What does the Bible say about Animal Abuse?
Does God hear the cries of those who do not communicate in human
language? Does His heart respond to the fearful mewing of a motherless
kitten or the exhaustion of a donkey staggering under a load far too heavy for it? Does He
care about the animals that are bred in cramped quarters and exploited for profit?
God was so interested in the welfare of the animal kingdom that He created, that He
even commanded Noah, in the time of judgement on the earth, to make the ark big enough to
hold two of every kind of animal that existed.
The Bible actually has much to say in regard to animal abuse. In the beginning, God
created the earth and all the creatures on it to be under the authority of humanity. He
entrusted these beautiful elements of His creation to our care (Genesis 1:26). Our
sinful nature causes us to abuse these things, sometimes without even realizing it. Yet,
God expects the Christian, above all others, to be sensitive to all of His creation,
knowing that exploiting or abusing it shows a disrespect for God Himself. Abuse of anything
that God made is not the character of God, but rather of the Evil One.
Domestic Animals: "A righteous man cares for
the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs
12:10). Throughout the Bible, God shows how He expects us to care for our animals in
practical ways. In the Law of the Israelites, for example, one of the purposes of the
Sabbath year of rest for the land, was to let the land lie fallow--and so that the poor as
well as livestock and wild animals could eat from it (Exodus 23:11 and Leviticus
25:7). The Sabbath day itself was not only for humans to rest. God also commanded us
to give our animals rest on the same day. (Exodus 20:10). He also commanded the
Israelites to help both their friends and enemies when their ox or donkey had fallen over,
or was carrying a burden too heavy for it to bear (Exodus 23:5 and Deuteronomy
22:4). In addition, livestock were also allowed to eat as they worked (Deuteronomy
25:4). Finally, God says to us in Proverbs 27:23: "Be sure you know the
condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds."
Part of the reason that God anointed young David to be king over Israel, was that he
was a good shepherd and could be trusted with the sheep under his care, even risking his
life for them when they were attacked by lions or bears (1 Samuel 17:34). God knew
that if David had this sort of heart for his sheep, he would be a faithful shepherd over
an even greater treasure--the people of Israel.
Wild Animals--His eye is on the sparrow: In
addition to domesticated animals, God also watches over wild animals and commands us to do
the same. In Deuteronomy 22:6-7, God promises a long life to those who will watch
over wild birds. If we rape the land or the creatures in it, what will sustain us in the
future? He allows for the taking of eggs, but commands that we release the mother bird to
continue living in the wild and reproducing as He intended. In Job 38:41, God says
that He hears the cries of newborn ravens crying to Him for food. Jesus went on to say
that God supplies food for the wild birds and that not one of them falls to the ground
without Him knowing it (Matthew 6:26, 10:29).
These small, but kind and practical commands written throughout the Bible give us good
insight into how God expects us to treat animals. Surely we will have to answer to Him for
any abuse that we have committed against them. God created animals for us to love and to
learn from. In them, we see our own dependance upon God illustrated in their dependance
upon us. We can also see elements of our foolishness manifested in them (who has not seen
a crowing rooster and laughed at the comic caricature of ourselves crowing to all the
world in our foolish pride?) In addition, God also tells us to learn from their wisdom:
"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no
commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its
food at harvest" (Proverbs 6:6-8).
(Job 12:7-10 KJV) "But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the
fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach
thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that
the hand of the LORD hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing,
and the breath of all mankind."
Although worship of animals as deities is strictly forbidden in Scripture, we are to
respect them as a part of God's creation. Some believe that because only humans were
created in God's image, they alone are worthy of respect and care. Yet, the Bible tells us
that even the angels were not created in God's image, yet we are to respect them! We are
to respect all of God's created order, not to worship facets of it, but to see in it the
same call that we ourselves have, which is to glorify God. All of God's creation
was made with the ability and the power to glorify Him, each in different ways. In this,
animals, as well as humans, share a common element with the rest of creation. Perhaps the
words from these Psalms say it best of all (emphasis added):
Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him from the heights above.
Praise him all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon, praise him all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
He set them in place forever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightening and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and
all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and
flying birds kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth
young men and maidens, old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted;
His splendor is above the earth and the heavens (Psalm 148: 1-13).
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6).