WPost asks: Do animals have rights?

On Faith blog at the Washington Post asks the question: "Do animals have rights?" What say you, dear Episcopal Café readers? What is the human responsibility for animals? What rights to animals have? What are the roots of our tradition that inform this area of thought and ethical practice?

Do animals have rights?

From theWashington Post's On Faith

Do animals have rights?

Expensive and time-consuming efforts are being made to rescue and rehabilitate animals threatened by the Gulf oil spill. Do animals have rights? Do animals have souls? What does your faith say about animal consciousness, suffering, sacrifice and stewardship? Dr. Paul Waldau, a lecturer in animal law at Harvard Law School , says, "Religion is a major player in the way humans think about other living beings." What does that mean to you?

Comments (5)

I think the best theology on this subject is being done by Andrew Linzey at the Oxford Center for Animal Ethics.

His book "Why Animal Suffering Matters" is a must read for any Christian.


Anyone who's ever loved a dog knows they have souls. Heaven is teeming with animals; that's how the humans know where they are.

I think you have rephrased the question correctly. The issue is not so much whether animals have rights as whether humans have responsibilities. What obligations do the strong have to the weak? Being created in the image of God, to me, means not so much that we are different from other animals because we have "souls" and some say they do not, but that we have been given power and responsibility and the capacity to understand the consequences of our actions. Scripture tells us that animals are each unique individuals, created and beloved by God, and given into our care. Each one suffers when it is mistreated in a caged hunt, a factory farm, a lab, a fighting ring, a puppy mill, a trap, or any of a number of the horrible settings in which we choose to place animals to satisfy our own appetites. The suffering of each animal is as real and important to that animal as our own suffering is to us. Whenever humans behave in a way that causes suffering to others (humans or animals), especially when the motive is for our on amusement or convenience, we need to ask whether we are behaving as God would have us behave.
Lois Wye

Sorry - me again. I just wanted to point out the Episcopal Church has several official statements regarding human responsibilities toward animals. I only wish more Episcopalians were aware of them. The Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare has a brochure with animal resolutions passed at recent General Conventions here: http://www.franciscan-anglican.com/enaw/Animal_Resolutions.pdf Lots of other great animal resources are also available at the site.
Lois Wye

The Christian faith absolutely undergirds our sense of responsibility to all God's creatures. God's covenant in Genesis after the Flood was not only with humanity but with the animals as well. Scripture is full of references to God caring for the animals and our call to care for them in turn. At minimum animals deserve to be treated humanely and ought to be shielded from suffering as much as possible...they have their own God-given life outside of humanity's. Oh, and yes, there are animals in heaven according to Revelation and John's vision of the 4 creatures at God's throne. Thanks for the question and discussion!

R, Dinovo

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