Religion and Animal Rights

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Animal rights - the moral treatment of animals by humans in order that their lives and welfare are protected.

Sanctity of life - life is a sacred, special gift from God

Stewardship - the duty of humans given by God to care for the natural world

What is an animal? An animal is a living organism that has the biological characteristics of being able to move, respire, feed, grow, excrete and reproduce.  Humans are a socialised animal with morals and a soul or spirit which makes us different from the animals in the animal kingdom.


Humans, like animals, have instincts such as to survive, eat and reproduce.  However, we are also caring and communicative.  Animals do not share these characteristics to the degree of human beings.  Therefore, all religions believe that humans are of greater importance and status than all other animals.  Humans are at the top of the animal hierarchy due to our intelligence and soul or spirit, which gives us the ability to have a God conscience.

"Into your hands they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you." Genesis

"Do not take life...except for just cause" Koran.  For Muslims, eating animals is an acceptable reason to kill them.

Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation.  This is where the human soul is reborn into another living body.  They believe this can be into the body of an animal as well as a human. However, going from a human to an animal is a step back in the path to freedom due to a person's bad actions in their previous life.  This also suggests that animals and humans are not equal.


The Sanctity of Life - most religions believe that God created the world.  Therefore, animals should be respected as they are a sacred gift from God.  To mistreat them would be highly disrespectful.

Stewardship - most religions believe that humans have been given the task of stewardship - the responsibility to care for the natural world that God has created.  We must therefore respect animals and treat them with compassion as this is what God would want.  To not do so would be to ignore the role of stewardship.  In the afterlife, God will judge us on how well we have carried out this job.

"God created the earth and everything in it" Genesis

"Fill the earth and subdue it and have authority over every living thing" Genesis

"Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap...yet your heavenly father feeds them" Jesus teaching from the book of Matthew

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet, not one of them is forgotten by God" Luke

"He is the one who created all" Koran

Humans have been given the role of Khalifa - they are guardians of the natural world.  Allah will judge people on Judgement Day on how well they have…


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