One of the effects of growing up with Disney animation is that from the Boomer generation through generation Z, we have become used to thinking of animals as having human attributes. From the lovable characters, Donald Duck to Bambi to Simba to Louis the Alligator, animals have come alive and have taken on human speech, human emotions and human morality. It’s no surprise that more and more people see their pets as their babies. I believe this anthropomorphization of animals has had the unintended consequence of devaluing human life and flattening out the biblical, hierarchical order of creation. The value of human life goes down when we artificially equate the value of animal life to humans. Growing up, we watched a lot of Disney movies and read very little of scripture. If we had, we would have come across Jesus telling us animals and humans are not the same in his eyes, "...you are worth more than many sparrows"( Mt 10:31). .
In Genesis chapter one, we get a day sequence in poetic form. Each of the six days that God created we see more and more qualitative complexity. On day 3 vegetative life is created, on day 5 small creatures to larger creatures fill the land, and on day 6 Human beings are created. With the creation of Eve, humanity is complete and creation has reached its zenith. There is an undeniable order of creation with a scale and hierarchy in Genesis. Even the secular, scientific narrative demonstrates a hierarchy within evolution with humans being at the top. The difference is that the Bible and Catholic Faith teaches that humans have an immortal soul infused at conception and that human beings are radically different from animals. Furthermore, humans are the crown of creation and made in the image and likeness of God.
As couples have fewer (human) kids, animals have filled the gap and have satiated the innate desire to be a parent. I have noticed many people give human names to their pets. Instead of Spot or Sparky we now have people calling for their dog Bruce or Milo to come running. We see dogs dressed in elaborate, stylish clothing and the market for pet accessories is so high we now have designated supermarket pet stores carrying the latest in frivolous pet fashion and accessories. Petsmart is cashing in on this ‘pets are humans too’ phenomenon. They are all too eager to perpetuate this blurring of the species as they offer back-to school supplies for your dog including backpacks. The questions become, 'How far is too far in imposing our human need for children and relationships with other humans on our pets?' and 'Are we blurring the line between humans and animals?'.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a dog and cat lover too. You can be a loving pet owner and still maintain the perspective that animals are animals and humans are humans. Animals are a great gift to families and individuals that God has given to us to help us in this life. They do provide invaluable companionship especially to those who are lonely or have special needs. They are entrusted to our care and we must always respect that relationship of stewardship and dominion.
Some of this anti-human, over-population propaganda is pushed by the ecological extremists. “In the long term we found that there’s a big climate impact from creating a new person.” said Professor Kimberly Nicholas (Sustainability scientist at Lund University). In the name of ecological equity, there have been calls from experts for the depopulation of human beings. That’s one step away from state sponsored genocide. “Get rid of the humans to save the planet” is not the same as going to Petsmart to buy Fido back to school supplies, but they are not altogether unrelated. “My baby (dog) needs a school backpack” is the mindset that makes devaluing human life seem logical. We must recover a biblical worldview and resist the current depopulation trend to equate animals with humans with trees with rivers etc..
In his 2015 address to the United Nations, Pope Francis made a distinction between living and non living creation, “Because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures”. This at first seems like he too is flattening and equating all living things as equally valuable.
But later in the address he advocated for human life to be set apart as sacred. “The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life,” he said, “of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic.” In 2022 he spoke directly about the pets verses kids debate. Speaking on parenthood during a general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday, Francis bemoaned the global decline in birthrates — what he described as a “demographic winter” — and was bluntly critical of couples who prefer to have pets rather than children. He went on to say it os selfish to replace kids with pets.
Like Pope Francis did here, we must always insist that human life must be protected and advanced at all stages. There is a very real anti-human sentiment coming from a very powerful, very organized global movement. It must be exposed. Sadly, many newly married couples are opting to remain child free. They don’t want to bring children into a world that is so corrupt they say. Others say they don’t want to hurt the environment or contribute to overpopulation.
The anti-human narrative is currently winning. Based on his address, Pope Francis seems to be hoping for a compromise with these global power brokers at the UN and other NGO’s. I think he may be overestimating their benevolence and good will.
An awareness of why human life is a gift could begin for everyday people by putting the ‘animals are humans too’ mentality in check. That healthy sense of separation between animal life and human life is 'step one' in gaining clarity on why we must advocate for human beings. Instead of choosing pets over human children Catholic families if able, should have both.
What do you think?