Motivations to Protect Nonhumans, part 1
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


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

Motivations to Protect Nonhumans, part 1

Last essay, I discussed how many Christians today interpret Genesis 3:16 in ways that preserve contemporary empowerment of women, even though the passage states that Eve must submit to her husband. Yet, when it comes to Genesis 1:25, in which God gives Adam “dominion” over all of creation, most Christians assert that this passage endorses contemporary human tyranny over nonhumans. Last week, I noted that several factors have contributed to men relinquishing some power to women, including 1) women’s employment of the power they possess, 2) men’s recognition that justice dictates greater rights for women, and 3) the discovery that empowering women improves relationships between men and women. During the next three weeks, I will consider how each of these three considerations applies to human-nonhuman relations.

Regarding the first of the three factors, when it comes to animal issues, animals do have some power. They can resist their oppression and abuse, though their power is very limited. If threatened, humans and nonhumans will exhibit fight or flight behavior, preferring to escape from danger but choosing to fight for their lives if there is no alternative. Slaughterhouses are designed to prevent large animals from recognizing that death is imminent.

Selective breeding has reduced “aggressiveness.” For example, dogs, with the exception of those bred for fighting, are much more docile than their wild wolf counterparts. Indeed, the reason that dogs are often preferred in experiments is not that they more closely resemble humans in anatomy, physiology, or other features that render them good scientific “models.” Rather, dogs are less likely to bite when subjected to painful procedures. Monkeys in laboratories, in contrast, frequently throw feces at their abusers.

Next essay, I will discuss our sense of justice. 

Go on to: Motivations to Protect Nonhumans, part 2
Return to: Reflections on the Lectionary, Table of Contents

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