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

Background:

1.     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.”

·         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.

b.   Their argument: Man is simply a more intelligent animal (just one or more steps higher in the process of evolution). Therefore, man does not deserve to use other animals simply because of man’s higher intelligence. Lower animals are actually our predecessors. Therefore, some people even regard man as of less value because it is a latecomer in the evolution process.

·         Related argument: If there is a more advanced and more intelligent species coming out of evolution, would they have the same freedom to treat man the same way as man is treating 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 a single sparrow but also about His infinitely 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.

o        God used animals to help man. “And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skin, and clothed them.”—Gen 3:21.

·         However, animals should be treated in a humane way. Endangered species should be preserved if possible.

·         For evolution to actually happen within the presumed age of the Earth of 4.5 billion years, the process of evolution needs to be quite fast. 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 (of a more advanced species) living in the world today.

d.   Attitude of Christians:

·         As a matter of personal opinion, many Christians might agree with some views of animal rightists, such as opposing cruelty to animals or preserving endangered species. Some may adopt a vegetarian diet for health reasons.

·         However, we need to understand that animal rights groups put animal rights as a question of morality. 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. However, those who believe in “animal welfare” would agree to sacrifice animals to achieve justifiable “human benefits,” such as medical research while animal rightists do not.

·         Organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) believe in animal liberation. Like most liberation movements (women’s liberation, children’s liberation, etc.), the animal rights movement keeps private its most fundamental beliefs. Publicly it emphasizes views likely to arouse sympathy and acceptance, focusing on extreme abuses.

·         Since they believe animals have the same rights as man, they object to any form of using animals, including 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.

·         Founded in 1980, PETA is dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals. It has more than 700,000 members and is the largest animal rights organization in the world.

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.

·         Examples: Animal Liberation Front (ALF) set fire to a maintenance building at a primate research facility in New Mexico; released minks from an Iowa fur farm twice within a week; firebombed a federal corral for wild horses in Nevada; torched a McDonald’s restaurant in Tucson; burnt a ski resort in Colorado because of the resort’s expansion into lynx habitat.

·         The FBI estimates that 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.

·         Individuals subsidized by PETA, ALF, ELF have attempted murders and assaults, e.g. planted a radio-controlled nail bomb to kill the president of a U.S. medical company that used animals to research the use of staples in human operations.

c.   Animal rights are aligned with radical environmentalists in promoting anti-life (pro-choice) philosophy.

·         It is curious to know that 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. [In October 2003, attendees of a national conference for abortion providers watched and listened with rapt attention as the inventor of the partial birth abortion procedure narrated a video of the grisly procedure – and then burst into applause when the act was over and the unborn child destroyed.]

·         All major environmentalist (Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth) and animal rights organizations (National Wildlife Federation) officially support abortion.

·         The possible logic behind the link between animal rights, environmentalist, and abortion: people = environmental damage; therefore more people = bad; abortion = less people; therefore abortion = good.

·         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 disabled infants. In his 1993 book Practical Ethics, Mr. Singer wrote that parents should have the right to euthanize (murder) a severely disabled infant within 28 days of the child’s birth. At a 2002 conference, he changed his position. He no longer believed in that deadline -- labelling it too arbitrary -- but instead advocates that such a decision be made “as soon as possible after birth,” up to perhaps 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.

·         There are different types of vegetarians: (1) Most vegetarians allow the consumption of animal products, such as eggs, milk and 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, teach that ideally life should always be valued and not willfully destroyed for unnecessary human gratification.

·         Ethics: Everyone is free to choose whether to eat meat or not. Since a person can live perfectly healthily on a vegetarian diet, for most people the only motivations for eating meat are the pleasure of eating it, convenience, and tradition. “Ethical vegetarians” consider these reasons to be 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. In both environmental and economic terms, many vegetarians argue that the “cost” of raising a kilogram of animal protein is many times the “cost” of growing a kilogram of vegetable protein.

·         Health: Statistics indicate that people on vegetarian diets have lower incidence of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

·         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, preservatives, food-coloring, and pesticides. 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        Such belief is a first step to animal rights.

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, or vipers to run loose on one’s premises.

(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 ate raw meat almost exclusively (“eskimo” literally means “raw meat eater”) because 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 like the gold rushers.

o        The most serious dietary problem facing veganism is the high risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency as Vitamin B12 is present only in meats and animal products. In addition, some important nutrients (amino acids, fats, vitamins A, D, K and E) are present in good quantities in meat. Vegetarians need to pay some attention in getting these from a vegetarian diet.

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

o        Whether something is repugnant is highly individual. 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 pull their weight when it comes to land use and food production efficiency: They graze on lands unsuitable for crop-growing, eat those portions of plants that are considered inedible (e.g., corn stalks and husks).

(5)  Animal flesh is unhealthy because it contains toxins, virulent bacteria, uric acid, impure fluids, and the wrong kinds of nutrients. Vegetarian diet is more healthy.

o        Plants also contain naturally occurring toxicants, many of which are far more deadly than those of animal flesh. In reality, many diseased animals are herbivores whose diet consists entirely of raw vegetation. These animals develop many diseases “despite” becoming vegans after weaning.

o        There are numerous accounts of death of vegetarians (including children) from mulnutrition.

o        Of the 1200 people who reached the age of 100 between 1932 and 1952, only four were vegetarians.

 

Justifiable meatless diets

Meatless diets can be healthful, even desirable, for some people, including:

(a) Men with an iron-loading gene are better off without red meat, because it contains heme iron, which is highly absorbable and can increase their risk of heart disease.

(b) Because vegetarian diets are likely to contain less saturated fat than nonvegetarian diets, they may be preferable for persons with familial hypercholesterolemia.

(c) Vegetables contain phytochemicals that appear protective against colorectal cancer.

(d) Homocysteinemia (elevated plasma homocysteine) approximately doubles the risk of coronary artery disease. Several congenital and nutritional disorders, including deficiencies of vitamins B6 and B12 and folic acid, can cause this condition. Since folic acid occurs mostly in vegetables, low intakes of the vitamin are less likely among vegetarians than among nonvegetarians.

(e) Some people find that being a vegetarian helps to control their weight. Vegetarianism tends to facilitate weight control because it is a form of food restriction; and in our overfed society, food restriction is a plus unless it entails a deficit of some essential nutrient.

 

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)  If the vegetarian practice is based on faulty beliefs, then they should correct themselves. Such faulty beliefs include:

(a)  It is more spiritual to not eat meat.

·         Jesus used fish to feed the multitude (Mk 6:41; Jn 6:11).

·         Jesus helped the disciples to catch more fish (Jn 21:6; Lk 5:4).

·         God asked Peter to kill and eat the animals (Ac 10:9-16).

(b)  Jesus Himself did not eat meat.

·         Jesus ate fish (Lk 24:42-43; Jn 21:9-13)

(c)  Some actively recruits fellow Christians to be vegetarians.

·         The Bible warns against such practice (1Ti 4:1-4).

(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).