Religion and Animal Rights

  • Created by: Mimzee
  • Created on: 06-05-15 17:37

Differences between animals and humans

  • Humans can talk (communicate at a higher level) and reason
  • Humans are more self aware - able to create more advanced societies and architecture
  • Animals don't have music, art, culture or morality
  • Humans were created in the image of God (not animals)
  • Humans may be capable of greater throught and have opinions
  • Animals make decisions based on their instinct to survive, eat and reproduce
  • Humans have greater intellectual ability
  • Humans can invent things e.g. computers, complex language systems etc
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Status and Rights of animals

Animal rights organisations beliefs:

  • Animals shouldn't be harmed, abused or exploited
  • Many oppose factory farming, animal experimentation and using animals for entertainment
  • There are disagreements about what kind of protests are justified to stand up for animal rights

Protecting animal rights

Animal rights groups - had success in changing law & public attitude. International Animal Rights day - Dec 10th - animals should have the same rights of protection for exploitation and suffering as humans. Candlelit vigils, protest marches, letters to MPs - highlight issues & protect animal rights. Negatives: some groups more violent: breaking into labs & releasing animals held for research or targeting individuals who work in these facilities

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Status and Rights of animals

Protection by British law

  • Cruelty and neglect are criminal offences. Living creatures that can't be kept as pets: dangerous dogs, rare birds
  • Animal cosmetic research experiments are banned
  • Legal experiments e.g. medical & other research are inspected to ensure animals don't suffer too much
  • Foxhunting and dog fighting - illegal
  • Strict regulatons: animal exports, transporting animals for slaghter, management of abattoirs (where animals are slaghtered)

Religious attitudes

  • Animals don't have the same rights as humans but should be protected, managed and cared for with respect. Humans have responsibility (duty; the idea that we are in charge of our own actions) for how they use power over the natural world
  • All religions (except Buddhism) believe God created the world therefore it deserves respect
  • Humans don't own the planet but have a duty to care for it (stewardship)
  • Idea of the sanctity of life (life is sacred because it is God-given)
  • Hindus believe in reincarnations and have many deities represented as animals
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Religious beliefs about animals


  • Natural world has great importance
  • Living beings are connected and interdependant for survival
  • Animals are part of the cycle of rebirth so shuld be treated well
  • First moral precept: don't harm any living being. Also applies to animals
  • Meditation helps develop feelings of loving kindness to all living beings; everyone has the right to happiness


  • Sanctity of life. All creatures should be respected - they are a part of Brahman (God).
  • All living things are bound up in the cycle of birth, death and rebirth as the soul is reborn in different forms
  • Duty to protect animals and not harm them. The cow is sacred and can roam free in India


  • God created the world including animals and put humans in charge (Gen 1:28). Stewardship. Humans have a duty to care for all creation, including animals
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Treatment of wildlife and keeping animals in zoos

For animals in zoos, safaris and aqauariams

To be seen by the public. Education. Breeding programmes and preserving species prevent extinction (all members of a species die out & will never exist on Earth again). Entertainment. Rescuing endangered animals.

Against animals in zoos, safaris and aquariams

Unsuitable environment: small cages, stress. Different from native climate & habitat

Religious views

  • Mostly accecpted if conditions are as similar as possible to life in wild.
  • Many safaris and zoos allow animals to roam over large areas
  • Zoos can help preserve species by research & carefully designed breeding programmes

Religious responses

  • Assisi Declarations
  • Ohito Declaration
  • Practical Action
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Animals as companions, for transport or work


  • Usually grow to treat and love them like a family member
  • A pet can provide companionship and express affection
  • Benefits of dogs: exercise and social contact w/ other dog walkers. Some pet are dressed in designer outfiys or buried in a special cemetry when they die
  • Guide dogs - trained from puppies to help blind and partially sighted - help cross toads & get around outside home

Transport and work

  • 'Beasts of burden' - donkeys, camels, horses - ridden or harnessed to pull carts to carry goods. 
  • Dogs used in the arctic to pull sleds. Horse carriage was common in UK before modern transport
  • Horses & dogs - farms. Guide dogs - help disabled people. Small African monkeys - open mail. 'Sniffer dogs' - police use them to follow trails, seek out drugs and locate mines with the military. WW1 - dogs caried messages across trenches & were given messages for bravery
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Animals as companions, for transport or work

Religious views of pets

Most don't forbid pets. Animals in Islam must not be kept in limited spaces/be trained to perform tricks. Most Muslisms don't have pets but can keep working dogs for hunting or guarding home.

Religious views of working animals

  • Most don't object to animals for work/transport as long as they're cared for.
  • Islam - working animals mustn't be beaten or overworked. Must be well-fed and watered
  • Hindus - the cow is sacred. Gives life by providing food, fuel for heating and for transport.
  • Contact with animals recently seen as therapeutic (helpful to healing) to help autistic children, sick people, the elderly and prisoners. Most religions support animals being used to heal in this way
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Animals for food

Free range farming

  • Farming that allows amimals to roam freely and behave naturally
  • e.g. cows are allowed to stay with their calfs and to go outside and graze.
  • Advantages: stronger bond between parent and offspring - higher quality food
  • Disadvantages: more expensive to buy

Factory farming

  • Intensive; when animals are used for meat or dairy productsbut are kept indoors in very small spaces
  • e.g. farm animals kept in dimly lit factories with crowded living conditions & restricted movement; they can't mate or graze
  • Advantages: food production is more efficient and costs less so sold for less to the consumer
  • Disadvantages: crowded conditions - suffering and distress. Drugs and chemicals may build up in food chain and cause resistance to disease. Waste from these farms can get into human water supplies and rivers, killing other wildlife and fish
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Animals for food

Slaughter and transport of animals

  • Animals usually stunned first then slaughtered in Britain. Aim - let animal bleed to death so meat will be good
  • Muslim and Jewish methods (halal and shechitah) - involve cutting the animal's neck with a sharp knife
  • Animals are transported over long distances in cramped, overcrowded conditions w/o enough food or water & many die in transit.
  • The RSPCA is an animal welfare group that campaigns for animals to be slaghtered as close as possible to where they were raised.
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Animal slaughter


  • 90% of UK humans eat meat. Good source of protein, vitamins & minerals
  • Farmers make a living
  • Noah told that people may eat animals
  • Christians, Musllims and Jews believe animals were created by God to provide humans w/ food
  • Animals should be killed and slaughtered in different ways according to Islam and Judaism
  • St. Peter's vision
  • St. Paul said all food can be eaten
  • Dominion - Genesis
  • Proverbs 12:10


  • Most Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs are vegetarian
  • Link to samsara - cycle of birth, death and rebirth
  • Intensive farming is cruel
  • Not harming living creatures
  • Some animals strictly forbidden e.g. Pigs - Islam & Judaism
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Eating meat - Vegetarians and vegans

  • Vegetarianism: the belief held by people who don't eat meat
  • Vegan: a person who will not use any animal product

Reasons why people chose to be vegetarian:

  • They don't wish to harm animals
  • It's part of their religion
  • Objection to how meat and poultry are transported
  • Vegetables, particularly grown organically, are safer and healthier to eat
  • They don't like the taste of meat
  • If fewer people eat meat, there will be more food in developing countries
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Religious attitudes towards eating meat

Buddhists and Hindus - vegetarian

  • Animals par of the life cycle of birth, death and rebirth
  • Killing an animal - killing the body housing an ancestor's soul
  • Ahimsa - principle of not harming living things

Hindu Holy Books (The Vedas) - Hindus should avoid meat

  • Meat can't be obtained without harming living creatures
  • Some Hindus eat part of the cow - a sacred animal

Sikhs - many are vegetarian

  • the langar in the gurdwara only seves vegetarian food
  • may eat meat provided that has been killed/treated humanely
  • Guru Granth Sahib - all food is pure; God provided it for the people

Muslims and Jews

  • Food laws saying how to slaughter and eat food. Muslims only eat halal food killed in a humane way. Neither Jews nor Muslims eat pigs. Jews follow kosher (dietary) laws.
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Animals in sport

Uses of animals in sport:

  • compete with animals against opponents (e.g. horseracing, polo, show jumping)
  • watch animals compete against each other (e.g. greyhound or pigeon racing)
  • compete with other animals (e.g. rodeos and bullfighting)
    • Arguments for: they like competing. No worse than killing them for food
    • Arguments against: feel pain and fear. Wrong to use them for entertainment


  • Some people need to hunt for food e.g. the Arctic. It is considered a sport in Britain
  • For: it helps the countryside by removing pests like foxes which attack livestock/wildlife and can spread disease. Less cruel and more effective than trapping/poisoning animals
  • Against: chasing and killing foxes/houds are cruel. 2004 - parliament passed a law banning hare coursing and hunting wild mammals with dogs


  • Matador thrusts a sword into the bull to kill it after distracting and angering it.
  • For: proud respected tradition. Bull killed anyway. Against: Cruel &degrading
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Religious attitudes to animals in sport


  • Hunting, fishing & trapping animals is not keeping within the Eightfold Path. They would consider these activities as tormenting and abusing living creatures as the scriptures forbid


  • Some: hunting is justified. God told humans to bring animals under their control.
  • Others: Animals are a part of God's creation. It's our duty as stewards to protect them


  • Hunting is cruel/uneccesary. All animals are a part of Brahman. Protecting animals is a part of a Hindu's duty so they should practice non-violence


  • Animals have feelings and a reason for living. They may be hunted for food but not sport. Allah will hold people accountable if they kill for no useful purpose
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Fur and Ivory Trades

  • Fur trade: the business of farming or hunting animals for their fur to be made into clothing
  • Ivory trade: the sale of ivory from elephant's tusks, often illegally

Arguments for:

  • Profitable
  • Fashionable

Arguments against:

  • Involves slaughter of animals by slaughter like electrocution - sometimes concious while skinned
  • Threatened species are killed often
  • Species are killed often as a result of poaching
  • Question of legality
  • Lack of respect for created life etc
  • Principle of ahimsa (no harm to living  creatures)
  • Socially unacceptable
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Animal experiments

  • Animal experiments: testing on animals, either for medical or cosmetic purposes, to ensure that the product is safe for use by humans.
  • Genetic modification: plants and animals that have had their natural make up altered by scientists
  • Cloning: the scientific method by which animals or plants can be created which have exactly the same genetic make-up as the original, because the DNA of the original is used.

Attitudes of religious people to experiments on animals

Buddhism: Non-violence - also applies to animals. Protecting & living in harmony w/ natural world - Buddhist teaching. Cycle of rebirth. Compassion and loving kindness - all living things. 

Christianity: Animals part of God’s creation. Part of their duty, as stewards of creation to protect, not exploit animals. May agree with medical experiments, but would insist on humane conditions / many oppose tests for make-up, etc. Many campaign against cruelty. The RSPCA started as a Christian response to animal cruelty. Genesis might teach that as we are in charge of animals we can do what we want: Psalm 8 – man is lord over animals and fish, etc. Proverbs 12 10 – a good man is kind to his animals.

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Animal experiments

Attitudes of religious people to experiments on animals

Hinduism All creatures are part of Brahman and thus should be respected / it is part of duty / dharma to protect animals and show ahimsa / cows especially are valued. Some animals are associated with particular gods (e.g. Shiva and Nandi, the bull) / Ahimsa, e.g. Manu 5. 48 important / however, Vedic religions did have animal sacrifices.

Islam The Qur’an teaches that animals have feelings and purpose in their lives / Muhammad told many stories concerning the welfare of animals / it is seen as part of the stewardship of humans / animals, if worked, should be shown consideration / scientific experiments should not involve cruelty and should only be done for important medical research / no students / no repetition experiments / use of pain relief / not for self inflicted illness / accept reference to modern statements.

Judaism Many Biblical passages show concern for animals and treating them fairly (e.g. Proverbs 12 10) / the fourth commandment includes resting animals / Genesis 1 gives humans responsibility over animals, which must not be abused / accept reference to Noah and Covenant. Biblical references from Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Daniel, Psalm 8 6-8 . 

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Genetic Modification

Religious attitudes

Enables scientists to study how genes work / genetic modification may help in fighting disease / enables testing of new drugs / may lead to supply of organs for human transplantation / help in increasing food production. General idea of playing God

Buddhism oppose GM as animal life is precious / idea of interdependence

Christianity believe in the value of animals to God but most accept limited testing in order to find cures for diseases

Hinduism deities appear as animals showing their value / part of the samsara cycle

Islam believe animals should have legal rights / may be used to find cures but suffering must be minimal

Judaism opposed to injuring animals / but GM allowed if helping to advance medical science.

Sikhism believe animals should not be mistreated but GM allowed if it advances medical science 

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Cloning of animals


Lots of embryos are destroyed while trying to clone them / main motive maybe to make money / human health and safety risks might be ignored / playing God / interfering with nature / Guru Granth Sahib teaches that God is present in all living creatures and has a purpose for them/ misuse of resources etc.


Form of scientific advance / God has allowed humans to discover how to do it so humans can / may lead to medical advances / human life could be saved, more valuable, could protect endangered species / to increase food production etc.

Allow reference to suffering and appropriate applications of ‘sanctity of life’ / stewardship / dominion. Allow general answers about experimenting on animals as students are not asked to define cloning.

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