Why Care for Animals? - A Christian Perspective

It is a proven fact that owning a pet has definite health benefits both psychological and medical.

Research in the field of human health and medical psychology has provided evidence to suggest that dog and cat owners have better psychological and physical health than non-owners. Dog owners are also reported to recover more quickly after serious mental and physical illness, and even make fewer visits to their doctor.
— Veterinary Record; Journal of the British Veterinary Association

The National Center for Health Research concluded that …

findings indicated that having a dog or cat lowered the risk of heart disease, as well as lowering stress so that performance improved.

Here is a very heart warming story of the therapeutic effect a dog had on an overweight, unhealthy man

Conversely the maltreatment of animals is an indicator of mental illness and social dysfunction. In other words you can tell how a person will treat people by the way they treat animals.

Animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people. Deviant behaviors such as animal abuse generally originate from a traumatic childhood. The American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty as one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder.
— Canadians for Animal Welfare Reform

This truth was known a millennia earlier:

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
— Francis of Assisi

Two Secular Views and Animal Welfare

But having a commitment to animal welfare based upon what advantages they bring to humans is a shaky foundation. It leads to the possible conclusion that mistreatment of animals can be an acceptable behavior if it is in our best interest. An anthropocentric philanthropy will not sustain a vigorous defense of animal rights.

Neither is the Darwinist Evolutionary view an adequate foundation. The basis of this theory is, “survival of the fittest to reproduce”. Therefore if an animal is weak and vulnerable it should be removed from the gene pool and allowed to die so that its inherent weakness is not passed down to the next generation. But who can turn a blind eye to a suffering and defenseless animal?

So what foundation for animal welfare is adequate to promote a vigorous defense against animal cruelty and promote their well-being?  

The Biblical Mandate to Care for Animals

I propose that the Judaeo Christian view of animal welfare offers the strongest defense for human animal care because it transcends our personal utility and makes the care of animals a stewardship given to us by our Creator God. It also speaks to the commitment to even the "least of these" animals regardless of their ability to further the evolutionary process. 

God gave man authority over “every living creature”

Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
— Genesis 1:28 NIV
So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals
— Genesis 2:20 NIV

Therefore our care for animals is a mandate from God and keeping it is an act of obedience  to God which is the primary way we demonstrate our love for our Lord.

If you love me you will keep my commandments
— John 14:15 NIV

When man rebelled against God the consequences were not only disastrous for mankind but also the animal kingdom because they also suffer under the curse of death. But in a very real sense their suffering is worse since they did nothing to cause it but were innocent victims of our sinful act of disobedience. 

But someday they too will be liberated and fully restored and in that they share in our hope for redemption. 

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God
— Romans 8:20, 21 NIV

Here are four biblical reasons we are to seek the welfare of animals.

  1. We were given authority over animals by our Creator and will be held to account for this stewardship.
  2. We are commanded to always act with our primary motivation being demonstrating God's loving kindness - this includes how we treat animals.
  3. We (Mankind) were the cause of the suffering brought on the animal kingdom (through our rebellion) therefore we have an duty to help alleviate it now.
  4. The Animal Kingdom will also experience full redemption when the Messiah returns to rule and reign therefore they are a continuing part of God eternal plan.
The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord
— Isaiah 65:25 NIV

Meanwhile what a beautiful gift they are to us … let’s cherish them!