3 Reasons We Need to Care About Animals

No matter our political beliefs, we are called as Christians to be kinder, consume less, and become better stewards of all living things.

Grocery stores ask you if you care about the chickens behind your eggs. Free range, pasture-raised, or organic? You may pay more for an ethical choice, but it can also make you feel better about the health and treatment of the animal products you are consuming.  

Like 99 percent of Americans today, I did not grow up on a farm. But for a season, I was a pastor of a church in rural Kansas where 90% of the church members were cattle farmers. All of their cattle were grass-fed and free-range. To my surprise, these farmers were tender-hearted toward their animals. When a calf was orphaned or the mother was not able to nurse her young, it was common for several families to bring the very large baby into their warm home until it grew strong enough to thrive on its own! 

To be honest, I have the luxury of ignoring where the food on my plate actually comes from. I might run into someone’s opinion about animal cruelty through a hashtag or a posted video on someone else’s feed. But ultimately, I can ignore this issue if I want to. 

About 12 years ago, my daughter came across the documentary entitled Food, Inc on Netflix. She was devastated and sad after watching the film. She wanted our household to immediately change what we ate. She cared deeply for the animals that still suffer and die today. 

As I’ve worked through my own education on this topic, I’ve come to understand there’s a deeper reflection of Christ in our call to care. 

1 – We are ALL God’s creatures 

Studies of COVID-19’s origins point to the pandemic beginning in a “wet market” in Wuhan, China. This was a place where living and dead animals of all kinds were sold. The virus likely jumped from animals to humans in this unsanitary and unnaturally crowded environment. This is nothing new. Other diseases come from animal agriculture like the swine flu, the bird flu, Chicken Pox, and Cow Pox.  

According to recent studies, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation than all the transportation sectors combined. In short, the way we treat animals is not only hurting our health; it’s harming our entire planet.  

The mistreatment and exploitation of animals wound the human race, our health, and the health of our planet. It should be no surprise, since we are all God’s creatures. 

Science predicts our current trajectory will only lead to more disease, fraught, and hunger because of poor stewardship of the air, land, and water resources we all share with all living things. 

2 – God calls us to care about animals 

The story of humanity begins with God sharing the care of the world with humanity. God has given us stewardship of all the creatures that run, creep, crawl, swim, and fly (Genesis 1:26). Perhaps we can only now appreciate the full scope of what the Bible has been saying for thousands of years: how we collectively treat living things has a global impact.  

God’s continued care for all living things is a consistent theme throughout all of Scripture. Here are just a few of my personal favorites:  

  • When the prophet Balaam is riding his donkey and the angel of the LORD stands in his way, the donkey sees the angel but Balaam the “seer” does not. Balaam takes out his frustration on the donkey by striking her with his staff. The donkey is a better “seer” and “prophet.” God says the way he was acting was perverse and that the donkey saved his life (Numbers 22:22-35). 
  • The story of Jonah is also about a disobedient prophet who is saved and vomited in the right direction by the great fish “who obeys God.” When the people of Nineveh repent in dust and ashes, their cattle are included. At the end of the story, God emphasizes how much mercy and compassion he has for the little ones and the many livestock. 
  • Psalm 84 celebrates the beauty of the Temple. The writer celebrates the swallows and sparrows who make their home and nests there. They are not treated as pests but are examples for us. We should also shelter ourselves and raise our young in “the house of God.” 
  • Jesus often uses animals to illustrate truth. He tells us to “look at the birds…and the flowers of the field” and to see God’s continued love and care for his creation to alleviate the anxieties of life (Matt 6:25-33). In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the dogs see poor Lazarus’ suffering and lick his wounds while the rich man ignores the human at his doorstep. The animals show more care and compassion than their human master.  

3 – Loving animals = loving ourselves 

We are not always attuned to the frailty and preciousness of God’s creation. We human beings have a growing, collective impact on the planet. In November of 2022, the human population crossed the 8 billion count for the first time in history.  

Three years ago, my wife and two of my children stopped eating meat, dairy, and eggs. I admit I did so primarily for my own cardiovascular health. My youngest did so because of the mistreatment of animals. But we’re just one household. 

We eat much more quantities of meat than our ancestors did just a generation ago. Studies show that even small changes like “Meatless Mondays” or having one plant-based meal per day would have a significant impact on the future of our world. There are real ways we can respond to this issue in the real world, in our day-to-day lives. But talking about actions like this online can also open unexpected conversation doors. 

Invite your friends online to protect wild animal habitats through a community cleanup day. Share a favorite vegetarian recipe in your feed. Or post a picture of your favorite hiking spot to help remind everyone why our natural world is worth protecting. 

No matter our political beliefs, we are called as Christians to be kinder, consume less, and become better stewards of all living things, both on- and offline. 

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