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Did God give humans dominion over animals?

Historically, the Scriptures have been used to justify slavery, child abuse, spousal abuse, and polygamy, so we must be careful not to misuse them to justify animal cruelty.

According to the book of Genesis, God created animals, including human beings, on the sixth day. In Genesis 1:28, God says: "Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." Immediately after, in Genesis 1:29, God states: "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food." Whatever the word that is translated as "dominion" means, it does not mean that we have a right to eat animals. In fact, most theologians recognize that this word is more accurately translated as "stewardship" and that the meaning of this text is that humans are supposed to be stewards and guardians, protecting and respecting the beings with whom we share the gift of creation.

Theologian Rev. Andrew Linzey states, "We need a concept of ourselves in the universe not as the master species but as the servant species--as the one given responsibility for the whole and the good of the whole. We must move from the idea that animals were given to us and made for us to the idea that we were made for creation, to serve it and ensure its continuance. This actually is little more than the theology of Genesis Chapter Two. The garden is made beautiful and abounds with life: Humans are created specifically to take care of it."

Genesis 9, the text often cited as justification for eating animals, is recognized by most theologians as either a very temporary post-flood concession (all vegetation had been destroyed) or as a concession to human sinfulness (Genesis 9 is also used to justify slavery). St. Jerome wrote: "As to the argument that in God's second blessing (Gen 9:3), permission was given to eat flesh--a permission not given in the first blessing (Gen 1:29)--let him know that just as permission to put away a wife was, according to the words of the Savior, not given from the beginning, but was granted to the human race by Moses because of the hardness of our hearts (Mt 19), so also in like manner the eating of flesh was unknown until the Flood ..."

No matter how one views God's original intent, the complete disdain afforded animals who are turned into food is absolutely heretical. The fact is that human beings are playing God with animals, genetically breeding them to grow so quickly that their hearts, lungs, and limbs can often not keep up. God's creatures have their bodies mutilated without painkillers, their natural desires totally thwarted, and their every need and desire entirely ignored. At the end of their miserable lives, they are trucked through all weather extremes, without food or water, to a violent, bloody, totally ignoble death. Humans are playing God with animals, and ethical people should have no part in it.

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