March 2019 – Human life is of more value than that of animals. In a sense, I am stating the obvious. In another sense, I believe our culture has overvalued animal life to the extent that some consider it as having equal or more value compared to human life.
In full disclosure, I have a pet. My dog’s name is Russ, and he is just over eight years old. He fetches birds for me when I hunt, follows me around my property, and enjoys playing with my 16-month-old son Luke.
I love my dog, but I have to remind myself that he is just that – a dog. In recent years, many stories have hit the news to suggest that some people are valuing animals over humans.
For example, in 2016, while visiting a Cincinnati zoo with his family, a four-year-old child fell into an exhibit with a 400-pound gorilla. The zoo staff had to shoot and kill the gorilla, as it had already dragged the boy through the water and appeared agitated. Shortly after the incident, social media users complained and criticized the fact that the zoo killed the gorilla in order to protect the young boy.
Another illustration comes from a study done by Regents University in Augusta, Georgia (now Augusta University). The research included 573 participants who faced a moral dilemma involving their pets (real or imagined).
The survey asked participants: “If you don’t own a pet, imagine that you do in the following situation. A bus is traveling down a busy street. Your pet runs out in front of the bus. Unfortunately, at the same time, a foreign tourist steps out in front of the bus. Neither your pet nor the foreign tourist has enough time to get out of the way of the bus. It is clear, given the speed of the bus, it will kill whichever one it hits. You only have time to save one. Which would you save?”
What were the results? Shockingly, 40% of the participants chose to save the life of the animal as opposed to saving the life of the human.
In 2015, an NBC story went in-depth on how much money Americans were spending on their pets. The total expected expenditure on pets in the U.S. each year is over $60 billion. Even so, the most disturbing part of this story doesn’t relate to pet expenses at all. When discussing fertility among adult pet owners, the article notes that, “Increasingly more urban couples are opting to become
A Sylvain Labs report in the fall of 2014 suggested that there was a link between the fact that more city-dwelling couples were getting dogs and more partners waiting until they were older to have children, as well as the decreased number of children per family. In essence, some humans are opting out of having children and instead are getting dogs and other pets.
Do such stories tell us anything significant? I think it is fair to say that we need to be careful that we don’t continue this trend of valuing animal life as equal to or more important than human life.
The reality is that God created man in His image, and He created animals for man to have dominion over:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:27-28, ESV).
Proverbs 12:10 adds the principle that a good man cares for the animals: “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast. …”
Clearly, we are to have a certain deal of respect and stewardship for animals because after all, they are a part of God’s creation. Nonetheless, Scripture is clear that on a value scale, human life is inherently more valuable than the life of any animal.
Editor’s note: This commentary is adapted from a blog at engagemagazine.net, a ministry of American Family Association. Engage reaches out to share a biblical worldview specifically to Millennials and Generation Z.