[23]   Environment (2): Animal Rights and Vegetarianism

Background:

·       A 2003 poll reports that 33% of women and 17% of men want the same rights for animals as people. Another poll shows that 35% of the US population are against medical research on laboratory animals, 38% against product testing on laboratory animals, 22% against hunting.

106.                         How should Christians view animal rights?

a.   Definition: Animal rightists believe that all animals have rights similar to human rights. So they insist “that all human use of animals should stop immediately.”

b.   Their argument: Man is simply a more intelligent animal in the process of evolution. Therefore, man does not deserve to use other animals simply because of man’s higher intelligence.

·         Related argument: If there is a more advanced and more intelligent species coming out of evolution, would they have the same freedom to treat us the same as other animals (such as use us for food)?

c.   Biblical view:

(1)  The basic difference between man and animals is that man was created in the image of God and is the crown of God’s creation.

o        In God’s eyes, man is worth much more than animals. “Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.”—Mt 10:31.

o        Jesus tells us about God’s concern for animals but also about His greater concern for us (Mt 6:26).

o        When Jesus cast the demons out of the man into 2,000 pigs, He did not interfere when all of these animals rushed into the water and drowned themselves (Mt 8:28-32, Lk 8:26-33).

(2)  Man was given the responsibility to rule over all plants and animals (Gen 1:26; Ps 8:6-9). Animals were allowed to be killed for food (Gen 9:2-3). If so, using animals for other purposes is certainly acceptable. Animals do not have rights.

·         For evolution to actually happen within the presumed age of the Earth of 4.5 billion years, Huxley (famous proponent of evolution) estimated that mutation needs to occur once every one million births. If this is true, there should be about 6000 mutated individuals living in the world today.

d.   Attitude of Christians:

·         Many Christians might agree with some views of animal rightists, such as opposing cruelty to animals or preserving endangered species. However, they are opposite to the Biblical viewpoint. Further, many things they support and actions they involved in are actually immoral and unethical.

107.                         What beliefs and actions of animal rightists are objectionable to Christians?

a.   Animal rights are not about animal welfare. They believe in animal liberation.

·         Many people, including Christians, mistakenly regard animals rights as the same as animal welfare, seeking simply to protect animals from mistreatment, such as animal shelters.

·         Organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) object using laboratory animals in biomedical research, using furs of animals, and using animal meat for food. As an extension, they object hunting, fishing, and dissection in biology classes.

b.   Animal rightists use terrorism to achieve their objectives.

·         Radical animal rightists use terrorist methods, sabotage, destruction, even murder to stop people from using animals.The FBI estimates that Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) have committed more than 600 criminal acts in the U.S. from 1996 to 2002, resulting in damages in excess of $43 million.

c.   Animal rights are aligned with radical environmentalists in promoting anti-life philosophy.

·         Animal rightists object to the infliction of any discomfort upon animals, yet support the killing of human babies by abortionists, including the horrifying partial birth abortion. All major environmentalist (Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth) and animal rights organizations (National Wildlife Federation) officially support abortion.

·         Peter Singer (a vegetarian, a self-described atheist and a professor in Australia and now at Princeton) is the “godfather” of animal rights activism. He says he is on a mission to counter Christian teachings that animals do not have the same standing as people. He advocates euthanasia for severely disabled infants, during up to one year after birth.

d.   Conclusion: Animal rightists have beliefs opposite to the Bible. They used violent means in their fight for animal liberation. They are linked to radical environmentalists and pro-abortionists. Christians must reject animal rights.

108.                         How should Christians view vegetarianism?

a.   Vegetarianism is the practice of not eating any meat.

·         Types of vegetarians: (1) Most vegetarians allow the consumption of animal products (eggs, milk, cheese); some even allow occasionally consumption of fish. (2) Vegans: strict vegetarians avoid any animal products. (3) Some additionally avoid usage of all kinds of animal products, such as leather.

b.   People adopt vegetarianism for different reasons:

·         Religion: A majority of the world’s vegetarians follow the practice for religious reasons. Many religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Jainism.

·         Ethics: Since a person can live perfectly healthily on a vegetarian diet, there is insufficient justification for the suffering caused by the production of meat.

·         Environmental or ecological concerns: Livestock production is also often linked to de-forestation and theft of the land from indigenous tribal people.

·         Health: Statistics indicate that people on vegetarian diets have lower incidence of many diseases.

·         Aesthetics: Some people intuitively find meat unappetizing, particularly when raw, and simply prefer to abstain from the consumption of animal flesh for aesthetic or emotional reasons.

·         Pragmatic considerations: Modern-day, industrially produced meat is laced with chemicals, such as growth hormones, antibiotics. Some people simply try to avoid consuming these chemicals.

c.   False myths believed by some vegetarians (followed by responses):

(1)  All forms of life are sacred, and all creatures have a right to live out their natural lives. Killing animals for meat is unethical (sinful).

o        God Himself gave animals as food for man (Gen 9:2-3).

o        The belief that all life is sacred can lead to absurdities such as allowing mosquitoes to spread malaria.

(2)  Based on the anatomy of man, God did not design humans to eat meat.

o        Actually some ethnic groups need meat to survive. Eskimos derive vitamin C from the raw meat of animals who synthesize ascorbic acid. If they had cooked their meat, they would have developed scurvy.

o        The most serious dietary problem facing veganism is the high risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency.

(3)  Slaughter is repugnant, degrading, and inhumane.

o        In nature, most prey are eaten while they are still alive. It is a lot more humane in slaughterhouses where death is generally quick and painless.

(4)  Raising animals for meat is inefficient and misuses available land.

o        Animals graze on lands unsuitable for crop-growing, eat those inedible portions of plants.

(5)  Animal flesh is unhealthy because it contains toxins, virulent bacteria, etc.

o        Plants also contain naturally occurring toxicants, many are far more deadly than those of animal flesh.

d.   Proper Christian attitude:

(1)  There is nothing wrong for a Christian to be a vegetarian if the reasons for this practice do not contradict our Christian faith, such as for health reasons or aesthetic reasons only, but definitely not for religious or ethical reasons. On the other hand, eating meat is not a sin either.

(2)  The vegetarian practice must not be based on faulty beliefs such as:

(a)  It is more spiritual to not eat meat. (see Jn 6:11; Jn 21:6; Ac 10:9-16)
(b)  Jesus Himself did not eat meat. (see Lk 24:42-43; Jn 21:9-13)

(3)  Most importantly, neither side should criticize the other side (Ro 14:2-4; Col 2:16). It is an issue between each person and God (Ro 14:20-22).