The Bible’s Viewpoint
Cruelty to Animals—Is It Wrong?
IN A Central American sports arena, all eyes are riveted on two roosters, one red, the other white. The crowd roars as the red rooster, with a razor-sharp blade strapped to its leg, delivers a blow to the white one. A referee picks up the two birds. The white one is now limp, dead, and dripping blood. The cockfight is over.
In the southern Philippines, two stallions are pitted against each other. Spectators watch the gruesome spectacle as the horses suffer bites on the ears, neck, snout, and other body parts. Although both may leave the ring alive, at least one of them may be maimed or blinded or suffer injuries that will eventually cause death.
Two dogs in Russia are attacking each other. Within a short time, eyes torn out and ears ripped up, they are moving around on mutilated legs, blood flowing from gashed flesh.
For centuries man has pitted animal against animal in the name of sport, with gambling often a driving force. Added to the list are bullfights, fox hunts, and even spider fighting. Additionally, many animals experience suffering in the name of science. Further, countless animals suffer from the neglect of their owners, whether intentional or not.
In some lands, there are laws that regulate the treatment of animals and prohibit cruel acts. As far back as 1641, the Massachusetts Bay Colony formulated “The Body of Liberties,” which stated: “No man shall exercise any Tirranny or Crueltie towards any bruite Creature which are usuallie kept for man’s use.” Since then, legislation has been passed and societies have been formed to guard against cruelty to animals.
Still, many who promote the fighting sports mentioned above do not view themselves as perpetrators of animal cruelty. Some claim to love the animals they brutally cause to suffer or die. Cockfight lovers claim that their birds live longer than the average chicken destined for the cooking pot—small comfort indeed!
Why Is Cruelty Wrong?
God allows us to benefit from the animals. Bible principles allow us to kill animals to provide food and clothing or to protect ourselves from harm. (Genesis 3:21; 9:3; Exodus 21:28) However, life is sacred to God. Our dominion over the animals must be exercised in a balanced way that shows respect for life. The Bible speaks negatively of a man named Nimrod, who apparently killed animals and perhaps humans for the sheer thrill of it.—Genesis 10:9.
Jesus spoke of God’s concern for animals in these words: “Five sparrows sell for two coins of small value, do they not? Yet not one of them goes forgotten before God.” (Luke 12:6) Also, when changing his mind about destroying a city full of practicers of wickedness who had repented, God himself said: “Ought I not to feel sorry for Nineveh the great city, in which there exist more than one hundred and twenty thousand men . . . , besides many domestic animals?” (Jonah 4:11) Obviously, he does not regard animals as just disposable items, to be thrown away at will.
When giving the Israelites laws, God taught them proper care of animals. He required them to return a stray animal to its owner and to help animals in distress. (Exodus 23:4, 5) Animals were to benefit from a Sabbath rest, just like humans. (Exodus 23:12) There were laws governing the proper treatment of farm animals. (Deuteronomy 22:10; 25:4) Obviously, animals were to be cared for and guarded, not exploited.
Proverbs 12:10 explicitly states God’s viewpoint: “The righteous one is caring for the soul of his domestic animal, but the mercies of the wicked ones are cruel.” A Bible commentary renders this verse as follows: “A righteous man’s kindness extends even to dumb animals, but a wicked man is cruel, even when he thinks he is being most gentle.”—Believer’s Bible Commentary, by William MacDonald.
The righteous man treats animals with kindness and seeks to know their needs. A wicked person may vocally express love for animals, but his “mercies,” at best, are actually cruel. His actions betray the selfish motive he has in mind. How true this is of those who pit one animal against another in hopes of winning money!
Relief for the Animals
True, God’s original purpose was that man have “in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) Cruelty to animals has no place in that purpose. The inhuman treatment of animals will not go on forever. We have reason to believe that God will stop all unnecessary suffering. But how?
He promises to do away with wicked and cruel people. (Proverbs 2:22) Regarding the animals, Hosea 2:18 says: “I shall certainly conclude a covenant in that day in connection with the wild beast of the field and with the flying creature of the heavens and the creeping thing of the ground.” How wonderful it will be to live during that time, when peaceful conditions will benefit not only upright humans but also the animals!
[Picture on page 26]
“Bullfight in a Village,” by Francisco Goya