Animal testing is somewhat of a hot-button issue. Proponents laud the benefits of animal testing measured in scientific progress, medical breakthroughs, prevention of harm to humans, and knowledge gained. Opponents cite cases of animal cruelty, availability of alternative methods, animal suffering, and animal rights. Does the Bible pick a side on animal testing?
Genesis 1 describes God’s creation of animals. In Genesis 1:28 God gives mankind dominion over the rest of creation: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” This rulership is not to be an abusive dictatorship. Rather, it is a faithful stewardship. God entrusted His creation to mankind to care for it, even allowing Adam to name the animals (Genesis 2:19–20).
When Adam and Eve sinned, all of creation suffered. Romans 8:19–21 says, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” We see specific implications of this frustration and decay in human relationship with animals. Soon after the first sin came the first animal sacrifice, described in Genesis 3:21.
After Noah and his family were rescued from the Flood, mankind’s relationship to animals changed even more. “God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything’” (Genesis 9:1–3). Animals had always been subject to human rule, but after the Fall they were used for sacrifices. After the Flood, they were used for food. Man’s rulership did not become tyranny, but God’s plan did involve the sacrifice of animals to cover human sin. This was God’s gracious, albeit temporary provision until His ultimate plan of redemption was realized through Christ (Hebrews 10:4–5).
In a perfect world, there would be no need for animal testing. We would not battle the decay that products created with animal testing seek to slow down. We would not be manufacturing things to improve our lives and having to first test them on animals to ensure we did not unintentionally harm humans. We would not need to put animals through psychological tests in order to determine why people’s minds and hearts get sick. But we live in a fallen world. And God has graciously permitted us to use animals to help us better understand and alleviate suffering.
This is not to say that humans have free rein and that animals should be treated as inanimate objects. In fact, the Bible mentions the proper care of animals. In Genesis 9:4 God commands against eating meat with its lifeblood still in it. In Genesis 9:8–17 God includes animals in His covenant never to destroy the entire earth through flooding. Deuteronomy 25:4 says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Proverbs 12:10 provides a summary: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” Animals are to help us in our work, and they are useful in many ways, but they are not to be abused. God has given us management over the animals, and He expects us to be caring and faithful stewards.
We must approach decisions concerning animal testing with sobriety and a heart to please God. Are we using animals because they are the simple option or because they are the best option? Are the animals being treated humanely? Will the testing actually provide a needed benefit for people? Are the animals being viewed as mere things for our consumption or as creatures to be stewarded in order to fulfill God’s mandate to honor Him in all we do?