Friday, August 27, 2010

Israel and Possible Fur Ban

National Public Radio recently related a story about efforts of animal rights protest industry advocates to get Israel to ban fur. You can read the story at Israel Fur Ban

It has created somewhat of an uproar as the ban will be a significant issue for Orthodox Jews who have the tradition of wearing a fur cap. My understanding of the tradition is that the wearing of a fur cap represents the kingliness of the wearer, who on the Sabbath remembers to rest as the LORD commanded.

Of course the animal rights protest industry advocates point to Jewish tradition that forbids cruelty to animals, suggesting that the production of fur is somehow a violation of that tradition. This argument is similar to the same kind of legal nonsense employed by so-called Constitutional attorneys who claim that the death penalty was/is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. What makes the argument so egregious is its revisionist understanding of history. How could the death penalty be anti-constitutional when the founding fathers believed in its use? Likewise, how could the production of fur be cruel when Jews who wrote the tradition were involved in various forms of animal use?

But who cares about the facts? Animal rights protest industry advocates know how easy it is get a hot country with a small minority of fur wearers to marginalize "others" in the name of fake-morality. I propose that Nebraska ban ice houses. Everyone knows how dangerous they are when the weather gets warm. Do you think I can get this legislation passed?

Stephen Vantassel is the author of Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009). He also believes that animal rights poses almost as a great a threat to the environment as the hungry bull dozer.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Truth in Food

Kevin Murphy is the founder of an organization called Truth in Food. He seeks to counter the misinformation disseminated about food production. In case you haven't paid attention, food is now the new sex. Where we used to be concerned about sexual ethics, today one's moral fiber is evaluated by what one eats.

I encourage readers interested in learning more about this new ethical fundamentalism and how to combat it, by subscribing to Truth in Food's newsletter.

Stephen Vantassel, CWCP, ACP

Dominion over Wildlife: Book Review by Rolf Bouma

Rolf Bouma of the University of Michigan published a review of Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009) in the March 2010 issue of ASA Perspectives in Science you can read his review at

As seems to happen so frequently with readers of my book, Bouma simply misses the point.

Here is my response which was finally published in the September issue of the Journal. I sent a copy of my response to Rolf Bouma in early April, 2010, but never received a response.

I appreciated Dr. Rolf Bouma’s willingness to review my book, Dominion Over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009) published in the March 2010 issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (p.62). Reviews constitute a gift of time and as such are to be treated with respect.

By the same token, reviewers have a responsibility to be sure their comments are accurate and in accordance with the goals of the book under review. Unfortunately, some of Dr. Bouma’s statements failed to inform readers of the contours of my argument as well as the volume of evidence presented in support of my view on human-wildlife relations. I will highlight a few examples. First, he insinuated that I was unfair by calling my description of the Christian animal rights position, a “caricature.” That is quite a claim given that I engaged the Christian animal rights activists’ evidentiary appeal to three separate intellectual domains, namely Scripture, ethics, and science. In which section(s) did I mischaracterize their view? Unfortunately, Dr. Bouma did not say nor did he provide one specific instance. Second, his assertion that I failed to appreciate Linzey’s “the greater serves the lesser” argument completely missed the point of my findings (which involved a detailed analysis of his interpretation of Scripture), namely that Scripture provides no support for such a position. In fact, I go to great lengths to show that Christ, the perfect example of what it means to be a Godly and obedient human, never served animals in a manner Linzey suggests. Third, Dr. Bouma’s final paragraph leaves the reader with the impression that my Shepherdist position does not countenance limits on the human use of animals (despite mentioning previously of my support for protecting species viability). Such is clearly not the case as anyone who reads the final chapter would understand (cf. p.172). I contend that Christians are obligated to treat animals in a way appropriate to their owner, namely Christ. Ultimately Dr. Bouma’s suggestion that I engage the thought of Rolston’s theocentric view failed to consider that if my exegesis, ethical reasoning, and use of scientific evidence was correct, then obedience to God’s will as revealed in Scripture and nature is about as theocentric of a view any Christian could hope to obtain.

Regrettably, Dr. Bouma seemed to have been caught up in reacting to theological labels rather than assessing my treatment of the Biblical evidence, the only infallible source for Christian doctrine. Maybe that is why he considered my book more of an apologia rather than a theology. Apparently, he skipped chapter 1 (p.14f), where I explained why the book focused on the consumptive uses of wildlife on account of a. it avoid anachronisms and speculation because the bible mentions on these activities, and b. if humanity’s consumptive use of wildlife violates God’s perfect will, as the Christian animal rights activists claim, then a whole host of human uses of animals are in danger of being immoral as well. To my knowledge, very few environmental-theologies provide such a sustained review of the morality of a concrete, real-world practice (i.e. hunting, trapping, and fishing) followed by suggestions on how Scripture’s answer to consumptive use of wildlife may provide guidance on how humans should utilize the environment. Dr. Bouman certainly has a right to disagree with my evaluation of Scripture, ethics, and science (the last of which he offered no comment), I just wish he took the time to provide some concrete examples of where he saw error.

Stephen M. Vantassel

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nature & Nurture by Brad Woodson: A Review by Stephen Vantassel

Nature & Nurture: The Art and Science of Living the Good Life (Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing & Enterprises, 2009) by Brad Woodson asks readers to evaluate their lives from the perspective of an ecologist. Just as an ecologist seeks to learn what is required to make an organism thrive in an environment, Brad Woodson (a Certified Wildlife Biologist) presents a model for readers to appreciate what the Good Life is and how they can achieve it.

Brad opens the book discussing the stages of life and how each of those stages presents its own challenges and opportunities for growth. In chapter 2, Brad exhorts readers to discover their personality type. For it is by self-understanding that we can learn how to recognize our strengths and improve our weaknesses. Brad's suggestion that life be divided into 10 spheres, (faith, family, charity, fitness, finance etc.) constitutes the heart of the book. He has a scorecard by which to evaluate how balanced your life is in those 10 areas. Areas of weakness should be strengthened by learning to avoid negative influences and instituting personal discipline. Thankfully, Brad doesn't say the process of personal growth is easy. In fact, he suggests that today's citizens are bombarded with significantly more negative influences than those of our grand parents living in the 1920's. Brad isn't making excuses for us. He simply wants us to recognize the fact that just as our genetics affect who we become, so does our environment. We may not be able to change our genetics, but we certainly have influence on our environment.

Three things struck me about this book. First, it was remarkably brief. A normal reader could easily finish it in an hour. In today's hectic times, brief is always appreciated, particularly when the material is worthy of reading as Brad's book is. Second, I liked his virtue-based approach to living the good life. His book is about pursuing the good, the beautiful, and the lovely; not the get rich quick, how to be famous, or how to win through intimidation. Finally, I was intrigued by a couple of his comments (aside from the wonderful use of thoughtful quotes). The first one was his mentioning of politics as one of the 10 spheres of our lives. He was the first modern writer on personal growth that I can recall which mentioned the importance of political involvement. You may not agree, but you should think about it. The other key comment that struck me was his answer to those who say, "I can't be successful because I didn't have the advantages that the rich kid down the street had." His answer is both sensitive and strikingly insightful as he properly observed that having too many advantages can be a hindrance to success as being disadvantaged.

If you are looking for a book to help reorient your perception of your life and provide some tips on how to get back on track to what really matters, then I would suggest reading this book.

Stephen Vantassel, CWCP, ACP 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cat Doors

Those who know me, know that I oppose the tradition of free-range cats on environmental grounds. I believe the evidence shows that free-range house cats are an environmental menace, but for some reason owners and those who don't claim ownership, think that cats have some sort of God-given or Darwinian right to roam free to ravage the countryside.

I don't hate cats. I own two of them; one rescued from a divorcing couple; the other from a pound. But unlike other owners, I don't let my cats roam outside. They are indoor cats and interestingly enough, they are doing quite well.

Anyway, my point today involves the quest by free-range owners to have a catdoor that allows cats and only cats to enter the house whenever they want. Traditional doors are problematic because other animals, like opossums and raccoons, can use these doors too.

Electronic doors normally use a collar that signals the door to unlock. The idea being, the cat's collar will act as a passkey thereby preventing unauthorized animals from entering. Unfortunately, I haven't heard of a door that is strong enough to keep out raccoons. Raccoons don't care about the collar and simply pry open the door and enter.

I recently learned of another electronic door, "The Pet Porte" that is signaled by a microchip in the cat. This device offers the advantage of not requiring a collar on the cat, which I guess some owners think is too burdensome for the cat. That is all well and good. My question stands as "Is this door strong enough to prevent raccoon entry?" I have contacted the company. I'll let you know what I have learned.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from anyone who has heard of a cat door that is strong enough to prevent raccoon entry. Even though I am against free-range cats, owners should be protected against wildlife entry.

Stephen Vantassel, CWCP, ACP