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Why does God allow animal suffering?

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
I was thinking about this today and couldn't come up with a good answer. Let me start by making sure I have my premises right...in most Christian schools of thought, at least, the common belief is that animals are put here for our use, and, animals don't have any sort of immortal soul and will not receive any reward. I think of the last part because often human suffering is justified either as a learning process to basically strengthen our soul or as something only temporary as we move toward a joyful afterlife.

So, if animals are here for our use, and there is no spiritual reason for their suffering (growth, eternal reward), why didn't God create them without the capacity to suffer? Animals suffer physically, mentally and even emotionally (e.g. a mother cow who has her calf removed from her shortly after birth), at our hands, and even as we have grown somewhat as a species in how we relate to each other, our treatment of animals has gotten worse and worse - e.g. factory farming and animal experimentation).

What are your thoughts on this?
post #2 of 50
Just to preface: I am by no means any kind of expert on this, and what I have to say comes purely from my own mind and not from anything I have been taught or told to say. In the book of Genesis, God did curse creation after Adam and Eve had sinned. I believe animal suffering has something to do with this. I could be wrong, but I don't think that animals ate each other before the fall-I would imagine that this is part of the fall, so therefore so is the suffering of animals that occurs by nature. The suffering of animals that occurs by us is our fault I believe, but some of it is necessary for human kind to survive (not that I agree with all of how animals are treated-especially on commercial farms . God did command that man have dominion over all of the earth, and that we were to subdue it, but I believe that does come with responsibility, and that each individual is responsible to God for what they do. No doubt that I believe intentional animal cruelty is a sin, but I don't think it is a sin to keep animals and raise them for the sole purpose of eating them as long as they are treated humanely. When controlling for natural factors, I think that a great deal of animal suffering comes from humans. Because of that, I think we have the power to eliminate at least some of it. I'm pretty certain that when God said have dominion over all the animals He didn't that we had the freedom to knowingly abuse them. I'm fairly sure He meant to use them for what we need, but also treat them as well as we could and not over use our resources.
post #3 of 50
Pat answer: The same reason He allows any suffering; because it's part of His plan, which will work out to be a Good Thing.

Other answer: There's actually some debate in Christian circles over whether animals have souls. Nephesh, the 'breath of life' which distinguishes vertebrates from other creepy-crawlies, also applies to man, and some have speculated that it is a 'soul' of sorts (interestingly, the distinction is followed to some degree in bioethics, where ethical approval is needed for experiments on nephesh animals but not on non-nephesh ones. In that case it's about feeling pain, but Biblically the term could relate to 'personality', a soul, or whatever).

I agree with angelpie that a good deal of animal suffering is the result of the Fall; and that humans are given dominion over the animals, which I believe excuses 'using' them as necessary (food, clothing etc), but does not excuse deliberate cruelty, neglect or anything other than good stewardship.

Why didn't God create them without the capacity to suffer? Maybe because the emotional capacity animals have still brings many of them great joy, and will again in the new earth. In any case I don't personally believe God owes anything to His creation, so to me a question just as relevant is: "Why did God create animals with the ability to do anything other than suffer?"
post #4 of 50
The fall is when suffering started... The first animal to die was the animal that Adam and Eve used for clothing..

Now man does have dominion over the earth unfortunately with that great charge comes great responsibility which unfortunately we have neglected.. its very sad.. but unfortunately its all caused by humans
post #5 of 50
Great question. I've never come across a theodicy that could adequately explain "Nature red in tooth and claw" (Tennyson) and so that's another reason I am an agnostic.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
In any case I don't personally believe God owes anything to His creation
Really? Whyever not?
post #6 of 50
Quote:
Really? Whyever not?
Why would He?
post #7 of 50
I guess I'm thinking along the analogy of me choosing to bring my children into existence and therefore having several responsibilites towards them.
post #8 of 50
OK, but according to Christian theology you didn't bring your children into existence, God did, and you have responsibilities towards them because God laid down rules about parental duties you are obliged to follow. Given that God is not obliged to follow the rules He gives to humans (indeed, in many cases it would be nonsensical - for instance, it makes no sense to talk of God stealing), it doesn't follow that He has responsibilities to His creation.

I do believe God is morally - not obliged, but bound by His own character - to keep promises He makes to His creation. But He never promised that animals should not suffer.
post #9 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
I do believe God is morally - not obliged, but bound by His own character - to keep promises He makes to His creation. But He never promised that animals should not suffer.
This brings me back to the original point...he's created animals with the capacity to suffer, put them in a position to suffer greatly at our hands, and offers them no 'reward' or compensation for their suffering. Think of the life of a calf destined for veal, nothing but suffering from its first breath.

So, I have to wonder if either God's original plan was such that humans didn't use other animals, if animals do have some sort of eternal soul (I know a lot of people believe that at least some animals do...e.g. the Rainbow Bridge stuff) or if perhaps our treatment of animals is almost a test of our compassion, one which we are failing miserably.
post #10 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by athansor View Post
or if perhaps our treatment of animals is almost a test of our compassion, one which we are failing miserably.
Most animal's suffering, at least in the grand scope of the world, has had little or nothing to do with mankind at all, though, and very much to do with just the realities of life. I'll agree completely about the test-of-compassion issue ... but I just don't see that it reflects very much on the original question. Factory farms and whatnot aside -- nature itself is rough.
post #11 of 50
In the orginal plan (Eden) there was no suffering or death... it happened with the fall...

unfortunately its man choice to cause suffering... nature is nature so i don't even take into account the wild lion eating a cute helpless animal because thats what happens now.. what i would consider suffering would be the animals who get dragged by the cars, being left in a box by a ditch etc.. those are human CHOICES to do evil things...
post #12 of 50
Thread Starter 
I think it comes back to the notion that animals were placed here by God for our use. So, while I recognize that there is a lot of violence and suffering in nature, and that it would continue even if we humans were out of the picture, I'm more concerned with our actions with regards to animals and God's purposes for designing them with the capacity to suffer and then giving them to us for our unrestricted use (if indeed He did).
post #13 of 50
We are stewards of this earth... and we have a responsibility to keep it properly which unfortunately we have not...

God purpose was to not design them for suffering.. The fall is what brought suffering on earth...IMO man has been opportunistic and has preyed on creatures which cannot talk back so it makes it easier to abuse... i personally find animal abuse disgusting... thats y i buy my meat local and from ppl i know...

I definately do not think it was unrestricted use.. man has just made it that way..

if i am repeating what i am saying don't mind me.. i am quite sick.. and not thinking the best...
post #14 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
Pat answer: The same reason He allows any suffering; because it's part of His plan, which will work out to be a Good Thing.

Other answer: There's actually some debate in Christian circles over whether animals have souls. Nephesh, the 'breath of life' which distinguishes vertebrates from other creepy-crawlies, also applies to man, and some have speculated that it is a 'soul' of sorts (interestingly, the distinction is followed to some degree in bioethics, where ethical approval is needed for experiments on nephesh animals but not on non-nephesh ones. In that case it's about feeling pain, but Biblically the term could relate to 'personality', a soul, or whatever).

I agree with angelpie that a good deal of animal suffering is the result of the Fall; and that humans are given dominion over the animals, which I believe excuses 'using' them as necessary (food, clothing etc), but does not excuse deliberate cruelty, neglect or anything other than good stewardship.

Why didn't God create them without the capacity to suffer? Maybe because the emotional capacity animals have still brings many of them great joy, and will again in the new earth. In any case I don't personally believe God owes anything to His creation, so to me a question just as relevant is: "Why did God create animals with the ability to do anything other than suffer?"
I tend to think that 'immortal' is the important word here when we talk about animal's souls. A soul is a kind of life force, Aristotle talks about plants having a vegetative soul, for example. But generally Christians don't believe plants or animals have an immortal soul, instead, their souls are completely tied to their physical matter, and they disolve or disperse when that matter comes apart.

I tend to agree that animals wouldn't have suffered without the fall. Humans are in a sense a bridge or link between what is mortal and immortal; we have immortal souls, but we are also animals and natural. When we fell, all of the natural world became disordered in some way. It is hard to imagine what unfallen nature looks like for me, but it is an interesting question.

As for suffering of animals, yes I agree with a pp who pointed out that their is plenty of suffering in the animal world without human (direct) causes. I suppose if God took the capacity to suffer away from animals after the fall, he would be making them less than they are. He would have to take away their sensitivity, their emotions. I don't think God ever makes things less than they were.

I also wonder about the thought that if animals don't get a reward or benifit for their suffering, it is lost. I have sometimes thought that suffering must have some intrinsic value of it's own, though I have no clue what that would be. It certainly seems (for Christians anyway)like God has taken on suffering as an intimate part of who and what he is.
post #15 of 50
Thread Starter 
I've got kind of a spin-off question that I'd like to ask...how does your religion view veganism? I'm asking because of conversations and reading that have basically said that it is not proper to abstain from meat or other animal products for moral reasons....along the lines of 'if God says it is OK to eat meat, wear leather, etc....then you can't say that there is anything morally wrong with it'. In other words, according to this viewpoint it's ok to not eat meat for health reasons, or because you think it's better for the environment or will help end world hunger, but not becuase you believe it's morally wrong.
post #16 of 50
I don't think you can make a Biblical case that any animal use qua animal use is morally impermissible. God gave man dominion over the animals, dressed Adam and Eve in skins and then specifically told Noah that man could eat meat (which is re-emphasised in the NT with Peter's vision of the sheet, although for different reasons).

So if veganism means the ethical belief that any animal use is wrong, then yeah, I'd say it's Biblically impermissible. But 'practical veganism' is a valid choice for the Christian, I think. Modern methods of factory farming and so on are cruel to animals, and God nowhere condones cruelty to animals - many of the OT laws are about minimising animal suffering. One could also make a case for veganism being good stewardship of the earth, simply from a greenhouse gases/energy efficiency point of view (as raising meat takes more energy than raising plants).

I do know a lot of Christians who scoff at v*gans, which is a shame. I'm not v*gan but do eat mostly vegetarian; my sister is very close to veganism, and I admire her stance.
post #17 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by athansor View Post
I've got kind of a spin-off question that I'd like to ask...how does your religion view veganism? I'm asking because of conversations and reading that have basically said that it is not proper to abstain from meat or other animal products for moral reasons....along the lines of 'if God says it is OK to eat meat, wear leather, etc....then you can't say that there is anything morally wrong with it'. In other words, according to this viewpoint it's ok to not eat meat for health reasons, or because you think it's better for the environment or will help end world hunger, but not becuase you believe it's morally wrong.
Well, it seems to me that another way put this is "If it's ok to eat meat, then it's ok to eat meat."
post #18 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
Well, it seems to me that another way put this is "If it's ok to eat meat, then it's ok to eat meat."
I'm not sure I follow you here. Are you saying that if God says it's OK to eat meat, then we shouldn't think otherwise?
post #19 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
I don't think you can make a Biblical case that any animal use qua animal use is morally impermissible. God gave man dominion over the animals, dressed Adam and Eve in skins and then specifically told Noah that man could eat meat (which is re-emphasised in the NT with Peter's vision of the sheet, although for different reasons).
I think I need to re-read Genesis, because I always had it in my mind that they clothed themselves in garments made from leaves. :

It's an odd thought to me, because it's almost as if being a Christian (at least in some denominations) would mean having to go against the conscience and accept that using animals for food is morally acceptable. Since, at least in my case, that's the reason I am vegan, it's like to get right with God, I'd need to start eating meat.
post #20 of 50
God made them clothes out of animal skin AFTER he caught them in the leaves (Genesis 3:21).

I never thought much about the veganism aspect. As a Christian I don't think I can say the Bible forbids meat, but I do think there is precidence that if eating meat makes me feel guilty there is no reason I HAVE to eat it. For example, I am against humans purposely making animals suffer, and therefore try to eat organic/humanely raised meat and don't eat things like veal. I also have no problem with people abstaining from meat for health reasons (they feel it's healthier not to, etc) or just because they don't like it. But, I don't think anyone can use the Bible to justify that someone else should be vegan.

Sorry so rambly.
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