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Religious Opposition to Vivisection

Paradise is vegan. Although man was made in God’s image and given dominion over all creation (Genesis 1:26-28), these verses do not justify humans killing animals and then devouring them, because God immediately proclaims He created the plants for human consumption. (Genesis 1:29)

Dr. Michael Fox of the Humane Society has argued in correspondence with Pope John Paul II that the word "dominion" is derived from the original Hebrew word "rahe" which refers to compassionate stewardship, instead of power and control. Parents have dominion over their children; they do not have a license to kill, torment or abuse them. The Talmud (Shabbat 119; Sanhedrin 7) interprets "dominion" to mean animals may only be used for labor.

Roman Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-90), wrote in 1870 that "cruelty to animals is as if a man did not love God." On another occasion, he asked:

"Now what is it that moves our very heart and sickens us so much at cruelty shown to poor brutes? I suppose this: first, that they have done us no harm; next, that they have no power whatever of resistance; it is the cowardice and tyranny of which they are the victims which make their sufferings so especially touching...there is something so very dreadful, so satanic, in tormenting those who have never harmed us and who cannot defend themselves; who are utterly in our power."

Cardinal Newman compared injustices against animals to the sacrifice, agony and death of Christ upon the cross:

"Think of your feelings at cruelty practiced upon brute animals and you will gain the sort of feeling which the history of Christ’s cross and passion ought to excite within you. And let me add, this is in all cases one good use to which you may turn any...wanton and unfeeling acts shown towards the...animals; let them remind you, as a picture of Christ’s sufferings. He who is higher than the angels, deigned to humble Himself even to the state of the brute creation..."

Another cardinal, Henry Edward Manning (1808-92), spoke out against cruelty to animals, especially experimentation upon animals. In a letter dated July 13, 1891, he wrote: "We owe ourselves the duty not to be brutal or cruel; and we owe to God the duty of treating all His creatures according to His own perfections of love and mercy."

Bishop Westcott wrote, "Animals are in our power in a peculiar sense; they are committed by God to our sovereignty and we owe them a considerate regard for their rights. No animal life can be treated as a THING. Willful disrespect of the sanctities of physical life in one sphere bears its fruit in other and higher spheres."

In his 1957 book, The Status of Animals in the Christian Religion, author C.W. Hume wrote that the catechism children use for their first Communion and for their confirmation in France contains the answer, "it is not permissible for me to cause suffering to animals without good reason, to hurt them unnecessarily is an act of cruelty."

The founder and first secretary of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was an Anglican priest, the Reverend Arthur Broome. The RSPCA was originally founded as a Christian society "entirely based on the Christian Faith, and on Christian Principles," and sponsoring sermons on humane education in churches in London. The Society formed in 1824, and its first "Prospectus" spoke of the need to extend Christian charity and benevolence to the animals:

"Our country is distinguished by the number and variety of its benevolent institutions...all breathing the pure spirit of Christian charity...But shall we stop here? Is the moral circle perfect so long as any power of doing good remains? Or can the infliction of cruelty on any being which the Almighty has endued with feelings of pain and pleasure consist with genuine and true benevolence?"

This Prospectus was signed by many leading 19th century Christians including William Wilberforce, Richard Martin, G. A. Hatch, J. Bonner, and Dr. Heslop.

An essay on "The Rights of Animals" by Dean William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) can be found in his 1926 book, Lay Thoughts of a Dean. It reads in part:

"Our ancestors sinned in ignorance; they were taught (as I deeply regret to say one great Christian Church still teaches) that the world, with all that it contains, was made for man, and that the lower orders of creation have no claims upon us. But we no longer have the excuse of saying that we do not know; we do know that organic life on this planet is all woven of one stuff, and if we are children of our Heavenly Father, it must be true, as Christ told us, that no sparrow falls to the ground without His care. The new knowledge has revolutionized our ideas of our relations to the other living creatures who share the world with us, and it is our duty to consider seriously what this knowledge should mean for us in matters of conduct."

Dean Inge is reported to have said, "Whether animals believe in a god I do not know, but I do know that they believe in a devil—the devil which is man."

Christian writer C. S. Lewis put forth a rational argument concerning the resurrection of animals in The Problem of Pain. His 1947 essay, "A Case for Abolition," attacked vivisection (animal experimentation) and reads as follows:

"Once the old Christian idea of a total difference in kind between man and beast has been abandoned, then no argument for experiments on animals can be found which is not also an argument for experiments on inferior men. If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we re backing up our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists for the same reason. Indeed, experiments on men have already begun. We all hear that Nazi scientists have done them. We all suspect that our own scientists may begin to do so, in secret, at any moment.

"The victory of vivisection marks a great advance in the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law; a triumph in which we, as well as animals, are already the victims, and of which Dachau and Hiroshima mark the more recent achievements. In justifying cruelty to animals we put ourselves also on the animal level. We choose the jungle and must abide by our choice."

British Jesuit Father John Bligh observed, "A man is not likely to be much of a Christian if he is not kind to animals."

A Roman Catholic priest, Msgr. LeRoy E. McWilliams of North Arlington, New Jersey, testified in October 1962 in favor of legislation to reduce the sufferings of laboratory animals. He told congressional representatives:

"The first book of the Bible tell us that God created the animals and the birds, so they have the same Father as we do. God’s Fatherhood extends to our ‘lesser brethren.’ All animals belong to God; He alone is their absolute owner. In our relations with them, we must emulate the divine attributes, the highest of which is mercy. God, their Father and Creator, loves them tenderly. He lends them to us and adjures us to use them as He Himself would do.""

Msgr. McWilliams also issued a letter to all seventeen thousand Catholic pastors in the United States, calling upon them to understand "what Christianity imposes on humans as their clear obligation to animals."

Responding to a question about the Kingdom of Peace, Donald Soper was of the opinion that Jesus, unlike his brother James, was neither a teetotaler nor a vegetarian, but, "I think probably, if He were here today, He would be both." In a 1963 article on "The Question of Vivisection," Soper concluded: "...let me suggest that Dr. Schweitzer’s great claim that all life should be based on respect for personality has been too narrowly interpreted as being confined entirely to the personality of human beings. I believe that this creed ‘respect for personality’ must be applied to the whole of creation. I shouldn’t be surprised if the Buddhists are nearer to an understanding of it than we are.

"When we apply this principle, we shall be facing innumerable problems, but I believe we shall be on the right track which leads finally to the end of violence and the achievement of a just social order which will leave none of God’s creatures out of that Kingdom which it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us."

"I am not a Christian," wrote one animal rights activist in Animals, Men and Morals (1971), "but I find it incomprehensible that those who preach a doctrine of love and compassion can believe that the material pleasures of meat-eating justify the slaughter it requires."

In 1977, at an annual meeting in London of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Dr. Donald Coggan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said, "Animals, as part of God’s creation, have rights which must be respected. It behooves us always to be sensitive to their needs and to the reality of their pain."

In a paper presented before the Conference on Creation Theology and Environmental Ethics at the World Council of Churches in Annecy, France in September, 1988, Dr. Tom Regan expressed opposition to discrimination based upon genetic differences:

"...biological differences inside the species Homo sapiens do not justify radically different treatment among those individual humans who differ biologically (for example, in terms of sex, or skin color, or chromosome count). Why, then, should biological differences outside our species count morally? If having one eye or deformed limbs do not disqualify a human being from moral consideration equal to that given to those humans who are more fortunate, how can it be rational to disqualify a rat or a wolf from equal moral consideration because, unlike us, they have paws and a tail?"

Dr. Regan concluded:

"...the whole fabric of Christian agape is woven from the threads of sacrificial acts. To abstain, on principle, from eating animals, therefore, although it is not the end-all, can be the begin-all of our conscientious effort to journey back to (or toward) Eden, can be one way (among others) to re-establish or create that relationship to the earth which, if Genesis 1 is to be trusted, was part of God’s original hopes for and plans in creation.

"It is the integrity of this creation we seek to understand and aspire to honor. In the choice of our food, I believe, we see, not in a glass darkly, but face to face, a small but not unimportant part of both the challenge and the promise of Christianity and animal rights."

A growing number of Christian theologians, clergy and activists are beginning to take a stand in favor of animal rights. In a pamphlet entitled "Christian Considerations on Laboratory Animals," Reverend Marc Wessels notes that in laboratories animals cease to be persons and become "tools of research." He cites William French of Loyola University as having made the same observation at a gathering of Christian ethicists at Duke University—a conference entitled "Good News for Animals?"

Mohammed spoke of the rewards and punishments one would receive depending on one’s treatment of animals. He once told his companions he had a vision of a woman being punished in hell because she had starved a cat to death. "A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being," taught Mohammed, "while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being."

On another occasion, the Prophet is recorded as having said, "He who takes pity even on a sparrow and spares its life, God will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgement...There is no man who kills even a sparrow, or anything smaller, without a justifiable cause, but God will question him about it."

Again, Mohammed is said to have taught that, "one who kills even a sparrow or anything smaller without a justifiable reason will be answerable to Allah." Muslim literature even records the Prophet forbidding the use of animal skins.

Mohammed took pity on beasts of burden. He forbade the beating of animals, as well as branding, striking, or painting them on the face. When the Prophet encountered a donkey that had been branded on the face, he exclaimed, "May Allah condemn the one who branded it." According to Mohammed, some animals were better than their riders. "Verily, there exist among the ridden ones some who are indeed better than their riders, and who praise their Lord more worthily."

According to Islamic scholar B.A. Masri, "All kinds of animal fights are strictly forbidden in Islam." Mohammed forbade using living creatures as targets, and went so far as to condemn putting animals in cages, calling it "a great sin for man to imprison those animals which are in his power."

Mohammed even classified the unnecessary slaughter of animals as one of the seven deadly sins. "Avoid the seven abominations," he said, then referring to a verse from the Koran, "And kill not a living creature, which Allah has made sancrosanct, except for a justifiable reason."

Dr. Masri writes that: "According to the spirit and overall teachings of Islam, causing avoidable pain and suffering to the defenseless and innocent creatures of God is not justifiable under any circumstances."

On the issue of animal experimentation, Dr. Masri points out that: "Many of the experiments that are being done on animals in the name of scientific research and education are not really necessary and are sheer cruelty. Such experiments are a contradiction in terms of the Islamic teachings...According to Islam, all life is sancrosant and has a right to protection and preservation."

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