Goffs School Religious Studies

Topic 1 – Religion and Animals


– Humans have intelligence, the ability to make decisions, form opinions and appreciate art, music and literature. Humans can act in a moral way, deciding to be good or bad.

– Animals have instinct, they behave according to their instincts in order to survive, eat and reproduce. They will abandon the weakest member of the herd and do not have religious beliefs.


  • Animals must not be exploited, harmed or abused
  • Animals are protected by law from cruelty and neglect
  • Some creatures cannot be kept as pets such as dangerous dogs or rare birds
  • Testing on animals is inspected to ensure animals are not suffering too much
  • There are strict rules about animals being transported and slaughtered


Animals can be used as/for:

Pets, guide dogs, sled dogs, transport (e.g. horse and carriage), Indian elephants are used for logging, cormorant birds used for fishing, sniffer dogs, dogs were used to carry messages through the trenches in WWI etc…

Animals can also have a therapeutic effect on sick people (helps with their healing).


Animals are often kept in captivity in zoos, safari parks and aquariums. Many people disagree with zoos, but they have changed over many years after pressure from animal rights groups.

Arguments FOR zoos:

  • People get to see wild animals up close
  • Dangerous animals can be seen safely
  • Educational activities are provided for children
  • Breeding programmes help to prevent extinction
  • Many zoos fund research into protecting animal species

Arguments AGAINST zoos:

  • Not always a suitable environment for wild animals
  • Animals kept in small cages will suffer stress
  • Not a natural climate, many animals find it difficult to adjust to this

Religious views on zoos etc:

Most religious people accept zoos if the animals are kept in conditions close to what it would be like in the wild. Religious people recognize that zoos can help to preserve animal species through breeding programmes. There have been two major religious conferences on animals in captivity. These were the Assisi and Ohito Declarations. The later said that religions need to treat animals with care, sustaining environmental life is a religious responsibility and that nature needs to be treated with respect and compassion


Factory Farming

Free Range farming

Factory Farming is intensive farming to generate a higher profit. Pesticides are used to prevent disease in the crowded conditions and often the animals’ movement is restricted. Growth hormones may be given to yield more milk or eggs.Positives – production is more efficient and cheaperNegatives – cruel to the animals and pesticides can affect human health Animals are raised to roam freely and live a life like they would in a natural environment. This costs more money but many think that the quality of the food produced is much higher and that the animals are treated with more respect.SlaughterAnimals are usually stunned before they are killed. The halal method of slaughter used by Muslims is to slit the throat of the animal then let the blood drain out.


Many people think it is wrong to use animals for food and either choose to become vegans or vegetarians. People may object to eating meat because they don’t want to hurt animals, it’s against their religion, they think its healthier or they don’t like the taste of meat.

Vegetarian = a person who does not eat meat.

Vegan = a person who does not eat any animal product, including eggs and cheese.


Christianity and Islam have no laws about avoiding meat. After the flood Noah was told he was allowed to eat the animals and Muslims must follow the halal rules. Muslims cannot eat pork, carrion or blood according to the Quran.

Buddhists can eat meat as the Buddha accepted meat from his followers. However, Buddhists should avoid harming animals (the First Precept) and occupations such as butchers and fishing may result in bad karma. These jobs are NOT Right Livelihood.


Sports involving the use of animals include bull fighting, horse racing, greyhound racing and fox hunting. Sports that involve the death of animals are often called ‘blood sports’.


  • People in the Arctic still rely on hunting animals to feed themselves
  • Fox hunting was banned in 2004 but many supported it because foxes are pests which attack and kill livestock.


  • Some Christians think hunting is OK because we should control the animals.
  • Other Christians think we have a duty to protect and care for Gods creation.
  • Buddhists are against hunting as it breaks the First Precept (harming life).
  • Buddhists would also see the gambling associated with horse racing as being linked to the Three Poisons (greed, ignorance and hatred).
  • Blood sports will result in bad karma and poor rebirths.
  • Islam teaches that animals have feelings and a reason for living.
  • Muslims can hunt animals for food but not for sport.
  • If Muslims kill an animal for no good reason they will have to answer to Allah.


Over 55 million animals a year are killed for the fur trade. Fur farms use cruel methods of slaughter such as electrocution and fur farming was banned in 2000.

There are no fur farms in the UK, but you can buy fur.

Supporters of the fur trade argue that the fur industry involves lots of jobs and is worth up to £500 million a year in the UK alone.


Elephants are killed and their tusks are removed to create objects out of ivory. Elephants are becoming an endangered species and this is partly because of the illegal ivory trade. In 1989 the UN made the ivory trade illegal however the law is broken because of corrupt governments. Some countries are using the profits from the ivory trade to fund military operations.


Animals are used to test that medicines are safe for humans to use. However, the effect on the animals is not always the same as on humans.

Testing cosmetics and toiletries on animals is now against the law.


  • Experiments on animals are essential for creating better treatments, perhaps cures, for serious illnesses and health problems.
  • These can improve the quality of life for millions of people.
  • Animals are often well cared for before, in-between and after experiments.
  • There are not enough humans volunteering for experiments.
  • Experiments further science.


  • Animals suffer from being treated cruelly.
  • Animals are different physiologically (biologically) to humans.
  • Animals cannot communicate pain etc.
  • Animals cannot stop humans testing on them. They have no rights.


  • Some religious people don’t agree with scientists ‘playing God’ and interfering with nature by cloning or genetic modification (see below as well).
  • Most Christians accept testing on animals so long as it is to find a cure for diseases.
  • Buddhists are generally against because of the First Precept – not to harm living things.
  • It could lead to bad karma and rebirth. It does not show metta – loving kindness.
  • However, if the intention is good (i.e. saving lives), it could be seen as Right Intention.
  • Animals have had legal rights in Islam since the 13th century.
  • Caging animals is forbidden in Islam.
  • Many Muslims accept animal testing to find a cure for diseases so long as the suffering is minimal.

Genetically modified animals are created to study how genes work. Arguments for and against are similar to the above. One example is Oncomouse, which was genetically modified to develop cancer so that new medicines could be tested on them. Another example is Enviropig, which has less toxic faeces (poo).

Cloning is also an issue. Dolly the sheep was cloned to try and create genes that could treat lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.


Animals do not have the same rights as humans, but many people believe in the sanctity of life and believe that as stewards we should protect and care for the animals. Religious believers support animal rights groups but do not always support the violent methods some people use to defend the rights of animals.

A non-religious organisation that defends Animal Rights is PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). They protest and campaign for animals and encourage the public and government to do more for animal rights.

Other organisations include the Cats Protection League and the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). The RSPCA can remove poorly treated animals from homes and prosecute people under the law. They also run animal shelters.

Religious groups include Quaker Concern for Animals and the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, which are both Christian. There is also the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences.


Organisations such as the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and Sea Shepherd (at sea) campaign and protect animals that are endangered. The WWF runs projects and Sea Shepherd take a more direct, sometimes illegal, approach to preventing whaling.

Endangered animals are animals close to extinction. They may not exist (in the wild) at all soon.

Endangered animals include Orangutans, Asian Elephants, Snow Tigers and Giant Pandas.


Most Christians believe that animals do not have rights but humans should not be cruel to animals and that farmers should care for their animals humanely. The 10 Commandants suggest animals should rest on the Sabbath.

However, God gave humans the right to control animals as according to Genesis (in the Bible) God gave man ‘dominion’ (power) to ‘subdue’ (control) animals. This suggests we can use them for our benefit.

Animals do not have souls whereas humans do. Moreover, humans are made ‘in God’s image’ and animals are not.

On the other hand, God appointed ‘man’ as steward of the animals. This suggests we should look after them. It is called ‘stewardship’.

God is also the creator of animals as well as humans and the Bible says that humans should respect God’s creation.

Saint Francis of Assisi is an example of a Christian who cared for animals as part of God’s creation.


Buddhists believe that all life, in all forms, should be respected, and no suffering should be caused e.g. no experimenting on animals, bull fighting etc…

‘Do not harm others’ is the First Precept (rule) that all Buddhists follow.

The Buddha taught compassion and metta (love and kindness) for all life. Harming animals is not showing compassion or metta.

The idea of Right Livelihood includes NOT having a job that exploits animals

There are Karmic consequences for all our actions. Karma affects our rebirth.

Many are vegetarian for these reasons. However, it doesn’t say you can’t eat meet but animals must be slaughtered humanely.

The Dalai Lama has campaigned against the trade in endangered species, especially when it involves Tibet.