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Proper Dominion Over Animals?

Written in 2001.

British farming is in crisis, and has been for some years. BSE, Swine Fever and now Foot and Mouth Disease. Some of these are attributable to intensive agriculture, while others are attributable to the way we treat animals and to our over-use of road transport.

We fed animal remains to animals who are herbivores. We transport animals around the country as though they were bags of sugar, just because someone somewhere offers them cheap. We treat animals as though they are nothing more than raw materials for the food processing industry.

Many people believe we should not be treating animals like this. While some do so out of sentiment (despised by commentators but still understandable), others do so because they feel it is just not 'right' or 'appropriate'.

Maybe the problems we face are because we are going against God's original intention for that sector. Maybe God is giving us warnings about our whole approach to animals, farming and food.

"But," someone will say, "did God not give us 'dominion' over the animals, to do with them as we wished?" Not so! The Hebrew word translated 'dominion' is 'radah', which really means 'exercise careful management of'. It is not often used in the Hebrew part of the Bible but one place it is used is Ezekiel 34, where God says,

"Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves. Should not the shepherds take care of the flock?

You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool, and slaughter the choice animals but you do not take care of the flock.

You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.

You have ruled them harshly and brutally." (NIV version)

This shows God's heart, both for people and for animals. The principle is that we were given 'radah' by God to look after animals for their own sake, not for ours. To treat them with respect and love.

So, in the Name of God (and I use his Name thoughtfully here), we can say that we should not be treating animals as mere raw materials for our food processing. We should be treating them with respect as sentient beings, whether we eat them or not.

As the U.K. Prime Minister said, we need a debate on farming. He suggested involving only "industry leaders and supermarkets"; but these are the very people who created the problem in the first place. Let ordinary people, organic farmers, environmentalists be involved - and the church too.

In the U.K. we used to spend 33% of our income on our food, but now it is a mere 10% Maybe we should be willing to pay 33% again, and let, encourage and make the farmers and food sector treat animals properly? And to use the roads less, and generate less global warming as a bonus?


This page is offered to God as on-going work. Comments, queries welcome.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2009. But you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Part of his www.abxn.org pages, that open up discussion and exploration from a Christian ('xn') perspective.

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Created: 25 March 2001. Last updated: 1 January 2009 new .end. 12 August 2014 new .nav, rid ../