[Note: once more, let me say that the whole goose-kicking thing was fairly serious but written for a laugh. For those who laughed, grand. For those who didn't, please know I don't chase down animals just to kick them. I'm pretty sure it was going to bite me.]
Sorry for the bullet points. It's probably harder to read, but it helps me think more clearly. Here we go:
- Animals aren't people. Man and woman are made in the image of God, birds, beasts and fish aren't. (Gen. 1:26-27) Therefore, the idea of "humane" treatment is somewhat oxymoronic. They have value, clearly. But it isn't even on the same continuum of the value of human life.
- If there is ever a choice to be made, we go with human life rather than animal. Always. Risking a car accident to avoid hitting a squirrel is unbiblical.
- Animals aren't plants. Obvious, yes, but worth pointing out. (Gen. 1:11, 20) Though we may eat meat, God told Noah not to eat meat with the blood still in it, because the life is in the blood. Plants have no blood, therefore no life, in the Biblical sense.
- Animals are part of the creation over which humanity is given dominion and stewardship. (Gen. 1:26) Animals exist for mankind, not mankind for animals. So there should be no talk about humanity serving animals. (Gen. 2:20)
- Along the same lines, check out Genesis 9:5 where God tells us that animals are held responsible for their actions toward humanity. If one kills a human, God decrees its life should be taken. But it doesn't flow the other way - we aren't responsible to pay in any way for the spilled blood of animals. Also see Exodus 19:13 where God promises punishment for both men and animals who might touch the mountain.
- After the flood, God clearly and specifically gave animals to humanity to eat (Gen. 9:3). Perhaps because the curse of the fall (i.e., how hard it would be to farm), perhaps as a measure of kindness and mercy. Either way, animals belong to man (in a stewardship sense, see below).
- If you're like me, Proverbs 12:10 comes to mind in this discussion: Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. Some thoughts:
- The word regard is the very general Hebrew word "to know." So "regard" simply means "to be aware of", not necessarily to have a great passion about or even to value highly, but simply to be aware of. So I take the verse to mean "the righteous person has an awareness of his animals' lives, and seeks to provide for them based on that awareness."
- Deuteronomy 25:4 is a good example, that oxen shouldn't be muzzled when they're treading grain. Why? Because it would be cruel. Because being full is better than starving and animals should share in the fruit of their work if at all possible.
- Cruelty to animals for fun or spite is unrighteous.
- A theory: because modern Americans are (1) often pet owners and (2) often very removed from the animals which they eat, we may be quite off-balance in what it means to "regard" animals. It doesn't mean treat them like pets.
- I think the overriding rule is that of stewardship. We are stewards of the animals. Stewards don't own that which they care for, but are responsible for it. Humanity will have to answer for how we cared for creation, including animals.
- Therefore, species' extinction is a bad thing. Interestingly, Darwinian evolution cannot account for why extinction is bad. Yet macro-evolutionists are more passionate about this than most Christians.
- Conversely, refusing to control animal population is also bad. See modern India for an example of how religious beliefs lead to a refusal to take animal life which leads to economic and health problems.
- For Christmas, we bought our family this great series on nature/creation. It's astoundingly beautiful. The great variety and beauty among God's animals reveal His beauty and majesty. So a fully Christian ethic of animals must include delight in their beauty and diversity.