God gives humans dominion over animals in Genesis 1:26–28. Christians often use this term to mean humans can do anything to animals with impunity. However, the context is often skipped
as Genesis 1:29 says that humans are to eat only plants. The overall context is the garden of Eden, where God created humans and animals to live in harmony. In Genesis 2:19–20, God
tells Adam to name the animals, implying a caring and benevolent relationship, much like humans behave with companion animals today. Thus, dominion means kindly looking after the animals.
Furthermore, dominion is used again in Psalm 72:8. This psalm is about the behavior of a righteous king. Verse 4 says that this king will defend the poor. Verse 7 speaks of righteousness and
peace. Finally, verse 13 says that the king will feel pity for the weak and the needy and save their lives. Thus, dominion towards animals means defending and sympathizing with them, as a
good king should.
Additionally, Psalm 72 is a prophecy about Jesus. How did Jesus show dominion as a king? Jesus showed compassion (Luke 7:13) and promoted mercy (Matthew 5:7). His most important teachings were to treat others the way you want to be treated (Luke 6:31), love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39), and the importance of serving others (Mark 9:35). The Christian Animal Rights Association advocates showing dominion over animals with New Earth Abolition (NEA), a system of ethics that focuses on God’s harmonious plans for animals on the New Earth (Isaiah 11:6–9), combined with Jesus’ teachings on equality and servanthood. Thus, our ministry believes dominion is best expressed by humbling ourselves and becoming servants (Matthew 23:10–11) to the animals, treating them how we want to be treated (Matthew 22:39; Luke 6:31). This behavior has the end goal of the peaceful world described in Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”
It depends on what is meant by heaven. There is the present spiritual heaven, where believers go when they die (Luke 23:43). There is also the New Earth (Revelation 21:1), a restored eternal paradise that Jesus will inaugurate when he returns, which is synonymous with heaven. Animals are present in the current spiritual heaven (Revelation 5:13) and on the New Earth (Isaiah 11:6–9, 34:14–17, 65:25; Hosea 2:18). Revelation 5:13 does not mention what types of animals, but Isaiah 11:6–9 and 65:25 mention wolves, lambs, oxen, lions, and snakes. Finally, Hosea 2:18 and Isaiah 34:14–15 mention a variety of wild animals and birds.
Isaiah 11:6–9, 65:25; and Hosea 2:18 describe a variety of animals that will be present when Jesus returns to create the New Earth. It’s unclear whether those are new or recreated animals. This begs the question of whether animals have immortal souls. The Bible is unclear about this. Humans are explicitly said to have souls (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Some verses seem to indicate that earthly animals do not experience an afterlife (Psalm 49:12, 20; 2 Peter 2:12; Jude 1:10). However, these verses may be just physical observations. On the contrary, Ecclesiastes 3:19–21 specifically questions where the spirits of humans and animals go after they die. Ecclesiastes 12:7 seems to answer the question, implying that both human and animal spirits return to God. Since animals have an eternal spirit, they may have an immortal soul, as Hebrews 4:12 implies that the soul and the spirit are connected but can be separated. Furthermore, Psalm 36:6, 116:6; and Luke 3:6 offer some possible evidence that animals have a soul and thus, experience an afterlife. Luke 3:6 especially may indicate that all types of flesh, thus animals, may see an afterlife. In conclusion, there is good biblical evidence to declare that animals do have immortal souls.
This statement is taken from 1 Timothy 4:1–3, which indicates that demons teach others to forbid certain foods. However, in context, the passage states that this description fits those who prohibit marriage and demand abstinence from foods. No Christian vegan (that we know of) prohibits marriage. This passage is talking about Gnosticism, a competing philosophy in biblical times. Throughout the epistle, Paul criticizes Gnosticism, the Greek word for knowledge. For instance, in 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul states, “Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge.” This assertion makes sense, as God advocates veganism as an ideal in Genesis 1:29 and Daniel 1:1–21 and is implied in Isaiah 11:6–9.
Christians and many Christian organizations commonly use this passage when discussing the ethics of meat, stating that meat-eaters and vegans should tolerate one another or that vegans are considered “weak.” However, that is taking this passage out of context. The author, the Apostle Paul, is talking about meat sacrificed to idols. This was a very hot button issue in several early churches, including in Rome and Corinth. Paul is more explicit about this issue in 1 Corinthians 8:7–8. Those who eat only vegetables were those who thought they would be supporting other gods with their purchases or consumption of meat sacrificed to idols. Paul is stating that their conscience is weak. This passage is essentially Paul stating that those who think differently about food sacrificed to idols should tolerate one another and not fight. Importantly, the passage is not discussing the ethics of meat, such as gluttony or cruelty to animals. Therefore, this passage has little relevance today with whether Christians should eat meat. Veganism is God’s ideal, as seen in Eden (Genesis 1:29), and is implied on the New Earth (Isaiah 11:6–9). Paul knew the Old Testament well (Philippians 3:5) and thus it would not make sense for him to criticize what God wanted all along.
This passage is often used to say that God does not care for animals. The passage states, “For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.” In context, Paul is talking about how Christian ministers should receive compensation for preaching the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14), which is made more explicit in 1 Timothy 5:18. Some translations make it seem like this passage states that God does not care for oxen and that the original verse, Deuteronomy 25:4, was written for humans all along. However, Paul is not saying this. He is taking the principle of Deuteronomy 25:4, which demands that an ox should be able to eat from the crops he works in the field and applies it to humans. He is stating that ministers who preach the gospel should be fairly compensated. We believe this passage shows the unity of creation. Paul takes a principle addressed originally to animal treatment and applied it to humans. We believe this principle also works in reverse. For instance, many passages that were written exclusively to humans could be applied to animals. For example, Proverbs 24:11 states, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.”
Jesus did say to kill and eat the fattened calf in Luke 15:23, although in context, this was part of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11–32. Jesus often spoke in parables, which are analogous to what we call allegories today. These are fictional stories that are told to convey an ethical or spiritual truth. Like George Orwell’s Animal Farm is an allegory for the Russian Revolution, the Parable of the Prodigal Son is an allegory for God’s forgiveness and grace. The parable is meant to express God’s blessing on those who repent and receive forgiveness rather than on believers who follow the law just for reward or praise. Importantly, parables are not to be taken literally. They are symbolic of a message, not an endorsement of a behavior. Just like most Christians would agree that Jesus was not endorsing slavery in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant seen in Matthew 18:25, we believe Jesus was also not endorsing the slaughtering of calves with the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
This statement is taken out of Romans 1:25. This verse states, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Christians often utilize this verse to criticize animal rights activists, declaring that the activists are worshipping the animals instead of God. However, Romans 1:25 here is taken drastically out of context. Romans 1:23 criticizes those who worship images that look like humans and animals. Thus, Romans 1:25 is criticizing idol worship, a consistent theme in the Bible that goes back to the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:4). In conclusion, Romans 1:25 is not a criticism or a condemnation of serving animals or treating animals with respect.
Banner and Corresponding Photo Credit: Indraloka Animal Sanctuary