Our judgments are based on our perceptions of particular rules and principles. Those that attend zoos and circuses do not come to the same judgments as people who decide not to attend. Where we base our authority affects our moral norms. In the Christian tradition authority can be found in tradition, reason and experience, and in scripture.
Beginning with tradition, Kant and Aquinas believed it was wrong to cause pain. Mill even went further to say that pain was intrinsically evil. Descartes believed “Animals are like automata or machines: they have no mind (or incorporeal soul); they are unable to think; they are altogether lacking in consciousness. Like the motions of machines, animal behavior can be explained in purely mechanical terms”.
In reason, we see, when discussing the rights of animals, they are limited to their consciousness or lack of abilities to speak.
“The severely mentally feeble, for example, lack the requisite powers to act morally; this, they cannot be expected to recognize our rights, nor can they be said to violate our rights, even if, for example, they should happen to cause us undeserved pain. For as they are not the kind of being that can be held responsible for what they do, neither can they be said to violate anyone’s rights by what they do”.
Though animals lack the ability to communicate, this in no way lessons humanity’s need to respect and be responsible for animals’ well-being.
In Scripture, we can go to the first creation account in Genesis. From here we can begin to discuss our basic convictions. According to Gordon J. Wenham, “God’s purpose in creating [humans] was that [humanity] should rule over the animal world”. A human made in God’s image implicates them as king over nature. A conviction based on this reading of scripture could lead to a misuse of animals, however, even Wenham agrees, “this is no license for the unbridled exploitation and subjugation of nature”. A king does not have to be harsh, but can be full of love and compassion for his subjects. For in Genesis 1:31, God saw that all creation was very good.
In Walter Brueggemann’s commentary, he emphasizes that the phrase “creator creates creation” affirms a powerful purpose for creation. Along with this phrase, there is an affirmation that “the creator is not disinterested and the creation is not autonomous”. Brurggemann holds to the conviction that humankind is the focus of creation and this can be seen by God speaking only with humans. There is an intimacy here, a trust, and position in creation that God is enabling humanity to have.
The Broadman Bible Commentary echoes the importance of humankind in creation, but then focuses on the image of God instilled in humanity as opposed in the higher animals that were created in the same day. An animal not having a soul is one conclusion that can be made, but the Hebrew word for soul is mentioned for both humanity and animals. The difference between humans and animals then becomes the ability for humans to be in fellowship with each other and God.
Brunner and Barth would both echo that the Imago Dei is humanity’s “relationality and responsibility, rather than substance”. It is humanity’s responsibility to God that is important rather than focusing on the factors that distinguish humanity from the rest of creation. God established all of creation.
There is agreement in these commentaries that God created Humanity Imago Dei, but what this means based on a level of principles can be interpreted in many different ways. One of which is, “… the image of God in humans does not describe any specific capacities that we possess, but rather the character of our relationship with God and others which provides the cause for our possession of those capacities”. The Imago Dei is both substantial and relational for humans.
Looking at the image of God in creation, all was good and at the end it was very good. God saw good, God created good, so humanity should strive to keep creation good. Such a principle is easier said then done. There are many rules in the Hebrew Scriptures that mention how animals are to be treated, and when they are to be sacrificed and how. We were entrusted animals by God and given dominion over them, yet what we see today is a complete exploitation of God’s creation.
God created all of creation with a purpose, and even with the removal of creation from the Garden, God still spoke and trusted humanity with creation. Andrew Linzey makes a connection that animal suffering is equal to human suffering and calls for the same level of obligation from humanity. He believes that animals are soulless and in need of the care that humanity is capable of giving. Animals are “innocent, blameless, defenseless, and vulnerable”, and humanity’s responsibility of stewardship is greatly needed, as animals are incapable of becoming moral agents.
In The Animal’s Manifesto the fact that animals show pain and are emotional creatures is discussed. Though there is a danger of anthropomorphisms, this is the only lens that humans can see through. It is how we relate to things and is only natural. A principle of compassion is the focus point for the rule that there should be justice for all of creation.
What should we do? Can we see God’s character in the way we treat animals now? Peter Singer understands the Christian perspective of sanctity of life to mean that humanity is superior to creation, which is problematic because this principle leads to a devaluation of creation. Aquinas and Barth believe otherwise that “God made creation, not for humanity, but for God’s own glory”. Linzey would then emphasize that it is creation that belongs to God in every way.
We are to be in fellowship with all of creation and God. God needs to be at the center of our dominion, for it was God who bestowed it upon us. Our basic conviction should focus on the Imago Dei, and how God created animals as good.
Our principles of compassion, nonviolence, and love must be applied to all of creation, not only to humanity. There is not compassion in a circus that holds animals captive and travels with them regardless if they feel anxious or not on the journey. There is not compassion in the training that goes into a horse race with the whipping of animals and the occasional steroid to help them perform well. There is not compassion in a zoo that sells animals to hunters so they may fulfill their own selfish desires. Where there is an absence of compassion, violence is present and love cannot take root.
The purpose of animals is not to be a part of an entertainment system. They are not to be harmed in movies and now have laws protecting them from all types of dangers, but not all species of animals are included under these laws. Singer is known for his concept of speciesism, which describes humanity’s disregard of animals based on their own basic convictions. Christians as problematic as any other human. Singer proposes a paradigm of utilitarianism to better describe his concept. Utilitarianism seeks to promote the good of all over the bad, and should not have animals distinguished on whether they are worthy enough. “The utilitarian account recognizes the moral status of animals in their own right” and “does not conflate the morality of an act with the mental state of the agent”. Though Singer would not hold to a basic conviction rooted in Scripture, he would agree to a principle that all animals are to be treated equally.
How are we to do this as moral agents that find our basic convictions rooted in a Creator that cares for all of creation? We start by recognizing that our companion animals (pets) are not ours’ to own, but God’s. There is no difference between my cat and the zebra that was killed in Denmark or the family of lions that was euthanized to make room for a new, younger lion. We start by shifting our paradigm that the world was not given for humanity, but humanity was placed on the world to take care of it. We are living on God’s gift to us, yet we so often ignore and pilfer through it to find the parts that we desire. We let selfish reasoning get in the way, not simply with how we treat animals but in all aspects of life.
The conditions of how and where animals are kept need to be as close to the natural habitat of animals. There is a reason why some types of animals live in the desert and others in the rain forest, and humanity was not given the right to take these animals away from where God destined for them to be. This rule is based on the basic conviction that God is in control of everything, including what we perceive to be mundane.
When animals have been taken from their environment and are bred into captivity, their nature has been changed. No matter the species, any part of creation with limited agency is not fulfilling God’s original purpose. As Christians, we must decide what role we play in God’s plan. If we decide creation is important, it must be in all aspects. All was created good.
The transforming initiative urges us to shift our perspective and to refocus our loyalties to compassion in every aspect of life. Compassion is not limited to what we desire to place our love and care. This is a faulty intent, and not one based on the basic conviction of God’s goodness. Our principle should mirror that of our conviction of God. It is necessary for us to seek to mirror God’s attributes, as we are moral agents.
All that dwell on earth includes humanity. We are a part of the solution and part of the problem because we are part of creation. We are part of everything, part of the system of God, and the sooner we recognize this the sooner we will be able to act as moral agents the way in which God intended.
 Regan and Singer, 10.
 Ibid, 10.
 Ibid, 4-5.
 Ibid, 18.
 Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, s.v. “Genesis 1-21.” (Word Inc, 1987), 33.
 Ibid, 33.
 Ibid, 34.
 Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation, “Genesis.” (John Knox: Atlanta, 1982), 17.
 Ibid, 17.
 Ibid, 31.
 The Broadman Bible Commentary, “General Articles, Genesis-Exodus.” (Broadman Press, 1973), 125.
 Regan and Singer, 68. A concept that Voltaire discussed. Hebrew for soul: a living nephesh.
 Broadman, 125.
 Ibid, 125.
 Miller, 36.
 Ibid, 36, 38.
 Ibid, 33.
 Ibid, 34.
 Mark Bernstein, review of Why Animal Suffering Matters, by Andrew Linzey, The Expository Times 122, no. 228 (2009): 206, http://ext.sagepub.com/content/122/5/228.citation.
 Ibid, 122.
 Ibid, 122.
 Marc Bekoff, “Increasing Our Compassion Footprint: The Animal’s Manifesto”, Zygon 43, no. 4 (December 2008): 771-81.
 Charles Camosy, For Love of Animals (Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013); 16, 27, Amazon Kindle edition.
 Ibid, 44.
 Ibid, 49.
 Matthew Scully, Dominion (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002), 10, Amazon Kindle Edition.
 Regan, 89.
 Ibid, 86.
 Ibid, 86-7.
 Dan Bilefsky, “Danish Zoo, Reviled in the Death of a Giraffe, Kills 4 Lions,” New York Times, March 26, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/27/world/europe/lion-killing-at-danish-zoo-provokes-fresh-outrage.html?_r=0.