Amy and I have practiced what we call a “cruelty-free diet” for more than a decade.  We do this out of a conviction that it’s the least we can do to avoid moral complicity with the factory farming system in our country, which is so horribly inhumane to cows, pigs, and chickens.  (I defy anyone to see what goes on in those places and not be disturbed by the extreme cruelty of it all.)  We’re hardly radicals, but the little we do is aimed at honoring what we regard as a biblical duty of compassion toward animals.

There are numerous Scriptural passages that speak to the moral significance of our treatment of animals.  There is a biblical duty of compassion for animals, and this has implications for the dinner table as well as the backyard.  (See, for example, Exod. 23:12, Deut. 25:4, Psalm 50:10-11, Psalm 104, and Prov. 12:10.)

Recently, as I’ve been reading through the book of Genesis, a passage jumped out at me that I had overlooked before—Genesis 9:5.  Amazingly, this verse refers to the fact that animals themselves will be judged.  Getting a running start from verse 4, it reads like this:

“You must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.  And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting.  I will demand an accounting from every animal.  And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man” [my italics]  

That’s the New International Version of the Bible.  Several other translations instead refer to animals giving a “reckoning,” and some use the term “punish.”  But what is consistent in each translation I’ve seen is a sense of something like moral culpability and judgment.  Now some folks could read too much into this and erroneously infer that animals are on the same moral plane as humans.  Clearly, we can’t run to that extreme given the unique standing of human beings as divine image bearers (cf. Gen. 1:27).  Still, it seems noteworthy that God will judge animals in this regard (and that God would make special note of this in Scripture).  This appears to be one more biblical reinforcement of the moral significance of animals.


14 Responses to “God Judges Animals?”


  1. Adam

     

    I read “Eating Animals” in November. I started a transition-diet in December and made it permanent in January. I am currently a vegetarian, even though I do eat dairy and egg-products. I also eat Chipotle since “Food, Inc.” gave me the go-ahead on their corporate policies. I have to agree with you – it is complicity to knowingly eat animals that have been factory farmed. I came to the conclusion I could not endorse those practices via consumption, and have tried to maintain the diet since. I wish more people would get beyond their “but I love meat so much!” justification.

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  2. Amy

     

    funny you should mention chipotle. i just went there a few nights ago and was told their chicken was free-range. we are always looking for eating out options that fit our convictions, sometimes doing better than others.

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  3. Thomas Hunter

     

    I am curious what you mean by “cruelty-free diet.” I know that is not the topic at hand here, but could you explain that further?

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  4. Thomas Hunter

     

    Certainly there are things that go on within the factory farming system that are are cruel to animals. Does this preclude you from purchasing family-farmed raised products?

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  5. Jim Spiegel

     

    Thomas,

    Thanks for this question. While I think that we should minimize our support of factory farms (because doing so is a sort of moral complicity with an immoral system), we support and promote family or “free range” farms which allow animals to live normal lives. We don’t oppose killing and eating animals in principle (this would be a difficult thesis to defend, biblically speaking). But there are moral and immoral ways to do this. And our dietary and consumer practices should reflect our support for the former.

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  6. John W. Loftus

     

    As far as Genesis 9:5ff goes, context, context, context:

    5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.

    6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed;
    for in the image of God
    has God made man.

    Gordon Wenham in his commentary on Genesis 1-15 for Word Press says:

    “Divine retribution is threatened on wild animals who kill men. Exodus 21:28-29 illustrates this principle by proscribing that an ox which gores a man to death should be executed.” p. 193.

    This is not about a final judgment but about a here and now judgment, especially since the Hebrews did not have a conception about a final judgment yet. And it’s not about God killing such an animal, but a command that humans kill such an animal. We do this with untamed dogs who maul another human being, you see, because its owner did not properly train him to be a good dog.

    You see, that was easy.

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  7. Ken Pulliam

     

    Jim,

    Based on the animal sacrifices of the OT, which your God found pleasure in , I think your position is hypocritical. Your God certainly had no problem with cruelty to animals (or humans for that matter).

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  8. Jim Spiegel

     

    Ken,

    You are conflating “killing” with “cruelty.” Not all killing of animals is cruel (nor is all killing of humans, for that matter). Nowhere in Scripture is the causing of protracted animal suffering endorsed. Such treatment is, indeed, cruel and should be avoided.

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  9. Ken Pulliam

     

    Jim,

    Are you going to maintain that the slaughter of animals under the Jewish sacrificial system was not cruel?

    Are you going to maintain that the animals killed in the flood (whether it was local or universal) was humane?

    Are you going to mantain that the killing of the animals as well as the human beings in the Amalekite slaughter was humane?

    Reply
    • nika milan

       

      I love animals and had a hard time with animal sacrifice in the OT. At first glance, it’s an easy out and a case against christianity. How can God allow and call for so much war and death among people and innocent animals? Anyone can find something offensive in scripture. Jesus purposely said things knowing people would be offended in order to prove who was His and who was not:

      John 6:60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

      Animals were depended on and respected in OT history much more than they are today. Sacrificing an animal was a big deal to them. We call their practices wrong and inhumane but at the same time, animal’s lives do not hold much value to us – proof of this is everywhere. You prove it when you knowingly support and buy industrialized animal products by saying your taste buds are more important than standing up for the innocent lives being tortured in these farms and ruining our environment on top of it.

      God showed the price for sin in the OT and that plan doesn’t register with us as well today so we call God evil for it because it’s offensive to us. Never mind the fact that God had called off all sacrifices with one ultimate One and the world has been forever transformed since. Never mind how drastically different life was then, so much more barbaric and violent and He had to meet them where they were at. If whole towns could be so corrupt that not even one righteous person could be found or people are cooking and eating babies, what does that say about the world in which they lived? Christ has changed everything.

      Today’s price for sin is everywhere, all you have to do is look at the world around you. Sin destroys lives with abuse and neglect of children/spouses, sex trafficking, AIDS, drugs/alcohol abuse, hunger, religious and political wars. What’s going to save us from all this, our own moral code?

      The problem of evil is in us – not just those that partake but those that aren’t doing what they can to fight it. As a follower of Christ, this is the perspective I have along with all my christian friends. Helping others to be true disciples of Jesus is the best and most effective way to fight evil.

      Reply
  10. Donna J Sachdev

     

    Yes you are so correct. Being human we do forget that God also Blessed animals.They may not be on the same higher principle that God holds us accountable to but they are also held accountable.We would be wise to understand God does demand animals be slayed for abuse against us and we must be judged with abuse against animals.

    Reply

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