How would you feel about potentially “Eating our Wildlife?”

Jul 1, 2020

Right now, I think many of us are getting whatsapps or facebook requests to protest one or other cause? Dealing with rights, rules and behaviour do affect us and we may feel more or less passionate about these issues.

Is it #womenslivesmatter,  #blacklives matter,  #keepsafestayhome?  Why not #familymatters or #alllifematters?  That is what Laudato Si’ has meant for me.  Maybe I was introduced at an appropriate moment to its “integral ecology” focus, that everything in the created world is related and that it is not only about people. And certainly the 2020 Marfam theme OUR WORLD – A FAMILY OF FAMILIES is continually capturing new facets of this interest too.

delinquent elephants from Pilanesberg

When a friend sent me a message headed, “Eating our Wildlife” that started “PLEASE, PLEASE, help me by adding your voice to prevent government from including 30+ new species of wildlife to the Meat Safety Act.” I wanted to know more. The proposal is to add lions, rhinos, elephants, hippos, giraffes and others to the categories of animals that can be slaughtered for human and animal consumption.  The site sets out the story.  I decided to do a search to find out more and IOL in “Govt proposal to add rhino, elephants to list of animals that can be slaughtered for consumption” explained some of the context and gave more detail.  What are the benefits or risks to conservation?  Will there be spillover health risks?  It is no simple, straightforward matter but one with wide implications. Relevant is the operation of game farms – that we enjoy visiting.  Factory farms for mass production where animals are kept in close proximity can lead to the development of disease, viruses and treatment with antibiotics which can eventually end up in our food chain.

The message I received is concerned about eating the meat of wild animals, maybe because we believe they should be protected or because of a natural and inherent resistance, a feeling of horror even at the thought of eating lion or rhino meat. But is that culturally conditioned? Varieties of “bush meat” are eaten by people in different parts of the world.  And what red-blooded South African thinks twice about eating game biltong, or venison? Is there concern about the health aspect?

There is a strong theory that the Covid-19 virus jumped from animal to human, possibly through bats to pangolins which are considered a delicacy by some humans. It is also likely that the HIV-AIDS virus originated in primates, monkeys or maybe gorillas eaten in parts of Africa. Animal parts, rhino horn and lion bones are culturally used in some Asian countries.

So, is the concern about “farming” wild animals and taking them out of their natural environment? Should we even be eating as much meat as we do, rather than more plant-based food? For centuries humans have been “cultured” into a taste for and appreciation of meat which is now being questioned.  One article I came across unpacked the question, “Should Catholics eat less meat?”  it claims that animal agriculture requires 18 times more land use than what is needed to produce the same amount of food for a vegan diet. It is costly in terms of feed and labout.   The EarthBeat series   by National Catholic Reporter  “Digging into Laudato Si,” addresses such topics with reflections and stories on climate and creation.

My issue with all this is what is expressed and taught in Laudato Si. Creation Theology incorporates much more than saving water, reducing energy use etc.  A whole change of mind-set is advocated too by theologians such as Elizabeth Johnson and Albert Nolan.  As I wrote previously, Laudato Si  5th anniversary is being commemorated by an increasing focus and an extended programme of awareness-raising for different sectors of society, the first being the family.   A study-guide has been developed by the Holy See and should be available soon. With the title,  “On the Way for the Care of the Common Home” it is aimed at educators at all levels, families, schools, catechecists.  Its focus is integral ecology and ecological conversion.

Essentially, everything in creation, human, animal and plant families are connected and have their place and value.  Issues impact on many aspects of life even today, in the midst of the Covidc-19 pandemic. My particular take on the whole matter is the model of family.  A family focus, the fact that God as Trinity, and all creation is bult on relationships, a family, growing and changing relationships with particular qualities of love, intimacy, commitment, growth, sexuality and

overview booklet for 2020 Family Year Planner

reproduction. Alongside these ideals are the stresses associated with managing relationships, inadequate and poor communication skills and anger possibly leading to violence.  How can we answer the question, “Why do we hurt the most those we love the most.”  What is the mystery behind Gender Based Violence?  Should family strengthening and relationship building not be the No 1 resource for combatting this particular scourge which applies to all areas of family life, even the elderly and grandparents who are the particular focus during the month of July.

Pope Francis has described the time of Covid-19, the quarantine, lock-down and restrictions as a prime time for conversion or metanoia, a time for reflection, looking back, changing direction.  Climate change and environmental degradation have been with us for some time with insufficient response until the virus raised the matter to pandemic level.  Other “pandemics” have followed. Economic with job losses and massive financial distress, hunger and deprivation, and the attitudes of selfishness, greed, consumerism and instant gratification all have major impacts on our interpersonal relationships resulting at times in gender based violence.

We are reminded frequently that God cares, is infinitely merciful and Jesus is The Face of the Father’s Mercy.   If we exclude God, our Creator from our day-to-day dealings with all aspects of creation none of the current pandemics can or will ever be meaningfully addressed.    TR   FAMILY WEEKLY 1 July 2020.

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