Christianity and Animal Rights, Part 7:
Human Benefits of Animal Rights

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Christianity and Animal Rights, Part 7:
Human Benefits of Animal Rights

[Ed. Note: Please visit Animals - Tradition, Philosophy, Religion for many articles about animals and religious beliefs: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and more.]

By Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10

Denying basic rights to animals means treating animals as a means to selfish human ends. As a result, we have institutions of animal exploitation and abuse that also have had serious consequences for human welfare. The harm incurred to humans by denying rights to animals will likely to increase over time as global warming disrupts ecosystems and resource depletion imperils people throughout the world.

In past essays, I have argued that the Bible mandates that we are called to be responsible caretakers of God’s Creation, and this includes treating God’s animals with compassion and respect. In our secular society, the language and philosophy of animal rights articulates well our biblical duties to nonhuman beings. This is certainly important for animals, who are at our mercy. It is also crucial for humans, who experience profound consequences when they deny to animals basic rights such as freedom from slavery and abuse. In the next essays, I will focus on practical consequences, and then I will address spiritual consequences.

1. The environment. Many people are aware that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found that animal agriculture contributes more to global warming than all forms of transportation (including cars and airplanes) combined, 18% versus 14%. A 2009 WorldWatch report concluded that 51% of greenhouse gasses come from animal agriculture. Their analysis included many estimates, but I think it is safe to say that at least 35-40% of greenhouse gasses come from this source. Therefore, moving to a plant-based diet is an imperative component of any serious strategy to address global warming. In addition, animal agriculture contributes heavily to depletion of topsoil, water, energy, and other essential resources.

2. Human health. There is voluminous evidence that animal flesh and other products are deleterious to human health. For people who don’t have access to other sources of protein and other nutrients, animal products are better than malnutrition. But for nearly everyone in the West, plant-based foods offer substantial health benefits. This has been well documented by numerous physicians and dieticians, and sources of reliable information include Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine  and Vegan Health.

3. World hunger. Much of the world’s agricultural production consists of feed for animals destined for slaughter. Feeding plant foods to animals, where it is inefficiently converted to flesh and other products, rather than to people raises the cost of food for everyone. This contributes to malnutrition and starvation among the poorest people of the world.

Denying basic rights to animals means treating animals as a means to selfish human ends. As a result, we have institutions of animal exploitation and abuse that also have had serious consequences for human welfare. The harm incurred to humans by denying rights to animals will likely to increase over time as global warming disrupts ecosystems and resource depletion imperils people throughout the world.

Next week, I will argue that humans are designed to be largely if not exclusively herbivores, and the consequences of trying to live differently are having devastating consequences for the entire world, including its human inhabitants.