It is well known that cattle are sacred to the Hindus of India. Recently there have been news stories about a law passed in the west Indian state of Maharashtra which prohibits the killing of cattle and the sale, possession, or consumption of beef. Even tigers and other carnivores at the Mumbai zoo are being made to eat white meat instead of red meat.
While the sacredness of cattle to the Hindus seems ridiculous to many people, and rightly so, I would like to suggest that the United States is in the process of making dogs (and their biggest wild relative, the wolf) a sacred animal. It seems that at least once a week I see a story on the local news in which someone is being prosecuted for killing a dog or for failing to properly care for a dog. Recently an overwhelming majority of voters in Michigan voted against allowing wolf hunting, even though biologists say that the wolf population is as high as or higher than it should be. Most people in Michigan and other states view the shooting of a wolf as something qualitatively different than the shooting of a deer, even though deer are docile animals and wolves are predators. (The wolves are eating so many deer that the DNR may cancel this year’s deer hunt in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the first time ever.) This is not just an American phenomenon, either—recently a group of Chinese animal rights activists laid down on the road in front of a truck that was carrying Tibetan mastiffs to a slaughterhouse, and proceeded to provide medical care for the dogs after “rescuing” them. (The popularity of Tibetan mastiffs in China declined sharply after numerous instances where they attacked and killed people.) Animal rights groups also objected several years ago when Baghdad police began to shoot some of the 1.25 million stray dogs in the city after they had developed a taste for human flesh and had begun attacking humans.
In the United States, it is illegal to sell dog or cat meat. In some states, it is illegal to eat dog meat for any reason. This is not too much different than laws in India which prohibit the butchering of cattle. Although I have never personally tasted dog meat, some of my Korean friends say that it is their favorite kind of meat, that it tastes like beef but is more tender. They can’t understand why it is illegal to sell and eat dog meat in the United States.
Since I don’t have pets, I am not exactly sure what the law requires of dog owners. But I wonder if someone could go to jail for not paying for surgery and chemotherapy if his dog has cancer. It seems that dog hospitals and clinics with 24-hour emergency rooms and advanced medical equipment keep proliferating, and health insurance for dogs is becoming commonplace. I would not be surprised to see the next version of Obamacare make health insurance for dogs mandatory. Nor would I be surprised to see hate speech laws expanded to criminalize derogatory remarks about dogs. Already in Michigan there are frequent rallies in defense of the pit bull, which is the most dangerous of all dog breeds.
I do not advocate unnecessary cruelty to animals, but at the same time it should be recognized that there is considerable confusion today about the difference between man and animals, due largely to the teaching of Darwinian evolution. I do not understand why people think that stray dogs and cats should be captured, then neutered and spayed or put in cages in the Humane Society, rather than shot and buried. I do not understand why a man who accidentally leaves a dog in a hot car, resulting in its death, should go to jail. That is an unfortunate accident, but from a biblical point of view killing a dog is not morally different than killing a rat.
The Bible teaches that man is qualitatively different than a dog or any other animal, because man alone was created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27; 9:5-6). People who talk about their pet dogs as their “children,” as many now do, are seriously mistaken. The word “murder” is used less and less today where it should be. Where news headlines used to read “Police investigating murder” they now read, e.g., “Police investigating shooting death” or “Police investigate fatal stabbing.” A murderer is now called a “homicide suspect” or a “man convicted of killing.” Perhaps this is because the word “murder” implies moral guilt, whereas problems today are said to be the result of environmental or psychological factors and not willful sin. But where I do hear the word “murder” used with greater frequency is with respect to people killing dogs. From a biblical point of view, animals can be killed, but they can never be murdered. Only man can be murdered, since only man is created in the image of God.
In the Bible, dogs are portrayed as among the basest of all animals (cf. 1 Sam 17:43; 24:14; 2 Sam 3:8; 9:8; 16:9; 2 Kgs 8:13; Job 30:1; Ps 22:16; Isa 66:3). Male prostitutes are called “dogs” in Deuteronomy 23:18. Paul calls false teachers “dogs” in Philippians 3:2. Jesus warned more than once against giving good things to “dogs” (Matt 7:6; 15:26; Mark 7:27). The book of Revelation uses the term “dogs” to represent people who are loathsome and unclean (Rev 22:15).
While as an unclean animal dogs could not be eaten under the Mosaic Law, the New Testament affirms that all types of animal meat—including dogs—are now permissible to eat, since the Law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Mark 7:19; Acts 10:9-16). Before the Mosaic Law, as well, it was perfectly permissible to eat dog meat (Gen 9:2-4). Dogs can make fun pets and can be useful for such tasks as protection and hunting, but they are animals—they are not human. Even in comparison to other animals, dogs do not have superior status; they are, in fact, singled out in the Bible as among the most despicable of all animals. The veneration of dogs in the United States would seem, then, to be a mark of a society that has departed from God and from a biblical way of thinking.