Red In Tooth and Claw

RED IN TOOTH AND CLAW

By Matthew Priebe

Predators. What are they? Why are they here? And most importantly, who put them here? Did God create them or are they products of Satan's foul designs? Wouldn't we be better off without them, by getting rid of them whenever possible? In this presentation, we will examine the evidence to try to make sense of this difficult topic. To start, we must be clear that there is very little inspiration that sheds light in this area. There are hints and ideas, but few unmistakable statements. That doesn't mean that we should ignore these questions, because everyone automatically makes up their mind about them anyway. The trouble with most people's opinions is that they are made on the basis of cultural biases, personal prejudices, or usually contradictory divisions of nature into "good animals" and "bad animals". I am going to address this from my experience as a naturalist. Being a general naturalist has many advantages, in that it provides a look at the big picture that other specialists may miss.

We'll start with some foundations that underlie all else. I hold the following basic and critical premises. In the beginning, God made all life on Earth, in six days, resting on the seventh day. Everything was perfect. There was no death or decay, disease or corruption. All animals were vegetarian, as no animal killed another animal for food. "And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so." Genesis 1:30. When we see the word "meat" in the King James version, the Hebrew word actually means the non-specific "food". The context determines what kind of food is referred to, plants for vegetarians, and after the Fall it could refer to flesh for meat-eaters. In the perfect Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were at peace with all life around them. They neither harmed any animals nor were harmed by them. Then sin came and everything became ruined and broken. Everyone who trusts the Biblical account in Genesis will agree with these premises.

Now is where our problem begins. Death is evil, ugly and cruel. Even when death brings an end to suffering and pain, it is still not part of God's perfect plan and is totally opposed to His nature. So where did the predators come from? First of all, we need a clear definition of terms. Animals can be divided into three major groups based on their lifestyle and diet.

First, the Herbivores. This is a huge group that contains all vegetarian animals. This includes many subgroups that I won't list by their technical names, but this covers eaters of grass, nuts, wood, nectar, fungus, pollen, roots, leaves, algae, fruits, and vegetables. Each subgroup has its own design of teeth, stomach, and intestines that will clearly tell you what that animal eats even if you never watch that species feeding.

Second, the Predators. This group is much larger than most people realize, since the popular idea of this group is limited to raw-meat eaters like leopards, sharks, and eagles. But that is just a subgroup called the carnivores. Other subgroups include fish- eaters like seals, cormorants, and water snakes. A massive subgroup includes eaters of insects and spiders. Many birds that we admire and love are in fact voracious predators, devouring insects by the thousands. Many small mammals, virtually all spiders, a high percentage of insects, most frogs and toads, and salamanders all feed in this way. A final subgroup includes the scavengers, those who feed on animals already dead. Many animals who kill their own food will eat carrion on occasion, but some species specialize on this diet. Many insects, like flies and wasps, eat carrion when they are young. Others do so their whole life, such as crabs, vultures, hagfish, and sea snails. So we need to realize that there are far more predators in this world than are generally thought. This includes many species we categorize as the "good" animals, like ladybird beetles, whales, frogs, and cranes, as well as what we call the "bad" animals, like wolves and alligators.

Third, the Parasites. This is by far the smallest group, specialists that live either outside or inside other animals. They feed on blood or skin or muscle or drain nutrients from their host internally. Their actions weaken their hosts, but the parasite's goal usually is not to kill. Death may result if too many parasites weaken a host too much. Or a disease carried by the parasite may kill the host. But that is not intentional or even beneficial to most parasites, as they often die when their host dies.

So these three categories cover virtually all food choices by animals. Many fit into two of these categories, as a huge number of predators also eat plants. We call bears predators, but only the Polar Bear is totally a meat eater. Most bears eat both plants and animals. The Spectacled Bear eats mostly plants. The Panda Bear eats only bamboo. As a side note, can anyone guess which group humans belong to? Most people assume we are carnivores or possibly omnivores (eaters of both plants and flesh). But if we examine our teeth, stomach, and intestines, and then compare these with the various designs in nature, we find that humans belong to the subcategory of herbivores called frugivores. When we eat meat it doesn't digest properly and creates physical ailments. That's why even perfectly healthy meat will still make humans sick, as our bodies are only marginally able to process flesh in our diet.

So now we can explore the origins of the three groups. Herbivores obviously came from the very beginning, as created in the Garden of Eden. But what about the predators, and by extension, the parasites? Can we discover who created them? There are three options. One: The predators somehow developed on their own, gradually changing from plant eaters to flesh eaters. Two: Satan made the predators, either directly or indirectly. Three: God re-created certain animals so that they could kill other animals and eat them. Let us examine each option to see what is possible and reasonable.

If we accept the first option, we are accepting a form of mechanistic evolution. The change from a plant eater to meat eater is immense. Teeth must transform from grinding and mashing to tearing and slicing. Stomach and intestines must shrink from long and convoluted to short and straight, as longer is better for digesting plants and shorter is better for digesting flesh. Paws must now be armed for catching and holding struggling prey. And perhaps most importantly, the brain must change; the very thoughts must be altered. Because from looking at a leaf and thinking that tastes good, an animal must now find the leaf inedible and instead hunger for another living animal. All of these are major changes that have to take place. If we accept a gradual change for this process, then how can we attack Darwinists, who claim the same process for all life on Earth? I reject this option for the same reason that I reject macro-evolution, because a gradual change from a reptile to a mammal or a bird is as scientifically unlikely as a gradual change from a vegetarian cat to a meat-eating one. We do not see this taking place in today's world any more than we see a bear turning into a seal. Or what about insect eating bats? Night flying bats have echolocation systems that stagger the mind with their complexity. There is no need for a day-active, fruit- eating bat like a flying fox to have echolocation, so how could this system develop gradually as bats evolve into night-flying, insect-hunting specialists? If a bat can evolve a system that makes our own sonar look primitive, than the Darwinists must be right and we are wasting our time attacking them. So I reject option number one as not possible under the biological processes I see in nature.

The second choice, that Satan created predators in some angry effort to increase the pain and suffering of our world, has serious problems. Ellen White has stated unequivocally that Satan does not have the power to create life. "The prince of evil, though possessing all the wisdom and might of an angel fallen, has not power to create, or to give life; this is the prerogative of God alone." Patriarchs and Prophets 264. So I take that as definitive and will not consider that as an option. But some people say that Satan modified early life, twisting pre-existing forms to suit his own purposes. Ellen White actually gives support to this idea as the origin of many of the dangerous plants in this world. This actually makes sense from a biological standpoint as well. Breeders have been developing weird strains of plants and animals for thousands of years. In the animal world, we have hairless cats, voiceless dogs, flightless birds, and sterile insects. Our modifications of plants have been even more extreme. So if we can do this, how much more could Satan do? Perhaps he worked either directly himself or by directing his agents after the fall.

This would appear to be a reasonable answer for the parasite category. For every parasite, we find closely related forms that are not parasites, which in fact are either harmless or beneficial. Ticks suck blood and transmit disease. But mites are nearly identical to ticks and many are valuable for eating minute detritus. Worms that invade the body and drain resources have relatives that aerate and fertilize the soil or recycle nutrients. Flies that bite or spread disease are virtually identical to the vast majority of species that are nectar feeders and crucial to pollination. Even the bloodsucking mosquitoes that can make the outdoors miserable have an interesting twist. Only the females drink blood as part of their reproductive process. You have never been bitten by a male mosquito! Never. The males peacefully drink nectar from meadow flowers. So we can easily see here how an insect created by God in Eden could be changed only slightly to now drink blood. From a tube mouth used to drink nectar, a slight change to a cutting tube to drink blood is not nearly so difficult a leap as the change from grass- eating to meat-eating. So the parasites may well be good candidates for small scale modification of their physical and mental makeup by Satan's power. But could Satan have taken berry-eating birds and altered them to eat insects or fish or even other birds? It would take a greater change than needed for the parasites, but perhaps it is within Satan's powers. So we will leave this as an option for now.

The final option is that God made the predators, in essence recreating some of the animals at the time of the Fall. Now obviously there is no lack of power; God could do this as easily as He made them vegetarian in the first place. But to say that God remade them would mean that He is responsible for their behavior. It would mean that sharks kill seals because God made them that way. A praying mantis kills other insects because God chose that lifestyle for her. This is an idea we find distasteful and wrong, since God cannot be for death.

So to review, slow adaptation is impossible, Satan can make limited changes but not enough to fully suit our situation, and God could easily make the predators but we assume He wouldn't create evil. But are predators really evil as we presume? Is taking the life of another being inherently evil, always? In a perfect world death is non-existent. Since Adam's sin, our world is contaminated by death and will be until remade into the New Earth. Once sin began, all aspects of this world changed. All animals will eventually die; it's only a matter of how and when.

Let's pretend no predators ever existed, that the herbivores of the Garden stayed herbivores forever, even after the Fall. What would have happened? At first they would spread as they reproduced, individuals dying of old age and accident but their population still steadily increasing. At a certain point, depending on how large an area they inhabit, and how healthy the plant food available, the members of any particular species will reach what is called carrying capacity. This means the amount of plant food available is totally eaten by the animals. But the animals are still reproducing and the food can't grow any faster, so there is not enough food to go around. The herbivores are forced to compete for food, the stronger out-competing the weaker. Many go hungry. Their immune systems are weakened, and disease can take hold. Eventually starvation begins as the full misery begins. Starving to death is a bad way to die. Hungry and weak, the individual slowly fades away until finally, miserably, death results. Between disease and starvation, the population crashes to a number far less than the maximum level reached before the crash. Now with plenty of food available for a smaller group size, the population begins to increase again. Eventually the group builds past the carrying capacity and crashes again. This wildly fluctuating cycle of rising and crashing populations has no end; it will continue indefinitely as long as no outside forces interfere. This system is not pleasant; the death endured by these animals is slow, painful, and ugly. This is how the Earth would be everywhere if no predators existed.

But now let's put predators into our thought experiment. Meat-eaters try to catch as many as they can to feed themselves and their young. But catching food that doesn't want to be caught is no easy task, and predators fail to catch prey far more often than they succeed. The most likely targets are the oldest, the weakest, the youngest, and the sick. They are slightly slower and easier to catch, so they are the ones most likely caught. This doesn't mean that they are the only ones caught by predators, as some people think. Random chance, surprise, or perseverance will allow a predator to catch even the fittest, most healthy prey, but this will be a low fraction of the total prey caught. The larger the prey base, the more will be available to those hunting them, and the predator population will be able to increase as well. But when the weak and excess are being removed by predators, the prey base will not increase as rapidly or might not increase at all, as birth rate equals death rate to old age and predators combined. This would mean the herbivores would not exceed the food availability limit. With enough food to go around, the plant-eaters are not as susceptible to disease and they certainly won't starve. Once again, this balanced system can continue indefinitely unless altered by outside forces. When a predator kills a victim, the end is relatively fast and painless, when compared to death by starvation and disease. Death by predator is still ugly and unpleasant, but it is more merciful than the alternative. As Scripture tells us in Lamentations 4:9, "They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger: For these pine away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field." Predator numbers are determined by prey numbers, not the other way around. Predators limit but do not control prey populations. This is important and usually not well understood by people. By definition, there are never too many predators in a given area, because they can only survive if there is enough prey available. If prey numbers drop, the predator numbers will drop along with them. Under normal conditions, it is impossible for predators to exterminate the food they eat.

What happens when predators are removed by humans? There are endless examples of this around the world, but one of the most famous took place on the North rim of the Grand Canyon called the Kaibab Plateau. This area is an island of forest surrounded by desert; full of deer, bear, cougar, coyote, and squirrel. Around 1900, human deer hunters pressured the government to kill all the predators on the Plateau. This would mean more deer available to the humans, and who wouldn't want that, right? So genocide began and soon all cougars and bear were gone. The coyotes were destroyed as well, even though they were virtually no threat to deer. Coyotes don't kill healthy adult deer. They usually go after small mammals, but often settle for carrion, since coyotes are too small to attack big animals. The Kaibab deer population soared as planned, and great times for human hunters resulted. But the deer numbers kept climbing, despite the huge hunter kill rate. Soon the deer herd had doubled, and then quadrupled. More and more were shot, but that didn't help, the herd increased still. In 1906, when predator killing began in earnest, the deer numbered about 4000. By 1924, they reached 100,000 deer. Hard winters set in and deer starved by the thousands. 60% of the herd starved in two years. By 1931 they had sunk to 20,000 and by 1939 they fell to 10,000. It was a wildlife disaster that woke people up to the value of predators.

Since then, studies around the world have confirmed the role of predators to wildlife systems. Ecosystems with full levels of predators and prey stay in equilibrium, with no large fluctuations. But as soon as humans shoot, trap, or poison the local predators, everything falls apart. This is why deer numbers have exploded across North America. When market hunters decimated deer in the 1800s for public sale, deer were on the verge of disappearing from large areas of America. Hunters with power and influence took steps to protect deer from market hunting and replace it with sport hunting. Limits were set and land set aside as protected refuges. Females were left alone and only males were killed.

Predators, already losing ground, were pushed out of the Eastern United States completely. Deer increased nicely, but the faulty system hunters favored again led to disaster. With no predators left, humans assumed that role, but they didn't do it correctly. Humans killed the healthiest males for trophies, not the weakest available as normal predators do. With a huge imbalance of far more females to males, the deer reproduced far faster then they would normally do. Also, humans kill a far higher proportion of the herd than predators ever kill. Deer respond when a large portion of the herd dies by increasing their birthrate. Instead of an average of one fawn per doe born each year, now each doe will produce two to three per year. All of these factors combine to cause the deer population to climb higher then ever human hunters can control. Soon herd numbers explode exponentially and now there are more deer than there have ever been in the history of North America. Deer are shot in huge numbers, deer starve during hard winters in huge numbers, deer are hit by cars in huge numbers (killing many people in the process), and deer die from disease from overcrowding in huge numbers. All of this suffering and waste to provide plenty of sport for your average Joe shooting anyone that moves. This is one of the well hidden secrets of state game management, that sport hunting as managed for the last century actually raises deer populations instead of reducing them. This shows that replacing wild predators with sport hunting has been one of the worst mistakes possible.

This principle applies to whatever predator-prey population we study. Those areas of the U.S. that still engage in the disgrace of Rattlesnake Roundups, have documented higher rodent populations than areas with unmolested snakes. This means that regions that destroy their snakes have higher disease rates and increased crop losses for farmers, due to the unnaturally high rodent numbers. Instead of being our enemy, snakes are allies in maintaining our quality of life.

So my point is this. A world with death but no predators is actually worse in many ways than a world with both death and predators. This goes against the grain of our thinking but is a logical deduction. Would Satan really want to make predators? To not have predators exist would have increased the suffering and pain of the world after the Fall. For Satan to invent predators would have defeated his own purposes. So if we view predators through the lens of reality, rather than our cultural biases, God's involvement in making them doesn't seem so bad. Does God want death and killing? Of course not, but Adam's sin forced death to exist, so God has made the best of a bad situation by balancing the system as much as possible. Instead of an evil force, a product of Satan's spite, predation is in fact a useful and comparatively compassionate way to regulate entire ecosystems; preventing them from spiraling into chaos. In fact, we should be grateful for the services of most predators. Bats and birds and spiders devour insects. Without them we would be buried by insects, as they would reproduce until they overran everything else. Rodents also have a huge reproductive rate. Everyone eats rodents, it seems. Reptile, bird, and mammal predators include many rodent eaters. Be glad of this, for without the snakes and hawks and weasels catching the many forms of small rodents, disease would run rampant. Remember the plagues of the Dark Ages? They happened because the Catholic Church promoted the genocide of cats, as cats were considered evil. This allowed rats carrying diseased fleas to multiply and spread all over Europe. Most exotic animal infestations are due to species being transported to places where there are no native predators to limit them. When Australians introduced European Rabbits as a new human food source, they overpopulated to the point of ecological disaster, eating all the grass and overwhelming the landscape. Predators prevent and minimize disease in every ecosystem in the world. Satan wants the rodent population to explode and eat our food and spread disease. Satan does not want the snakes and falcons and coyotes to eat the rodents and limit their numbers.

So when we actually think about it, we are glad that these predators exist. We are glad insects and rodents are reduced by other animals, even when we still don't like the animals doing the reducing. What we especially seem to resent are the predators that kill the three types of animals that we most care about. First are the cute animals: bunnies and cardinals and baby deer. They are of no more inherent value than any other animal, but we object to see the hawk eating the cute little squirrel. Second are the wild animals we have economic interest in killing ourselves. When an elk is killed by a cougar, it means we can't kill that elk ourselves and put his head on our wall. If a cormorant eats a fish, it means we can't hook that fish on a line for sport. Third are the domestic animals that we have economic interest in. We raise sheep and cattle as commodities to be slaughtered for our own profit, and any predation of them means money taken out of our pockets. Skunks in the henhouse mean fewer eggs to sell.

These three areas are where we really acquire our cultural hatred of predators. Soulless industry puts out propaganda about vicious killers crippling our way of life. Ranchers invent wild stories about how wolves are on their doorstep trying to eat them, even though such stories are absolute rubbish. Lies combined with cultural bias lead us to consider all predators evil and deserving of persecution, if not eradication. We are upset when humans kill cute vegetarian animals. But when meat-eaters are killed, we let it pass, since we know down deep that, after all, they probably came from Satan anyway. And so we turn a blind eye to predator destruction, or actively promote it as a good thing. In the end, we are falling for Satan's lies, since he is the one who wants the predators to be wiped out and the natural balance destroyed. When we destroy predators we are annihilating the animals God put on this planet to keep it functional in a sinful state. Instead of eliminating evil, we are actually promoting evil, promoting Satan's desire to increase suffering, both the immediate suffering of the predators themselves and the long term suffering of the increasing numerous herbivores that will overpopulate and starve.

But is there any biological evidence for the idea that God made a special recreation at the Fall? Is there any organism which clearly is not part of Eden, which had to have begun after the Fall, and which is too sophisticated to be the product of Satan's modification of pre-existing life forms? It turns out there is a type of life that exactly fits these requirements. We are very familiar with this organism but most people are unaware of how unusual they really are. When you look at a mushroom, what are you seeing? The colorful aboveground structure is only the tip of the iceberg. It is the reproductive component of fungus, the source of spores that will drift on the wind and start new fungus growth elsewhere. The actual fungus is the hidden tendrils that grow through wood and soil. Concealed from view, these white tendrils grow and spread through every available source of nourishment. Funguses live everywhere, but most are impossible to tell apart visually, as they all look like white threads. But when the time comes to reproduce, fungus will grow a structure that is so unique to each species that it can be used by naturalists to tell them apart. The mushrooms we see on the ground and rotting wood are comparable to an apple or a pinecone on a tree, just a temporary growth whose only function is reproduction. But then what purpose do the fungal threads themselves serve? What exactly does fungus do? The only job of fungus, the only job of fungus, is to break down the dead cells of other organisms, usually plants, and turn them into nutrients that can be used as nourishment. They are the great recyclers of the world, crucial to turning useless dead matter into vital nutrients. Without fungus, dead leaves and wood would never decay and would pile up uselessly, letting nothing new grow. So fungus must exist or life on Earth would be impossible. Let me say that again. Fungus must exist. But how could fungus exist in Eden? There was no dead matter to recycle. There was no possible function for fungus in a perfect world.

Perhaps fungus is an example of some Eden plant form slightly modified to do a new job in a sinful world. There is a major problem with this concept. Fungus is not a plant. Fungus is not related to plants. Fungus is not related to animals. Fungus is a totally separate branch of life. The cell structure of fungus is fundamentally different from plant cells, and there is an important reason for this. Cells of all plants are made from cellulose; this is what makes a plant a plant. But the cells of fungus are made from chitin; this is what makes a fungus a fungus. The reason for this becomes clear when we remember what fungus does. Fungus breaks down plants into usable nutrients. How? Fungus has an extremely powerful acid that digests cellulose. This acid is perfectly designed to dissolve plant cells. But what keeps the fungus acid from damaging its own cells? The acid dissolves cellulose perfectly, but it doesn't dissolve chitin, which is what makes up the fungus' own cells. So fungus is immune to the acid it uses. If fungus wasn't foundationally different from plants, it couldn't function as it does. It is a different form of life from plants, in every way. The changes needed to turn a plant into a fungus are much greater than the changes needed to turn a vegetarian animal into a meat eating one. That's because the latter change involves changing details of anatomy and behavior, not a total conversion of every cell in an organism, as from plant cells to fungus cells. The fact that fungus is small and usually hidden is irrelevant. Fungus could not exist in Eden, as it would serve no purpose and would have no nourishment before decay began. If fungus wasn't created at the Fall, something else would be needed to do the same job. Satan would not create fungus, even if he could. Why would he want to let new life grow by recycling the nutrients? Fungus couldn't evolve from plants any more than birds could evolve from jellyfish. What all of this means is that fungus was a new creation by God to fit the changed conditions of a sinful world.

So we have in the weird, colorful world of the mushrooms a clear case of God making something totally new that feeds upon death. There is no reason to suppose that there is any difference with animal predators. Because of sin, death needs to be controlled and minimized. Predators do just that, making the world better than it would be without them. This is why God made them and made them very well. When we look at any predator, be it fish or mammal, reptile or spider, we find them to be a masterpiece of design and specialization. When we remind ourselves how many animals actually are predators, to exclude them from God's creation would leave very few animals left to consider. Predators are as intricate and amazing as any herbivore, and to disdain them as results of chaos, Satan, or man's manipulation is to make a mockery of the evidence.

So we've looked at the question of predators from logic and reason, but what does inspiration tell us? If predators are not a part of God's plan, then why did He allow them on Noah's ark? The whole point of the flood was to cleanse the world of evil, to start fresh with a remnant. Why not keep all the "good vegetarian" animals and drown all the "bad meat eaters"? But that's not what happened. "Beasts of every description, the fiercest as well as the most gentle, were seen coming from mountain and forest and quietly making their way toward the ark." Patriarchs and Prophets 97. God's miracle brought representatives of animals we don't approve of. What should that tell us?

The Bible states repeatedly that God provides for the animals. "He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field." Psalm 104:10-11. "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle." Psalm 104:14. So God gives water to the animals and vegetation to the herbivores. Sounds fine so far. But then things get uncomfortable for our preconceptions. "The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God." Psalm 104:21. That can't be right. God wouldn't give meat to lions, we're sure of it. But it continues. In the sea, "wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts . . . there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season." Psalm 104:25-27. Sometimes we forget that the vast majority of sea life is carnivorous, and God provides for them all. And it doesn't matter how we interpret leviathan, as crocodile, serpent, or whale. There are no vegetarian whales. When God speaks to Job, listing the Lord's many tasks man is incapable of performing, He asks, "Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions? . . . Who provideth for the raven his food?" Job 38:39-41. And let's make no mistake, ravens are flesh eaters. In Job 39:26-30, God takes credit for the skills and behavior of hawks and eagles, all of whom are meat eaters. "He [the Lord] giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry." Psalm 147:9. In the Hebrew, the first half of this verse refers to a plant eater (beast) and the second half refers to a meat eater (ravens). We accept the first half as Devine Providence but deny the second half. But scripture doesn't allow us the luxury of such caviling. We either must accept the entire verse or invent hypocritical and contradictory theories to deny the second half to suit our prejudices. And for those people who dismiss these verses as "poetical" and therefore irrelevant, we also have the direct and plain words of Jesus Himself. "Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them." Luke 12:24.

So God clearly takes responsibility for feeding all the animals, both predator and vegetarian. But there's one other point to consider. Isaiah gave a prophetic vision of the New Earth to come, when all will be recreated in a perfect and peaceful state. All animals will once again be plant eaters. Those animals specifically listed include wolves, lions, leopards, bears, and several kinds of snakes. Isaiah 11:6-8, 65:25. The real question is why would God recreate animals that Satan was responsible for? If predators are products of evil, they should be destroyed with sin. Instead, God restores them to their original Eden form, in the same way that mankind will be restored to their original nature. Once their vital role as ecosystem regulators is no longer needed, they will be changed back to the peaceful animals they were in the beginning.

Now that we have established the origin of so many of Earth's creatures, how does that effect or alter our attitude and relationship to them? It is human nature to dismiss and despise what we designate as evil. As long as we consider predators to be agents of Satan, we will ignore or participate in any persecution against them. We kill hawks because they catch cute rabbits, or wolves for eating cows, or snakes just for being snakes. These actions have no moral problems if the ones being killed are inherently evil. But when we understand that these animals are under God's care, since He made them the way they are, then that changes our entire attitude toward their destruction. We realize that our duty to do no harm to them is no less than our duty to do no harm to any of God's creation. Of course, this does not mean we can't protect ourselves from attack. The Biblical principles of self-defense apply to both animals and people. But we have absolutely no permission to destroy life solely due to its nature. Shark fishing, coyote poisoning, alligator farming, fox ranching, bear hunting, bobcat trapping, crow shooting. These are all examples of blatant cruelty that we should oppose categorically. We need to also stop killing those backyard creatures that have committed no wrong. There is no bird actually called "chicken hawk"; only Ignorance has named them that. Mountain lions do not need to be "thinned out for their own good". Weasels are not mindless butchers killing more than they need. Bats are not Dracula in disguise. The unrelenting savagery directed against wolves to prop up the evil of the ranching industry must end. Pike fish do not need to be poisoned to preserve trout so that we can torture the trout to death ourselves. Seals need not be brutally clubbed to keep them from eating the ocean's fish. The practical applications extend into many areas and are crucially important.

Ellen White describes God's creation and how it was marred by sin. But she states how even now nature works in harmony according to God's plan. Note how she words the interrelation of all animals. "In the beginning, God was revealed in all the works of creation...It was He that filled the earth with beauty, and the air with song. And upon all things in earth, and air, and sky, He wrote the message of the Father's love. Now sin has marred God's perfect work, yet that handwriting remains. Even now all created things declare the glory of His excellence. There is nothing, save the selfish heart of man, that lives unto itself. No bird that cleaves the air, no animal that moves upon the ground, but ministers to some other life." Desire of Ages 20. All life benefits other life. Only man is selfish, the innocent animals fulfill the roles given to them. Predators do what their God-given behavior demands of them, and nature is the better for it.

Once we expand our circle of compassion to include the predators, we will have made the next step forward in fulfilling our God-given responsibilities toward His created beings. Will we continue to be the agents of Satan and his destructive, cruel, and vindictive anti-predator agenda, or do we have it within ourselves to care for all of the living souls of God's creation? Let us be Christ-like Christians in every area of our lives. Life is a beautiful and wonderful gift that God has given to His created beings. Each of us has the opportunity to cherish life in all of the many forms God has fashioned.