“The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”
To be honest, I chose this verse because nobody else had selected it and it is raising my hackles as someone involved with conservation and animal rights.
The first part of the verse regarding the bear and the cow grazing reminds me of the 4 ½ years I spent living in Montana and hearing about grizzly bears being relocated for threatening a rancher’s livestock, especially in the Flathead Valley where my great-aunt lives. If it was a black bear, the rancher might shoot it, but grizzly bears are a protected species. Montana Fish & Wildlife had humane traps that are about the size of a U-Haul trailer, and they bait the traps so that the bears just go in there and have the door close behind them. The bear can then be relocated to an area where they will not cause harm to livestock.
The second part is probably what raises my hackles the most. I am involved with the Wildcat Sanctuary, a sanctuary that takes in large and small wildcats and hybrid cats from bad situations. Private situations can be some of the most damaging because the cats are usually not fed an appropriate diet, and it causes problems. One of the most common situations involves people illegally owning an African savanna cat called a serval. These cats, who look like Dr. Suess’s interpretation of a leopard, need a diet high in calcium during their formative years, and many of the servals at the sanctuary have fractures caused by metabolic bone disease as a result of not getting the proper diet. These private owners fed their cats the nutritional equivalent of straw instead of the raw meat diet that they needed. (If you would like more information on the Wildcat Sanctuary and their work, please click here.)
The image Isaiah is putting forth is one where the predator and its prey are coexisting peacefully next to each other, rather than one harming the other. We as humans are a significant contributor to the predator/prey issue as we build onto wildlands and displace wild animals as a result. Bears usually go after cattle because they are hungry, and the rancher has likely cleared the forestland that the bear would normally inhabit. People’s desire to “collect” wildlife contributes to the captive wildlife crisis that the Wildcat Sanctuary exists to remedy. One thing we can think about this Advent is where each of us fits into this situation.
Thank you, Lord, for groups like the Wildcat Sanctuary that seek to help creatures in bad situations. Amen.