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Valuing Animal Life

Jonathan has been writing since 1995 about various topics, from movie reviews, works of fiction and media commentaries to Bible sermons.

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In 2020, a boy from Russia was playing outside in the snow, when out of nowhere a wolf prepared to attack. The family's dog, just a little Jack Russell Terrier, immediately took after the wolf and chased it away, but ended up losing her life in the process. Stories like this have happened too many times to count, and not just with dogs but with cats and other animals too. Because of this, and because of their love for animals, some have concluded that not only are animals people too, but that the value of their life is equivalent to that of humans, perhaps even asserting that these creatures will share in the afterlife. So, out of a place of kindness, the question may arise: is it proper to kill animals?

Animals do share certain human traits and emotions to a limited degree. There is real capacity for fear, sadness, excitement, playfulness, intelligence & problem solving, love for their family and owners, even self-sacrifice in some cases. However, there are also real limits, not only of their capabilities, but in what we expect of them. The last time you saw a hen house and there was a rooster, were you shocked that he was practicing polygamy? Or the last time you saw a cat catch a mouse, did you wait to see if it would pour the blood out on the ground out of respect for life? Of course not. As Genesis says, only humans were created in God's image.

All people, whether they acknowledge it or not, have a spiritual need. Humans can develop, not just basic logic skills, but wisdom, as well as a sense of objective morality and justice. And, Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has even put eternity in their heart". Humans have a need to live forever. In fact it's more than that. The prospect of a permanent, meaningless death is pretty much universally unacceptable, as shown by the content of numerous funeral customs, religious beliefs and folklore from every culture that has ever existed.

But is that true of animals? Notice the scripture we just read mentioned that everything is beautiful, "in it's time", and in the previous verses it mentions "a time for birth and a time to die." Animals are beautiful. Animals are perfect for what they were created to be, and part of that purpose involves having a finite lifespan. Their daily activities show that they don't have far-reaching hopes, dreams and aspirations. They don't look past the stars, contemplating their place in the universe and it's meaning. And they definitely don't sigh and groan over injustice and bad things happening in the world. And that's okay. As they say ignorance is bliss.

Throughout different eras of history, God has made it clear that it IS acceptable to take the life of animals to benefit humans in various ways. For the first humans Adam and Eve, God created garments for them from animal skins. Sometime later he gave Noah and his family permission to use animals for food. Then, in the Mosaic Law it was required to put down an animal that was known to pose a danger to people.

So does this excuse a wanton disregard for animal life? Of course not, for one thing that would be grossly disrespectful to God, who created all life. For another thing, God wants us to cultivate qualities such as love and empathy, and that would naturally preclude any animal abuse or neglect. Proverbs 12:10 in the Living English translation says, "A right-minded man knows the wants of his animal; but vicious men’s feelings are brutal."

When the life of an animal IS taken, never would we want to be sadistic. The Bible says that God doesn't even take delight in the death of a wicked person, so why would we want to be thrilled by the hunt or the fight an animal puts up, perhaps even prolonging things for the sake of excitement? Even if we don't go that far, if we've ever interacted with animals, dogs, horses, even insects, we know that trust is important.

valuing-animal-life

If we abuse our power, the animal's trust can easily be broken. When God assigned Adam & Eve to have all creatures in subjection, he gave them a great opportunity to pass on the loving care that had been showed to them. We have that responsibility to a degree, and never would we want to misuse it.

So again, is it wrong to kill animals? No, but things are always better when they are done with respect for the creator, coupled with compassion for our fellow creatures. When we approach things this way, it spills over into how we treat people, and it brings us in tune with God's personality, of whom the Bible says that not one sparrow falls without his knowledge.

valuing-animal-life

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