Does Christian Mercy Inspire Compassion for Animals?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


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

Does Christian Mercy Inspire Compassion for Animals?

Throughout history and throughout the world, humans have mistreated nonhumans. There have been exceptions (e.g., the Jains), but the vast majority of humans have participated in a reign of terror over animals. Sadly, only a small fraction of Christians has been an exception to this general rule, and many animal advocates assert that the religion founded on love, compassion, mercy, and peace has been a major impediment to progress in animal welfare. Why is this so?

There are many passages and stories in the Bible, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures, which seem to endorse harmful treatment of nonhumans, such as the sacrificial codes in Leviticus. However, there are also many passages that condemn cruelty to animals, and the later Hebrew prophets denounced animal sacrifices. With somewhat mixed messages, it appears that Christians can choose whether or not to prioritize animal welfare. Most Christians, evidently, have prioritized obtaining inexpensive meat and other animal products, adorning themselves with animal skins, and supporting animal experiments of highly dubious value.

These priorities are not shocking, given that humans also show a tendency toward selfishness when interacting with other humans. Since animals are much more vulnerable than most humans, it is not surprising that animals tend to be abused to far greater degrees. What about Christian institutions Ė the clergy and churches that are charged with transmitting the teachings of Jesus to Christians? Why have they been so reluctant to point out our duties to love, to show compassion or mercy, and promote peace apply to the least of these, our fellow creatures? I will consider this next essay.

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