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Did God Give Animals Rights?

What is the difference between human beings and animals? Why did God make animals? How should a vertical-thinking person treat animals?

by Randy Stiver

If our society were full of common sense, the question of whether animals have rights like people do would never come up—because people would know. Animals are animals and human beings are human beings. That is, if our society had common sense.

The animal rights movement

The modern animal rights movement charts its origin from a book titled Animal Liberation printed in 1975. It was written by Australian-born Peter Singer, now a professor of philosophy in America at Princeton University. His book proclaimed that animals, in essence, are morally equal to people. Animal rights and other elements of Dr. Singer's philosophy of ethics were recently presented as the topic of an international conference during April of 2007 at the University of Sydney in Australia.

As a young person, you have almost certainly come in contact with the animal rights movement—most likely at school or university. Animal rights activists have heavily targeted the education system to carry their message, which sounds good because, being human, we tend to love animals—especially cute, furry or feathery ones.

Many initially lump animal rights with animal welfare programs (like animal shelters, etc.)—but these are not the same, as animal rights activists Tom Regan and Gary Francione clarify. "Not only are the philosophies of animal rights and animal welfare separated by irreconcilable differences . . . the enactment of animal welfare measures actually impedes the achievement of animal rights" ("A Movement's Means Create Its Ends," The Animals' Agenda, January/February 1992, pp. 40-42)

The philosophy that spawns the concept of animal rights doesn't come from God. The founder of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Ingrid Newkirk, made the now-famous core statement in Vogue magazine in 1989: "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."

That statement summarizes the animal rights movement. It says that a human boy is morally the same as any other animal. But is that true? Who legitimately decides the moral value of a person or an animal—Peter Singer, Ingrid Newkirk, Tom Regan, Gary Francione or who?

Actually, the greatest ethicist and moralist in the history of ethics and morals decides—the Creator God, of course. But you knew that. God establishes value for all parts of His creation, and He did so from the beginning.

The first chapter in the entire Bible records the creation of all plants, bugs, fish, reptiles, mammals and mankind. "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps
on the earth'" (Genesis 1:26).

Seven keys

There are seven critical keys to understanding the man/animal controversy.

1. God made man in His image. None of the animals in the creation were made in the image of God—only human beings. Bodily we are described as looking like God. Intellectually we reflect (albeit poorly) the divine mind. Of all God's creatures, only people have God-consciousness: "He has put [a sense of] eternity in their hearts" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

2. God gave man dominion over all the animals. That mankind was the apex of God's creation is proven by the fact that God placed all the other creatures and the rest of creation under his rule and care.

Have people always taken good care of the animals? No, certainly not. Some have and do mistreat animals, including some in greed-driven, factory-farming methods employed in the mega-agriculture industry. God is not pleased about that. But the wrong actions of human beings do not elevate the moral standing of animals. People are still people in need of redemption, and animals are still animals.

3. God promises only human beings eternal life as His divine children in His Kingdom. Animals live here and now. Humanity is unique compared to all animals and even to the angels. Of Christ the Bible says: "For to which of the angels did He ever say: 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You'?" (Hebrews 1:5). Amazingly, Christ calls us His brothers! (see 2:11).

4. God gave human beings a mind vastly greater than that of any animal. Beavers build dams, but none ever developed the technologies to build a Hoover Dam or Aswan High Dam. Weaverbirds in Africa build beautiful, complex, community nests, but none has ever constructed the simplest apartment building.

Unlike the animals, man has a mastery of the creation. And no wonder, because God gave him a spirit essence in his mind that makes it possible. "For what man knows the things of a man except [by] the spirit of the man which is in him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11). Animals do not have the spirit in man that gives us such dynamic minds with God-consciousness and profound self-awareness.

5. God made animals for the provision and enrichment of human beings. People were created to be children in the spirit family God is forming. Everything in the creation on earth, including the animals, He made for our provision, such as clothing and food; for our enrichment, through enjoyment of their beauty and variety; and for helping us develop the qualities of divine character. Animals are powerful teaching tools in the hands of God.

6. The Bible doesn't talk about "animal rights." But God did give human beings responsibilities concerning animals. He commands and expects people to take care of animals as good stewards of His creation. "The godly are concerned for the welfare of their animals," but the wicked are cruel (Proverbs 12:10, New Living Translation).

The six syllables of anthropomorphizing mean ascribing human attributes or characteristics to nonhuman animals, plants or things. This is the logical fallacy of the animal rights movement—it tries to make animals into pseudohumans. Cartoonists also personify animals, but their cartoons are funny because almost everyone knows that animals don't think and talk like human beings.

7. God alone defines true moral and ethical values—no matter how many philosophers conduct how many international conferences in how many universities. Because it rejects God's divine revelation as found in the Bible, human ethical philosophy draws wrong conclusions and has no moral authority. The animal rights movement has arbitrarily proclaimed artificial ethics. Like virtually all other human philosophy, it lacks vertical thinking skills.

Human destiny

So why do so many young men and women devote themselves to the animal rights movement? Perhaps it's because they are seeking meaning and purpose for their lives. Strangely, they're looking for God, but they just don't know it. Thus, they spend themselves in a vain cause based on wrong values.

You, too, need meaning and purpose for your life. You need a cause, but first you need the truth.

Today God is calling people—young and old—to understand His plan and purpose for mankind. God loves animals, bugs, birds and reptiles too—after all, He made each of them. But He loves people more for they are His children. Those who choose His way and His cause He will resurrect to divine spirit life (yes, higher than the angels) in His Kingdom forever.

This sorry, confused world desperately needs the sound thinking and good news of that soon-coming Kingdom of God. To be a living, breathing, talking example of that way of life is the most worthy cause for which you can spend yourself.

Then take good care of your animals and shoulder your God-given responsibilities. VT

About the Author
Randy Stiver is the pastor of United Church of God congregations in Columbus and Cambridge, Ohio, and is a regular guest on the Beyond Today television program.

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