Tuesday, September 11, 2018

From Pets to Companions

Korea was a late comer to the world where animals became pets and compainions but has progressed rapididly, no doubt due to the economic changes in the life of the citizens. In the past royality and the wealthy had animal pets but the ordinary citizens would be busy with other concerns.

The dog was the first to be domesticated and that goes back to the stone age, for dog bones were found in the graves with their owners. Cats followed many years later. The dog and and cat were first domesticated for their ability to help owners with problems that came along in life. Dogs helped to defend the family from the wild animals and help in the hunt and cats would be helpful in taking care of rats and other predators  stealing  from the storehouses.

According to a survey by a Financial Goup, it is estimated that 30.9 % of the total households are raising pets. The money expended in the pet market will increase from 950 billion won in 2012  to 5.81 trillion won in 2020.

In an article of the Catholic Peace Weekly by a social  critic, shows how Korea has gone from calling animals house pets to companions. Animals have become members of the family. In the above mentioned survey, 68.3% of the respondents agree that  companion animals are members of the family.

The World Animal Day, was established in 1931, on October 4, the  anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi. The saint  was proclaimed the patron saint of ecology by  St. John Paul II in 1980. On this day, in many churches all over the world we have ceremonies with the blessing of animals. In Korea, the blessing of animals have been held in many churches from the beginning of 2010, and continues to increase.

We have funerals for animals and the writer mentions one of the prayers that is used at the death of a companion animal. 'O  Lord, God,  the pet that brought so much joy in life, is dead , and I am thankful for all the good times and happiness that he has given me  caring for me, so that the memory of him will lead me to love and care for the people around me. May I also praise you by respecting the life of all creation. Amen.' 

On the other hand, there is the reality of animal abuse. There are 57 revisions to the Animal Protection Act promulgated in the first half of the 20th Congress, but there is a pressing need to change the perception of society as a whole. What is the church's position on animals in this reality? 

'Responsibility and Practice for the Restoration of the Order of  Creation' (2010) compiled by the Korean Catholic Bishops' Conference is a guide to our care for the  environment, section 30:  God loves not only man but all creation of the world. It is natural that one cares for animals because God created, cares,  and protects them. St. Francis of Assisi and Philip Neri who treated animals with love, set an example for us in this regard.