We recently sat down with longtime PETA supporters Frank and Janice Mazzi and chatted about animal rights, faith, and how to live a compassionate life caring for God’s creation. Frank is a retired high school history teacher with degrees from San Francisco State University and the University of Southern California. His wife, Janice, is also retired, having worked in business administration.

For health, environmental, and ethical reasons, the couple went vegan about 15 years ago, with Janice leading the way. While researching the health benefits of vegan eating, she happened upon a 45-minute online video that explained what happens to animals before they reach grocery shelves. Frank and Janice are often asked how long it took them to go vegan, and Janice’s response is “Just 45 minutes!”

The couple enjoys developing vegan recipes, writing, classical music, musical theater, Bible study, swimming, going to the gym, and bicycling. Read on to learn more about the Mazzis and how their faith affects their compassion for animals!

How does your faith influence or inspire your position on helping animals?

It is ironic that man, to whom God granted dominion over the earth and over the animal kingdom, is the only animal capable of destroying the earth and all its inhabitants. “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth’” (Genesis 1:26, KJV). How kindly we treat all members of the animal kingdom, how respectfully we humans treat each other, and how carefully we treat the earth on which we all live, are measures of “dominion.” You do not have to have a Bible reference to realize that if man does not properly exercise dominion, the earth and all its inhabitants will suffer ongoing and worsening consequences. Again, a Bible reference to make a point might not be necessary here, but we can think of one that should make us all sit up straight and pay attention to our responsibilities and who gave those responsibilities to us: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it …” (Psalm 24:1, NIV). The word “all” must refer not to man alone, but to the entire animal kingdom.

What sparked your interest in animal rights?

When we form a bond with the animals whom we call “companion animals,” we begin to understand that animals are sentient beings who have both the capacity and the desire to love us as we express our love for them. By the time I was in high school, two dogs, a parakeet, and scores of aquarium fish had been in my charge. I’m not sure about the fish, but the two dogs and the parakeet got inside my heart. By the time Janice was in high school, she had been similarly influenced by one dog and two cats. We learned as their guardians that animals are innocent, that they depend on our responsible care, that they prosper in a loving environment, and most especially that they soften our hearts. During our high school years, we never heard of anything called “animal rights.” It was only natural, we thought, that all animals deserved to be treated kindly and respectfully. When we later learned about systemic animal abuse, we wondered how mankind could tolerate the dreadful treatment animals endure when, for example, they are raised for food or are subjected to experimentation in laboratories.

What gives you hope for the future when it comes to animals?

Have we not heard people say, in so many words, that their companion animals made them “better” people? Have we not heard people marvel at how their companion animals gifted them with “unconditional love”? Perhaps people have confided in you that, when they were children, these animals provided the only love they had ever experienced at home. Imagine a home where a child grows up with little, if any, recollection of love except the love provided by a pet. That experience is sad, but it is telling, too. Animals change us and teach us something through their love. If you think about it, without knowing love, we would have a hard time knowing what it means to exercise dominion.

Has there been an animal in your life who has made a big impact on you?

Two Rottweilers—first Hogan and then Teddy—and a cat named Ilse were the animal members of our family. Teddy and Ilse, who were born about one month apart from each other, grew up together in our home. Hogan died at 14 years of age in 2003, Teddy at 9 years of age in 2013, and Ilse at 16 years of age in 2020. We miss them greatly.

If we believe that our exercise of dominion is measured by how kindly we treat all members of the animal kingdom, how respectfully we humans treat each other, and how carefully we treat the earth on which we all live, then animals, like man, must have certain rights.

What are those rights? I imagined myself asking Hogan, Teddy, and Ilse that question. In this fantastical scenario, they responded by thanking Janice and me for having provided for them, as have countless others provided for their animals through the ages, an environment that guaranteed three fundamental rights: (1) freedom from fear, (2) freedom from physical and mental abuse, and (3) freedom from want. With those three fundamental rights, our companion animals, ambassadors of the animal kingdom, had just articulated the words for an animal kingdom anthem.

Is there a PETA campaign that you are especially passionate about?

Not one of those fundamental rights is honored by those who employ horrific methods and engage in horrific practices to put innocent animals through horrific experiences. Who will come to the defense of the animals? This is one of many reasons why we support PETA, which, by speaking for the animals and by investigating animal abuse, has helped to bring about federal, state, and local laws, even international agreements, governing the treatment of animals.

Please share a top tip for others to put their faith into action for animals!

For the sake of the animals and for the sake of all mankind, I would suggest reading and dwelling on the following beautiful Bible passage:

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind (Job 12:7–-10, NIV).

Therein, I believe, is encouragement and a foundation for anyone who has a heart for the animals. But therein also lies a cautionary yet redemptive message for anyone who has not understood and not put into practice the true meaning of dominion.

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