The founder of the first church animal shelter in Russia, which is at the Ilyinsky Church in the village of Lemeshevo near Moscow, Archpriest Peter Dynnikov in an interview with Interfax-Religion correspondent Elena Verevkina spoke about different approaches in different societies to the issue of pets.
– Father Peter, the media spread information that on the eve of the World Cup, funds were allocated from the state budget for the destruction of homeless animals. How do you feel about such initiatives?
You’re asking me a complicated and extraordinary question because I’m a priest, not an expert on such matters. I have loved football since childhood, it is a smart, spectacular game that attracts people all over the world. Especially the World Cups, I haven’t missed any since I began to understand and appreciate football.
The sad thing is that such actions are being prepared. Of course, this is due not only to the World Cup, this situation is permanent, despite the adoption in 1999 of a ban on shooting dogs in Russia. Nevertheless, such a vicious practice exists everywhere and everywhere in our country, and both the authorities and those who oppose such decisions are aware of this. The new law on the protection of animals, according to animal rights activists, turned out to be half-hearted in the sense that it prohibits cruel treatment, but at the same time it is necessary to prove that the treatment was cruel, to open a criminal case. In fact, the ban should be absolute. You can not put the animal on a chain, mock it. Cruel treatment should be a priori punishable. Any murder, no matter how good a deed it is covered up, remains so. Murder is an atrocity. Good deeds should not be done through evil and murder. There is a Commandment , thou shalt not kill. It is very extensive and is not projected only on a person.
On the eve of the Great Chinese Leap From 1958 to 1960, Mao Zedong urged everyone to fight sparrows. The Chinese faced the problem of hunger, and they were told that the cause of their troubles was sparrows. In Soviet times, a documentary was shown before a feature film, and now my child’s heart remembered the terrible footage when thousands of trucks carry the carcasses of these unfortunate sparrows. In 1955, mao Zedong’s call was answered both day and night by people with rattles, with gongs and not allowing sparrows to sit down and rest for a single minute, then the sparrows fell dead. In a short time in Beijing, sparrows were finished once and for all. It would seem that this is a good deed, because people fought for the harvest, but as a result, the grain was poisoned by pests, which sparrows could no longer destroy, and this did not solve the problem of hunger. I remembered this because you can’t designate pets as “extreme” in human problems. All problems are created by a person, the animal itself cannot create problems, especially since we are talking about animals that are called domestic. Both the dog and the cat are pets that have been tamed by man, and tamed means that he must answer. We are not talking about tigers, hippos or wolves, we are talking about those animals that live next to us. As a result of the wrong attitude to the animal world, animals were “to blame” for human problems. Unhappiness only intensifies when this or that campaign takes place, as the Beijing campaign took place then. If a campaign is launched related to some event in which animals should suffer, then this is immoral and unacceptable, from my point of view.
The championship is a temporary phenomenon. Animals can be isolated, caught and placed in shelters for the duration of the championship, and then released into the area where the dog was caught. You can attract volunteers to care for animals for this time. It’s school holiday time! Children can help and at the same time learn kindness, see someone else’s pain and see how even a simple walk with a shelter dog changes the whole world of this dog. Our authorities attract volunteers for the championship itself, and it is also possible to attract volunteers to shelters. It is possible to organize food collection pointsFor these animals, so that shelters are not burdensome to feed them. The money planned for capture and shooting should be redirected to the temporary maintenance of animals during the championship. Yes, it is possible that shelters will be temporarily overcrowded. But that’s temporary. Maybe at this time someone can take the dog to the country? But it also needs to be communicated to people.
I know that abroad nursing homes are combined with animal shelters. I understand that this is impossible here, but it’s a pity.
— How does the Church relate to animal protection issues, in particular to the topic of protecting animals, which throughout history have served as companions of man?
“Since last year, in the Russian Orthodox Church, of which I am a priest, in early September we read a special prayer for God’s creation, for all the creations that god created, including animals.
If we pray for creation, for God’s creatures, the Church suggests treating them as the Bible treats them. The biblical view is that all that the Lord created was created by Him in joy to Himself, the Creator, because He concluded every act of creation with the words: Everything that I have created is good. So the Lord rejoiced in what He had done. On the sixth day, the day of the creation of the world and man, the Lord said that he would produce a living soul, cattle and reptiles, beasts according to their kind. It’s about the living soul. If someone says that animals do not have a living soul, this is incorrect from the point of view of the interpretation of the Bible. This is the same living soul as that of man, with the only difference that man as the highest creation of God on earth stands at another stage of development, he is potentially God-like in the image and likeness of Him. The Bible says that every breath praises the Lord, which means that any form of life in its own way praises the Creator. How can we relate to what the Lord has done with joy? Then the Lord commanded man, as the greatest creature created by God, to give names to all animals and plants. The Lord commanded people to rule over the world He had created, to command and rule over that world. To rule is to manage wisely, to love the creation that God has created for us. This does not mean that we should rape this world and distort it, disfigure it. Ugliness is the absence of the image of God in anything, and when a person deprives a creature of what God has given to this creation, he brings it into a state of ugliness, which, unfortunately, happens to both nature and the animal world.
If we talk about animal protection, then, from my point of view, and I express only my point of view and I emphasize this, Noah, who made the ark at the behest of God to save the human race and the animal world, we can say in modern terms, was a zoo rescuer. In this ark, not only mankind was saved, but by the instructions of God and the animal world. It is amazing that the Lord took care of the animals so that they could be saved! The righteous Noah can be considered the patron saint of animal rights activists. Moreover, with the saved man and animals, the Lord made a covenant as with intelligent beings, it was a covenant not only with man, but also with the animal world, the Bible says this.
If animals have souls, they go to heaven, do you think? Can we hope to meet our pets in another world?
– There is no definitive answer to this. The Lord created a living soul. When it comes to an animal, it is quite the same living soul, only it is not created in the image of God, it is the prerogative of man. Is it eternal? I don’t know, because this is an issue that has been debated for many centuries by the Holy Fathers, there are different opinions on this matter. Whether we will be able to meet animals in the future, there is no direct answer in the Bible, I also do not know, but the prophet Isaiah, who talks about the vision of the future of paradise, wrote that the wolf will graze with the lamb, and the leopard will lie with the goat, and the little child will walk them. The point is that even in the state of the future, the Lord wants to see animals together with man.
— You have a lot of experience with dogs and cats. Do you think there are any qualities in these beasts that can be learned by a person?
Man should learn from them boundless devotion, because only an animal that idolizes man can love man so faithfully. To them, we are the greatest creature they see in front of them. A person can hardly die of melancholy, having lost his neighbor, even if it was the closest person: time passes, which grinds everything, and a person regains his normal qualities, moves away from grief. And the animal sometimes does not, the animal can die of longing for the owner, because for him the master is the Universe, and the loss of the owner is the loss of the meaning of existence. We are talking about tamed pets that love a person and are attached to him. Treating them badly is immoral and undignified. The attitude to the animal world was best expressed by Russian literature. Remember Leo Tolstoy’s famous expression? A society that treats animals badly will always be criminal and destitute. He said it as a humanist and writer. “And the beast, like our smaller brothers, never hit the head,” said the great Russian poet Yesenin. His “Song of the Dog” is so heartfelt! In this poem, the poet revealed the soul of the animal – that it knows how to suffer from the loss of its cubs, to suffer infinitely. An animal that has lost its cubs is in the same grief as a woman who has lost her children. The poet shows this with great force. “Kusaka” by Leonid Andreev… These are the works that should be boardroom in schools, all this should be passed by children without imposition, with the right explanations, then they will correctly relate to the animal world, first of all to those who surround us, to pets.
How did you come up with the idea to create a shelter at the temple? How did it all start?
“It started with the fact that we saw unfortunate animals. The temple was built, it was without a fence, stray dogs and cats were nailed to us, which are often nailed to construction sites. We had such mongrels, and abandoned cats came. Hostesses. You can see when the cat is wild, and when the host. The impetus was the conversion of one parishioner who had departed to another world, the Kingdom of Heaven, before departing for another world, she tearfully asked me to take care of her “children”, as she called them. She had no children, she lost them a long time ago, was already elderly and lived only with her cats, she had three cats. She wondered what would happen to them when she left. And we had nowhere to take, we had to take ourselves to the parish. There were no conditions. There was a small house for the workers, where they lived. There were such special cases when people who took animals and had to take care of them, their tongue does not turn to call the owners, threw us unhappy pets. Once a shepherd dog appeared at the parish, which suffered from oncology, an absolutely unhappy animal, its owners deceived us – they said that they could not keep it, they have allergies. When we took the animal, it was very restless from the loss of owners, the dog was attached to them and was very homesick, having lost them. When we served the service, she looked out the window of the temple with human eyes, we did not have a fence then. When I was doing every day, I saw through the window how she ran to the temple and looked so hard that it was simply impossible to bear, this look cannot be conveyed, so pathetic and suffering. She was not taken care of by these careless people (after such an act I do not want to call them as such), but by mongrels who laid down on her and warmed her. Then the conditions at the parish for animals were absolutely not. The cabin was cold, unheated, and these dogs were lying on top of her, one on top, the other on the bottom: she was getting cancer and freezing. They warmed her to their last breath with their bodies. The animals had more mercy and compassion than those who had to take care of the one he had tamed. This was one of the impulses to create a shelter, although the shelter is loudly said, we do not have any fixed status. It is possible to keep a certain number of cats and a certain number of dogs on our territory due to the fact that it is impossible to build for people there, a high-voltage power line passes through the territory. Much further on, aviaries and warm kennels are made for dogs. Now we have very good conditions for dogs. They live for three, a maximum of four, compatibility is important so that they do not have conflicts. Our dogs have free range, as befits an animal. They run quietly at any time – both in winter and in summer. By winter, the booths are insulated with hay. If someone needs special conditions, for example, small dogs or disabled people, then we transfer them to the room.
Who helps you take care of animals?
– Parishioners. We don’t have any workers. After the emergence of our hospice, it is still a hospice, here the animals live, I met people who helped me to attach some of the cats. They are called animal rights activists, volunteers, I first encountered them then, in a good way they would put a monument on the territory of Russia instead of ridiculous monuments, which can sometimes be found in cities and villages. It would be a monument to mercy and motherhood. There is such a city of Griazi in the Lipetsk region, Valentina Silich lives there, I do not know her personally, but she alone saves so many animals, so many dogs! This suggests that she has a huge human heart filled with boundless love and kindness. This is the right attitude to the animal world, as it should be. Such a humane attitude should finally spread throughout Russia.
As a rule, here in Russia, women turn out to be morally stronger and more resilient than men. They have been fighting for animal rights for 18 years, and they are being slandered in every possible way – for the fact that they do not consider a close creature as a piece of meat for dinner or a potential fur coat, but treat the living soul differently. So it only magnifies them. Europe has long followed this path.
– And why are there no stray animals in Europe? How did they achieve this?
– I read that in Norway there was a period when a moratorium on the sale and breeding of purebred dogs was introduced for ten years. Breeding was strictly regulated and purebred dogs were left only for the police, for search services and guide dogs for the blind. During this decade, all the dogs from shelters were dismantled. Stray dogs were gone.
– How can you influence the consciousness of people so that instead of getting pedigree dogs and cats, they begin to take animals from shelters and from the streets? Should they get dogs as a fashion accessory?
– And how can you influence the consciousness of a person if he treats an animal as a thing? And our laws treat them as a thing, and this enters the consciousness of people. The animal is considered as a fashionable attribute. It is necessary to suggest that this soul is alive and requires the same attitude as to any living soul – that a person should be treated correctly, that an animal should be treated. How to influence in general, I do not know, I do not have a complete answer. It is necessary to change the consciousness of society in relation to the animal world. Books should be read in childhood normal. Remember Leonid Andreev’s about how the dog, which was also treated as a thing, came, indulged, and then indifferently left, abandoning it, and the dog was so accustomed to warmth and affection that it could no longer live without it, because the living soul? “I wanted to be warm, to a loving woman’s heart, the dog howled.” That’s how worried this dog was! And then people from childhood will understand that it is necessary to treat animals as a living being, and not as a fashionable thing. Whoever tames must be held accountable. In prosperous countries, there is a moral and criminal responsibility of man to animals. It is very difficult to buy a dog in Germany, you need to collect a lot of documents, certificates that a person is of sound mind, and so on. They follow the education of the dog, it must be adapted, socialized. Everyone follows these rules. We often encounter the fact that dog owners are inadequate people, and these inadequate people acquire quite serious breeds that injure other animals and people. Where do mongrels come from? Mainly due to the fact that purebred dogs enter the mating without any control. For example, in Poland, strict control and accounting are maintained. This is the only country in Europe where there is a real record of dogs, how many of them and what breeds. They have these statistics, and we have a huge number of animals that run on their own. Shooting is inhumane and unnatural. Then there should be a sterilization program. In India, this is possible, there is a different attitude towards both cows and dogs, in Istanbul they walk calmly: President Erdogan introduced a harsh law – now a person who cruelly treats an animal can get ten years in real prison.
We have sterilized dogs. Despite the fact that the Lord said “be fruitful and multiply”, this is good in natural conditions, and in an urbanized world, where their offspring are doomed to hunger, disease, suffering, it is better to let them live, but with such restrictions. This is my conscious, difficult decision. Here, of the two evils, we must choose the lesser. Initially, I opposed sterilization, but when the problem became tough, there were epidemics, pestilence, I decided to do it and I believe that the decision was the right one. Cats have become more tame, do not go far. Dogs also began to stay closer, and aggressiveness as such in them disappears, because aggressiveness in a dog manifests itself during estrus, when there is a struggle for possession, a natural instinct acts, they begin to “beast”. The human community also knows the moments when, huddled in criminal packs, it beasts. Take, for example, the recent sensational case when it was said that dogs beat a person to death – a dark matter, it is not clear how it really was and how it ended. If this was indeed the case, then such tragedies should not be allowed. But on the eve there was another egregious case, which, however, did not cause much resonance: a pack of angry teenagers beat a disabled person, a izur.leaving his face unrecognizable, and it was filmed. It’s a complete loss of human form, a raging pack. Why didn’t this case cause such a resonance, but only the case of dogs? The dog does not understand, it has an instinct, but a person understands, and only a person with creativity and an abstract vision can do this perversely. The animal does not possess abstract vision, it can attack to protect itself or win back territory. But as a person sometimes does when he enjoys torment and torture, this is a perversion of the mind, and only he is capable of this. Alas, it is. Mikhail Vinogradov, a well-known psychiatrist and criminologist, said that 95% of maniacs and murderers in childhood were engaged in livehood and experienced pleasure from the fact that they tortured animals, and then tortured and tormented people.
At one time, I was reminded of the words of Dmitry Zhmurov, who teaches at the Siberian Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, he said: to kill an animal only to deprive it of life is like killing a person in yourself. I was shocked by these words, he subtly noticed it, as a psychologist. A person who kills an animal deprives himself of his mind, deprives himself of the title of man, because he has deprived himself of the image of God laid down by the Creator for other things, and not in order to torment those whom the Lord has entrusted to us to take care of.
– On December 13, the State Duma adopted amendments to the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes of the Russian Federation, which toughen the punishment for cruelty to animals. Do you think these measures are sufficient to prevent deliberate cruelty?
– Yes, there is the possibility of punishment, and there are already the first examples when several people were actually punished for livestock. But that’s not enough. The very inhumane attitude to the animal world to outlaw is an atrocity. As long as we do not have responsibility for this, there is only responsibility for actions with the intention of causing pain or suffering to the animal, for actions that caused its death or injury.
A dog should not be kept on a chain. Drug addicts, drunkards, deranged people, devoid of reason, should not keep animals. This should not happen, and in this sense the law is imperfect, it is not brought to an end, because there should be punishment for an abnormal attitude to the animal world, and not only for a proven crime. If we observe such an attitude, then a person has the right to suppress this phenomenon. Then society becomes humane and humane.
As a citizen of Russia, I object to the fact that animals are killed with my taxpayer’s money, let them build shelters with my taxes. But shelters should be guarded by the media, animal rights activists, because those that exist now, they cannot be called such, sometimes they resemble concentration camps. There, animals are often tortured, not fed, not watered, kept in cages, in unnatural conditions. Money is allocated for this, which is obviously not so spent if the “maintenance” of the shelter becomes an immoral business. If there are shelters, they should be accessible to the media, so that we know about the state of these shelters, they should be created by loving people. I think there would be animal rights activists in the country who would take on such a function. In the Netherlands, there is a whole police unit that deals with the rescue of animals, and, judging by the fact that people who are not indifferent write on the Internet, many of our animal rights activists would gladly join such detachments. People want to help, they want to realize themselves in the field of animal protection.
— How do animals most often get to you? Are they the ones who are sent to live?
– Different fates, different options. We do not accept animals on a call, when they call, they ask: take it. I would gladly take everyone, but as an abbot I am an appointed person, a mortal at that, and I cannot take on such obligations. I’m going to recruit animals and what’s going to happen to them? Who will come to my place? May God grant that this was a person who would preserve this shelter with the blessing of the ruling bishop. I have an assistant, a graduate of the Kolomna Seminary – if he came to serve me, he could continue this work, he loves animals very much. I can’t take any chances, so we only take a select few. That is, I must know for sure that this animal was once among people, the owner, the owner either died or is sick, he no longer has the opportunity to deal with the animal, and it turned out to be on the street. These animals suffer the most. Those who wandered the streets, they are accustomed to this condition, they do not care, they can, unfortunately, be killed there, or they will be overtaken by hunger or disease. And we took those who suffered for a person. There were, of course, emergency cases when we found crushed dogs on the road, with injuries, without eyes, without paws.
– How many wards do you have now?
– 53 dogs and the same number of cats. It’s a big farm, but we’re coping with it. Some of the Moscow animal rights activists began to help us, they bring food, we would not have coped with it ourselves. Volunteers come from Moscow, bring food, warm clothes for animals, help. Moscow children have repeatedly collected parcels for us, which is a good start in two schools in the capital. They held exhibitions and three times brought us all possible help. Their loving children’s hearts responded. We were very pleased with this, because children are engaged in this.
– Can I come to you with children to communicate with your animals?
– Yes. We have pets, but when people come and bring infections, it’s bad. Some people have pets at home, some bring infections on clothes and shoes. This is a minus, there are serious diseases, when this infection remains for three years in the soil, there is pestilence. We didn’t know that before. Dogs are smaller and cats are very sensitive. Dogs are more persistent, it is easier to communicate with them. I have already received this knowledge from animal protection.
Do you have no veterinary or medical education?
– No, no, what are you! Animal rights activists tell us what can and cannot be done. I want to say that communication with animals is an experience that fills life and makes it full. It is impossible to live without the animal world, life becomes scarce, undue, incomplete.
Did you have pet animals as a child?
– There was a decommissioned service shepherd dog Julbars. Her father took her out of pity, she was a very intelligent dog. There were animals and pedigree, and mongrel. And now there’s a dog I’ve found, I’ve had a French Bulldog living for twelve years. People took it and threw it away. It’s an “after-breath”, she lacked something for the breed. An extremely loyal dog. And the cats I have — mostly the ones that have been affected by humans and that have been thrown away. They become very devoted if a person loves them for the second time. Trusting the person again, they will die for you. I’ve always had animals, and I’ve been read the right books as a kid. I re-read them myself, we had a large library. In those days, there were beautiful films on this topic. “White Bim is a black ear”… How can you not touch this movie! It shows both high spirit and meanness of man. This gradation of people continues.
“Now they are afraid of injuring children, they are afraid of upsetting them…
It is very good if a child is upset, it means that he has the ability to empathize, there is suffering, mercy and pity. Otherwise, no one will be upset about him if he feels bad. We need to comment on these films correctly. What struck me most about the film was the scene that was cut out in the modern version – when the dogs were shown on the livestock, real dogs were filmed there, it was obvious and creepy. They felt that death would soon come for them, they were sentenced. I will never forget this scene of the film, although it has already been deleted.
Cruelty to animals must disappear. Contact zoos should be banned. If society wants to develop, it must treat animals humanely. It is necessary to revise the concept of society’s attitude towards our smaller brothers.
This is an English translation of a Russian article from cleanfuture.ru and permission sought for republication