Should we treat animals humanely? I say no.

humane The word humane in the English comes from the Latin adjective hūmānus which has as its linguistic root homo (a noun).  And the Latin word homo means human being.  Hence in biology humans as a species are indentified as homo sapiens, literally humans with wisdom.

Therefore, while most modern dictionaries will define humane as being compassionate or something like that, etymologically it means to treat something as a human.  In fact, the first humane societies were formed to rescue humans and not animals.  Only in the last 150 years or so has the word become more and more associated with animals than humans.

We as Christians are not therefore to treat animals humanely.  Why? Because they are not humans.   So how do we treat them?  We treat them as creatures of God given to live under the dominion of humanity.

Genesis 1:26  Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

Does that means that we are free to abuse them?  Far from it.  We are to treasure everything that God has made.  Does it mean that we should not be rescuing them from peril?  Again, not at all.  We value all life.  Does it mean that we cannot mourn the loss of animals that have served as pets in our home?  Of course not.

But it does mean that we understand that they are given to live under the dominion of humans and are ultimately created for the good of humanity like all of creation.

So, yes, we can do things to animals that we would not do to humans.  We can hunt them.  We can control their population levels.  We can eat them. 

Genesis 9:3  Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

So should we treat animals humanely?  Well I suppose it depends on your definition of humane.  Should we treat them as well as is possible while still understanding their proper place in creation?  Yes.

 But should we treat them like humans?  No.  They are not.  To suggest this is to buy into the overall lie of evolution which seeks to declare that there is no real distinction between humanity and the rest of creation. 

Most of you reading this (at least my “regular” readers) do not accept the idea that there is a lack distinction between humans and the rest of creation.  But I fear all of us while denying the premise are buying into the conclusions that those who do not believe in such distinction are making.  

Many speak about their pets in a way that affords them a near human status.  They believe that an animals can provide them the kind of companionship formerly reserved for humans.  They call their animals their children.  I understand that we can get really attached to pets and often the talk is just hyperbole.  But we must keep clear and make clear that no animal can truly be for us what God intends only other humans to be for us.

Others have taken up vegetarianism (nothing wrong with that generally – except the lack of steak) not for health reasons but because they believe it is improper to butcher animals to eat them.  They suggest animals have right similar to humans and yet do not recognize they are buying into the evolutionary premise that there is no real distinction between the two. Again, we must remain firm that there is nothing wrong with humans eating other creatures.  One may choose not to eat them for several reasons but it is improper to suggest that we may not due to some bill of rights they possess that looks strangely like the one only humans possess.

Love your animal.  Eat your animal.  Just don’t think your animal is human.  Don’t in that sense treat them humanely, like a human.  Treat them as they are, creatures of God given to live under the dominion of humanity.

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 17th, 2014 at 8:44 am and is filed under Theology and Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “Should we treat animals humanely? I say no.”

  1. Chris Says:


    As a Latin linguist and teacher, it simply DOES NOT MATTER what the etymology of the word humane is. There is this phenomenon in language called “Semantic shift” where words can undergo perjoration, amelioration, generalization, specification, etc. In this case, humanus, which is actually derived from humanitas though cognate with homo means refinement, so someone who, in Latin, is described as humanus was considered refined, cultured and sophisticated. When this word was adopted by English speaker, it underwent a period of generalization and amelioration so that it now has its current meaning of “acting kindly” regardless of whom you act kindly towards, whether man or beast. I really don’t think that anyone who wants to treat animals nicely says we are treating them like humans. Your complaint seems to be more directed at language and possible misuse of it (though there is none here). In fact, I think you could have gotten your point across very well without having to indict the Latin language as being complicit in some crime.

  2. Carolyn Says:

    I do not find this helpful. Nor is it accurate. God gave us animals to be, among other things, companions. Pets are classified in the disaster response arena and in the therapy animal world as “companion animals”. They serve a great purpose in the lives of many people, including the sick, lonely and hurting.

  3. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Carolyn, nowhere do I deny that animals can serve many purposes and great ones at that. I rejoice in any way that these gifts of God serve to aid humanity. I think we would be hard pressed to to prove biblically that animals were given specifically to be companions. In fact these verses tend to suggest the opposite:

    Genesis 2:19-20 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

    There is no doubt animals can help people healing from various traumas but the goal of such therapy is to restore people to normal relationship with other people where the truest companionship is found. They are a means to that end and not the end itself.

  4. K. Ruhl Says:

    Read The Gospel Of Peace. Jesus was an Essene. So was Moses and John. They didn’t eat meat.
    Thou shall not kill. REMEMBER?

  5. Philip Hoppe Says:

    So you suppose at the Passover meal, they ate Tofu Lamb or what? And what of Jesus telling the parable of the prodigal son which ends with the slaughtering of the fattened calf. You should read the bible more and this other book less.

  6. Rachel Says:

    I think your article here is a off base and your title needlessly provocative. To treat animals humanely isn’t to treat them LIKE humans, but to treat them AS humans. What I mean is that avoiding cruelty to animals isn’t placing them on equal status with humans; it’s elevating humans to a higher status than animals. Animals in their natural habitats must fight each other and flee from threats in order to survive and weak or sick animals are killed off. Humans, in treating animals humanely, give weak and strong creatures the same chance to survive. Furthermore, it is well known that humans who are unkind or cruel to animals act similarly towards other people, and vice versa. We might even call those kind-hearted humans…. humane.

    The only real point I think you have is that it’s bizarre to give family status to pets, and style one’s self Fluffy’s “mom” or what have you. However I think that stems more from a devaluing of the human soul (I.e. humans are just another animal) than an elevating of animals.

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