Religion and Animal Rights

These are notes taken from my revision guide about Animal Rights.

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Animal Rights?

Do animals deserve rights the same as humans?


  • they share the planet with us and deserve respect
  • they feel pain, suffering and experience pleasure and happiness like us
  • they're innocent and vulnerable so need protection

NO :

  • they're not "self conscious" so cannot excerise their rights
  • humans are more important than animals
  • do all animals, like rats or wasps, deserve rights?
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Religious Beliefs

Christian Attitudes to Animals

"let them (humans) rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth" Genesis 1:26

There are a few interpretations of this:

  • Some think "rule over" means to have "dominion". This means they can use animals any way they want.
  • Others think "rule over" means to have "stewardship". This means they have a responsibility, given by God, to care for them.

Other beliefs

  • Christianity, Judaism, Islam
  • God created the world, he gave humans dominion or stewardship over animals.
  • "Sanctity of Life" - Life is God-given. Some say this should apply to animals as well as humans.
  • Hinduism, Buddhism
  • Life is connected and dependent on each other.
  • Ahimsa: principle of not harming any living thing
  • Karma: responsibility for your actions (links to reincarnation)
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Use and Abuse of Animals

  • Sport: Horse-racing, greyhound racing, bullfighting, hunting. Proud tradition or cruel pastime? 
  • Fur and Ivory Trade: 55 million animals are killed for fur and ivory. It's illegal in the UK and the UN.
  • Experimentation, GM: Testing products on animals before humans. It has led to many medical advances however, there are alternatives to animal experimentation. Buddhists: Ahimsa: Experimentation causes suffering to animals therefore it's morally wrong.
  • Wild Animals and Zoos: They educate people about animals, breeding programs help protect endangered animals, animals should be protected as God's Creation. However, animals are taken out of their natural habitat.
  • Companions, Transport and Work: Pets, animals of burden (donkeys, horses, cows) are ridden or carry goods or carts. Dogs trained as guide dogs. Animals shouldn't be beaten or over-worked. Judaism: Sabbath, animals are given a day of rest.
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Use of Animals: Food

  • Food: Most people eat meat. 
  • Factory farming (poor, cramped conditions, cheap)
  • Free-range farming (free to roam about, expensive). Slaughter - UK, animals are stunned before death. 

Islam: Halal, cutting the neck with a sharp knife. Christianity/Islam/Judaism: accepts eating meat, animals must be treated and slaughtered humanely. Buddhists/Hindus:most are vegetarian, Ahimsa, cows are sacred to Hindus.

Should people eat meat? Vegetarians: eat no meat or fish. Vegans: do not eat or use animal products. 

Arguments against meat consumption: 

  • Morally/religiously wrong to kill animals (like murder)
  • Healthier diet

Arguments for meat consumption:

  • Gives these animals a reason for life (pigs wouldn't be bred if no one ate meat)
  • It is part of human diet
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