For a person like me, October 4 is a special day – it’s World Animal Day. Started in the United Kingdom, this special day was created to bring greater awareness to the plight of animals and promote better animal welfare throughout the world.
Celebrated in different ways in different countries, the goal of this day is to increase awareness and education, thereby, creating “a world where animals are always recognised as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare.”
I love that mission. In so many places across the world, animals are regarded as property, and therefore, disposable, useless, and of little or no regard. Dogs are sold in Asian meat markets; elephants, rhinos, walrus, and bears are killed for horns, ivory, gall bladders and paws for men’s sexual prowess drugs and as a “food delicacy;” and wild horses, monkeys, tigers, and others are killed for livestock pasture, rice fields, and farms in rainforests. Just as bison were slaughtered to the brink of extinction during 1800s America to subdue native peoples and set up Caucasian farms and ranches, so, too, are other regions of the world adversely impacting habitats and animals.
In western America, that fate is manifested in this day and age by the removal of the gray wolf and grizzly bear from the endangered species list.
I once lived in grizzly bear country – on the western edge of Yellowstone National Park. Humans and bears learned to live together, with the animals only killed when they attacked someone. Often, those attacks were human-caused: people leaving out garbage, dog food, bird seed, and other temptations; the bears, like most creatures, went for the easy food, just like Yogi and the pick-a-nic basket. If people confined food items and garbage, bears would not be attracted, and therefore, there would be less conflict with humans. Yet, people continue to want to establish domain and subdue whatever they feel gets in their way. Humans and animals CAN co-exist as long as people are willing to take the risks associated with living with wildlife. After all, the animals called these areas home long before humans brought in their cattle, sheep, and farms.
As a Christian, I believe God made us all, animals and humans (see Genesis 1;20 - 26). Humankind is supposed to be His crown of creation (we often don’t act that way!); animals were made to be companions for us. Interestingly, God provided plants for both animals and humans to eat; there wasn’t a carnivorous creature in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 1: 29 – 31). God established humans to have dominion over His created works; however, dominion doesn’t mean conquering – it means stewardship, which means caregiver. We are to take care of what He made, not abuse His creation.
World Animal Day is this Thursday, October 4. Show your support for animals, including pets, by doing something to help the cause. Serve at an animal shelter or rescue, at a nature preserve or sanctuary; clean up a lake or river near you; pick up trash in your community; educate others of the importance of habitat and the value and joy of interacting with animals, whether wild or domestic; set up a bird feeding area in your garden, backyard or patio; and share what you’re doing and what is being done around the world via social media.
We can all make a positive difference in the lives of animals, in the habitats of our local communities, and positively affect creatures and creation around the world. Each of us has a part we can play to care for nature and ensure animals, birds, and habitats are still here for future generations.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.