What Are Christian Views On Animal Rights?
How should a Christian treat animals?
There have been, and continue to be, differing views on this matter in Christian theology. It can be a sensitive subject, and not all Christians agree on a particular viewpoint.
Some Christians might believe that animals are inferior to humans and subject to us, so it doesn't matter how we treat them.
Others might believe that it is a Christian's responsibility to treat all animals with kindness.
So what are Christian views on animal rights, exactly?
Man Was Created In God's Image
My first (and best) resource on answering this question is the Bible.
Of course, the Bible cannot possibly cover every situation, but it does offer some pretty good guidelines in this matter.
Most people are familiar with the account in Genesis about how God created the world. After making man, God declares:
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.
This is a well-known verse, and it has been taken by many Christians throughout the centuries to suggest that, because man is created in God's image and is superior to animals, that it doesn't matter how Christians treat animals.
We know that God did place humans above animals. We are superior in certain ways.
The ability to create and form complex societies is beyond the capabilities of even the smartest of animals.
But God created humankind in his image so that we could reflect his love, his intelligence, and his loyalty.
Although we are superior, that does not mean we should treat them in an abusive manner or regard them, as Christians once did, as a mere resource to harness.
Let's consider some Bible passages that discuss animals.
How the Bible Says We Should Treat Animals
When God decided to purge the earth with a great flood, he did not elect only to save mankind.
Instead, he gathered two of every kind of animal (with seven pairs of clean animals), and in some miraculous way safely transported them.
This shows that God is concerned with the lives of animals as well as people.
Proverbs 12:10 states that:
The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.
Solomon is sending a clear message that to mistreat animals is to practice cruelty.
God echoed this sentiment when he scolded Jonah for desiring Nineveh's destruction, declaring:
Should I not also feel sorry for Nineveh the great city, in which there are more than 120,000 men who do not even know right from wrong, as well as their many animals?
Not only does God abhor the loss of human life, but he hates the unnecessary loss of animal life as well.
It is clear that Jesus felt as his Father does, because he spoke on several occasions about rescuing and protecting animals.
His most famous example is his parable of the lost sheep, where he describes a shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep in the field to search for and rescue a single lamb that has gone astray. Upon his return, the shepherd rejoices and tells his friends to celebrate. (Luke 15:2-7)
I imagine that Jesus feels the same way every time a dog or a cat is rescued from a shelter, every time a horse or donkey is rescued from an abusive or neglectful owner, or every time a pig or chicken is saved from going through a factory farm.
Let me draw to your attention one of the most powerful passages in the Bible.
In the following passage, the prophet Isaiah is describing a vision of a restored Earth where God's original purpose has been restored.
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
With this prophetic vision in mind, it is clear that God values the lives of all animals, not just the ones that are useful.
For more Bible verses about animals, check out the post: "Amazing Bible Verses That Will Change the World for Animals"
What Are Christian Views on Animal Rights
Christian theology has often changed with the times, as new insights into God's Word have illuminated portions of Scripture that were not always easily understood.
While many Christians in the past viewed animals as unimportant, this is clearly not the way God sees things.
As God's stewards, it is my responsibility and your responsibility to ensure that animals are treated with dignity and kindness.
This includes treating pets and livestock with care and not abusing any wildlife we meet.
When we respect the animals that God put on this planet, both wild and domestic, we make God rejoice.