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"...that we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness" - 1 Timothy 2:2
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Monday, July 1, 2013

Animal Rights: Distinction between Men and Animals


Note: This article is part of a series of studies about animal liberation and the Bible. We encourage you to go to see the other articles at

If men and animals are fundamentally the same in nature, then we would expect animals to have the same rights as men. But if men are fundamentally different from animals, then we should expect different rules to apply.

I. The View of Animal Rights

Animal Liberation sees little essential difference between men and animals. This, of course, is a consequence of believing that men evolved from animals.

Note some quotations

* Animal rights leader Peter Singer argued that differences between species are as irrelevant morally as differences between races or sexes (Sherry, p4). So the fact an animal is a different species should not affect how we treat them, any more than the fact a person may be a different race or a different gender. So to parallel racism and sexism, human dominance of animals is called "speciesism"!

* Singer objects to the term "animal," because it implies animals are somehow different from humans (Sherry, p4). Just as the feminists revised our language to remove distinctions between the sexes, Animal Liberators want to revise our language to remove all distinctions between us and animals,.

* "Helping animals is not any more or less important than helping human beings..." - PETA FAQ.

* Remember, Ingrid Newkirk, a founder of PETA, said:

"Animal liberationists do not separate out the human animal, so there is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They are all mammals" - Vogue, 9/89 (via Sherry, p xiii).

* Alex Pacheco, also a PETA founder, said: "We feel that animals have the same rights as a retarded human child" - New York Times, 1/14/89 (via Sherry, p. xiii).

Note how they "answer" nearly every opposing argument by assuming animals should be treated like humans.

* "Would you allow an experiment that would sacrifice 10 animals to save 10,000 people?" Suppose the only way to save those 10,000 people was to experiment on one mentally-challenged orphan... Most people will agree that it is wrong to sacrifice one human for the "greater good" of others ... Yet there is no logical reason to deny animals the same rights that protect individual humans from being sacrificed for the common good - PETA FAQ.

* "If you were starving on a boat at sea, and there were an animal on the boat, would you eat the animal?" I don't know. Humans will go to extremes to save their own lives, even if it means hurting someone innocent. (People have even killed and eaten other people in such situations.) - PETA FAQ

* "'If you were in a fire and could save only your child or your dog, whom would you choose?' I would save my child, but that's just instinct. A dog would save her pup" - PETA FAQ.

Note how they repeatedly make humans and animals equivalent.

How far does this go?

* They criticize the Animal Welfare Act because it "does not include rats and mice... [or] cold-blooded animals..." - PETA FAQ. So rats and mice, snakes and frogs (cold-blooded animals) should all have rights.

* "When asked whether his concept of animal rights included the protection of insects or rodents, [Peter Singer] replied: 'I wouldn't kill a spider if I can avoid killing a spider...'" - CultureFacts, 7/19/2002.

This thinking appears over and over again and is fundamental to their whole philosophy. This error is fundamentally the same as Oriental religions like Hinduism, which honors cows, rats, and insects because of reincarnation. Like animal liberation, they fail to see the distinction between people and animals.

II. The Bible Teaching

A. Humans Have a Stewardship over Animals.

The Bible does not justify unnecessary cruelty to animals, not because animals have rights, but because humans have responsibilities.

Both men and animals were created by God and belong to God.

Genesis 1:20,21,24-27 - God created the fish, birds, land animals, creeping things, and people.

Psalms 50:10,11 - The beasts, the cattle, and the birds all belong to God, as do the people.

Jeremiah 27:5 - God said He made the earth and the men and beasts upon it.

So men and animals share some things in common. One is that we were all made by and belong to God.

God cares and provides for the animals and the people.

Psalms 36:6 - God preserves man and beast.

Psalms 104:14 - He causes food to grow for men and cattle.

Matthew 6:26-30 - God feeds the birds and clothes the plants. Likewise, He will clothe and feed people.

Matthew 10:29 - God knows if even a sparrow falls to the ground.

So God cares and provides for both man and animals. Why? Because they belong to Him! He cares for them for the same reasons that a man cares for and protects things that he made and that belong to him. The owner has rights over that which he owns.

Does God's care and provision for animals prove they have rights like men do? He also cares and provides for the plants (see Matt. 6). Do plants have rights? Instead of comparing animals to men, why not compare them to plants, since God also cares for plants?

Neither men nor animals nor plants have rights except as given them by God, who created and owns them. We will see that the Bible clearly teaches that God has given men certain rights. Where does the Bible say He has given rights to animals?

[Genesis 1:30; Psalms 147:9]

God commands people to properly care for animals

Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15 - Having created all things, God put man in charge over the animals and the earth. Specifically, man was to take care of the plants in the garden. [Psalms 8:4-8]

Deuteronomy 25:4 - An ox that treads grain should be allowed to eat. The New Testament explains that this was his pay for his work (1 Tim. 5:17,18). [Isaiah 30:24]

Deuteronomy 5:14 - Working animals should rest on the Sabbath as surely as the people do.

Proverbs 12:10 - A righteous man regards the life of his beast.

Luke 14:5 - When an animal is endangered, its owner should help and protect it.

Psalms 23:1-4; John 10:1-15; Luke 15:3-7 - Probably the best example of men caring for animals would be shepherds. They knew each sheep individually, led them to food and water, protected them from enemies, and sought for them if they went astray. [Psalms 78:52; Isaiah 40:11; Ezek. 34:11,12]

Does the fact we are responsible to care for animals prove they have rights like we do? Again, we are responsible to care for plants and for the whole earth. Do plants have rights? Do the rocks and the dirt have rights? We are stewards over them too!

We should care for animals and plants, not because they have rights but because we have responsibilities. It is a stewardship. Both they and we belong to God, and He commands us to take care of them.

We should care for animals, not because of the nature of the animals, but because of the will of God who created and rules over all! If the animals belong to God and we are stewards over them, then we are responsible to use and care for them however God says we should.

Question: Why doesn't God command the animals to take care of the people? If animals are as important as we are and have the same rights we have, then why shouldn't they take care of us as much as the other way around? Questions like this one demonstrate that animal liberation involves a fundamentally wrong view of the nature of animals, which leads them to false conclusions about how animals should be treated.

B. Humans Are Distinct from and Superior to Animals.

Men are created in the image of God; animals are not.

Genesis 1:26-28

After He created all the animals (vv 21-25), God then created man. Man was made in God's image and likeness. This is never said of the animals. This teaching is based entirely on the concept of God as Creator and Ruler. It completely contradicts all evolutionary thinking, including animal liberation. [5:1; James 3:9]

This is the most basic issue in this study! If people were created fundamentally different from animals - if we partake of the character of God in ways that animals do not - then all the animal liberation arguments paralleling treatment of animals to treatment of men are false!

Genesis 9:2-6

God distinguishes between killing a man and killing an animal. Killing a man is basically wrong and should be punished, but this is not true of killing an animal. And the reason for this is that men are in the image of God. Killing or harming a man is different from killing or harming an animal, because the nature of man is fundamentally different from the nature of animals.

This demonstrates the error in comparing man's treatment of animals to treatment of other human races or genders. People of other races or the opposite sex are still people in the image of God. They deserve full treatment as humans. But that is not true of animals. The basic error of animal rights is that it fails to recognize that man is fundamentally different in nature from animals: men are in the image of God, but animals are not! All other arguments relate back to this one.

Men have intelligence incomparably beyond that of animals.

Job 35:10,11 - We know more than the beasts and are wiser than the birds, because God so created us.

Psalms 32:9 - Horses and mules have no understanding. So foolish are they that, in order to be useful, they must be controlled by bit and bridle.

Psalms 73:22 - The Bible uses the conduct of brute beasts to illustrate foolishness and ignorance.

Hosea 7:11 - To express the ultimate of senseless ignorance, God compares Ephraim to a silly dove.

God uses animals as the ultimate examples of foolishness. This is not to say animals have no intelligence at all. We are sometimes amazed by what they understand, but only in comparison to other animals. When men use the good sense God gave them, animals cannot compare.

This is part of what it means to be in the image of God. While we can never be as intelligent as God, yet we share with God a kind of intelligence that animals can simply never achieve.

[Daniel 4:16; 5:21; Proverbs 26:11; 2 Peter 2:22; Num. 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; Matt. 9:36]

Men have the power to choose right from wrong and so are morally accountable to be judged for their choices.

Men are morally accountable and will be judged.

Genesis 2:16,17; 1 Corinthians 15:21 - God gave instructions to man (not animals) about eating of the trees in the garden. Man's disobedience brought death into the world. What animal could understand such a choice, or bring such a consequence on itself or on the world by a wrong choice? [3:1-7]

Ecclesiastes 12:13,14 - The whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commands, for God will judge every work, good or bad. Man is capable of understanding and obeying God's commands. This is the purpose of our existence, and we will be judged accordingly.

Matthew 12:36 - Every word that men speak they will give account for in the judgment. Will animals give account for the words they speak?

Acts 17:30,31 - God commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day to judge them. Repentance is a choice. Man can be commanded to make that choice and will be judged for it.

Hebrews 9:27 - It is appointed to man once to die and after this the judgment. Where does the Bible say animals will be judged for their lives?

[Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Cor. 5:10; Joshua 24:15; Hebrews 11:25; 1 Kings 18:21; Psalm 119:30]

Animals are not morally accountable. Men who degrade themselves to practice evil are compared to animals.

Matthew 7:6 - Dogs and pigs are used as examples of those who have no sense of spiritual values. [Phil. 3:2; 2 Kings 8:12,13]

Proverbs 26:3 - When men act as foolishly as animals act, they deserve to be punished and treated like animals.

Matthew 23:33; 12:34 - Men who speak and practice evil are compared to a brood of snakes. [Matthew 3:7]

Acts 20:29,30 - False teachers are compared to wolves that destroy a flock of sheep. [Matt. 7:15; 10:16; 1 Peter 5:8]

Titus 1:12,13 - Men who are lazy liars are compared to evil beasts. Beasts will not be judged for their lives, but they often may do things that would be evil if men did them.

Jude 10 - When people act like brute beasts, they corrupt themselves. [2 Peter 2:12]

Some people use the conduct of animals as justification for certain human conduct, as though animals are the standard of right and wrong! (One actress justified Bill Clinton's womanizing by saying that's how gorilla leaders act.) It used to be that comparing people to "brute beasts" was an insult to describe disgusting, uncivilized conduct, and that's how the Bible still views it.

Men by nature are in the image of God and therefore above animals. But when men corrupt themselves, they lower themselves to the level of animals. Animals cannot help themselves; they are not morally accountable. But men are accountable; so when they act like animals, they deserve to be punished. And clearly animal conduct does not constitute a standard of good conduct for humans!

Rights and responsibilities go together. Men are granted rights by God, because He made us capable of exercising moral judgment and accepting moral responsibilities. Specifically, we have the right or freedom to choose to be good or evil, but we will be held accountable for the choice. Animals do not have these responsibilities, therefore they do not have the rights and will not be judged for their choices. Until animals are able to accept human responsibilities, they cannot have human rights!

God requires men, not animals, to be taught His laws.

Because man is morally accountable and capable of understanding written commands, God requires that all people be taught His laws. He has written them in the Bible for men to study. This is not true of animals.

Nehemiah 8:1-8 - Ezra and others read the law of God and explained it so people could understand. They taught all who could hear with understanding (vv 2,3). But this included only people, men and women - vv 1,2,3,7.

Psalms 94:12 - Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law. Where are such things said about teaching God's law to animals?

Luke 20:1; John 8:2 - Jesus taught people.

Acts 11:26 - The church assembled and taught a great many people, not animals.

Colossians 1:28 - Paul's goal was to preach about Christ, warning every man and teaching every man to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 - The Scriptures are profitable for teaching and instruction to equip the man of God to every good work.

Animals may accomplish God's will for them by means of inborn instincts, and they may be trained by men to do work or tricks, etc. In that sense plants, rocks, and lakes also accomplish God's will, but should they have rights? Man is the only creature to whom God has written a book of instructions. Why? Because only people are in the image of God. Only people have the intelligence to understand the law of God, and only people are morally accountable to obey it.

[2 Chron. 17:9; Ezek. 44:23; Isaiah 2:3; 1 Kings 8:36; Deut. 4:10; Acts 4:2; 5:25; 18:25]

Men have eternal spirits and eternal destinies; animals do not.

Job 32:8 - There is a spirit in man.

Ecclesiastes 3:21 - The spirit of man goes upward, but the spirit of a beast goes down to the earth. Animals have a spirit in the sense of animal life, but it does not continue past death.

Isaiah 31:3 - Just as men are not God, so horses are flesh and not spirit.

Zechariah 12:1 - God forms the spirit of man within him. [1 Cor. 2:11; Heb. 12:23]

Romans 2:6-10 - Speaking to men (vv 1,3), God promises to render to each according to His deeds, good or evil. Punishment is for "every soul of man" who does evil, Jew or Greek. Eternal life is for those who do good. The judgment of men will lead to eternal destinies.

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 - We have an inner man that can receive eternal glory, even though the outer man decays. Can this be said of animals?

Hebrews 4:9 - There remains a rest for the people of God. What passage promises such a rest for animals?

We already learned that only people will be judged for their lives, but that judgment is where eternal destinies will be decreed (see also Matt. 25:31-45). Animals will not be judged, therefore they have no eternal rewards or punishments.

All this follows from the fact man is in the image of God. Like God we have the power to make moral choices, and we are responsible for those choices. We have spirits that will exist forever, and our destiny will be determined by our choices. None of this is true of animals. We are fundamentally different from animals because God chose to create us so.

Men have much greater value to God than do animals.

Because God created men in His image, we are more important and valuable to Him than any animals. This is not a human invention or choice; it is the decree of the Creator.

Matthew 6:26 - God feeds the birds, but of people He says, "Are you not of more value than they?"

Matthew 10:29-31 - God cares for sparrows, even though they are of relatively little value. Yet one human is of greater value than many sparrows.

Matthew 15:26 - Jesus said it is not good to throw the children's bread to the dogs. Why not? If animals have equal rights with people, why do they not have equal right to be fed? Animals are not as valuable as people, and this should be reflected in how we distribute food.

Matthew 12:11,12 - Jesus said that, if a sheep falls into a pit, his owner would lift him out. "Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?" We should care for the animals that belong to us. But both God and man should treat people much better than they do animals.

Animal Rights activists often condemn forms of treatment of animals, because it would be wrong to treat people that way. In contrast, God says that man deserves much better treatment than animals, because man is of much greater value than animals.

Those who equate animals to men may think they are increasing the importance of animals, but instead they are degrading the value of man. Animals can be incredibly cruel, violent, and vicious - just watch the nature shows on TV! If men become convinced they are no better than animals, they will soon treat one another like animals!

[1 Samuel 24:14; Job 30:1,29; Psalms 22:16]

Men have dominion over animals

Genesis 1:26-28 - Because man is in God's image, man has dominion over all animals and over all the earth. This includes the right to subdue the earth - to control it for man's purposes.

Genesis 9:2-6 - Because man is in God's image, no one has the right to murder man. But man does have the right to kill animals for food. "They are given into your hand" (v2). [Lev. 24:18,21]

Psalms 8:4-7 - Man is crowned with glory and honor, placed just a little below the angels. He has dominion over all animals. All things are under man's feet. Man has the right to control the animals.

Psalms 32:9 - Man's dominion over animals includes the right to harness them by bit and bridle. Man has the right to use and control animals for the benefit of man.

James 3:3,7 - Again, we put bits in horse's mouth so that they obey us. We tame every kind of beast. Man is in control. Animals should obey us.

Note that God says man has dominion over animals. Does the Bible say that animals have dominion over men? If not, then how can anyone truthfully claim that animals have rights like men have? Here is one right they definitely do not have: we have the right to control them, but they do not have the right to control us!

None of this justifies harming animals simply for the sake of man's cruel or vicious whims. We earlier learned that animals belong to God, so we must use them as He says. But God says that He has given us dominion over animals, so we can use them to meet our needs. This includes the right to control them, make them obey us, tame them, and eat them for food.

To compare man's use of animals to slavery of humans is to pervert God's order. Other men are our equals, but animals are below us in authority, value, intelligence, spiritual nature, and moral responsibility. Above all, we are in God's image and they are not.

It follows that, to seek to "liberate" animals from men, is to rebel against God. God Himself placed the animals under our dominion. Animal Liberation inherently constitutes open defiance of God's order in creation!

[Prov. 26:3; Luke 10:19; 1 Sam. 16:11; Gen. 4:2]

Jesus died to save men, not animals.

This is the ultimate proof that animals are not equal in nature or in worth to men.

Isaiah 53:5,8 - Jesus bore our punishment. He was stricken "for the transgressions of my people."

Romans 5:6-9 - One is not likely to give his life for another man (v7). Yet Christ died for us (people), while we were sinners.

Romans 5:12,18,19 - Through the sin of one man (Adam), sin and condemnation came on all men. So through the righteous act of one Man (Jesus), the free gift of justification came to all men.

1 Timothy 2:4-6 - God wants all men to be saved. Jesus is our ransom, who came as a man (not an animal), so He could serve as mediator between God and man (not between God and animals).

Titus 2:11,12 - The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men - not animals.

Titus 3:3-7 - We once were disobedient living in sin. But the kindness of God toward man appeared, so He saved us through Jesus and made us heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Hebrews 2:14-17 - In order to release us from the power of sin and Satan, Jesus had to be made like us in all things - He had to come to earth in our form. He was made like us, so that he could make propitiation for the sins of the people - v17.

Note that He did not come to aid angels (v16), so He did not come as an angel. It follows that He did not take the form of an animal, because He did not come to save animals!

Do animals have the right to be saved by the blood of Jesus? Should animals be taught the gospel of Christ, so they can believe it, repent of sins, confess Christ, and be baptized for remission of sins? If animals do not have the right to obey the gospel and be saved by Jesus' blood, then no one can truthfully argue that animals have the same rights as man!

Here is the fundamental proof that animals do not have the same rights as man, and it is based on the fundamental differences that God established between men and animals. Each person has an eternal spirit, because we are made in God's image. We have intelligence to understand God's will and be accountable to live according to His standard of right and wrong. As a result, we are so important God sent His only Son to die for us. All of this distinguishes us from animals.

[1 Cor. 1:23,24; Rom. 6:5-7; Gal. 1:28; Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:14-17; Revelation 5:9]

Conclusion to Part I

Only God inherently has rights. As Creator and Ruler of the Universe, He is in charge. People have rights, not because we earned them or inherently deserve them, but because God the Creator chose to give them to us! We would have no rights, except for His decree. Indeed, "we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights." Where does the Bible say God gave rights to animals?

God gave us power to use everything on earth for our benefit according to His will. Air, sunshine, water, soil, plants, and animals all have great value to man, because they are useful to meet our needs.

In accord with God's command, men protect many animals, raise, feed, and provide for them, because they are valuable to us for food, clothing, etc. If man has no right to own or use animals, then animals would be of less value to us than plants that we can raise and eat, and less value than a plot of dirt on which we can build a house or grow food.

The result of the animal rights movement would be to make all animals into pests like rats, flies, mosquitoes, roaches, and other vermin. They would eat our food, invade our property, and endanger our livelihood, but would have no value to us whatever. We could not use them in any way for our good, and we could not even kill them, unless they threatened our lives. The result would make every animal worthless to us at best and an enemy at worst. This does not increase the value of animals; it degrades them and perverts God's purpose for them.

This is the conclusion of this portion of our study about animal liberation. To see the other parts, please go to

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