MERRIAM: Animal care an awesome responsibility

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The controversial relationship between man and animals has taken over news cycles recently.

And that’s not even counting the number of times you might hear I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas in the stores.

First there was Darwin, otherwise known as the Ikea monkey. The primate was found wandering aimlessly around a Toronto store parking lot decked out in a finely fitted shearling coat and diaper.

His former owner — she has been fined for breach of a bylaw banning exotic animals as pets — who treated him like a son, said at one point she wants him back.

Or at least she wants assurances that the sanctuary where he resides knows how to care for a monkey.

Hey, lady, you dressed him like a pampered child and took him to Ikea. Folks who know enough not to do something quite that ridiculous would seem like good candidates for providing care.

The whole human-animal relationship is so important that it’s addressed on Page 1 of the Bible. Genesis 1:26 makes it clear that man has dominion over animals.

The level of responsibility that goes with that dominion has been a topic of discussion forever, probably since the day that Bible verse was written.

Surely there are few among us who would argue against humans exercising reasonable responsibility if not kindness in the care for the animals we use and/or enjoy — or raise for food for that matter.

Which brings us to the other animal news last week that came when an animal rights group released hidden-camera video of some deplorable practices inside a hog barn in Manitoba.

Space does not permit a parsing of the video to say what is or is not acceptable treatment. That exercise is being undertaken by others.

The Canadian Pork Council had this to say: “The level of disrespect toward the animals shown in parts of the video footage is unacceptable to Canada’s hog farmers. This does not portray the values of most farmers.”

Economic pressures are never an excuse to disregard animal welfare. It is never acceptable to compromise quality animal care, regardless of the situation.

The pork council goes on to say it has zero tolerance for animal abuse: “It is imperative that anyone who works with animals treats them with respect and compassion.”

The video was shot by Mercy for Animals Canada, one of a number of animal rights groups active in the country.

The problem with these groups is their radicalism and ultimate objective, which is to turn us all into vegetarians or vegans.

Some would have us cease using animals for anything, from shoe leather to guiding the challenged. In the eyes of these folks, I am cruel every time I hook my mules for a winter sleigh ride. Which of course is utter nonsense.

Rarely are the mules happier than when they’re working and seeing some different world and meeting different animals and people.

Back to the hog barn: Pork production is evolving in Canada and will continue to do so as attempts are made to find the most humane housing possible and still meet the demand for inexpensive meat.

Cruel treatment of a market hog is pretty easy to spot, particularly with the help of a video. It’s not so easy to establish animal cruelty in other forms. I submit treating a wild monkey like an indulged child also is cruel.

In both cases, those of us granted “dominion” should be bright enough to know better.