Cruel Deaths of Animals

Cruel Deaths of Animals

One of our regular readers has raised a good point about our discussion of why predators are essential to the survival of life on Earth. He said, “Your article reasoned why there must be predators: ‘to keep nature in balance.’ But that doesn’t answer the question. It was ‘why must animals undergo such cruel deaths?’”

The question of “cruel deaths” raises many issues and assumptions. We tend to assign human values to animals and assume they have the same feelings and emotions we have. This complicates the question and causes responses that are not consistent with the evidence.

The phrase “cruel deaths” is the real issue in this discussion. Has God designed anything in animals that reduces the pain animals perceive in being killed? First, we need to understand that there is a difference in the physiology of different kinds of animals. All animals have a nociception response to pain. You have a quick response when you touch something hot. It is essentially a reflex response to pain. It is obvious that to avoid a negative sensation, animals must know when something is injuring them.

The real issue is pain that comes about by some other means. Only primates, including humans, have a neocortex area in their brain in which we can realize the sensation of pain. The neocortex receives signals from group C nerve fibers, allowing pain sensations to travel from an affected area to the brain. In humans, nerve fibers connect 83% of the body’s extremities to the neocortex area. On the other hand, fish have only 5% of the group C nerve fibers, and they are smaller in diameter, meaning that there is a low nerve conduction velocity. The bottom line is that animals do not feel pain as humans do. Another interesting fact is that animals have an instinctive drive to eat food containing analgesics (pain-killing substances).

We have to understand that it is a delicate balance to design an animal with the necessary nociception response to pain required for survival without having a neocortex response to pain. We can’t imagine the pain of having our stomach torn open by a predator, but even for humans losing a lot of blood, leading to death may not be a painful experience.

It is easy for humans to criticize the Creator’s design of an animal until we try to design one ourselves. What God has done is to build living things, so they do not suffer in the way humans do. We must be careful to avoid anthropomorphizing animals—thinking of them in human terms—suggesting cruel deaths.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data for the above came from a variety of websites in a search for “animals and pain.”

Care and Maintenance of Pets

Care and Maintenance of PetsI am totally in awe of how much pets mean to people and how much they do for their owners. As people become more and more aware of the need to take care of planet Earth, they realize the environmental impact of the care and maintenance of pets.

When God created life on this planet, He built balance into all life. There were natural limits to the population of animals. There was a healthy relationship between prey and predator. Then humans killed off certain predators and transported animals to new areas where they had no predators. They sometimes adopted wild animals as pets and later released them or allowed them to escape into the wild. Those actions upset the balance, and today we are paying the price for that disturbance.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service tells us that cats, many of them feral, kill billions of birds every year. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature reports that wild and free-roaming dogs are a threat to the survival of almost 200 species around the world. Sometimes people obtain a cute baby crocodilian for a pet, and when it grows too large, they release it into the wild where it can become a danger to other animals or people. The Florida Everglades has a problem with Burmese pythons, which people released when they became too large for pets.

We have a great responsibility for control of the animals that God has given us to oversee. God said, “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the face of the earth” (Genesis 1:28). That doesn’t mean to destroy them. It means to take care of them and work to produce proper management of their lives. The selfishness and greed of humans harm the planet on several levels, including puppy mills and the neglect of animals in our control. The care and maintenance of pets is an area where we need to do better.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Ultraviolet Defense Mechanism

Ultraviolet Defense Mechanism
The human eye is an incredible creation. It not only allows us to sense the visual world around us, but its connection with the brain is amazing. The image that falls on the back of your eye is inverted, and your brain turns it over so that you see everything right side up. Most animals have eyes that do unique things, but not all of them use visible light. Ultraviolet light has a higher frequency than the light we can see. That means it is more energetic than the human eye can detect but less energetic than Xrays. Many animals use ultraviolet light as tools to enable them to survive. Some birds can see in the ultraviolet as do monitor lizards, some foxes, and some snakes. Sometimes ultraviolet vision helps them to find food. Other times prey use it as an ultraviolet defense mechanism.

Among the things those ultraviolet-seeing predators eat are lizards. A lizard called the blue-tongued skink lives on the ground throughout much of the continent of Australia. This lizard would seem to be an easy target for predatory birds and ground-dwelling animals. However, it has an ultraviolet defense. The tongue of the blue-tongued skink is highly efficient at reflecting ultraviolet light. When threatened by a predator, the lizard will open its mouth wide and stick out its tongue. The tongue will give off a blast of reflected ultraviolet light. Experiments show that birds and ground animals that see in the ultraviolet are startled by the sudden burst of ultraviolet radiation and veer away from the lizard.

One of the problematic things in designing any natural environment is building a system where living things can survive over the long term. If there is not a balance between predator and prey, the result is disastrous. Many years ago someone introduced rabbits to Australia. They had no natural enemies, and they reproduced so rapidly that soon the whole continent was overrun with them.

God has designed prey and predators in such a way that, if humans don’t mess it up, the environment and all of the living things in it can survive indefinitely. We are only now beginning to understand how difficult that is, even involving ultraviolet defense mechanisms. We need to allow the Earth to continue to be fruitful.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology journal and reported on CNET.com