Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't use the Bible to justify cruelty

The St. Catharines Standard - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

By Daniel K. Wilson, NIAGARA VOICES

“‘Do not kill’: These words refer not just to the killing of a person, but to the killing of anything which is alive. This commandment was written in the people’s hearts even before it was heard on Mt. Sinai.” - Leo Tolstoy

It seems that whenever I’m leafleting, tabling at some event or speaking about animal rights or vegetarianism, there’s always someone who will use the Bible to justify our mistreatment of animals.

They usually say something like, “Well, that’s what the animals are here for,” but occasionally it’s a little more to the point: “That’s why God put them here.”

Although I find it hard to believe that an all-loving Creator condones animal cruelty, I do know where this particular view comes from:

“And 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

Now to some people, including many animal-rights activists, having dominion means that we are stewards of the earth, and that we’re responsible for the animals in the same way a leader is responsible for the people he or she governs.

We have no more right to hunt, kill or experiment on animals than Stephen Harper has the right to hunt, kill or experiment on Canadians, or so they argue.

But a lot of other folks interpret dominion as exploitation: that we can use animals in whatever way we see fit, and why not? The Bible isn’t exactly the most animal-friendly book around.

Sure, God commanded the Israelites to let their animals rest on the Sabbath but aside from that, there really isn’t much about being nice to them.

The Bible does however, describe in graphic detail, how animals are to be killed for peace offerings, sin offerings, burnt offerings and other sacrifices “to make a sweet savour unto the Lord,” and although the Hebrews were instructed not to eat certain kinds of animals like pigs, vultures and mice (because they were considered unclean), the book of Leviticus lists a multitude of animals that could be eaten.

In the story of the flood, every living creature not in the ark was destroyed and when God told the children of Israel to attack their enemies, He insisted that all the animals of their enemies be killed as well, along with every man, woman and child.

Some animal activists, along with some Christians, have even suggested that Jesus was a vegetarian, although there’s no evidence of this, and if Jesus was concerned about the well-being of animals, nobody bothered to record it. Nowhere in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount does it say, “Blessed are they who protect the animals from unnecessary suffering.”

And while life in the Garden of Eden was apparently meant to be a vegetarian one,

“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” - Genesis 1:29,

I think it’s a mistake for activists to try and use the Bible to promote animal rights, as most references to animals have to do with how they are to serve us, alive or dead.

But just because the Bible isn’t compassionate towards animals doesn’t mean that we can’t be. The good book also sanctions war, slavery, polygamy, the killing of homosexuals and the oppression of women, all of which are quite unpopular today.

If we stop using the Bible to justify animal exploitation, and started promoting kindness and respect for all of God's creation, we might just acheive something most of us thought was impossible - peace on Earth.


Nikki said...

"I think it’s a mistake for activists to try and use the Bible to promote animal rights, as most references to animals have to do with how they are to serve us, alive or dead."

I would encourage you to spend some time with Andrew Linzey's writings, particularly Animal Theology. He and I both would beg to differ with you.

Anonymous said...

God CHOSE a stable as the site for Jesus' birth wherein he was laid in a manger in the company of domestic animals. If domestic animals are good enough as companions for God's son, how in the world can you support groups out to eradicate all domestic animals off the face of the earth? Arrogance and self serving distortion have limits. This propagandized madness of HSUS, PETA and all similar groups to eradicate first ownership then all domestic animals passes sane and responsible limits. HSUS and PETA want meat removed from human use. The US is in a terrible position of having insufficient bees with which to pollinate fruit and vegetable crops. Without meat, fruit, and veggies what are people to eat?