Animals are us

Animals Are Us?


The sad moment remains etched in my memory. Our son’s beloved dog Chip was wrought by lymphoma, and it fell upon me to have him put down. As I held the little guy’s paw, the vet injected a potassium solution, and Chip closed his faithful brown eyes forever.

A hunter for most of my life, I never thought I’d get attached to an animal, but I couldn’t stop crying on that pain-filled afternoon. Later in the day, Michael and I took Chip’s lifeless body to a favorite hunting spot and buried him in a location that was as free as his spirit. Then we both cried.

Chip had only been with us for four years, but he was like part of the family. Awesome memories of his crazy antics continue to linger. We had watched him fly like a rocket to chase squirrels, but stop abruptly, confused about what to do when he finally caught up to one. And though Chip was undoubtedly partial to Mike, he spent considerable time curled up at my feet as I worked out of my home office. I had become emotionally attached to that silly dog.


When the news was made public that Dr. Walter Palmer had illegally killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, the world of media erupted into a firestorm as though the animal had been everyone’s favorite pet. I can’t help but wonder why. Why would people thousands of miles removed be moved to tears, protests, verbal violence, and vandalism over the death of a predatory lion? I can’t help but wonder if these are the very same people who vigorously defend the murder of unborn babies?

Apparently, lion lives matter more than those of some humans.

In seeking to understand the public’s emotional outrage over Cecil’s death, and our lack of concern for at least part of humanity, I can identify three factors that I believe have warped our collective perspective.

Animals Are Us

The theory of evolution makes human life little more than an advanced form of animal life. Thus, we care about lions because, in a sense, they are us. Interestingly, this perspective conflicts with evolutionary theory which generally espouses the survival of the fittest. If we really believed in natural selection, Dr. Palmer should be viewed as a prime and triumphant specimen of the evolutionary process and not a cruel villain.

Cultural Trends

The influence of Christianity has waned in our culture. As much as any other, one thing Jesus Christ did was elevate the value of a human life. It’s not that animals are unimportant from a Christian perspective, but a human life is infinitely more valuable. Jesus didn’t die for animals, but He did sacrificially give Himself for the sake of those who have been created in His image.

Animals Are People Too

We have been schooled by media. In particular, ours is a culture shaped by movies such as Bambi and The Lion King. In the imaginary world of animation, animals are people too. The only predators are evil characters, and so we have developed unrealistic emotional attachments to animals of all sorts. Dr. Palmer didn’t shoot a bloodthirsty lion—he killed our hero Simba from The Lion King.

What Do Africans Think?

The natives of Zimbabwe aren’t crying over Cecil’s death. Consider the following comments from Goodwell Nzou—a doctoral student studying at Wake Forest University:

When I turned on the news and discovered that the messages were about a lion killed by an American dentist, the village boy inside me instinctively cheered: One lion fewer to menace families like mine. . . I faced the starkest cultural contradiction I’d experienced during my five years studying in the United States. . . Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? . . . In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas, no lion has ever been beloved, or granted an affectionate nickname. They are objects of terror. . . We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.

Human Lives Matter

The purpose of this post is not to defend the actions of Dr. Walter Palmer. I’m not particularly a fan of trophy hunting, and if he’s guilty of breaking the law, I have no problem with him receiving the justice due.

My point is that human lives matter. A combination of factors, including media violence, has caused us to reverse God’s design. We live in a world where predatory animals are our friends, and unborn babies are expendable resources. Furthermore, people of all ages sink into substance abuse, farm out their bodies for sex, or even kill themselves because they are mistakenly brought to believe that they are worthless.

God’s Reality

Human imagination can be both wonderful and terrible, but it is God who defines reality. The more closely we align our lives with His reality, the better off we’ll all be.

What is God’s reality? He loves each of us so much that He sent His Son to pay an extreme price so that we might be redeemed from our sins to know and love Him forever.

On any given day, I’ll take God’s reality over our human imaginations.

photo credit: Bloodthirst via photopin (license)

4 Responses

  1. Jason

    Now, you know I have strong feelings about this. From a strictly Edenic understanding of Genesis, people are supposed to be vegetarians (Gn 1:29-30). Really it seems God doesn’t even lift this ban until the time of Noah(Gn 9:3). That being said, it seems like the Edenic concept is about stewardship, not exploitation. To me, any animal killing, beyond self-defense, counts as exploitation.

    That being said, don’t animals come from the same source? In this sense, animals are like us. I don’t take seriously the concept of survival of the fittest, because survival through cooperation make much more sense as a means of stewardship. Certainly, we can’t control the predatory nature of lions, but we can find ways to contain them in preserves or reduce their threat to humans without killing them.

    While I don’t deny that human lives matter, leave it to anthropocentrism to put humans ahead of everyone else. Have you considered Ecc 3:20-21?

  2. Bob

    Jason, I know you have strong feelings about this issue, and I respect them even though we continue to disagree. You and Bernie are two of the few I’ve met who live out of deep-seated convictions about this issue.

    I agree that God didn’t give humanity permission to eat animals until after the flood. Our opinions diverge from there.

    In context, Ecc 3:20-21 is not a theological command, but the doubt-filled questioning of a person who had spent years living for himself and coming up empty.

    In a NT context, Jesus clearly died for people and not animals. Beyond that, in Peter’s vision as recorded in Acts 10, God commanded Peter to kill and eat, thus declaring all animals acceptable to eat. If you choose not to eat animals for the sake of conscience, that’s one thing. Trying to find biblical grounds for your argument, however, is an entirely different matter.

    Also, predatory animals don’t respect the boundaries of game preserves. They’ll go wherever they want to go and attack whatever they want to attack.

    In many ways, I’m a conservationist at heart. And when I hunt, as strange as it may seem, the actual killing is my least favorite part; I try to do it as painlessly as possible. In the end, I suppose that our definitions of stewardship and exploitation are different.

  3. Jason

    It does beg the question: Why did God change his mind about the command to not eat meat?

    I interpret Ecclesiastes rhetorically. He’s not in doubt so much as asking leading questions.

  4. Bob

    I have asked myself the same question numerous times. No answer thus far. I suppose any proposal would be a matter of speculation.