Reflections on Genesis 1:26 and Man’s Dominion
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


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

Reflections on Genesis 1:26 and Man’s Dominion

When I table, there are always a few people who come up and declare, “God created animals for people.” They almost always quickly leave before their assertion can be contested. Evidently, they base this claim on Genesis 1:26, which relates, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over . . . [all the animals] and over all the earth.’” Does this passage give humans license to use nonhumans as they please?
One obvious reason that the answer is “no” is that, shortly after Genesis 1:26, God instructs humans and nonhumans to eat plant foods (Genesis 1:29-30). Whatever “dominion” in Genesis 1:26 means, it clearly is not meant to convey permission to eat or otherwise harm nonhumans. The term “dominion” is the same term used to describe the role of the king. There are many passages which demonstrate that God approves of good kings who rule wisely and compassionately, and God denounces evil kings who abuse their power and harm their subjects.
The vast majority of animals alive today do not meaningfully interact with humans, so there is no reason to believe that they were created for human use. Further, the fossil record shows that nonhumans existed long before humans, further contradicting the notion that animals were created for humanity’s benefit.

In short, I think the conviction that humans are entitled to oppress animals reflects power and arrogance, not justice. Humanity’s mistreatment of nonhumans has been a tragedy for animals of immense proportions. In what ways might this tragedy also harm humans? I will start to explore this next essay.

Go on to: Harming Animals Harms Humans, part 1: Health
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents

Return to Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion