PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is the largest nonprofit animal rights organization in the world. PETA "opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview, and focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: in laboratories, in the food industry, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment business. [They] also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of rodents, birds, and other animals who are often considered 'pests' as well as cruelty to domesticated animals."1
PETA advocates for the legal rights and humane treatment of animals—from household pets to laboratory animals to livestock. "Supporters of animal rights believe that animals have an inherent worth—a value completely separate from their usefulness to humans. [They] believe that every creature with a will to live has a right to live free from pain and suffering."2
The Bible calls us to be kind, respectful, and caring to the creatures of the earth. Proverbs 12:10 (NIV) says that "the righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." God has put humanity in charge of caring for His creation, including animals (Genesis 1:26). Abuse and neglect of animals is objectively immoral (Proverbs 11:17; Luke 14:5). Animals are part of God’s creation, and thus we are to honor the sanctity of life that can be created by God alone. This is why, in the Old Testament, animal blood sacrifices were required to pay for the sins of the people, as life is valuable and was required to pay for life. That is, until Jesus came to be the ultimate blood sacrifice, or Sacrificial Lamb, for the sins of the world (Leviticus 17:11; John 1:29).
PETA's conviction is that all animals are equal to humankind. To put it more bluntly, PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk has said, "When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. Each one values his or her life and fights the knife."3 It is true that all living things fight for life—from the dandelion in the driveway, to the mouse chased by the cat, to the person on the street. This is the nature of being alive.
God does care about all living things, but they were not created equal. Humans are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:7), with the breath of life breathed into us. Animals are a part of God's beautiful creation, yes, but they were not created in God's image. While God treasures all life and we must, in turn, treasure life too, Jesus pointedly states: "Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:7). In Matthew 6:26, He teaches, "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
According to PETA, all living things are the same; humans are just a more advanced state of evolutionary progression. Their claim is that there is no hierarchy among animals and people. This belief goes against the hierarchy of life as stated in both the Old Testament and through Jesus’ words in the New Testament. Humans are the caretakers, yes. We are called to be humane and respectful toward all life, yes. But there is something else to consider...
In the Bible, we learn that animals play a different role than humans. Animals were used as food, transportation, clothing, and manual labor (Deuteronomy 12:15; Leviticus 6:25-27). God provided animal skins for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:21). Jesus rode on a donkey as He entered Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11). Jesus also cooked and ate fish (Luke 24:42-43). If it was wrong to eat animals, Jesus surely would have not eaten fish, nor would He have violated a donkey's rights by riding on its back.
Of course, animals should never be tortured or otherwise treated badly to be utilized by humans. We need to treat animals with mercy and respect, while also accepting that animals have diverse, God-ordained uses.
God loves animals—just as He loves all of creation. At the same time, God is also the One who commanded an animal sacrifice as payment for the forgiveness of sins (Leviticus 16). God commanded the nation of Israel to perform numerous sacrifices according to certain procedures prescribed by God.4
Blood has always been a symbolic requirement for God's forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). Thankfully, Jesus Christ became the final blood sacrifice for the sins of all people throughout all time (John 3:16-17; 1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 3:18). After Jesus, animal sacrifices were no longer necessary to cover our sins. Still, animals continued to be used for labor, clothing, transportation, and food.
According to PETA, animals have the exact same rights as humans. If we are talking about rights to mercy, respect, and care, then yes. But if we are saying that animals should never be used for human needs or purposes, then that creates a conflict of interest in moral standards. If we are to believe that animals and humans are equal, then we're just another animal species. If we believe we are truly created in the image of God, then our responsibility is to look after and care for God's creation in as kind and merciful a way as possible while also valuing human life over animal life.
The Bible tells us that the latter is true: we are image bearers of God, entrusted with the loving and kind care of the earth and everything in it. Christians can and should, therefore, support the ethical and humane treatment of animals. We should always be merciful and respectful to all life to the best of our ability and knowledge. At the same time, we must acknowledge that some of the values of PETA contradict the purpose of animals as directed by God, putting PETA and a biblical value system at odds against each other.
REFERENCES: 1. "About PETA," PETA 2023, https://www.peta.org/about-peta/ [Accessed 6-27-2023]. 2. "Why Animal Rights?", PETA 2023, https://www.peta.org/about-peta/why-peta/why-animal-rights/ [Accessed 6-27-2023]. 3. "Why Hamburgers Should Be Illegal", PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) 10-26-2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4FSgNv5Vik. 4. "Why did God require animal sacrifices in the Old Testament?", Got Questions Ministries 2022, https://www.gotquestions.org/animal-sacrifices.html [Accessed 6-27-2023].
Christians should support the ethical and humane treatment of animals. We should always be merciful and respectful to all life to the best of our ability and knowledge. PETA takes it one step further, claiming that all living things have the exact same value and rights, as we are all just animals at different evolutionary stages. Their claim that there is no hierarchy among animals and people contradicts the purpose of animals as directed by God, putting PETA and a biblical value system at odds against each other.
Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.