Thursday, October 04, 2007

Happy World Animal Day! Reflections on Francis, Saint of Nature

Today is the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals, Ecologists, Environment, Environmental Scientists, Pets, Pet lovers, birds, wolves, worms, fish, frogs, snakes San Francisco, CA, Frisco Del Monte QC and all Kikos on the Planet. Francis is really the Saint of Nature. Allow me to greet you a hearty "Happy World Animal Day!"

It is apt that today is also World Animal Day in honour of the Saint. One big issue that faces all animal lovers and keepers is whether it is morally right to have zoos. The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization wants the Manila Zoo shut and the animals released into the wild.

The Mayor of Manila diasgrees. The zoo is the only wildlife park that is accessible and affordable to the masses. Yes there are other zoos in the Philippines most are privately owned and charge a higher ticket price than what Manila Zoo charges. The question now brought before us is whether it is humane to see animals kept in enclosures. For some of us to see animals that by their very appearance denotes freedom; caged is disturbing. That is very true for birds which are the icons of freedom in every culture.

Freedom is a right of every human being. Is it the right of all animals?

To be sure, animals should be left in the wild. Unfortunately "the wild" has been shrinking ever since we started living a settled existence. We are clearing their habitats to make for farms,
houses and commercial establishments. Animals need space and space to freely range. When this is not met then the wild itself becomes a prison. This is the case in many wildlife reserves in Africa where elephants are forced to live in wildlife parks some of which are fenced in Auschwitz style, with high voltage electricity.

Our species has lived in apartheid from the rest of creation. And like the Nazis we think we are the number one in all of Creation and everything else is below us and can be exploited to the hilt.

This is where Francis of Assisi becomes the number one environmental sign of contradiction. For Francis every living thing in nature and even the inanimate is a brother or sister since all was made by the one Creator. Tales about Francis are unbelievable. Why preach to the birds, the fish and the wolf?

The truth is that animals are hard to deceive. The recognise the good and bad in a person. The closest that we have been like them is when we were small children. As small children we were wholly dependent on our parents and other adults. Animals are the same. They are wholly dependent on their Creator, a truth that the Jesus in the Gospels drives home to those who worry about material things. And Children and Animals rejoice in the smallest but best of things that come from God. The best and the smallest is nothing but the Word whose icons are all in nature.

The Environmental Sign of Contradiction demands that we examine ourselves, repent of our shortcomings and work for the restoration of Creation. And in Francis' example we see how this could be done and what is the reward. In Francis' life the reward is peace. In working to restore Creation, we have to be peacemakers.

So today we ask the Saint of Nature to intercede to God for us that He will forgive us for separating ourselves from Nature.

Only when we are one with nature that we can do away with zoos!

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