Animal Abuse and Humans' Fear of Death
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


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

Animal Abuse and Humans' Fear of Death

If humans abuse nonhumans simply out of selfishness and greed, then efforts by animal advocates to appeal to hearts and minds are simply a waste of time. Even if animal abusers recognized how badly they treat nonhumans, they wouldn’t care much. However, most people, in principle, oppose cruelty to animals. Many people, perhaps a majority, describe themselves as “animal lovers.” Yet, the vast majority of people remain complicit in factory farming and other forms of animal abuse. Why is this so?

In the next essays, I will explore multiple contributing factors. This week, I want to focus on the fear of death that haunts the human psyche, often at a subconscious level, because we tend to repress mortality anxieties. I discuss this in detail in my book Guided by the Faith of Christ, and I also recommend The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker.

As a salve against mortality anxieties, humans tend to reject the notion (which is well grounded in biology, anatomy, physiology, and paleontology) that we are animals. Rightly or wrongly, many people think that all nonhumans do is live, struggle, and die. Since we want to feel that, somehow, we transcend death, we don’t want to feel as if this is also our story. To see humanity and nonhuman creation as fundamentally similar is, in the view of many, to see death as the definitive end of our existence. Strangely, even many scientists who fully embrace Darwinian evolutionary theory regard humans as “special” creations, though such a view seems to lack any scientific basis.

These observations help explain why humans often have such little regard for nonhuman life, but I think there are other reasons that humans countenance animal abuse. I will continue to explore this topic next essay.

Go on to: Projecting Human Attributes onto Animals
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents

Return to Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion