to grow any seed planted if it will grow at all. Was a seed planted? Did it fall on fertile ground? Only the Lord knows.
This conversation has had me thinking about what it means for us as Kingdom people to advocate for animals (though I always think about this in one way or another). I feel it is important to be asking myself, do I advocate effectively? Am I reflecting the character of Christ in the way I advocate? I love animals so much and want to see their suffering end. Is the message I convey in accordance with God’s word and the way he wants me to convey it as well as on his time table? Or, do I act out of my great love for animals in such a way that it becomes my agenda I’m trying to convey? What should a Christ centered outreach on my part look like? How should it vary, if at all, from the way the world of animal welfare advocacy is speaking for animals? And how does the enemy lie, divide, and conquer within any animal welfare outreach effort we try for God’s Kingdom?
The true enemy is Satan and his minions, he is the mastermind behind the powers and principalities at work in this world (Ephesians 6:10-20). Satan is the author of all that is contrary to the image of God we find in Christ; he is in all that divides us as the human race; he is the one who deceives us from caring for each other and the creation as we were mandated to do. For animal welfarists, animals are the “those” in this scripture: “Speak for those who cannot speak; seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction” (Proverbs 31:8); so it is to scripture we shall turn in the coming weeks to seek for answers to the questions posed in this article.
Blessings to all, we pray our blog is a blessing, that you will follow us, and share these messages widely. Thank you. ~Kathy