His Eye is on the Sparrow: Animal Welfare and Christian Responsibility

I am a born again believer and my relationship with Jesus Christ remains the most important aspect of my life. And though every day I fall so very short of what I can and should be as a child of God and a representative of Christ on Earth, my faith informs every aspect of my life.So much of my walk of faith has been shaped from my earliest memories by those closest to me, dear ones who share my faith and my struggles, the challenges of living a Christ-like life in an un-Christ-like world.
My faith has carried over in important ways to my relationship with animals. I have held precious animals as they took their last breath. I have fed abandoned kittens and cradled them all night long when they were too tiny to sustain their own body heat.
As a Christian, I love all living things, including animals. In fact, for me, the love of animals is profoundly and inextricably bound up with my faith in Christ. Unfortunately, this fierce and enduring connection between faith and animal fellowship is not something many of my fellow Christians share. 

I have known many deeply faithful Christians who refused to pray for a sick, injured, or lost animal because they believed that animals were not possessed of souls. For them, to pray for a soulless creature would be a form of disrespect—if not sacrilege.And that is the challenge that so many Christians face. It is the dichotomy between compassion and apathy which, as a Christian and an animal rescuer, activist, and advocate, chills me to the bone.
The soul is composed of 3 elements: a Mind to think, a Heart to feel emotions, and a Will to decide. Animals, just as humans, possess these characteristics.Animals can become sad, and depressed, if mistreated.Likewise, animals are happy and content when we respect them as creatures of God's divine handiwork and omnipotence.
Many Christians base their relationship with animals on Genesis 1: 26: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (KJV).

It is this idea of “dominion” which so often drives Christian attitudes toward animal, all too often leading to negligence in the best cases and to brutality in the worst. The 2017 online edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “dominion”, alternatively, as “supreme authority” and “absolute ownership.”
Far too often, though, Christians distort and abuse this idea of “absolute ownership” for their own selfish gains, for reasons that have nothing to do with adherence to God’s commandments. In the name of “dominion,” they may discard or kill an animal whose care has become too costly, asserting that this is the God-given right of the proprietor to dispose of his “belongings” as he sees fit. They may “punish” or “break” an animal who does not submit to human will—an animal who does not easily take to the yoke or the bridle, who does not perform adequately at aquatic parks or in circuses, an animal that dares to exhibit aggression against a human, no matter how grossly it has been treated. In the name of human “dominion”, animals are relegated to the backyards of our homes, spending their entire lives crushed and torn by the weights of heavy chains, left alone to languish in the heat of summer and to tremble in the agonies of winter, subsisting on dirty water and insect infested food as the sounds of the family’s laughter and the scent of bounteous food wafts from the kitchen window. 
In the name of “dominion”—and commerce—animals spend their lives in cramped cages, bearing litter after litter to of “high-end” purebreds and coveted “designer” mixes, even as their bones deform to the shape of their wire prisons, their skin crawls with vermin and flames with bites, their sight clouds from lifetimes spent in darkness, and their spirit erodes from a life that has never known kindness, never felt the touch of a gentle hand, never heard the soft voice of Christ-like compassion.
Around the world, every day, animals are either skinned alive, or boiled alive so that their fur can be harvested in the service of human vanity. They are cut, poisoned, tortured, and brutalized before their lives are finally taken to support so-called “research” that too often provides no tangible benefit to humanity whatsoever. 

To meet humans’ insatiable gluttony, sows are confined for their entire lives in nursing pens with no room even to lie down or turn around; chickens are stuffed into cramped cages with thousands of other birds, suffering broken bones and suffocation in the crushing throng; cattle are stunned with electric prods and their throats slit before being hung from by their hind legs to bleed slowly to death. And these are horrors that are repeated countless times each day on a global scale.
In my life, I have seen terrible things: animals starved and beaten: Cats so traumatized by abuse they were scheduled for euthanasia because their fear of humans made them “unadoptable”; dogs burned, shot, beaten, and stabbed.America is a purportedly Christian nation where humanity is said to prevail…
In the name of some supposed God-given hierarchy, the welfare of non-human animals is deemed secondary, non-essential, an afterthought, or even a luxury that only the wealthy, the indulgently softhearted, or the foolish can afford. And this is all not only rationalized but presented as a divine right and duty, a commandment from God.
But I know another Jesus. The Jesus I know is the Jesus of love. Of mercy. Of tenderness and of loving kindness. My Jesus is the Jesus whose eye is on the sparrow, the One who witnesses each sparrow’s fall. Note Luke 12: 6, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” (KJV) and Psalm 50: 10-11: “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. / I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine” (KJV italics original).
We, as Christians, do not own these animals. WE do not hold supreme authority over them. They belong, always, and forever, to God, their Creator, and it is in Him that supreme authority rests. We are stewards. We are not proprietors. We are caretakers, not creators. So, when His eye is on the sparrow, know that it is also on the keeper of the sparrow. When He claims His cattle, His fowl, His beasts of the field, be certain that the stewards charged with their care will be called to account.
If we are to be Christians, the we must be Christ-like—and at the heart of this is love; it is compassion; it is wonder in and reverence for the works of divine creation, particularly those imbued with the sacred breath of life. Only when we learn to do this, to exercise the tender-loving care for all creatures that God has so abundantly and undeservedly heaped upon us that we will truly understand what it means to worship.Only then we will truly have the capacity to see and to reverence His works as we should. Only then will we truly be the representatives of Christ that we are called to be. Because the Bible says that the animals have much to teach us: “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: / Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. / Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? / In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12: 7-10, KJV). How many more precious innocents must suffer and die before we finally learn?

Rabbit Fur

We all know about the adorable aesthetics of rabbits. At present, eight genera of rabbits are to be found in the world, of which the Amami rabbit of Japan already faces extinction. They are known for having fuzzy pelts and fine hair that may be commercially used to create fur products.
In addition, rabbits are known for being extremely meek and relatively slower mammals that can hardly protect themselves from the various attacks that are posed on them. Their essential harmless nature makes them an easy victim of the worldwide animal fur industry. In fact, it has been accurately surmised that rabbit fur constitutes the fastest growing part of the worldwide fur trade. This proves to be a deplorable statistic end to one of the most playful and innocent animals that nature has on offer.
In the wild, rabbits frequent the meadows, grasslands, and other landscapes that have ample provisions for their survival. This makes rabbit warrens very easy to locate. Their underground burrows also alert hunters about their nesting extent. Since they usually live in packs, situating a single rabbit hole proves to be very lucrative for these hunters, as they can capture multiple rabbits from a single warren or interconnected ones.

The majority of the rabbit population is found in North America. This makes this continent one of the major producer and exporter of rabbit fur in the world. Along with North America, many European nations also pride themselves with the vain statistics of being a major player in the global rabbit fur industry.
Since a rabbit has a petite anatomy, about 30 to 40 rabbits need to be slaughtered to produce an average fur coat. Such a despicable fact places much pressure on wild-rabbit hunters. Consequently, extensive rabbit fur farms have cropped up in several parts of the world. Herein, rabbits are especially bred in torturous circumstances, just so that they can whet the cruel appetites of some superficial fashionista.

As far as commercial fur farming is concerned, the genus of rabbits that is most in demand is that of the Rex rabbits. Rex Rabbits may be of two kinds. While the Castor Rex exhibits a brownish color, and is the more expensive variety, the Chinchilla Rex provides the cheaper alternative. Other than these, another breed that has also proved to be highly popular is that of the Orylag rabbits, which are especially farmed in France for their fur as well as their meat.

This is a truly horrid instance of animal cruelty at its worst. In fact, mortality rates in rabbit farms happen to be very high. While the Rex rabbits exhibit a mortality rate of 10 to 15%, the mortality rate among Orylag rabbits is as high as 25 to 35%.
Countless ordeals and traumas are in store for these harmless rabbits in fur farms. In a rabbit fur farm, breeding rabbits are managed for 3 years. During this time, they are forced to reproduce at least twice a year. After the birth of their kits, the mother rabbits are forcibly separated from their offspring within 4 weeks. Such separations are continued for lengthy periods of time. In fact, mothers are only permitted to enter the nursing area during unstable feeding times. Such malicious partitions, which go against the natural course of mammary nursing, put the mothers under a great deal of stress. As a result, it is not uncommon for mother rabbits to show symptoms of derangement that might at times manifest itself in the form of cannibalism, wherein the mother may eat her young.
The fate of the children is also as horrible as that of their mothers. Whatever be their kind, all breeds of this helpless mammal are kept in abominable conditions. They are restrained in bare wire mesh cages that are too small to allow them the liberty to move about freely - something that they are instinctively programmed to do because of their natural reflexes. In fact, the cages for single rabbits have the measly dimension of about two shoeboxes. Sometimes as many as 12 rabbits are crammed into an enclosure that is only a third larger than the aforementioned single-rabbit cage size.
Owing to such poor and inhuman living conditions, many rabbits develop spinal deformations, broken bones, and appalling skin lesions. Further, the mesh flooring of the cages creates sore hocks, and other infectious paw injuries. Many of them are also afflicted by respiratory diseases, caused by poor ventilation. As a result, a considerable percentage of the rabbits lose their lives, much before reaching the slaughterhouse.

The slaughterhouse, in itself, is the representative vortex of inexcusable animal cruelty. These animals are often killed by incurring blows with heavy sticks before their throats are slits. At other places, these naturally docile and helpless animals are stunned by electric instruments. In view of the horrific way in which multiple rabbits are restrained in vertically piled crates, as they watch their brethren being slaughtered, while they, themselves, writhe and bleed in rabbit excrements, these fur farms can be rightly equated with modern day animal torture chambers.
While the Rex variety of rabbits are more common in the world, the more exclusive and expensive rabbit furs that adorn the wardrobe of the rich and famous are actually extracted from Orylag rabbits. These rabbits are the products of 15 years of genetic engineering endeavor that was undertaken by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).

The fur of these rabbits is known for being softer, shinier, and more resistant to the ravages of natural elements. Owing to this, these rabbits are only bred in a select few farms in France that maintain strict standards of quality. From here on, they are often transported to the design studios of some of the biggest fashion labels in the world.
The Orylag mothers are known for producing 7 - 12 babies at a time. After she has reproduced, she goes through forcible artificial insemination after only a few days.

Though such rabbits are considered to be bred in ethically acceptable conditions, they are, in fact, subjected to the very same kind of ruthless treatment that their Rex counterparts experience. Like the Rex rabbits, the Orylag rabbits are also separated from their mothers at four weeks. From this time until till their seventh week, they live with their siblings. Finally, they are placed in solitary cages, so as to prevent fighting (a physical manifestation of their psychological distress) and damage to their pelts. Once they are about 20 weeks old, they are slaughtered in cold blood.

There is little awareness among people about the conditions at rabbit fur farms. Even if many people know about the consequences of their fur purchases, very few of them have the conscience to say 'NO' to such products. This is evidenced in the fact that the rabbit fur sales have grown over the years.
While traders continue with their mad lust for money, countless rabbits are being killed to satiate the growing demands of this industry. With a gradual decrease in the production costs, it is estimated that rabbit fur sales are only going to escalate. This can only project a grim future for these social and endearing mammals.