I believe that God’s original intention was for us to enjoy the animals he created – not eat them, abuse them, wear them, and use them as commodities.
The beauty and variety in God’s creation constantly blows my mind as it displays his glory and amazing creativity. We need an understanding of God that includes animals; in Psalm 148 we see all of creation praising the Lord, including sea creatures, cattle and fowl. I believe that animal life and animal suffering do matter to him, and that a God of love would not condone the killing of animals for any purpose, including for food.
A farmer recently pointed out to me that because the world has yet not returned to a pre-Fall state, there is nothing wrong with using God’s creation to benefit humankind. However, surely living in a world where sin and death have not yet been removed doesn’t mean it is okay to actively participate in death? Many are blind to the cruelty involved in the process of meat production, but eating meat supports that
From an early age I abhorred the thought of seeing a whole chicken on the dinner table at Christmas, somehow knowing instinctively that there was something unnatural about eating a dead bird. Maybe the same instinct is buried deep within us all.
God did command animal sacrifices as a blood offering for sins, but when sacrifices were not accompanied by a change of heart, he said: “I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats” (Isaiah 1:11). He desired mercy, not the sacrifice of animals, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6).
God accepted the act of sacrifice, which represented repentance, but did not like to see an animal slaughtered. The word ‘sacrifice’ means ‘to give up a cherished or valuable possession, the forfeiture of something highly valued’, and God values the animals he created.
Thankfully, the sacrifice acceptable to God has been made once and for all by the death of Jesus.
Further reading: ‘Animal Theology’ and ‘Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology and Practical Ethics’ by Rev Professor Andrew Linzey