Human life is of more value than that of animals. In a sense, I am stating the obvious. In another sense, I believe our culture has overvalued animal life to the extent that some consider it as having equal or more value compared to human life.
In full disclosure, I have a pet. My dog’s name is Russ and he is just over eight years old. He fetches birds for me when I hunt, follows me around my property and enjoys playing with my 16-month-old son whose name is Luke. I love my dog but I have to remind myself that he is just that, a dog.
There are some stories that indicate the problem our culture has with valuing animals over humans.
In 2016, while visiting a Cincinnati zoo with his family, a four-year-old child fell into an exhibit with a 400-pound gorilla. The zoo staff had to shoot and kill the gorilla as it had already dragged the boy through the water and appeared agitated. Shortly after the incident, social media users complained and criticized the fact that the zoo had to kill the gorilla in order to protect the young boy.
Another example comes from a study done by Regents University in the state of Georgia. The research included 573 participants who had a moral dilemma involving their animal proposed to them. Here is what was asked of the participants, "If you don't own a pet, imagine that you do in the following situation. A bus is traveling down a busy street. Your pet runs out in front of the bus. Unfortunately, at the same time, a foreign tourist steps out in front of the bus. Neither your pet nor the foreign tourist has enough time to get out of the way of the bus. It is clear, given the speed of the bus, it will kill whichever one it hits. You only have time to save one. Who would you save?"
What were the results? Shockingly, 40 percent of the participants chose to save the life of the animal as opposed to saving the life of the human.
In 2015, an NBC story went in-depth on how much money Americans are now spending on their pets. The total expected to be spent on pets in America each year is over $60 billion. The most disturbing section of this story doesn’t relate to pet expenses. When discussing fertility amongst adult pet owners, the article notes that “Increasingly more urban couples are opting to become dog owners. A Sylvain Labs report in the fall of 2014 suggested that there was a link between the fact that more city-dwelling couples were getting dogs and more partners waiting until they were older to have kids, as well as the decreased number of children per family.” In essence, some humans are opting out of having children of their own and instead are getting pet dogs.
After citing these stories and studies I think it is fair to say that our culture needs to be careful that we don’t continue this trend of valuing animal life as equal to or more important than human life.
The reality is that God created man in His image and He created the beast of the field for mankind to have dominion over. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he created them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:27-28).
Proverbs 12:10 tells us “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast…” Clearly, we are to have a certain deal of respect and stewardship for animals because after all, they are a part of God’s creation. Nonetheless, Scripture is clear that on a value scale, human life is inherently more valuable than the life of a beast.