“I Am Putting You in Charge”
Jehovah God told man to have control of the earth and guard it, and to be in charge of all its living creatures. How well has man lived up to this trust?
PEOPLE gaze in awe at the starry heavens overhead. On a dark night the sky seems packed full, but the few thousand stars they see are but a small fraction of the trillions that make up the universe. These myriads of stars move in precise orbits governed by laws of motion that their Creator established. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The vastness and the complexity of it boggles the mind of human observers.—Gen. 1:1.
In comparison to the heavens, the earth is a mere speck. But it is huge to us and packed with life. One teaspoonful of soil may contain 5,000,000,000 living organisms, and who can even imagine the number of creatures in the “pastures of the sea”? “How many your works are, O Jehovah! All of them in wisdom you have made. The earth is full of your productions. As for this sea so great and wide, there there are moving things without number, living creatures, small as well as great.”—Ps. 104:24, 25.
The coexistence of such vast numbers on earth could be a problem. A balance must be maintained so that all kinds can have sufficient light, air, water, food, living space and other provisions needed for survival. This is called the “balance of nature,” and if an imbalance occurs the system is self-adjusting. Jehovah has so arranged it. It belongs to him: “To Jehovah belong the earth and that which fills it, the productive land and those dwelling in it.”—Ps. 24:1.
Jehovah has entrusted the earth to man: “To Jehovah the heavens belong, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.” (Ps. 115:16) The responsibility placed upon people was plainly stated to the first human pair: “He created them male and female, blessed them, and said, ‘Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the wild animals.’” Man’s care of the earth was to be a protective care: “God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it.”—Gen. 1:27, 28; 2:15, Good News Bible.
It is vital that people fulfill this guardianship. They are to be in the likeness of God, which means they were created with certain attributes of Jehovah, such as justice, love, wisdom and power. These qualities equip them to perform their role as caretakers of the earth and its plants and animals, but these attributes, unapplied or misused, also give people the power to upset the “balance of nature.” If their power is used unjustly, unlovingly or unwisely, the self-adjusting processes of earth’s environment will be jeopardized.
Guidelines for Treatment of Animals
In keeping with God’s likeness, man should show a concern for the animals similar to God’s. Numerous Bible texts serve as guidelines for the treatment of animals. People are prone to go to extremes, and positions taken toward animals are no exceptions. Some are ruled by sentimentality, others by cruel indifference. Animals may be used to perform a wide variety of work for people. They are properly used to provide food—milk, butter, eggs, cheese and even meat. Also clothes, not only from their wool or hair but also from their skins—though the steel leg-hold trap is cruel to fur-bearing animals.—Gen. 3:21.
However, a respectful awareness of the sanctity of life is to be shown in these uses of animals. Killing merely for sport shows a calloused indifference toward life. Even hunters killing for food were obligated to show respect for life: “He must in that case pour its blood out and cover it with dust. For the soul [life] of every sort of flesh is its blood.” It was the sanctity of life that caused God to put this restriction upon man: “You must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh, because the soul of every sort of flesh is its blood.”—Lev. 17:13, 14.
If animals may be used as food to sustain people’s lives, it seems reasonable to use them in medical experiments to save lives. However, this is no license for unrestricted and often valueless, repetitious experiments involving intense suffering. Many scientists are questioning the ethics of cruel experiments. Jeremy J. Stone, director of the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists, said: “The lives and suffering of animals must surely count for something.” British physiologist Dr. D. H. Smyth agrees: “Some knowledge can be obtained at too high a price.” In his book Alternatives to Animal Experiments, Dr. Smyth shows many options open to researchers other than torturous animal experiments. The price of knowledge does not have to be such cruelties as shown in the chart on the right.
Destruction of Wildlife
Woe to the animals put in man’s charge. The extinction of one kind has become proverbial: “As dead as a dodo.” Many others have become extinct. Flocks of passenger pigeons once darkened the North American skies. Audubon once estimated a thousand million birds in one flock. A migration of them took days to pass overhead. The last passenger pigeon on earth died in 1914. Once the Western plains of America were black with bison. By 1900 some 50 million had been killed, wastefully and wantonly, bringing the native wild herds to near extinction. Today many wild species are endangered. Materialism, me-ism, poaching, greed, pollution, destruction of habitats, Nimrod-like vanity for trophies—these are the main causes of the destructive assaults on wildlife.
The list of endangered species runs into the hundreds of thousands. It is estimated that one a day is being lost now, and by the end of the ’80’s it will be one every hour. In just two years during the ’70’s the elephant population in Kenya dropped from 40,000 to 20,000, zebras decreased from 15,000 to 1,500, and on Kenya’s Lake Nakuru, where millions of pink flamingos used to gather, only a fraction of “this greatest bird spectacle in the world” remains. Millions have died or left because of the industrial pollution of the lake. The tropical rain forests of the Amazon are now being exploited, and, if this continues, hundreds of thousands of species of plants and animals will be lost by the year 2000. On and on the death list goes, all because man has failed to guard the earth and its plant and animal life.
Vain Attempt to Shift the Blame
At this catastrophe some voices are crying out, “It’s God’s fault!” One such cry comes from the famous historian Arnold J. Toynbee, who said that when God put man in charge he did thereby “license Adam and Eve to do what they liked with it.” To the contrary, God only licensed them to guard it, keep it, take care of it. But that first pair disobeyed this command and the other commands of God, just as their descendants have done ever since. They have upset the “balance of nature,” have polluted the environment and are ruining the earth as a habitable planet. As the Bible says, “Some people ruin themselves by their own stupid actions and then blame the Lord.” The stupid and destructive actions will not be allowed to continue, for Jehovah says: “The time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth!”—Prov. 19:3; Rev. 11:18, GNB.
“A righteous man cares for his beast; but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” (Prov. 12:10, An American Translation) The wicked will be removed, the righteous will remain: “The upright are the ones that will reside in the earth . . . the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth.” The earth is to remain forever, be inhabited forever, and be guarded as a paradise forever by men and women who return to God’s likeness and exercise their power over the animals in just and loving ways.—Prov. 2:21, 22; Eccl. 1:4; Isa. 45:18.
Then “the wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them. And the cow and the bear themselves will feed; together their young ones will lie down. And even the lion will eat straw just like the bull. And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra; and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually put his own hand. They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.”—Isa. 11:6-9.
Then mankind will vindicate the trust Jehovah expressed long ago: “I am putting you in charge.”
[Box on page 6]
GOD’S CONCERN FOR ANIMALS
GOD IS CONCERNED:
“Sparrows . . . not one of them will fall to the ground without
your Father’s knowledge.”—Matt. 10:29.
HE REQUIRES KIND CONSIDERATION:
‘Six days work, on the seventh desist, that your bull and your
ass may rest.’—Ex. 23:12.
“You must not muzzle a bull while it is threshing.”—Deut. 25:4.
“You must not plow with a bull and an ass together.”
“Should you see the ass of someone who hates you lying down
under its load, . . . you are without fail to get it loose.”
“Who of you, if his . . . bull falls into a well, will not
immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?”—Luke 14:5.
HE PROVIDES FOR SURVIVAL OF THE SPECIES:
“In case a bird’s nest happens to be before you . . . you must
not take the mother along with the offspring.”—Deut. 22:6.
HE PROVIDES FOOD:
“The sabbath of the land must serve you people for food, . . .
and for the wild beast that is in your land.”—Lev. 25:6, 7.
“You open your hand—they get satisfied with good things.”
“Observe intently the birds of heaven, . . . your heavenly Father
feeds them.”—Matt. 6:26.
HE PROVIDES WISDOM NEEDED FOR SURVIVAL:
“They are instinctively wise: . . . in the summer they prepare
their food.”—Prov. 30:24, 25.
HE REQUIRES SHOWING APPROPRIATE RESPECT:
“You must not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”—Ex. 23:19.
[Box on page 7]
MAN’S RECORD OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
IN THE NAME OF SPORT:
Bearbaiting. Practiced in England, 11th to 19th century. Chained
bear, teeth ground off, attacked by four dogs, mastiffs.
Bullbaiting. Tethered bull attacked by dog trained to seize
bull’s nose and hang on. Dog after dog attacks until the bull
Bullfighting. Three men sink barbed sticks into bull’s
shoulders, then two men on horseback plunge spears into the hump
of muscle on its neck to weaken and make head sag, then matador
drives sword between shoulders to kill it.
Fox hunting. Hounds and horsemen chase and kill a terrified fox.
Dogs trained for this by killing fox cubs.
Cockfighting. Roosters fitted with steel spurs up to three inches
long fight and often die in this “sport.”
Dogfighting. Puppies given kittens to kill, then cats and small
dogs, until bloodlust created. They become the pit bull terriers
used in illegal dogfights. Covered with blood, eyes torn out,
ears chewed off, moving on stumps of broken or torn legs, they
fight on to satisfy masters who claim to love them. Thousands
IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE:
•Monkeys and rabbits forced to smoke until they die of lung
•Electric shocks given until animals lie helpless.
•Rabbits pinioned in stocks have boxes of tsetse flies attached to
their ears. Others have eye makeup and hair dyes put into their
naked eyes until eyes ulcerated.
•Monkeys starved, forced to run on treadmills and subjected to
radiation. Average time until death: 37 hours.
•Cats blinded, castrated, sense of smell destroyed, nerves in sex
organs cut, and then tested as to sexual responses.
•Vocal cords destroyed so animals can’t scream.
•In United States alone, 64,000,000 animals killed annually in
such medical experiments.