I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we as lords of creation are to treat that creation, and animals in particular. I’m dissatisfied both with the typical left-wing animals-are-people-too stance and the typical conservative animals-are-a-resource stance. Neither seems to fit the dominion mandate delivered to Adam by Jehovah.
In order to keep from casting about at random, I thought I’d buy a book on the subject to bounce my ideas off of. The title of this one sounded promising. I’ve read the intro. list of quotes and the prologue thus far.
(Alas, these first few pages smell suspiciously like stock left-leaning undergraduate activism rather than honest exegesis, but I remember what Lavar Burton taught me, and I’m trying to withhold judgement.)
Something interesting I noticed in the opening list of quotations from Church fathers (and other assort religiousy guys) is that, as the quotes move past the 1700’s in date, they tend to focus more on the rights of animals rather than the duties of men toward animals (sorry, I mean ‘persons toward animals’).
How does this post-Enlightenment/French Republican focus on Rights instead of Duties change the nature of the debate? It seems to me that, for starters, it creates a negative, minimalistic and ultimately antagonistic approach to all relationships (human to human, human to animal, etc.). Duties are fulfilled for someone, Rights must be defended against someone. In this way, Duties may be presented more generally (fill, subdue, nurture), while Rights must ultimately be defined and delineated precisely in order to see just where the line is. Duties are fullness, Rights are essence. A Duty is what is given, Rights are what is to be grasped at, taken. The question is no longer how do we nurture and care for the creation over which we have been given dominion, but what inviolable “Rights” must we respect.
No longer must we decide how best to give: We must decide what we are not allowed to take.