DO ANIMALS HAVE RIGHTS?

Updated August 22, 2007 (first published March 3, 1996) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org) -

For many decades the theory of evolution has been taught as fact in most secular (and religious) schools. The result has been predictable. If man is merely an animal, and there is no eternal reality, life is robbed of its meaning and sanctity. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in crime, immorality, depression, hopelessness, and suicide. Morality is meaningless to an animal.

It is this strange thinking that results in animals being treated with the dignity that should be reserved for human beings. For example, in 1983, in Redwood City, California, a wealthy widow willed most of her $10.9 million fortune to her pets, while her son and daughter received only $400,000. In Hanover Park, Illinois, you can be buried with your dog. There is a cemetery where pet owners can have their ashes placed alongside their favorite pet. One woman chose to be buried with her three dead turtles. Recently we heard of a drive through restaurant for pets! Animals are being treated with unnatural affection.

The growing power of animal-rights activism in Canada is seen in a March 23, 1992, decision by the Toronto City Council to ban all exotic animal acts, including circuses and theater or stage shows that use such animals in their productions. The
Chicago Tribune report on this for April 27, 1992, noted that even the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the famed Moscow Circus could no longer come to that town. Vancouver, British Columbia, and London, England, have similar ordinances.

The hoopla surrounding the beating of a donkey in Seattle, Washington, further illustrates the unnatural way the world is thinking about animals. Three teenage boys stole a donkey from a park and beat it to death. This was a stupid thing to do. It was cruel and it was wrong, and it should never have happened. But the truly amazing part of this story was the reaction of people to the donkey’s death. The dead animal was given practically the same dignity as a human being. Radio talk show hosts and their callers focused on the “unspeakable cruelty” involved in this matter. (These are same liberal media representatives, for the most part, who support the murder and torture of unborn children via abortion.) A memorial ceremony was held for the dead donkey. The local 4-H Club set up a memorial fund with people being urged to give something “in memory of Pasado, the donkey”! Referring to the 4-H club members, one mother said, “As parents, we are trying to help the kids deal with their grief in a more constructive way” (
The Seattle Times, Apr. 23, 1992). You would think it was some child that had died. But no, it was a donkey. A donkey!

This confusion regarding the nature of animals has also resulted in a move for “animal rights”--that animals have rights equal with humans and should not be killed or eaten, that animals should not be used in laboratory experiments that benefit mankind, that animal habitats should be protected even if it means economic and social harm to man, that animals are at least as important as man.

The animal rights movement is closely connected with environmentalism and is growing phenomenally. Consider some statements by environmentalists and animal rights leaders that illustrate this thinking:

“It can no longer be maintained by anyone but a religious fanatic that man is the darling of the whole universe, or that other animals were created to provide us with food, or that we have divine authority over them, and divine permission to kill them” (Environmentalist Peter Singer (“Earth Day 1990,”
The Christian News, Apr. 9, 1990).

“Human beings, as a species, have no more value than slugs.” --Univ. of Calif. professor Kenneth Watt (Cited by Gary Benoit, “The Greatest Sham on Earth,”
The New American, Mar. 26, 1990).

“The smallest form of life, even an ant or a clam, is equal to a human being.” --Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; quoted by Charles Oliver, “Liberation Zoology,”
Reason, June 1990).

“There really is no rational reason for saying a human being has special rights. ... A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” (Ingrid Newkirk, PETA founder,
Reader’s Digest, June 1990).

“Man is just one of the creatures that the Lord put on earth and is not more important than all the rest” (Former Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day 1970;
The New American, Mar. 26, 1990).

“Extinction is the ultimate sin of humankind” (Sam LaBudde, Goldman Environmental Prize Winner for 1991,
USA Today, Apr. 22, 1991).

“Honorable representatives of the great saurians of older creation, may you long enjoy your lilies and rushes, and be blessed now and then with a mouthful of terror-stricken man.” --Sierra Club founder John Muir, in his prayer to the alligators (
The Christian News, June 15, 1992).

“I would wish to return as a killer virus to lower human population levels” (Prince Philip of England, World Wildlife Fund leader, speaking before the United Nations on March 30, 1990, Ibid.).

“Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along” (David Graber, research biologist with the National Park Service,
The Christian News, June 15, 1992).

When we speak of animal rights, therefore, we are not speaking merely of a humane approach to animal care. The radical animal rights proponents desire to stop medical research. They want to see the end of hunting and fishing practices. They want to set aside millions of acres of land for the protection of species such as the northern spotted owl. They do not want this land to be used by man, not even for selective harvesting of timber. They want to stop the use of skins and furs for clothing, shoes, or accessories. Many animal rights proponents are vegetarians who do not believe man has the right to kill and eat animals.

“The animal-rights movement has its roots in Europe, where anti-vivisectionists have held the biomedical research community under siege for years. In 1875, Britain’s Sir George Duckett of the Society for the Abolition of Vivisection declared: ‘Vivisection is monstrous. Medical science has little to learn, and nothing can be gained by repetition of experiments on living animals.’

“In the United States, the movement is spearheaded by PETA, whose leadership insists that animals are the moral equivalent of human beings. Any differentiation between people and animals constitutes `speciesism,’ as unethical as racism. Says PETA co-founded and director Ingrid Newkirk, ‘There really is no rational reason for saying a human being has special rights. ... A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.’ She compares the killing of chickens with the Nazi Holocaust. ‘Six million people died in concentration camps,’ she told the Washington Post, `but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.’

“Newkirk has been quoted as saying that meat-eating is ‘primitive, barbaric, arrogant,’ that humans have `grown like a cancer. We’re the biggest blight on the face of the earth,’ and that if her father had a heart attack, ‘it would give me no solace at all to know his treatment was first tried on a dog’“ (“The ‘Animal Rights’ War on Medicine,”
Reader’s Digest, June 1990).

Medical science has produced countless blessings for mankind through animal research, including vaccines against diphtheria, polio, measles, mumps, whooping cough, rubella, and smallpox. Antibiotics and modern surgical skills were developed through animal research. In fact, the amazing progress of modern medicine could not have been possible without animal research.

Yet animal rights activists would rob mankind of this benefit because of their confused thinking.

The popularity of the animal rights movement is seen in the thousands who turned out to march in a 1990 Washington D.C. rally. The crowd, estimated at 24,000, gathered for a show of strength to persuade the government to regulate the use of animals more strictly in the area of research and food production.

“Marchers chanted ‘Animal Rights--Now.’ Many carried banners and placards with pictures and slogans saying things such as ‘Animals Are Not for Wearing,’ ‘Fur is Dead,’ and ‘Animals Have Rights, Too.’ They expressed their opposition to what they contend is the needless suffering of animals for the benefit of humans in medical research, meat processing and the testing of cosmetics” (
The Herald, Snohomish and Island Counties, Wash. June 11, 1990).

The confusion in regard to animals is also found among those who call themselves Christians. In light of the widespread acceptance of evolutionary thought by Christian leaders, this is not surprising. Consider some examples:

A group called INRA, composed of Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, promotes a World Week of Prayer for Animals in October (
Australian Beacon, July 1987).

The World Council of Churches, always on the cutting edge of weirdness, sponsored a conference in Annecy, France, on the treatment of animals. The meeting was held in October 1988, and the participants determined that animals do not exist for “the unbridled pursuit of human avarice and greed” and “the ethic for the liberation of life requires that we render unto animals what they are due, as creatures with an independent integrity and value” (
National & International Religion Report, Oct. 24, 1988). The WCC radicals criticized the practice of slaughtering animals for food consumption, which results in “massive animal deprivation and death.” They spoke against the use of animals in circuses and aquatic shows. They criticized the use of animals for a source of clothing, cosmetics, and household products (The Banner, Singapore Bible Presbyterian Church, Oct.-Dec. 1988).

In 1991
The Christian Century ran an article contending that animals deserve greater moral priority in relations with humans since they are the weaker species. “Whatever else animal rights means, it cannot mean that we can go on consuming their flesh, destroying their habitats, wearing their dead skins and inflicting suffering.” Whether or not we find it practicable and desirable, the diet assigned to men and beasts by God the Creator is vegetarian.” Linzey is director of studies at the Center for the Study of Theology at the University of Essex in England. Linzey noted that modernist theologian Karl Barth believed in vegetarianism. He quoted Barth as saying, “Whether or not we find it practicable and desirable, the diet assigned to men and beasts by God the Creator is vegetarian” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 11, 1992).

BIBLE LESSONS ABOUT ANIMALS

The first thing to note from Scripture is that animals and mankind are two different creations. Man is not a higher animal. Evolution is a lie. Man was created distinctly in the image of God (Ge. 1:24-28). Animals were not made in the image of God. Animals do not have a living soul. Animals are not eternal beings; man is (Ge. 2:7). While the Hebrew word “nephesh,” which is translated “soul” in Gen. 2:7, is applied both to animals and man, it is used differently. The Scripture says animals are “nephesh,” in that they are living creatures, but it does not say that they
have a soul. The use of soul in reference to man is distinguished clearly from the use of soul in reference to animal. The soul of man can depart from him at death (Gen. 35:18), but this is never said of an animal.

Man is infinitely higher than and different from the animal kingdom. The Lord Jesus Christ referred to this fact in Luke 12:5-7. “But I forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

There are two important teachings here about animals and man. First, we see that God does care for animals; he does not forget even the tiny sparrow. Second, we see that man is infinitely greater in value than the animals because man has an eternal soul. Man will be held accountable for his actions. Without a Savior, sinful man will spend eternity in Hell.

ANIMALS WERE MADE FOR MAN’S PLEASURE

We see further that the Bible says animals were made for man’s pleasure and use. This is true for all things that God made in this world. Man was not made for the world; the world was made for man. Even the stars of the universe were made for man (Ps. 8:4-8). The Psalmist sees the animal kingdom under man’s feet.

Throughout the Bible we see examples of men using animals for servitude, riding them for transportation and warfare (Neh. 2:12; Ps. 32:9; Pr. 21:31; Mt. 21:1-7), plowing with them (De. 25:4), etc. The prophet Elijah and John the Baptist both used girdles of leather (2 Ki. 1:8; Matt. 3:4), meaning they used material from dead animals. The bottles that Israel used were made of leather. Nowhere in Scripture is this condemned. In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ and His armies will be riding white horses when He returns from Heaven (Re 19:11-14). This does not mean that man has a right to be cruel toward animals (Pr. 12:10); it means man has a divine right to rule over the creation and to use it for his purposes and needs.

Animals were used for religious sacrifice from the day of Adam throughout the Old Testament dispensation. God killed animals and made coats of skins for Adam and Eve after their fall (Gen. 3:21). God was pleased when Abel brought the sacrifice of an innocent lamb (Gen. 4:4). God instructed Israel to offer animal sacrifices (Lev. 1-5).

ANIMALS ARE FOR MAN’S FOOD

The Bible encourages the use of milk, butter, cheese, flesh, and other animal products. The Promised Land was described as a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8). From the time of Noah until today God has ordained that man eat animal flesh (Gen. 9:3). The nation Israel ate meat.

The Lord Jesus Christ ate meat. The Passover meal was lamb (Ex. 12:5-10), and Christ ate the Passover (Mt. 26:17-19). He also ate fish (Lu. 24:42-43).

What about Christians? Should they eat meat? The apostle Peter was certainly a Christian, and in a vision from God he was commanded to eat meat (Acts 10:10-13). The vision was to impress Peter that Gentile believers were not unclean, but the fact remains that God commanded Peter to eat of the various meats. God would not have done that if He abhorred meat eating. The vision in Acts 10 also shows that God has removed the Old Testament dietary restrictions. Some would have us believe that restrictions against pork and other meats were for medical purposes. That’s not the case. Those restrictions were for the purpose of separating Israel from the nations and teaching her the difference between holy and unholy.

In the New Testament churches God has removed all such dietary restrictions. In fact, the Bible warns against those who would promote vegetarianism. In 1 Tim. 4:1-5 we read of those who “command to abstain from meats,” and we are told that this is a doctrine of devils! The Bible clearly says that God created animals to be eaten. It is not cruel to kill an animal in hunting or fishing, and to eat it. It is not cruel to slaughter animals for food. That is one of the reasons God made animals. Christians are free to eat meats or not to eat meats. This is the teaching of Rom. 14:2-3, 6. Away with those dietary laws purporting to be Christian. If a Christian wants to eat a certain kind of food--only vegetables, for example-- or if he wants to avoid something such as sugar or pork, that is his business. Let him eat what he feels God would have him eat, and what he feels will best benefit him. But let that one be careful that he not make his own conscience a law for others. The N.T. forbids making dietary laws for religious purposes. Peter describes beasts that are “made to be taken and destroyed” (2 Pet. 2:12). This refers to animals such as pigs and chickens that are made for man’s dining pleasure.

ANIMALS ILLUSTRATE MAN’S SALVATION

Animals were used by God to illustrate salvation to the human race. In the Garden of Eden, when the man and woman had sinned, God made “coats of skins, and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). Where did God get those coats of skins? From innocent animals that died that man might have a covering for his sinful condition. And note that it was God who provided the covering. God must provide salvation. Man cannot earn it himself. Salvation is a gift of grace, “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9). From Eden to Calvary, the blood of animals was shed to illustrate salvation. Man is a fallen sinner who must have salvation from sin’s penalty, and Jesus Christ purchased that salvation on the cross. There He shed His blood and died as payment for man’s sin. Those who trust Him receive eternal life. This is the Gospel that was preached so eloquently by the animal sacrifices. “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). That is what John the Baptist said of Christ. The Bible enjoins us to Look and Live. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Man is the crown of creation, but he is fallen and cannot be what God intended him to be until he is born again through the blood of Jesus Christ.

[This Bible study on animals is from the
Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, David W. Cloud, copyright 1994, 2002, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143]