Loving our Fellow-creatures: Christians and Animal Rights (Bauckham, 2003)

Do animals have rights? It is becoming quite common to think so. Talk about animal rights follows on, of course, from talk about human rights. Those who advocate animal rights are proposing we extend the idea of rights from humans to other animals. How should Christians think about this? Does the Bible give us any guidance?

A more biblical sort of question about animals would be this: do we humans have a duty to love animals, just as we have a duty to love our fellow humans? We are commanded to love God and our (human) neighbours, but what about other creatures? Even if the Bible does not instruct us in so many words to love all our fellow creatures, it nevertheless rather strongly implies that we should. ‘Be merciful,’ said Jesus, ‘just as your Father is merciful.’1 God’s mercy is his caring and compassionate love, which he extends not only to humans but also to all his creatures. He ‘is good to all, and his compassion is over all he had made’.2 The psalmist can even say that God, in his love and his righteousness, saves ‘humans and animals alike.’3 So, if we are to love as God loves, surely we must love all that God loves.

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