God’s Garbagemen

by Gayle Strayer Armstrong | Oct 1, 2023 | 0 comments

Have you ever thought about who cleans up after you? Who washes your clothes? Who washes the dishes? Who takes out the trash? Who carries the trash away? If nobody did any of these things in your house, it would be an awful place to live, wouldn’t it?

Well, that’s why we clean up. Nobody wants to live in filth. But cleaning up messes wasn’t first thought of by man. God is the one Who created the world’s first clean-up crew. He made many different animals, bugs, and birds (all together called scavengers) to help clean up the garbage that happens even in nature.

One special clean-up bird is a vulture (also commonly called a buzzard). If anyone would ask you what your favorite bird is, you probably wouldn’t say vulture or buzzard, would you? But God’s garbagemen—vultures—have a very important place in our ecosystem.

There are two main kinds of vultures that live across most of the United States, and they go well down into South America. They are Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures. Vultures in North and South America are classified in the scientific family Cathartidae, which comes from the Greek root word carthartes, meaning “purifier.” Why is a vulture called a purifier?

He consumes rotten meat. He can do this because of special stomach acids God gave him. The acids in his stomach are so strong that they are perhaps the strongest anti-bacterial agent in the world. They are able to kill botulism, cholera, and even anthrax and other deadly bacteria.

In this way, a vulture is more like a hazmat crew that cleans up a chemical spill, than an everyday garbageman. He doesn’t just carry the garbage away; he deactivates it. By eating the rotting meat, he is disinfecting, or purifying, it. His stomach acids keep disease from spreading through the environment. Even his white droppings help sanitize the ground and whatever is left behind. He sprays this fluid on his legs also, to protect himself from the deadly germs he comes in contact with. His stomach acids are a powerful antidote that protects all of us from terrible diseases.

Turkey Vulture. Photo © Cheryl Shank.

Some people might think that we don’t need vultures since we have other creatures that eat dead things. You might be interested to hear what happened in India. In that country, nearly all the vultures have been killed by accidental poisoning. So other scavengers feed on the dead animals, resulting in many more rats, wild dogs, crows, and worse. These don’t have the purifying acids that vultures do, so they have caused many diseases to spread throughout India. The feral dogs have spread rabies, the unfinished carcasses contaminate the drinking water, and diseases like anthrax are spreading. You may be sure the Indian government is doing what they can to fight this situation and bring the vultures back—but that requires a lot of money. So far, the health problems caused by the loss of vultures have cost tens of billions of dollars.

People who don’t know a lot about them are generally not too fond of vultures. We may feel disgusted by the sight of them hunching over an animal that has been hit by a car. But aren’t you thankful that the dead animal won’t be there a few days later? Aren’t you thankful that God created a few unlovely creatures to help clean up the messes that we and nature make? I am! God in His great wisdom has a purpose for everything, and we can all be grateful for it. So the next time you see a vulture, tell him, “Thanks, Buddy! Keep up the good work!”

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