Amish & Domestic Animal Beliefs

by Teresa Bergen

If you drive the back roads of Pennsylvania, you’re likely to pass Amish people in horse-drawn buggies. While they have frequent contact with other Americans, they live in tight Amish communities. They favor the group over the individual and taking care of themselves rather than relying on any type of government assistance. Their views on animals are sometimes at odds with those of other--especially more urban -- Americans.

Connection with Nature

The Amish believe God wants humans to live in harmony with the natural world and to be good stewards of plants and animals, as instructed by the Bible. While Amish people may grow fond of their animals, they are usually workers rather than pets. Horses haul buggies, cats control rodent populations, cows produce milk and beef and dogs work on the farm and help hunt. They share this attitude with many other rural non-Amish Americans.

Bible and Animals

The Bible is the main holy book used by the Amish. Since the Bible contains many admonitions to treat animals well, such as Proverbs 12:10, "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast," the Amish believe in treating their animals humanely. They are also pacificists who are opposed to violence. But the Amish avoid the use of technology, so they rely on animals for transportation and other functions around the farm more than many other Americans do as of 2013. While most Amish care for their horses in ways that don’t attract attention, some prominent abuse cases have made the news. These involve horses being overworked or left in extreme heat with no shelter. Many businesses in Amish areas provide horse shelters to protect the animals from heat.

Puppies

The Amish especially clash with some of their other American neighbors over so-called “puppy mills.” Many puppy mills in the US are run by non-Amish people. But Lancaster County, Pennsylvania has been called the puppy mill capital of the world, and the Amish dominate the trade in that area. While dogs in mainstream America have been elevated to a status much higher than other domestic animals, such as pigs and goats, their status is less inflated among the Amish.

Conflicts with Government

Some modern aspects of farming clash with Amish beliefs. In 2007, Amish farmers in Michigan refused to comply with a state Department of Agriculture mandate to tag cattle with electronic chips. Agricultural officials sought to protect public health by tracking animal diseases. But to Amish farmers, electronic chips conjured stories of the mark of the beast from the Book of Revelation. The Amish have also butted heads with the US government over excessive amounts of cow manure from Amish farms polluting the Chesapeake Bay. Since the Amish rely heavily on cows, Lancaster County generates more than 61 million pounds of manure annually, far more than any other Pennsylvania county.

Resources

About the Author

Teresa Bergen writes about fitness, health, yoga, travel and the arts. She is the author of "Vegetarian Asia Travel Guide" and has written hundreds of articles for publications online and off. Bergen also teaches yoga, spinning and group fitness classes, and is an ACE-certified personal trainer.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images