I would like to hear your thoughts about the following extracts from the Catechism:
2418* It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.*
I am passionate about animal welfare, and am now wondering if by donating money to animal charities I am commiting a sin. Also, I am going through a difficult bereavement after the death of my beloved pet kitten. I loved her with all my heart. Am I right in thinking that the part which states “one should not direct to them the affection only due to persons” simply means that we should not put the life of an animal before the life of a human? Surely it cannot be wrong to love our pets as we love family members?
2416 *Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory.197 **Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. ***
I find this slightly contradictory. If we owe animals kindness, then surely money spent to allieviate their suffering is money well spent?
As an avid animal lover, it took me a long time to get over that one too. In the long run, though, I had to admit to myself that sending some cash to feed overseas children was more important than giving some cash to my local animal shelter.
OK… You guys are reading too much into it… what it basically means is that yes we should treat animals well, but not at the expense of people. In other words… have you ever met or heard of anyone that treats animals better than humans or leaves their entire fortune to their pet and the family members can starve for all they care? Life is about balance… I am a pet owner and i have children… does this mean that I should starve the dog so my kids can have more? No! It means that as long as my obligation to feed the kids are met, there is no reason I can’t indulge my doggie.
May I offer a suggestion that has worked for me?
Why not send money (and of course, offer prayers and other gifts of ‘time’ or service) to charities for people (the poor, the unborn, etc.) AND volunteer your time or talents to the animal shelters too?
For example, while doing the Linus project or Warm Up America and knitting or crocheting blocks for blankets for people, you can participate in the Snuggles project and knit or crochet blankets for the animals. Usually you wind up with enough ‘leftover’ yarn after doing a ‘people’ blanket to make a few extra ‘kitty or doggie’ blankets as well. Thus you get the very best value out of the yarn you’ve bought.
I can’t travel to Africa or Asia to aid people ‘in person’ so if I want to help there, I do need to send money or goods.
But I can travel to my local animal shelter with goods I have made myself in the process of helping other people. I can work an hour in a soup kitchen and another hour in the shelter; after all, by helping at the shelter I am indirectly helping other people like the ones at the shelter whom I aid or relieve, as well as the people who adopt pets from the shelter. There are children and adults for whom a pet is a therapeutic necessity, not simply a personal gift or luxury. I’m seeing more and more people–young and old alike–who benefit spiritually, emotionally, and physically from interacting with animals.
To make a long story short: There is no reason you cannot help both. Not every single penny needs to be ear marked specifically “for people alone”.
As the woman in the Scripture remarks, “Dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table.” Helping out animals with the ‘crumbs’ left over from work for the poor and needy does not ‘take away’ from aid to humans first.
This is what we want to avoid (and I’m sure you didn’t mean it in this way, but I’m using it to make my point ;)).
We don’t want to put our pets on the same level as our family. If a deranged guman comes into our house and asks us which of our children to shoot, it is natural to hesitate. If he asks us whether he should shoot our child or our pet, we should not hesitate!
Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t love our pets or show them affection. There’s nothing wrong with that. We just don’t want to do so at the expense of other people.
And I don’t think it means that we can’t give money to animal shelters, either. Many places need animal shelters and someone has to fork over the money to operate them. But if we’re giving all or most of our charitable contributions to animal-related causes, then we may need to rethink our priorities.
I just have to add that this is a great scriptural metaphor for this topic! Very applicable!
Another way to put this in perspective is to ask yourself the question radio commentator Dennis Prager often asks students, which is:
If your pet dog [or cat] and a human being you don’t know were drowning and you could only save one, which would you save – the dog or the human?
One’s answer to this really shows where their sense of perspective lies.