What do the largest denominations and faiths in the United States say about animals? Use the resources below to find out more and check back for added statements from other faiths and religions.

Contents

Christianity 

Assemblies of God

Assemblies of God was founded in the United States in 1914 amidst a time of international Pentecostal revival.

Today, it is the world's largest Pentecostal denomination. The Assemblies of God characterizes itself as having a fourfold mission: "Evangelism, Discipleship, Worship and Compassion."

"The Assemblies of God believes everyone needs to be a good steward of all God’s creation—including the earth. As clearly indicated in Scripture, we believe the earth was created by God (Genesis 1:1-31; Isaiah 37:16) [...] "[W]e feel Christians must act responsibly in their use of God’s earth as we rightly harvest its resources. As stated in Genesis 1:27-30, we believe God has given mankind alone complete dominion (authority) over the earth’s resources. These resources include the land, the water, the vegetation, and the earth’s minerals; as well as the animals, fish, and fowl. Like the earth, we acknowledge these to be gifts from God to mankind; and as gifts they are to be appreciated and cherished."

From Assemblies of God, General Council, Environmental Protection.

Church of God in Christ 

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is the largest African American denomination in the United States and one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world.  

In a 2007 Apostolic Missive, COGIC's presiding Bishop called upon the Church to provide leadership in reversing current "ill-conceived" social trends, including trends that threaten the environment.

COGIC is also a signatory on two interfaith documents that identify environmental sustainability as essential for the achievement of basic human rights. These documents were prepared in anticipation of and support for the United Nations' 2008 "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and its compendium "Millennium Development Goals." 

"Millennium Development Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability. Target 1: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources. Target 2: Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss. (a) Marine areas and land conservation need greater attention. (b) Deforestation slows and more forests are designated for biodiversity conservation. (c) The number of species threatened with extinction is rising rapidly. (d) Fish stocks require improved fisheries management to reduce depletion." 

Read More on the Church of God in Christ [PDF]

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) traces its origins to the 16th century Protestant Reformation, although it achieved its current form in 1988 when three previously independent churches merged to form the largest Lutheran denomination in America.

More information about the ELCA, including the Church’s beliefs, structure, and history, can be found on their website.

Martin Luther on animals:

"Thus Christ now speaks: [...] you daily see how your heavenly Father feeds the little birds in the field, without their having any care […] [H]e holds them in such high esteem that he daily feeds them, as if he had only these to care for; and he takes pleasure in it, that they quite without care fly about and sing, as if they should say: I sing and am cheerful [...]"

From Martin Luther, Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, trans. Charles A. Hay (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1892), 341 (re:  Matthew 6:26-27).

The ELCA's Presiding Bishop, Mark S. Hanson, explains that "we cannot love God or our human neighbor without caring for creation." 

From Bishop Hanson:

"We cannot escape the interconnectedness of the earth’s fabric of life. Creation is the matrix of all our activities, both as human beings and as Christ’s church. God gives us and all creatures life through the water, air, food and all the other gifts that come to us from the earth. Everything we do both depends on these gifts and has some kind of impact upon them. If these gifts are treated with contempt and abused, people, animals and plants suffer together. If they are graciously received and cherished, people will flourish with the rest of creation. We cannot love God or our human neighbor without caring for creation."

—Letter first published November 2003. Excerpt reprinted in ELCA, Awakening to ... Earthkeeping, 11.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) describes itself as “a mission-oriented, Bible-based, confessional Christian denomination” that is “founded on the teachings of Martin Luther.”

There are a number of theological, historical and contemporary references on animals in the faith’s longstanding traditions.

On KFUO’s "Book Talk" with host Rodney Zwonitzer, a broadcast ministry of The Lutheran Church, Reverend Peter Kurowski, author of Animals in Heaven; Pets in Paradise, talked about God’s love for animals:

“As I started from Genesis and went through Revelation, I was struck by the fact that God’s intimate concern about the animal world […] I kept seeing these promises that would involve the creatures of God, the rest of creation […] Like, for example, in Genesis 9:12, after the flood, God said, ‘This is a sign of the covenant, the promise I’m making between me and you and every living creature with you. A covenant for all generations to come.’ Now we see and hear those words, ‘For all generations to come,’ but we don’t camp out at that important phrase, ‘every living creature.’ And so here we see God’s intimate, infinite love not only for mankind, but for the animals of the world.”

Read More Theological, Contemporary and Historical References on Animals [PDF]

Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), or PC (USA), traces its history to the 16th-century Protestant reformer, John Calvin. 

"The meanest animals are equally the children of God, because they were created of the original seed of the Word of God," Calvin stated. 

The Presbyterian Church has statements on animals addressing wildlife, farm animals and more. From Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice:"Keep wildlife wild and free. Avoid irreversible change. Protect and expand remaining public wildlands [...] Respect life, the more sentient the more respect. Think of nature as a community, more than a commodity...Prohibit trade in endangered wild animals and endangered plants, or products derived from them. Stop indiscriminate killing of wild animals."

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From Just Eating, Practicing our Faith at the Table

“Eating [...] can be an opportunity to thoughtfully live our beliefs about justice—a vehicle for practicing our faith [...] Good nutrition is stewardship of a gift God gave us—our bodies...Choose healthier sources of proteins [...] Animal proteins such as beef or whole milk dairy products come with a heavy helping of saturated fats. Vegetable proteins come with plenty of fiber and vitamins."

Read More Official Statements and Historical and Contemporary References from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Seventh-day Adventist Church

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was officially established in 1863, although it traces its date of birth to 1844 when it affirmed the beliefs that came to form its name.

These beliefs include the Bible as the infallible Word of God, the creation of the world in six days, with the seventh day (Saturday) set aside as the Sabbath and the imminent return (Advent) of Christ.

One of the celebrated founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was Ellen G. White, whose visions, spiritual leadership and extensive writings convinced her fellow Adventists that she possessed the gift of prophecy. 

Learn about being a good steward of the Earth and animals in the "Our Dominion, God’s Domain" edition of Dynamic Steward, the Seventh-day Adventist Church's online publication, which includes the church's Statement on Environmental Care.

While never making vegetarianism a requirement of the faith, White counseled Adventists to take the suffering of animals into consideration when making dietary choices. 

Write wrote, "Think of the cruelty to animals that meat eating involves, and its effect on those who inflict and those who behold it. How it destroys the tenderness with which we should regard these creatures of God!"

Explore Humane Eating in "From Farm to Fork: How Should Adventists View the Dark World of Factory Farms?" [PDF]

White further observed, "The intelligence displayed by many dumb animals approaches so closely to human intelligence that it is a mystery [...] The animals see and hear and love and fear and suffer. They use their organs far more faithfully than many human beings use theirs. They manifest sympathy and tenderness toward their companions in suffering. Many animals show an affection for those who have charge of them, far superior to the affection shown by some of the human race. They form attachments for man which are not broken without great suffering to them."

From Ellen G. White, Your Home and Health (Read Books, 2007), 121.

Read More Official and Historical Seventh-day Adventist Statements, Plus Contemporary References [PDF]

Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is an alliance of autonomous Southern Baptist churches that "share a common bond of basic Biblical beliefs and a commitment to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world." Since its organization in 1845, it has grown to be the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

Billy Graham's media ministries have made him one of the SBC's best known leaders and, according to a Gallup poll, one of the most admired people of the 20th century. 

In 2010, Graham received a letter from a mother who worried that her daughter's desire to devote her life to animal care was not something God "is really interested in."

Graham responded, "Yes, let me assure you that God is concerned about our care of every part of His creation--including the animals. After all, he made them, and ultimately they belong to Him. The Bible says, 'For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills' (Psalm 50:10).

Graham received another letter asking if the Bible says anything about how humans should treat animals. He responded, "The Bible commands us to take care of animals...In fact," said Graham, "the Bible says we must never treat any part of God's creation with contempt. When we do, we are indirectly treating our Creator with contempt."

Also in 2010, after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, the SBC passed a resolution reminding members that God loves creation and wants us to "protect what God loves," including the "teeming life of the seas" and "the eco-systems of birds, shrimp, oysters, fish, and other life-forms."

For more official and contemporary statements on animals from the Southern Baptist Convention, including links to sources, documents and articles, read this PDF.

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Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church arrived in the American colonies in 1607.  Originally an extension of the Church of England, it became an autonomous institution after the American Revolution.

The Church has many statements and references on animals.

The Episcopal Church was the first Christian denomination in the United States to issue an official condemnation of animal cruelty. 

A statement released in 1817 by the House of Bishops, called upon members to avoid "amusements" that involve "cruelty to the brute creation."  

Today, the Episcopal Church addresses specific issues to call for responsible care of God's animals:

“The Episcopal Church encourages its members to ensure that husbandry methods for captive and domestic animals would prohibit suffering in such conditions as puppy mills, and factory-farms;… 
“The Episcopal Church's Peace and Justice Office [is instructed to] identify existing guidelines to educate its members to adhere to ethical standards in the care and treatment of animals… 
“The Episcopal Church, through its Office of Government Relations, [is instructed to] identify and advocate for legislation protecting animals and effective enforcement measures."

—from the Episcopal Church, Support Ethical Care of Animals.

The Roman Catholic Church 

The Roman Catholic Church is the world's largest Christian denomination, representing more than half of all Christians and more than one-sixth of the world's population. Final authority for the Church rests in the Magisterium: the College of Bishops headed by the Pope (currently Pope Francis).

"Animals are the creatures of God, and, according to the Scriptures, he surrounds them with his providential care (Mt 6:26). Human beings should accept them with gratitude and, even adopting a eucharistic attitude with regard to every element of creation, to give thanks to God for them...

...By their very existence the animals bless God and give him glory: "Bless the Lord, all you birds of the air. All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord" (Dn 3:80-81). In addition, the harmony which man must establish, or restore, in the whole of creation includes his relationship to the animals. When Christ comes in his glory, he will "recapitulate" the whole of creation in an eschatological and definitive moment of harmony." —from International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship, Chapter 3, section 2, paragraph 79.

"Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals….It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly." —from Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, Chapter Two, Article 7, 2:2416, 2418.

For more Roman Catholic religious statements on animals, including links to sources and articles, check out this PDF.

The United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church (UMC) traces its origins to the lives and ministries of John Wesley (1703-1791) and his brother Charles (1707-1788). Its current form took shape in 1968, when The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church merged into a single denomination.

The UMC emphasizes putting faith into action, an as such, the Church has a strong commitment to social justice and a long history of involvement in contemporary social issues—including issues that impact animals and their habitats.

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"We support regulations that protect the life and health of animals, including those ensuring the humane treatment of pets and other domestic animals, animals used in research, and the painless slaughtering of meat animals, fish, and fowl. We encourage the preservation of all animal species including those threatened with extinction." --from The United Methodist Church "Social Principles: 160.I. The Natural World; Animal Life" The Book of Discipline, 99-100.

"We support a sustainable agricultural system….where agricultural animals are treated humanely and where their living conditions are as close to natural systems as possible. We aspire to an effective agricultural system where plant, livestock, and poultry production maintains the natural ecological cycles, conserves energy, and reduces chemical input to a minimum." --from The United Methodist Church "Social Principles: 162.III The Social Community; Sustainable Agriculture," The Book of Discipline, 115. 

For the full United Methodist Church entry, including links to documents and articles, check out this PDF.

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The United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ (UCC) formed in 1957 when the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches of the United States merged into a single denomination.

Through these formative branches, the UCC traces its history back to the Protestant Reformation and lays claim to a wide range of progressive firsts.

In 2011, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ passed a resolution entitled “Resolution for Mindful and Faithful Eating.” 

This resolution reminds Christians that the Bible “prohibits cruelty to animals…and describes the peaceful, harmonious coexistence among all God’s creatures as an ideal.”

 The UCC also puts importance on the way humanity carries out dominion over the "gifts" God has given us to care for:

"People of faith are called to be humble stewards of the natural systems of which they are a part. As the dominant specie[s] that has the opportunity for both harm to creation and care of creation, humans are challenged to examine their place in a holistic view of creation and ask themselves if they are humbly respectful or arrogantly harmful to God's creation. Every generation and every person has the ethical responsibility to determine their own and their community's own response to God's gift of creation and to see if their daily practices hurt or enhance what God has given to all."

 —from United Church of Christ, "Biodiversity."

Read more information, including the full 2011 United Church of Christ resolutions, and other statements on this PDF.

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Judaism 

Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism teaches that the Torah, in both its written and oral form, was given to Moses directly by G-d and that strict adherence to the Torah is required of all Jews in all areas of life.

This core set of beliefs unites several subgroups, including “Modern Orthodox Judaism,” “Haredi Judaism,” and “Hasidic Judaism.” 

There are more than 600,000 Orthodox Jews in the United States and Canada and more than 1.8 million faithful worldwide.

Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides or the Rambam, was a renowned 12th century rabbinic scholar whose 13 Principles of the Faith is widely regarded to be the definitive distillation of Orthodox beliefs.  Maimonides taught that although Jewish Law permits the use of animals, we must always remember that animals exist for their own sake, not for ours, and that they are a good in the eyes of G-d.

“I consider therefore the following opinion as most correct according to the teaching of the Bible, and best in accordance with the results of philosophy; namely, that the Universe does not exist for man’s sake, but that each being exists for its own sake, and not because of some other thing…each part is declared to be the product of [G-d’s] will, and to satisfy by its existence the intention [of the Creator]," states Maimonides in "The Guide for the Perplexed" (M. Friedlander trans. 1903. Reprinted by Forgotten Books 2008, pp. 493-494). "This is expressed by the phrase, ‘And [G-d] saw that it was good’ (Gen i.4, etc.).”

Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism (known as Masorti Judaism outside of the United States and Canada) was founded as “a reaction against Reform [Judaism] on the one hand and orthodoxy on the other,” according to the Emet Ve’Emunah (Statement of Principles of Conservative Judaism).

Based on the principles of Rabbi Zechariah Frankel (1801-1873), Conservative Judaism, says the Emet Ve’Emunah, strives to preserve “intact the structure and content of traditional Jewish observance” while remaining open to “the new conditions and insights of the modern age.” 

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) “issues rulings shaping the practice of the Conservative community.” According to the CJLS, compassion toward animals is important not only because of “the prohibition of inflicting suffering on animals,” but also because it promotes the “character trait of piety” and prevents “human beings from behaving cruelly” toward each other. “Since God is concerned with the well-being of all God’s creatures, we too should be,” says the CJLS and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ).

Many biblical texts portray God’s concern for the welfare of animals and repeat God’s command “that human beings treat animals with compassion.” “God is portrayed in biblical texts as being concerned for the welfare of animals. God creates vegetation as food for both human beings and animals (Gen 1:29-30). In the account of the Deluge, God commands Noah to expend a significant amount of effort to preserve every species of animal" (Gen 6:19-21; 7:2-3). —from The Rabbinical Assembly, Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Veal Calves, 3-4.

Reform Judaism

Reform Judaism is the largest branch of Judaism in North America.

It emphasizes tikkun olam (repair of the world), a concept, according to the Reform Movement, that requires Judaism to continuously re-form itself in response to the changing needs of changing times and circumstances.

Judaism has ample examples and much support for the protection and care of animals as part of God’s creation.

“’The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness there of’ (Psalms 24:1). We are instructed to protect all living beings regardless of their aesthetic beauty—‘Even those things you deem as superfluous, such as fleas, gnats and flies, even these too are purposefully included in the creation of the world.’ (Genesis Rabbah 10:7).” —from Central Conference of American Rabbis: Resolution Adopted by the CCAR: Endangered Species, Adopted by the 107th Annual Convention of the CCAR, March 1996.

More about Reform Judaism, including the movement’s beliefs, structure, and history, can be found by going to Union for Reform Judaism.

Read official and historical statements and contemporary references on animal protection issues in Reform Judaism in this PDF.

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Buddhism 

Buddhism was founded some 2500 years ago by the Indian sage Siddhartha Gautama. "Buddha" is a title meaning "the enlightened one."

Buddhism is reported to be the world's sixth largest religion and one of the fastest growing faiths in the West.

There are approximately 385 million adherents, most of whom live in South Central, and East Asia.

Key teachings about Buddhism and animals include: animals and humans share the same essential nature; the highest Buddhist virtue is compassion, which we are to show to all sentient beings at all times; we should do all in our power to avoid causing suffering or death for any sentient being.

The researchers state, "All forms of Buddhist practice, in every denomination, are first and foremost programs for training the mind in gaining immediate, intuitive insight into the nature of the true reality and generating ever greater compassion for all sentient beings."

Read the entire entry on this PDF. Find out more about Dharma Voices for Animals.

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Hinduism 

Hinduism, the world’s oldest living religion, is a rich collection of hundreds of spiritual and philosophical traditions followed throughout Asia for more than 5,000 years. Followers of Hinduism believe that the Divine (Brahman), the infinite reality or Truth, is beyond the comprehension of undisciplined minds and thus, is understood and worshiped by individuals in various ways. This is reflected not only in the diversity of practice, perspective and paths in Hinduism, but also in the fundamental belief that no one path can claim exclusivity or a monopoly over the ways of knowing the Truth. The Rig Veda, one of Hinduism’s earliest and most revered scriptures, articulates this pluralist ethos well: Ekam sat, viprah bahudha vadanti or “Truth is one, the wise call It by many names.”   

Most Hindus believe in one, all-pervasive supreme Divine, though the Divine may manifest and be worshiped in different forms, both male and female, by different names and in different ways. As such, categories of either monotheistic or polytheistic are inadequate in describing Hinduism's complex understanding of the Divine. Also known as Sanatana Dharma (the Eternal Natural Law), Hinduism encompasses a broad spectrum of philosophies ranging from panentheism to pantheism or absolute monism to pluralistic theism—that the Divine's presence is in all of existence to all of existence is the Divine. 

Another basic belief in Hinduism is that the soul does not die but is reborn into other life forms when the physical body dies. According to Hinduism’s law of karma, every act and thought affects how the soul will be reborn.  Reincarnation or the cycle of birth and rebirth, continues until the soul achieves spiritual perfection and is united with the Divine, or moksha. Hindus believe that the Divine exists equally in all living beings, both human and non-human.

Governing Body: Hinduism has no identifiable beginning in history, single founder, central religious establishment or sole authoritative scripture. However, every individual, especially ascetics, monks, swamis, sadhus and gurus who are respected for their personal discipline and spiritual knowledge, is considered essential to the preservation and passing on of Hindu traditions.

Lay Hindus look to ascetics, monks, swamis, sadhus and gurus for spiritual guidance and as interpreters of Hinduism's sacred scriptures, which include, the Vedas and Agamas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, the Epics, such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana, the Puranas, lawbooks and many other philosophical and sectarian texts. Thus, ancient truths and wisdom are passed on from generation to generation and reinterpreted by living seers (wise people) and individual spiritual seekers. 

Number worldwide: 1 billion 
Number in the United States: 2 millionThe Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and the vast majority of Hinduism's leading sampradayas (traditions) regard the ethical treatment of animals as fundamental to the core Hindu belief that the Divine exists in all living beings, both human and non-human, and Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the whole world is one family. Animals and plants are not regarded as mere objects for wanton human use and consumption in the Hindu tradition. Rather, they are equally embodied with the existence of the Divine and are fully deserving of respect and human compassion. Therefore, the concept of ahimsa, or non-violence, which was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi's passive resistance movement in India, is central to Hindu thought and applies not only to how humans interact with each other, but also to how they interact with all living beings.
  
In the Hindu epic Mahabharat, Lord Krishna, who chastises his cousin for carelessly chopping down a tree to release pent up anger, states, "Humans should take from this planet only that which is necessary for our survival." He continues to explain that when societies begin to violate this principle, all of humanity will be forced to face the repercussions because all life, despite differences in intelligence and ability, is interconnected and serves its unique purpose in the world.   

Fundamental to Krishna's explanation is Hinduism's law of karma, the basic principle of cause and effect that states that an individual's every action and thought produces an appropriate outcome for her which may be experienced immediately or extended beyond the individual's current lifespan and into future births. According to the Hindu principle of reincarnation, the atman, or soul, is everlasting and does not die with the physical body.  Instead, the atman continues its journey, carrying forward unfulfilled karmic outcomes from previous lives, and takes on new physical life forms until it attains moksha, or spiritual perfection that provides freedom from the cycle of reincarnation.

All life, from the smallest plant to largest animal, must go through this process. Ultimately, there are serious karmic repercussions for taking an innocent life, causing unnecessary suffering and/or pain to another life form, as well as idly supporting such suffering and pain in some form.  Accordingly, it is not only the man who kills the cow at a slaughterhouse who reaps some degree of negative karma, but also those involved in every step of the process, including the final consumers of the beef (please see Vegetarianism and Hinduism for a more detailed explanation).

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The cow, in particular, enjoys special status amongst animals in Hinduism. The cow is seen as a symbol of motherhood, selflessly providing during her lifetime life-sustaining milk, service in the labor of tilling land or transport and even fuel made from cow dung. The cow also continues to give after death by way of its leather and hide.  But Hindus also believe that the Divine has manifested in the form of many other animals several times to save all of humanity.  In fact, some of the more widely worshiped forms of the Divine have animal aspects to them.

For example, Ganesha, the Remover of Obstacles, is depicted with an elephant head that symbolizes wisdom, as elephants are recognized to be among the wisest of animals. Hanuman as a monkey symbolizes the fickleness of the human mind which tends to constantly jump from one thing to the next. Worshipped as the perfect devotee of the Divine, Hanuman represents the ability to gain complete control over our ever racing mind.   

Read The Hindu American Foundation's entire entry, which includes sections on Vegetarianism and HinduismSacred Sacrifice and the Scriptural Basis for Ethical Treatment of Animals(PDF).

Learn more about The Hindu American Foundation.

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Islam

“It is frequently claimed that one position or another represents ‘true’ Islam. Nevertheless, there exists no unified Islamic or Muslim view of nonhuman animals.”  —Richard Folz, "Dimension of Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Culture," in A Communion of Subjects, Waldau and Patton, 2006.

With roots beginning in 7th century A.D., Islam (literally “submission”) is one of the worlds largest monotheistic traditions. Originating with Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh, Islam is centered within the Qur’anic text believed by Muslims to be the verbatim word of God spoken through the Prophet.

Practitioners of Islam, called Muslims, not only look to the Qur’an but to the teachings and examples of Muhammad in the Sunnah and Hadith. Muhammad is believed to be the last prophet of Islam living between 570 and 632 B.C.

The majority of Muslims fall into one of two denominations. Sunni (80-90 percent) and Shia (10-20 percent). Islam is the second largest religion and has followers throughout the world.

Indonesia holds largest Muslim population at 13 percent with the rest being divided throughout South Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. Islam continues to be one of the fastest growing religions and today there are roughly 1.5 billion Muslims throughout the world.

In the Qu'ran

Since Islam is such a text-bound religion it is important to understand the place that animals hold within the Qu’ran. Numerous types of animals are mentioned throughout the text and out of 114 sūras, or Qu’ranic chapters, there are six named after animals. These include the Cow (sūra 2), the Cattle (sūra 6), the Bee (sūra 16), the Ant (sūra 28), the Spider (sūra 29) and the Elephant (sūra 105). Although both humans and non-human animals are said to be creations of God, humans are often distinguished as “the speaking animal” (hayawān al-nātiq). While this may be true, the Qu’ran also acknowledges that nonhuman animals have the ability to speak. 

This can be seen in sūra 27:16:
   
“Solomon succeeded David. He said: ‘Know, you people, we have been taught the tongue of birds and endowed with all good things. Surely this is the signal favour.’”

Muhammad

Muhammad enjoined many of his followers to show kindness towards animals and only use them for necessary purposes. In one hadith, he is seen reprimanding several of his followers for sitting idly on their camels in the market saying:

“Do not treat the backs of your animals as pulpits, for God Most high has made them subject to you only to convey you to a place which you could not otherwise have reached without much difficulty.”

Muhammad forbade hunting for sport and the branding or hitting of animals in the face.

For more on Islam and animals, including sections on eating meat, slaughter and vivisection, read our PDF.

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Unitarian Universalism

Unitarian Universalism (UU) is a faith that embraces philosophical and theological diversity. Practitioners identify with and draw inspiration from a variety of religious and secular traditions. Uniting these disparate threads is a set of seven ethical Principles.

In 2011, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations approved a Statement of Conscience on "Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice."

This statement calls upon members to apply their seven Principles to food choices:

"Ethical eating is the application of our Principles to our food choices. What and how we eat has broad implications for our planet and society. Our values, Principles, and integrity call us to seek compassion, health, and sustainability in the production of food we raise or purchase…We acknowledge that aggressive action needs to be taken that will ensure an adequate food supply for the world population; reduce the use of energy, water, fertilizer, pesticides, and hormones in food production; mitigate climate change; and end the inhumane treatment of animals…”

Before combining to form Unitarian Universalism, the Unitarian and Universalist traditions attracted and inspired members who were passionate about the welfare of animals and nature. Among these members was Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, who wrote in her diary that "animal food" leads to war and nightmares while a "vegetable diet" leads to "sweet repose."

“Vegetable diet and sweet repose. Animal food and nightmare. Pluck your body from the orchard; do not snatch it from the shambles. Without flesh diet there could be no bloodshedding war.”

—from Louisa May Alcott, Little Women: Letters from the House of Alcott, ed. Jessie Bonstelle and Marian deForest (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1914), 184.

For more statements on Unitarian Universalism, including a link to the complete 2011 Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating, see our PDF.

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