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週四, 19 十二月 2013 10:51

Exploring the relationship and tension between mankind and animals

Referee: Dr. Benedict Kwok

Anthor: Josh Yee-Shin Chou


It was not until recently that moral philosophers began to persuade others that animals do matter and need to be taken seriously. One theological task is to focus on the established relationship with God’s others creatures instead of making ourselves distinguished from them. Much in the theological tradition supports some regard for animals and mankind's responsibilities towards them. Many classical writers, such as Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, have failed to ascribe any other purpose to animals than that of serving humanity.[1] The relationship between human and animal is complicated. For example, some animals are used for consumption, some increases humans' quality of life as pets, and some ways they facilitate life for humanity. Various issues arise in response to humanity's treatment to animals. What rights do animals have? To what extent do humans have the right to kill and the right to inflict pain and suffering on animals? This paper will address these main ethical issues from a secular including preference utilitarian perspective, Christian theology including Biblical view, and aim to gain a better and correct understanding of the preferred roles and relationships for mankind and animals.

Moral Status of Animals

Some Christians do not find the killing of sentients is a moral matter, for their view has been based on a distinction between the morality of killing and causing pain. [2] To what extent do humans have the right to kill? The most influential view takes consciousness, perception of the senses, and the ability to feel pain as the basis for rights of animals. Bentham argues that all

animals should have rights analogous to those of humans.[3] One might infer that this means all sentient beings should be considered as being equal, but the focus here is the claim to equality of treatment, and all circumstances being equal, it seems expected that some degree of utilitarian calculation and other moral questions would arise from this.

Human treatment of Animals

The issue of animal treatment has been long neglected by other ethical issues. Even when mentioned, the focus is on the mankind. For example, Pope Pius IX forbids an office for animal protection in Rome because that would imply that humans have duties to animals.[4] It was not until the past few decades that human treatment of animals became an issue of moral concern. This was inspired by moral philosophers like Peter Singers and Christians like Andrew Linzey who have questioned humans’ duty to animals with renewed seriousness. For example, Animal Liberation by Peter Singer is a groundbreaking book that is about the tyranny of humans over nonhuman animals. This book has played an important role in terms of not only changing the image of animal rights advocates as a group of lunatics, for that's the public impression whenever they get any attention from the media, but also sparking animal rights movements as a major part of political and social activism. The idea that animals have some claim to moral treatment independent of their value to humanity is only something that hadn’t surfaced until recent years. A plausible thinking on the moral status and the treatment of sentient animals is that while men should not intentionally

harm living organisms without good reasons, sentient beings are entitled to more consideration than living creatures that are non-sentient.[5]

Dependence for consumption

If we accept the value of creation and the special value of sentient life, it might follow that its destruction or harm without reasonable cause is wrong. Therefore, if killing animals is a necessity for the survival of mankind, then it can be more justifiable. How does one decide and justify such thing? How far can mankind relieve themselves from dependence on animal for consumption? Mankind's practice of eating meat causes billions of animals to endure lives of continuous misery, like factory farm animals. The demand on the market is so high that not only the factory farm puts animals in a confined and tiny space to maximize special use, but also injects growth hormone to meet the need from the market. The practice of factory farming involves billions of killings every year, and the animals go through terrifying and painful treatments. McMahan says the dimension of the practice is quite difficult to evaluate, since many of their lives that are ended would not have been worth living if they had continued.6 However, their low worth is caused by mankind in the first place; if their self worth and their value are determined by the condition they are in, one must remember it is mankind that put them into this miserable condition. Just because criminals are sent to prison and become prisoners doesn't mean they are devalued as a human being. While many animals are living in a miserable condition to fulfill human's need for consumption, this should not mean their actual value is any less than the opposite. One would see the tension between non-human animal's suffering and the need for demand, and question whether men only have an "either or" choice, or

if there's an alternative way that might not solve this conflict completely, yet somehow alleviate the growing tension.

A practical issue that will arise if the practive of eating meat is abolished, thus ending the suffering of numerous non-human animals, is the magnitude and size of the meat industry. If this was abolished, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people's lives would be threatened. It would bring a catastrophic disruption to the economy. A serious ethical question arises in this observation. This sort of remark can be advanced on behalf of any large scale social practice, such as slavery in the Southern U.S.A., or the tobacco industry.[6] If meat farming as a social practice is on a similar range compared to slavery and tobacco, then it shows that the humanity and its society is quite on the immoral side. [7] It appears that men are hardly more likely to come up a morally acceptable form of meat eating.

One commandment towards humanity at the Creation is to be fruitful and multiply. Several thousands years later, this created world is at a state where humanity is so populated that the natural resources including animals and ecosystem are being greatly affected. Billions of people need to consume meat. While a thorough exegesis and study on the theology of creation would shed some light towards this issue, it seems plausible that the current state of the created order reflects the consequence of the fall of humanity which deviates from God's original intended creation. Before the dawn of new creation, it seems the tension between consumption of meat and animal right is still in a long journey of seeking reconciliation.


Perhaps an alternative to alleviate this tension is vegetarianism. One moral philosopher is quite emphatic on vegetarianism, believing that it is a necessary pledge of moral devotion, whereas those who still eat meat when other options are present have more claim to be serious moralists.[8] Christians would argue that meat-eating is a concession given by God, even Jesus ate fish and possibly meat. A concession to eat meat constitutes an understanding that the full kingdom of peace has yet to dawn. Karl Barth comments on vegetarianism that it represents a meaningless anticipation of the existence in the new aeon.[9]

Although vegetarianism or veganism could be one attempt to be responsible in respecting other creatures than humans, the exploitation of animals by mankind is so massive and relentless that it is impossible for anyone to say that they are not involved in this exploitation, whether directly or indirectly.[10] Mankind cannot be cut off from using animals for dependence, not even vegetarians. Consider this: veganism is the personal practice of eliminating the use of non-human animal products. While some don't even eat milk or honey because it takes animal labor to make milk and honey, which they are against it. There is a problem in this logic. If taking animal labor to make food is something that they against, how about the human workers or laborers that pick the vegetables for consumers? This does not necessary accuse vegetarianism is a futile attempt, for this is indeed one way a person to become morally responsible towards animals. But after seeing it from a 'bigger perspective', vegetarianism advocates might realize the scale of impact and contribution it brings. Therefore, if vegetarians see this as the answer to all problems and

insists others to choose this path, one afraid this might end up contributing nothing towards the benefits of animals.

Animals in the context of sports

Using animals for sports includes much more than horse racing. Some sports have been outlawed in some places, such as cockfighting, cock-throwing, bearbaiting, and bullfighting. Some sports are more acceptable such as hunting fox, deep, and hare especially in Western countries. Justification for animal sporting can be argued in three categories: the benefit and enjoyment to the humans involved; the need to control pests; and the contribution to conservation and the upkeep of the countryside.[11] Sport itself is morally neutral, but when it composes of destruction of animals solely for human pleasure, one must question its moral standard. Biblically speaking, this is even more questionable considering that the lacking of clear distinction between human wants and moral necessity does not take the value of creation and human responsibility seriously. Taking initiatives on animals for the purpose of control raises a few issues as well. First, this is an issue of sharing food and habitation. While locusts must be subordinated to those of growing food, humanity often overlooks the fact that earthly habitat does not belong to man only. Thus this reflects an imbalance of the ecosystem caused by men, which one must ponder if this would not happen had men did not commit sin during the Edenic period.


One premise from the Bible is that the violent and painful aspect of death in the natural world is a result from the curse caused by mankind. It appears that one goal animal advocates hope to achieve is to live a life with no cruelty and violence. However, not everyone is able to move at the same pace, and that many people are so deeply attached in animal exploitation, one way or the other.13 While there is not a satisfying solution that mankind can provide and apply, perhaps a starting point could be fortifying the positive attitude to those who want to take steps toward a less exploitative world. Self-righteous postures and strident attitude will only hinder the progression of animal ethics, let alone gaining anything beneficial for the animals.

Relationship between Human and Animal

Human and animals are different in many ways, but where are they different especially in a moral sense? Some would say compared to non-human animals, people are self-conscious, autonomous, have the ability to use language, have moral sense of conscience, have free will or are responsible for their actions, to name a few. However, this is insufficient to provide a satisfactory answer, for fetuses and infants belong to this category, not to mention those who are demented or irreversibly comatose may also belong in this group. Also, human beings who are naturally born with severe cognitive impairment would also show that the example listed above doesn't clearly answers the question, for these human beings would never have higher psychological capacities than certain animals. Perhaps the fundamental difference is the psychological nature of human by virtue. McMahan proposes that men must either find an alternative bases for the superior status of humankind or abandon the view that men and animals

are morally different.[12] Although can be easily countered with the Scripture from Genesis 1:26 where man is made with the image of God, it is deemed invalid to scientific standpoint as it requires the difference to be empirically detectable.

The moral difference can be easily detected when it comes to killing, for killing a person and killing an animal are wrong for different reasons. People have cognitive and emotional capacities, and have authority over their own lives. Though severely mentally retarded human being might lack cognitive and emotional capacity, because that person belongs to someone else, such as someone's child, that person has certain level of value. One must respect these people, namely the people who are close to the person's feelings and commitments.[13]

Animal Right

Animal advocates attempt to change the particular practices that were cruel towards animals, either through industrialized farming, medical experimentation or careless pet ownership. People like Peter Singer seek to persuade his readers to take a broader view on the suffering which includes all creatures with interests. As a utilitarian, he views animals in terms of preference satisfaction, meaning he still allows some cruel treatment of animals, as long as it is outweighed by other benefits.[14] His major influence is coining the term of 'speciesism' towards those who gave greater attention to human communities. In a nutshell, Singer's view reflects a obscure understanding of the identity of humanity. Not clearing knowing the place of humanity and animals, he seeks to define those places by himself, and projects his feeling and

humanly philosophy on non-human animals. He believes the modern moral poverty for the relationship between human and non-human animals is the speciesism, meaning people do not respect the feeling of those that were maltreated or killed. Singer suggests the remedy to this toxic relationship is not to end killing and violence, but to extend the circle of moral considerablity in which moral discernment is required.[15] Killing human and animals is ok, as long as it produces a greater number of beneficial consequences, which is a characteristic of a utilitarian view.

Smick argues The Christian is responsible toward the animal world because God made them and men and put people together on this earth in a unique relationship by which mankind and they are obligated to honor the same Creator. He concludes there should be no question that man's right to life above animals because men bear the Creator's image and has a spiritual nature.


18 Henry Carl, Baker's Dictionary of Christian Ethics. Grand Rapids: Canon, 1973. 22-23.

Because some Christian positions can be relevant to the issue of animal ethic, such as the idea that animals are fellow creatures, which means that animals have at least some God-given value in themselves, and that they are valuable not only to mankind, but also to their Creator, Linzey believes Christian theology can provide a strong foundation for animal rights.[16] Yet he also states that there is not a through and integrated biblical analysis that will articulately provide a neither "animal rights Bible" or "human rights Bible". Linzey finds that the Bible cannot be unambiguously support neither animal rights nor human rights, because despite the writers are inspired by the Spirit, the Bible is written by mankind which makes it culturally influenced and

holds a human-centric views on animals. In other words, the he doesn't think the bible is fair on animals (nor mankind, namely slavery) because it is written by men. [17] The author points out some seemly morally ambiguous areas of the scriptures, and he quotes McEntire's support for this argument, where the abolition of slavery seems foreign to the Old Testament. This might reflect that ethics on animal or human on a biblical basis is not a clear black and white issues to tackle, because in the case of slavery, it seems that the Christian Gospel is incompatible with the slavery. Nevertheless, the reason of such presumed incompatibility is because one overlooks the scriptures from the Old Testament such as Leviticus instead of the implicit acceptance of the model of moral generosity glimpsed in the Gospels. Not only this applies on slavery and women right, but Linzey argues it also applies on animal right or as he calls it, "animal theology". He argues that animals are God's creatures, meaning they are worth independent of human wants and needs, and therefore is very similar to modern moral philosophers' claim of animals having intrinsic value. 21 Does being created by God necessarily mean that created being is independent of human need? In other words, is that the purpose of that created being, which is worthy to be independent of human wants? Even if so, one contribution coming from this 'observation' is probably attract secular animal advocates to the Scriptures, and while seeking some lights on the support of animal right as they intend to, they are exposed to the Word of God which hopefully, by the work of the Spirit, bring some light into the darkness.

Animal right in the context of Christian theology

Linzey argues that the Gospel is about the unlimited, free, generous love of God for creation, which is a generosity glimpsed in the life, passion, self-sacrifice, and death of Jesus. He therefore states that the Gospel is the good news or the entire created order, as he points out not even one sparrow is forgotten by God, and therefore, the church should behave differently to animals.[18] One issue with this argument is that the "world" that God love is people in the original text. Assume that God do love the entire creation, and that the Gospel is an integral towards the new creation, the message here is the salvation of humanity. One can point out that animal and human share the co-existence of both being the created beings, but it is only humanity that is made in God's image and it is only humanity that Jesus has died for the sins. Jesus uses sparrow as an illustration because he wants people to know that they are important in God's eyes. Despite one does see that God cares the animals, the central focus is how much God cares people.

One of Linzey's arguments is that God establishes the specific value of some living beings. Therefore, humans do not bestow right on animals, rather, they recognize their rights as already given by God. He seeks to give higher priority to the animals.[19] One strategy for his animal theology is to draw out all those animal-friendly strands in the scriptures, which he calls Animal Bible. While he does make a good point that animal rightists have not invented the idea of universal peace as presented in Isaiah 11:6, or the original divine command to be vegetarian as mentioned in Genesis 1:29-20.24 However, a problem with this is that it appears this kind of theology is so called "theology from below"; he seems to seek the scripture to support the view on protecting animals. The Bible does not say that the whole earth only belongs to mankind for

them to do as they please, and he argues that because the Bible also does not say that God's only interest is with the human species, such important and influential book cannot become the preserve of those who want to exploit animals. He states that the Bible needs to be read, studied, and reclaimed for the animals.[20] Though it is not necessary incorrect, this not only reflects Linzey might presuppose the Bible is already in favor towards animals but also his focus begins with animals. Instead of seeing the animal ethics and put the focus on the Scriptures, he is extracts parts from the Bible that will help the animals.


Christianity starts with God's creation of animals and man. God subordinated the animals to man and gave man a responsibility toward them which was similar to God's relationship to mankind. That responsibility was to care for them, as God cared. But as God may use all His creation to his own glory in the context of His good and holy nature, so may man use the animals, but with responsibility.[21] As Gen 1:26 writes, "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' This is a mandate that shows that men have dominion over animals, but this does not mean despotism; rather men are set over creation to care for what God has made and to treasure God's own treasures.[22] The dominion mandate involves men to take care of God's creation, just as God instructed. This involves with Adam naming the animals, and this signifies the continuing work

of God's creation. This work is not required for God to carry out, instead, He does this out of love, and wish the men to experience this through dominion.[23]As one looks into Gen 2:25: "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." It further illustrates the care mandate given by God. There are a few parts on the relationship between human and animal that begins at the beginning of Creation. First, Animals are created beings that share the gift of creaturely existence with humanity; They are valuable in the Lord's eyes and they give glorify Him in their way. Animals are designed to live in symbolic harmony with humans, which is a situation that changed after the fall of mankind.

After the Fall

The promise of real theology has always been that it will liberate men from a purely human view of the world to a truly God centered one. Linzey believes the issue of animals is a central test of the adequacy of Christian theology and its claim to offer an objective God-centered account of the world including the purpose, value and meaning of the other non-human creatures. It is not theological to presume that the meaning and value of animals can be determined by their relationship with human beings.29

Linzey proposes that it is practical for Christians to care and alleviate animals and their suffering. If Christians believe in a ministry of reconciliation to all creatures, he argues, Christians must take initiatives including commerce that makes money out of animal misery. While this sounds good in theory, it is an extremely arduous task to achieve on a national scale, let alone on a global scale.

Perhaps a key factor that influences the relationship of men and animal is the covenant made to both parties after the flood in Noah's time. The covenant implies that men and animal have mutually beneficial relationship, although this relationship is tainted due to the concession given by God for men to eat animals.[24] Their relationship was originally intended for men to dominant over the animals in a harmonious manner, which is broken after the sin. Therefore, the recording of the Genesis allows people to know that the current world is not originally intended, and the Bible also shows that this is not the ultimate state of the world.


There are Christians who attempt to find the theology on animals. Linzey says the heart of theology's mission is to render a truthful and non-biased account of the creation God has made.[25] It seems the center of theology is still on animal rather than God. The relationship between of humanity and animals, along with the commandment to become fruitful and multiply, has been tainted to a certain degree by the fall of man. The ethic of human's treatment of animals has an implication and expansion on generally the weak, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, and those on the margins of society. This also applies on church as well, where church stands on animal treatment could somewhat, to some degree, reflect where they stand on Christian ethics.

Through the current state of human treatment on animals and animal theology, one reflects and introspect any selfish and amiss attitude towards the Lord, mankind, and the creation. If men are accountable for the wrongdoings, this also challenges them to be courageous enough to admit the mistakes and sins, thus reflects a part of growth in mental and spiritual sense. Men

need to be reminded that the focus should not view the world and the creation as possession, which are measured by the values that are only beneficial to mankind. Not only is this applicable in animal theology, but also on theology in general as well.


Carl F. H.. Henry. Baker's Dictionary of Christian Ethics. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Canon Press, Baker Book House, 1973.

Childress, James F. The Westminister Dictionary of Christian Ethics. Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1986.

Deane-Drummond, Celia. Creaturely Theology: on God, Humans and Other Animals. London :

SCM Press, 2009.

Frey, R. G. A Companion to Applied Ethics. Malden, MA : Blackwell Pub., 2003.

Linzey, Andrew. Creatures of the Same God: Explorations in Animal Theology. New York :

Lantern Books, 2009.

Van Dyke, Fred. Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship, InterVastity, 1996.

Wright, Christopher . Old Testament ethics for the people of God. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004.


[1] James F. Childress, The Westminister Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1986, 29.

[2] Another ethical question arises within the context of human treatment. That is, to what extent do human have the right to cause pain, stress, and stress.

[3] James F. Childress, The Westminister Dictionary of Christian Ethics, 30.

[4] James F. Childress, The Westminister Dictionary of Christian Ethics, 28.

[5] Frey, A Companion to Applied Ethics, Malden: Blackwell, 2003, 449.

[6] Frey, A Companion to Applied Ethics, 533.

[7] Nevertheless, one could do a careful study of the scripture and the exegesis of Noahic covenant, so that person would gain a better understanding and accurate perception on the concession to eat animal meat given by GOd. This will be discussed in the later part of the paper.

[8] James F. Childress, The Westminister Dictionary of Christian Ethics, 31.

[9] James F. Childress, The Westminister Dictionary of Christian Ethics, 31.

[10] Andrew Linzey, Creatures of the Same God: Explorations in Animal Theology. New York: Lantern, 2009, xiv.

[11] James F. Childress, The Westminister Dictionary of Christian Ethics, 31.

[12] Frey, A Companion to Applied Ethics, 525-526.

[13] Frey, A Companion to Applied Ethics, 531.

[14] Celia Deane-Drummond, Creaturely Theology: on God, Humans and Other Animals. London, 2009. 3.

[15] Celia Deane-Drummond, Creaturely Theology, 233-4.

[16] Andrew Linzey, Creatures of the Same God, xii.

[17] Andrew Linzey, Creatures of the Same God, 47.

[18] Andrew Linzey, Creatures of the Same God, 100.

[19] Celia Deane-Drummond, Creaturely Theology,, 4-5.

[20] Andrew Linzey, Creatures of the Same God, 103.

[21] Henry Carl, Baker's Dictionary of Christian Ethics, 21.

[22] Andrew Linzey, Creatures of the Same God, xii.

[23] Fred Van Dyke, Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship, InterVastity, 1996, 90-91.

[24] Christopher Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 2004. 54.

[25] Andrew Linzey, Creatures of the Same God, 58.

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