Like Wilberforce, we cannot tolerate animal fighting in our day and age.

During the lifetime of William Wilberforce at the turn of the 19th century, animals were everywhere. They were in the streets pulling wagons, they were grazing in the town square, they were squawking and flapping around every corner. Animals were a loud, unavoidable part of regular, day-to-day life. Certainly, for twenty-first century Americans, that is no longer the case. Generally speaking, we don’t see bulls and hogs and roosters in our daily existence. However, like in Wilberforce’s day, animals in our modern life can still face the brunt of man’s cruel or mercenary impulses, albeit in ways that are less visible to the public-at-large.

Although our general sentiment towards animals has improved a great deal since those days of publicly approved dog-fights and bull-baiting, the practical application of those good sentiments still falls short of the ultimate goal. To help us determine the proper course of action as Christians in this fallen world, we must continually look to scripture, but we can also be confident in following the biblically-sound example of William Wilberforce.

As a Christian philanthropist and British Member of Parliament, Wilberforce’s inclusion of animal welfare in his life’s work of alleviating all manner of suffering is a resounding endorsement of this endeavor’s importance. His efforts in establishing the world’s first organization dedicated to animal protection—the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—can serve as a model for what we ought to strive to achieve as Christians in this area.

Like Wilberforce, we cannot tolerate animal fighting in our day and age.

As Christians and stewards of God’s creation, we must look beyond our own backyards and beyond our own well-tended pets, and we must consider those animals suffering at the hands of their tormentors. As Christians, we must look towards our own heavenly Master, and mirror His example of stewardship. Then we must act. We must monitor our communities, faithfully reporting any instances of animal fighting to the proper authorities. We must raise awareness of these types of criminal issues that are far from resolved. And we must advocate for animals that cannot advocate for themselves.

As citizens of today, we must be vigilant and persistent in reminding our political representatives to represent our best selves, and—in the case of animal cruelty—our best stewarding selves. We need to encourage the passage of stricter laws where those laws are needed, and we need to demand that the laws, as written, are fully enforced. Finally, we must develop and maintain a heightened awareness of the well-being of the animals around us.

For while we cannot know every sparrow that falls, we must seek to grow ever more like the One who does. After all, God created us in his own image. He put the earth and all that is in it under our dominion and stewardship. Our call to action is not about left and right, but about right and wrong: we must care for creation as God would, working for its good, and seeking to make it flourish and prosper.

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Dr. Oran Smith

Former President & CEO

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