We hold that the Bible recognizes that animals have an intrinsic value (God called them “good” in Genesis 1:25) and should not be harmfully exploited as resources or commodified. Animals are not human property but rather owned by God (Psalm 50:10-11). In his seminal work Christianity and the Rights of Animals, Reverend Andrew Linzey affirmed the “Theos-Rights” of animals. (1) The concept was further expounded by Richard A. Young in Is God a Vegetarian? (2) which these key points summarize:
1. Creation exists for the glory of God
2. God loves and cares for creation
3. God has the right to see that sentient beings live naturally, are properly cared for and protected from unnecessary [and harmful] exploitation and abuse
4. God has the right to expect this love and care be replicated by humans
5. Animals and humans have rights as they are derived from God’s rights
6. All of Creation has a derived right to be valued and cared for by humans for the glory of God
The animals exploited by humans on farms, in labs, and elsewhere are complex individuals with preferences, desires and feelings. They are sentient, meaning they have the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Just like humans, they don’t want to be hurt, killed, or have their bodies damaged. Tragically, they can’t advocate for themselves. The Bible tells us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8), and we believe this principle applies to nonhumans. The following examples of exploitation violate “Theos-Rights” of animals because they are unnecessary and abusive.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the United States' largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The organization states, "It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes."
Life in Biblical times was very different than it is now. Food was often scarce. Most ancient diets consisted of locally grown seasonal starches, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Most people ate meat only during times of drought or extreme cold when plants would not grow. In most modernized industrial cultures today, an abundance of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit options are available year-round. The majority of people eat meat not out of necessity but rather out of tradition, convenience, or pleasure. These are gluttonous reasons to eat meat, which we believe the Bible condemns (Proverbs 23:20-21).
In ancient times, use of animal fur was necessary for warmth during winters. It was not until medieval times that people started to associate the skins of animals with status and luxury. Unfortunately, the fur industry has promoted this ever since. With the abundance of inexpensive, synthetic materials available to us in modern times, there is no reason any animal should suffer so people can take the fur, skin, or feathers off their backs.
Vivisection of other species might have contributed to human understanding of anatomy, physiology, biology, and medical science in the past. Much animal experimentation, for example for cosmetics and household items is both unnecessary and cruel. For that fraction of experimentation designed to enhance human health, animal experiments are notoriously unreliable and might be inferior to non-animal methods, such as test tube toxicology, organ-on-a-chip, and computer simulations. Just as experimentation on humans might lead to new discoveries and insights, the ends do not justify the means. We do not accept certain harm to nonhumans in exchange for the very uncertain hope for benefit for humans.
The ancient practice of harming animals for human amusement, which remains widespread today in bullfights and animal acts in circuses, reflects how callous humans can be.
1. We desire total liberation of animals. Our objective is the end of animal exploitation.
2. We hope to inspire all Christians to desire a better world for animals.
1. Abolition: We seek to eliminate the property status of animals and instead advocate “personhood.”
2. Gradualism: We respect those who work to reduce animal suffering, because it can help animals suffering right now and because we think this might eventually help achieve the goal of ending all harmful exploitation of animals.
1. Linzey, Andrew. Christianity and the Rights of Animals. Wipf & Stock, 2016, (pgs. 68-69).
2. Young, Richard A., and Carol J. Adams. Is God a Vegetarian?: Christianity, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights. Open Court, 1999, (pg. 37)
Banner and Corresponding Photo Credit: Karuna Sonnet of Lasa Sanctuary