Religion and Animals

The other night on the news they ran a story about orangutans eating matzah crackers in observance of Passover at the Zoological Center of Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan in Israel. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, and while it was a cute story I couldn’t help but wonder: do you think those orangutans care if they’re kosher or not?

I’m willing to believe they don’t, but because their handlers are Jewish and it’s their way of life so it becomes the orangs way too. Or does it? Maybe they don’t always follow a kosher diet.

But if they did, what about all the other animals at that zoo? Do they also follow kosher guidelines? Or was the matzah just a fun snack for the oragns and there just so happened to be a news crew to catch it on film?

I know in the Catholic faith animals have a patron saint: St. Francis of Assisi. Many churches participate in a Pet Blessing Day which is usually held sometime in October.

I took a virtual trip over to to learn more about pet blessings. I wanted to understand why people do it.

I didn’t really get an answer, though there was a nicely written article by Kevin E. Mackin, O.F.M. about why St. Francis is considered the patron saint of animals and what you can expect if you take your pet to a Blessing of the Pets ceremony. (Basically it’ll be held outdoors, they’ll get sprinkled with holy water, and a prayer will be said.)

Father Mackin (I’m not sure this is the proper way to address the author, so forgive me if I got it wrong) observed how it’s basically a day for believers to bond with their pets in a different way. As he also pointed out “But the owner is happy, and who knows what spiritual benefits may result?”

Good point. I just think it’s nice when religions are willing to incorporate the pets of our lives into their ceremonies and celebrations too. They might not benefit from it like we do, but they get to be with us and we with them.

Besides, animals don’t need salvation anyway. They’ve already got their spots reserved in heaven.

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Photo credit: sxc Standard restrictions apply for use of this photo.