Do Animals Have Rights?

Animal cruelty may not be something that you notice, or that affects your daily life; that is, until commercials for the Humane Society appear on your television screen and you click to another channel due to the graphic content. Or, when you see horrific images of abuse and neglect on the internet, you may wince, but you continue scrolling without giving the issue much thought. Why would God have commanded Noah to bring multiple kinds of animals into the ark if He didn’t care about them?  If God cares about animals, doesn’t that mean we should as well? Although most people react emphatically when it comes to physical, verbal and sexual abuse of humans, they are strangely silent when it comes to animal abuse.

Why You Should Care
First of all, the Bible speaks directly against animal abuse and cruelty. God made us stewards of His creation, and this includes animals (Genesis 1:26). According to the Bible, animals clearly have worth (see Exodus 21:35-22:14  and Deuteronomy 25). Disrespecting and abusing God’s creation shows direct disrespect to Him and disobedience by not obeying His commands. Proverbs 12:10 says, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel,” Other verses commanded God’s people to help others when their donkey or ox collapsed under a heavy burden (Exodus 23:5, Deuteronomy 22:4).  God calls us to pay attention to animals: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). God tell us in 1 Corinthians 1 that He uses the weaker things of the earth to shame the strong. Examples of this are found in Proverbs 6:6-8 where God tells us to learn from the hardworking ways of the ant, and also in Job 12:7-10 where we are told to learn from the wise actions of animals. God uses animals’ dependence upon us to illustrate our dependence upon Him.  Secondly, Animal abuse is degrading to humanity. God gave humans are dominion over the animals, and gave us intelligence and abilities that put is in a position of power over them. When people abuse animals, they become animals themselves. As Christians, we  are called to show compassion. Our superiority should motivate us to, as Christian author C.S. Lewis articulates, “…prove ourselves better than the beasts precisely by the fact of acknowledging duties to them which they do not acknowledge to us.”

Don’t Sit on the Sidelines
When witnessing injustices against animals, we may often choose to ignore it if it does not directly affect us, because we think someone else will speak up or do something about it, or because we’re too focused on ourselves to really care. Witnessing sin and not doing anything about it is just as bad as committing the sin ourselves. By not caring for God’s creation, we’re hurting Him. There are many practical ways you can help.

1) Speak up! Several types of blatant animal cruelty and abuse are dog and cock fighting, puppy mills, circus practices and laboratory experimentation on animals. If you witness an animal being abused in any way, notify the authorities. Abuse also comes in many forms; it doesn’t just mean physically wounding or killing an animal. Abuse also includes neglect and mistreatment, such as inhumane animal living conditions, starvation, inadequate care, abandonment and more. Refuse to turn a blind eye when you see animals in harm’s way.

2) Vote: for politicians and candidates who support animal protection legislation; consider contacting current politicians about animal protection legislation and why they should support it. While animal abuse is illegal by federal mandate, under the U.S. Animal Welfare Act, further laws can be enacted to ensure that animals are treated ethically.

3) Teach and be a role model to your children  Educate them on being good stewards of God’s creation. According to petside.com, early acts of violence against animals can be an indicator of violence toward people later in life.

4) Volunteer or donate to local organizations. Petfinder.com is a great online resource that can help you find local animal-friendly organizations where you can volunteer or even adopt a pet in need of a home.  For volunteering locally, you can check out the Humane Society, Paws South Florida Rescue, Inc, Andrya’s Animal House, South Florida S.P.C.A., Sunset Lakes Animal Clinic, among many others. If you are interested in adopting an animal that was a victim of abuse, check out the Humane Society and Hollydogs Greyhound Adoption, among others.

You can make a difference. Someday, we will be judged by Christ and will have to give an account for the way we treated His creation, including animals. As we recognize Christ’s sovereignty and reign over all things great and small, we should speak and act against animal cruelty and seek to protect His creatures.

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