Why does animal suffering hurts so much?


I’ve encountered a lot of sad animal stories — in books, on the web, and in real life — recently, and I’ve mused over why I find them so distressing in a recent post for Religion News Service.

A friend, commenting there, noted that one of the reasons animal suffering may break our hearts so much is because animals are so very innocent; so very dependent. It reminded me of This American Life host Ira Glass’s rationale for why he cares for his incredibly high-maintenance dog, Piney.


Here is a bit of my RNS post:

“The peaceable kingdom of God includes a vision of animals living happily with and among people:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)


And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. (Hosea 2:18)

Part of human longing for home — a longing that often looks a lot like faith — seems to include the hope that not just we, but our animals, too, will find a place beyond suffering, beyond fear, beyond death itself.”

{Read more here.}


Do You Know When the Goats Give Birth?

I have a new essay up at Flourish, a wonderful organization that “inspires and equips churches to better love God by reviving human lives and the landscapes on which they depend.”

Although I had hoped that this essay would be about my experience observing a goat giving birth at our local Catapano Dairy Farm, it didn’t work out that way; goats, like people, refuse to birth on schedule.

But you can find goat births on YouTube!

Here’s some of what I wrote:

Birth is messy. It’s bloody. (The birthing tub ends up looking like an abattoir! one Scottish friend had remarked.) And it is painful.

But it is a pain unlike any other. It is not the bloody pain of surgery or injury. It is the pain of a body giving–giving way, giving space, giving shape, giving life–to another. And at the climax of that giving, when it feels like your body will be split in two, great pain gives way to great love, as everything in the mother rushes toward the being that has just separated to bring it back again in a different kind of closeness.

There is tremendous power and poetry in birth.

Even in goat births.

{Read it all here.}