Why Christians Must Not Countenance Animal Mistreatment

From All-Creatures
Christian Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth

Why Christians Must Not Countenance Animal Mistreatment, Part 1

By Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association

Many Christians regard themselves as compassionate and faithful servants of God. However, Christianity in general has not only countenanced, but has actually encouraged, the abuse and murder of countless animals. Nearly all churches purchase and consume the products of animal agriculture, which is tantamount to sponsoring unnecessary cruelty to animals. Meanwhile, churches rarely protest grotesque cruelty to animals, such as those associated with the fur trade. As a consequence, in addition to their contribution to animal abuse, our churches’ explicit or implicit endorsement of savagery, cruelty, and gross injustice fundamentally undermines Jesus’ teachings.

Perhaps previous generations could have been partly excused on the grounds that they did not know much about animals’ capacities to feel pain and suffer, and the conditions of animal exploitation were generally less abusive then than they are today. Modern physiology and ethology have provided important insights into animals’ mental experiences. A range of disciplines have revealed both the degree to which animals suffer on factory farms as well as the degree to which animal agriculture contributes to environmental degradation, world hunger, and human disease.

As individuals, we often “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and sometimes our desires overpower our will to do the right thing. When this happens, it is tragic for the victims, However, we can recognize our sin and strive to change our ways. What is devastating to Christianity is that our churches broadly endorse the abuse and torture that is inherent in modern, industrialized animal agriculture. When this happens, Christianity’s message becomes, “Be loving and compassion, and strive, as Jesus counseled, to “sin no more ” . . . except when it’s inconvenient and the victims have no recourse.” Theologically, if God really endorsed selfishness, cruelty, and victimization, one might reasonably question God’s goodness.

Christian authorities often stress that our duties are to humans, not animals, and they provide a range of shallow excuses for ignoring animal issues. Next week, we will explore why such excuses don’t suffice.

Read Part 2

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