Tom McLemore answers a question in his local newpaper about animal rights.
Question: “We are hearing much about ethical treatment of animals. What does the Bible teach about so called ‘animal rights?’”
Answer: Some of the laws of the Old Testament prohibit cruelty to animals. This reflected in some of the laws of the Old Testament. (Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 22:6). God provides for the animals and is aware of their deaths (Psalm 104; Matthew 6:26; 10:29; Luke 12:6, 24). However, the key thing is that God considers humans to be of much greater value than the animals. This is stated explicitly by our Lord (Matthew 10:21; Luke 12:7), and it is implied in humans’ being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27). By means of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, his giving them for human consumption (Genesis 9:1-7), and his own providing of clothing from animal skins for the first pair (Genesis 3:21), God demonstrated that the animals are given to humans for their use. Animals are not humans and may be sacrificed in medical research and providing for human needs.
It’s a good answer. Reminds me of the last phrase of the last verse of the book of Jonah (4:11), where God shows his compassion to the hard-hearted prophet:
Should I not be even more concerned about Nineveh, this enormous city? There are more than one hundred twenty thousand people in it who do not know right from wrong, as well as many animals!” (NET, italics mine)
Animal rights are being pushed by groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This thought is part of a pagan philosophy that thinks that “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” Some vegetarians are motivated by such considerations.
Christians hold to the Bible’s teaching, as Tom mentioned above, that humans are the crown of creation, made in God’s image. For men did Christ die, not for animals. To men, not to animals, have been given souls that will inhabit eternity. You need not tell your 4-year-old just yet, but Scripture makes no provision for dogs or cats in heaven. We will have much better company there than speechless creatures. Animals are one of God’s marvelous acts of creation.
Another item about man’s superiority over the animals is seen in God giving Adam the right to give names to the animals, a sign of his dominion over them.
It is good to have laws against animal cruelty, that reflect that man is to be a caretaker of God’s creation, not an abuser. But Jesus was an eater of animals and fish and gave thanks for having animals to use for the good of man.