Discrimination by species

I’m cataloging everything the Bible has to say about various forms of discrimination and the like. So for the sake of completeness, here’s what the Bible says about “speciesism”…

Humans vs animals

God made humans to rule over all the other animals. Then after the flood, God made all animals fear humans, and gave them to us for food. God’s people can’t eat animals that other animals have killed, but dogs can.

If any human or animal kills a human, God demands that they be killed. But they don’t have to be killed if they just kill an animal.1 (There is an ambiguous verse that says anyone who kills someone else’s animal2 has to give life for life, but doesn’t say whose life. But a few verses later it contrasts that with a killer being put to death, so it probably just meant they’re required to kill another animal.) Killing animals is not a sin; in fact, it can atone for sins and please God.

God’s law says if you find a person who has been killed, and you don’t know who did it, you can just blame it on a cow. Break the cow’s neck, and God’s bizarre sense of justice will be satisfied.

When David was going around attacking various places outside of Israel, he would kill every human he came across, but he merely stole the animals.

Jesus says God values humans much more than he values sparrows. But he says a good shepherd is willing to die for his sheep, so maybe the lives of people aren’t as valuable as those of sheep. Except Jesus says a person is much more valuable than a sheep… Anyway, God seems surprisingly bothered by the idea that anyone would dare to slaughter sheep that they own.

Jesus said you shouldn’t give sacred things to dogs, or valuable things to pigs. He also said it wasn’t right to take bread from children and give it to dogs. But he was easily convinced to change his mind about that.

Paul thinks laws about how you should treat animals can’t possibly really be about animals. He thinks God doesn’t care about animals, so those laws must really be about people.

Paul said that because God owns everything in the world, no one should even consider the possibility that eating any kind of meat could ever be wrong. (Really, even human meat? That means it’s fine to eat people, right? Don’t answer that. Just accept it. No questions of conscience allowed!)

Peter says unreasoning animals have no purpose but to be killed (and he thinks the same about some people). Jude says as irrational as animals are, they can still understand some things by instinct.

Different kinds of animals and plants

God said basically any kind of plant that’s good for eating, people and animals are allowed to eat. So that’s bad news for those plants, I guess. Except maybe the ones that can keep living while parts of them get eaten, like fruit trees. In fact, God specifically told his people not to cut down their enemies’ fruit trees, but he let them cut down the other trees. And the people.

God cursed snakes more than any other animal, and made humans and snakes enemies forever, because he didn’t like what one snake did once.

God divides animals into “clean” and “unclean” kinds. He prioritized the survival of clean kinds of animals by letting seven times as many of them on the ark compared to other kinds.3 God wasn’t exactly favoring the clean animals for their own well-being, though. As soon as the flood was over, Noah killed some of the clean animals in a sacrifice to God. So they were just keeping more of those kinds around so they would be able to kill them and would still have more of them to kill later.

God told Moses all about which animals his people should consider “clean”. The general rule was supposed to be that land animals are only clean if they have divided hooves and chew cud, though some of the examples he gave didn’t really follow that rule. And he had other rules and lists regarding the cleanness of different kinds of fish, birds, insects, etc.

Clean animals are basically the ones you’re allowed to eat. God also repeatedly says that if you even touch a dead unclean animal, you become “unclean” until evening comes and you’ve washed your clothes… but then he says the exact same thing about touching dead clean animals. He even clarifies that you do in fact become unclean if you eat a clean animal.4 So that pretty much makes the whole clean/unclean distinction completely pointless. Except God also says dead unclean animals can turn inanimate objects “unclean” if they touch them…

God likes to keep different species as separate as possible. He doesn’t just forbid humans to have sex with other kinds of animals; he won’t let the animals have sex with other kinds of animals either. He won’t even let people plant two kinds of seeds in the same field, or let an ox and a donkey plow a field together.

God’s law includes an oddly specific rule that says you shouldn’t cook a young goat in its mother’s milk. You can cook a young sheep in its mother’s milk, or cook a young cow in its mother’s milk, but definitely don’t do it to a young goat.

God says the behemoth is the greatest animal in the world. And so is the leviathan. God says he didn’t give some kinds of animals a share of good sense, and those animals treat their offspring carelessly as a result.

David says God provides those who seek him with everything they need, but lions, on the other hand, don’t have everything they need. Solomon seems to think it’s better to be a lion than a dog, unless you’re a dead lion. And even then you’d be better off than a dead dog, because all dogs go to hell. One of Isaiah’s descriptions of a better future mentions that there will be no lions around. And God told Ezekiel he was going to rid his people’s land of all savage beasts. Isaiah’s description of the next world says there will be lions there, but they’ll be vegetarians.

Humans vs spirit beings

David loves God, and hates his enemies. Why? Because God hurts and wounds people, while his enemies… just talk about it? That doesn’t actually justify David’s attitude at all. He must just be really biased. David said if people had made Saul hate him, he would curse those people. But if God had done the same thing, then he would offer God a gift.

Job, on the other hand, said it was wicked for his friends to show partiality toward God, and to assume that humans are always in the wrong when God turns against them.

Paul thinks humans have no right to talk back to God, even when God is forcing them to do evil.

Paul criticized his followers for “acting like mere human beings“.

God has put humans in a position just below angels, though David doesn’t really seem to think we deserve that kind of attention. God never helps angels; he only helps certain groups of humans.


David says God preserves both people and animals. One of the reasons God decided to spare Nineveh was that he had concern for all the animals there. Look at how equitably God treats animals:

When God realized that humans are evil, he drowned nearly all the humans, and nearly all the animals, too. Later, he killed every Egyptian firstborn, whether they were humans or animals. Then he said any person or animal that touched a certain mountain had to be killed. And when the last king of Judah asked if God would rescue them from the Babylonians, God decided to kill every man and beast in Jerusalem instead. When God punishes a nation, he makes sure to destroy their animals too.

With God’s encouragement, the Israelites slaughtered the people and animals alike in the city of Jericho, the nation of Amalek, and their own tribe of Benjamin.

God told his people that whenever they decided to attack a city that was nowhere near the land they were colonizing, they could take the women, children, and livestock of that city as plunder, and they could use that plunder.

When the Israelites killed all the Midianite men and stole all their animals to punish the Midianite women for doing what God had apparently had his prophet tell them to do, and then Moses reminded them that that wasn’t enough and that they also needed to kill the women and boys and make all the virgin girls into sex slaves, God had them treat their slave girls the same as the animals they had captured, even requiring them to sacrifice a certain number of them to him. Equality!

God says you have to die if you kill a human, whether you’re a human or an animal.5 God’s law also says if the people of a town worship other gods, all the people and animals in that town have to die.

Every firstborn of a human or animal belongs to God.6 God mandated a weekly day of rest for both people and animals.

Seven centuries after he gave his people laws requiring them to constantly sacrifice animals to him, God suddenly decided that sacrificing a bull is like killing a person. Solomon says righteous people care for the needs of their animals. He also says that since everybody dies and there’s no afterlife, humans are no better off than animals.

James seems to think it’s wrong to treat humans with any less respect than how you treat God.

Sometimes God seems to treat inanimate objects as if they were moral agents, and talks about how guilty he thinks they are.

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