Intentional animal abuse and unintentional abuse have both been emphasized during this Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month, but there is a third aspect of animal welfare that is almost more insidious, and is often ignored—indifference. As George Bernard Shaw explained: “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That’s the essence of inhumanity.” I find it difficult to accept the fact that some people “just don’t care.” By now most Iowans know that Iowa holds the disgraceful distinction of having the second largest number of puppy mills, yet when legislation this year was brought up to better the lives of these poor animals, nothing was done. In our state we still have dog fighting. Although we are aware of this abhorrent practice, it continues. These are stressful times for most of us, but even in these difficult times, or perhaps because of them, we need to think about the choices we make. We choose our friends, our doctors, our churches. We also choose our legislators. Perhaps it is time that we, the people of Iowa, choose to make our voices heard, and let our legislators know that we are not indifferent toward the mistreatment and abuse of animals.

As Diana Bono says, “How we treat animals reflects on who we are as human beings and how we value all life. Do we choose protection through our legislation for animals, or do we allow the many faces of abuse to continue? Indifference simply means that we support what is.” Joan Vinge in The Snow Queen names indifference as the strongest force in the universe. “It makes everything it touches meaningless. Love and hate don’t stand a chance against it. It lets neglect and decay and monstrous injustice go unchecked. It doesn’t act; it allows. And that’s what gives it so much power. Indifference is the worst kind of disease that can affect people.”

Only changing a person’s indifferent attitude toward animals can cause true change. Legislation helps; economic pressure helps; and education helps, but only when people really believe that animal neglect is morally wrong and act on that belief will change occur. Christianity is about beliefs—beliefs about creation, purpose, life, and love. What people believe about God affects all aspects of their being, and since faith teaches compassion and love, it would be logical that we would see more of it in attitudes toward animals. How can Christians be indifferent to the treatment of animals?

Betty Wosko reports a letter from a friend who had a first hand experience with Christians’ indifference to the suffering of a companion animal. “One Sunday after our church service let out, hundreds of people filed out of the parking lot. Every single vehicle passed by a dog who was lying in the road, clearly visible. The dog had not been there prior to the service, or I would have noticed him when driving in. I was deeply hurt by the fact that not one car stopped to help the dog.” (The writer did stop…the dog was dead, and he put the animal in his car, took him home, buried him and tried to find an owner). Wosko says that hardly a day goes by that she doesn’t hear how someone has been offended by the uncaring attitudes among believers. She tags it as hypocrisy. existing.

“We need to wake up and become the loving, compassionate peacemaking children of God that we have been called to be.”
I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.—Abraham Lincoln

The “No big deal…it’s just a dog” is prevalent everywhere. Right in our own area, a well respected family went on a six day Easter vacation and left their elderly dog tied outside. Sure, someone probably stopped by to feed and water him, but I doubt it was a happy Easter for him…

Intentional cruelty, unintentional neglect, or indifference. ..all are hurtful, both to the humans and the animals. Check out the animals in your area; you will be saddened by what you find. Although it is not always easy (or convenient), our goal should be to encourage greater levels of respect, responsibility and compassion toward both the humans and animals with whom we share or lives . Get involved! It’s the right thing to do.