Recent news broadcasts about the 300-plus animals seized from a local "shelter-farm" once again spotlights the issue of animal abuse.
When we see the images on TV, it offends the compassionate and loving people in our community at a deep-heart level. I can't even watch the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals commercials on TV showing pictures of abused animals -- it pains me too much.
But not everyone feels that way.
Some farmers in our area don't provide hay or feed to their grazing animals during the winter when there is no grass in the pastures. The animals become skeletal for months until rains come and grass grows again.
Then there are those who hoard numerous animals for profit or personal emotional need. It's a given none of the hoarded animals ever see a veterinarian, and minimal money is spent to feed, water and clean up after them.
The indoor animals overrun the home defecating wherever they please and leap on counters to search for water and crumbs.
Or they will spend their lives in cages.
If it were hoards of children these people were keeping in such conditions, the state would remove them, the keepers would be arrested and given substantial prison time.
But animal abusers get off comparatively easily.
Because we do not consider animals as creatures with feelings, capable of great love and great pain. We think of them as soulless creatures over whom God gave us dominion -- our personal property to treat as we wish.
Is that what God meant when He gave humans dominion over the animals in Genesis?
Biblically speaking, animals were created first and placed in the Garden of Eden.
Then God created man to care for them and name them. The beasts were not caged, but free in their natural habitat.
God gave Adam -- and by extension the entire human race -- the responsibility to take care of this part of His creation.
Jesus used an example in His teachings of how even a Pharisee would go against the Levitical teachings not to work on the Sabbath in order to rescue his child or animal from harm. (Luke 14:5). God is aware of the condition of all the animals, and knows when the tiniest sparrow falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29).
So surely, God also hears the cries of the countless multitudes of abused and abandoned animals in this world.
And those who cause or ignore their pain and suffering, God calls "wicked." Proverbs 12:10: "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but even the 'compassion' of the wicked is cruel."
And for those who believe animals are lesser beings who don't have souls or spirits, wise old King Solomon believed they do. (Ecclesiastes 3:21) Back in the 1970s, the Carpenters had a hit song, which included these lyrics: "Bless the beasts and the children, for in this world they have no voice, they have no choice . Bless the beasts and the children, give them shelter from the storm. Keep them safe, keep them warm." What can each of us do?
As God's elected caretakers of the innocent creatures on this planet, if we have the time, space and money, we can adopt an abused animal.
If we have a hoard of animals living in our homes, or in cages on our grounds, we can give them up for adoption to someone who has the time, space and money to properly care for them.
It's the right and compassionate thing to do.
The Rev. Anne Barber, is pastor of My Father's House, 7215 U.S. 301 N., Ellenton. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members.