Understanding animal research in the light of Christian animal ethics


  • Alma Massaro




Christian animal ethics, animal ethics, bioethics, biomedical research, theocentrism, anthropocentrism


In this article, I will argue that consideration of non-human animals is an important element of a genuine reading of Christian Scripture. Such a reading of Scripture will entail a critique of the ways humans relate to animals, particularly in regards to the contemporary practices of biomedical research. The article will argue that present biomedical research is a problematic practice, largely because of its negative conceptualization and objectification of animals.

Both the Old and the New Testaments teach that animals, as God’s creation, have intrinsic value with “their own special, consecrated, and differentiated relationship to God” (Patton, 2000: 408). As recent interpretations of the Scriptures have suggested, the dominion entrusted to humans represents a duty to rule over other animals as vice-regents of God, and not as tyrants. Combining this perspective with the Edenic non-cruelty alimentary prescription and with biblical recommendations for compassionate treatment of other animals, I will argue that the Scriptures are an important source upon which to build a Christian animal ethics. Moreover, I  argue that the contemporary scientific justification of the instrumentalization of animals in biomedical research is opposed to these biblical teachings. The primary aim of this paper is, therefore, to show how recovering Christian spirituality could help develop a new comprehensive ethics for living beings, beyond the paradigm of the “human benefit”. It will also suggest that Christian animal ethics could inform scientific policy in a positive and more humane way regarding other animals.

This paper is one of a collection that originated in the IAHR Special Conference “Religions, Science and Technology in Cultural Contexts:  Dynamics of Change”, held at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology on March 1–2, 2012. For an overall introduction see the article by Ulrika Mårtensson, also published here.




How to Cite

Massaro, A. (2020). Understanding animal research in the light of Christian animal ethics. Marburg Journal of Religion, 22(2). https://doi.org/10.17192/mjr.2020.22.8298