On social media, I found a photo of a dog with big brown eyes. The message under the photo? “I looked into his eyes and saw his soul.” A few weeks later, I was browsing and saw a macro photo of a snail’s stalk with its eye at the end. The message under it was the same. I laughed out loud! I mean—a snail’s soul?
No one can deny that animals have personalities. Anyone who’s owned a dog, horse, or cat knows that!
Years ago, we were visiting a friend whose hobby was fish. He had multiple aquariums in his home and office. He talked to the large fish in the aquarium behind his desk. To my surprise, the fish surfaced and exhibited joy—if you could actually say that fish are joyful. I learned that day that even fish have personalities. Amazing!
We live out in the country, and the European robins and wrens are so friendly that sometimes they’re only a yard away from us. They come near and watch my husband as he works outside.
In the news, we read about rhino poaching, killing elephants for their tusks, killing whales for meat, the stately lion for sport, and the gorilla to protect the little boy. More and more, the term used for killing these magnificent animals is “murder.”
Do snails, fish, dogs, horses, elephants, birds, gorillas, and rhinos—and all the other animals—have souls? They have personalities. Do they have souls?
My mother and I are “convinced” that our good, old dog went to “doggy heaven” when he died. My mother even joked about him being one of the “beasts” mentioned in Revelation 4—knowing full well he wasn’t. But, he was such a good dog! Don’t good dogs go to heaven?
Do animals have souls?
Is it murder to kill an animal?
Is hunting morally wrong?
In the Hindu religion, it’s believed that all life has a soul. You should not kill any animal for any reason. Of course, Hindus don’t eat meat, and they don’t use bug spray. They believe that people actually reincarnate as either “higher caste” people or as lower life forms, so the ant you see might actually be a person in a lower life form.
I believe the Bible is the Divine Word of God. Let’s see what it has to say about animals and people and souls. Read with me: And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Now, God creates man and woman: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Genesis 1:20-28).
What’s the difference between the animals and people? Man and woman were made in the image of God. They were also given authority over the animals on land and sea, and in the air.
Let’s read the detailed account about the creation of Adam, the first man: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Notice, the man is a soul. That’s not said about any of the animals. Later, God makes woman out of man. She—as seen in Genesis 1:27-28, above—is also made in the image of God.
- Animals aren’t made in the image of God. People are.
- Animals aren’t given more importance than people. People have more importance than animals. In fact, the first people were told to manage and take care of the animals.
- Animals don’t have souls. People do.
After the Flood, God permitted animals to be killed for food. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things (Genesis 9:3). (Vegetarians and vegans: you have the right to eat as you please. I have no problem with you if you choose not to eat meat.)
That’s basically my personal philosophy about hunting and fishing. Hunt for meat; hunt to actually eat what you’re hunting. Many of my relatives hunt—and eat what they shoot. They also eat the fish they catch—or release them, alive, back into the water.
An argument can also be made for culling, because it manages the population of animals, so that the food chain balance is maintained. Responsible fishing is part of this same idea of managing our natural resources.
While animals do have “person”alities, and they really, truly become part of our families, they aren’t people. Biblically, they don’t have the same worth—souls—as people. We aren’t told to spread the gospel to animals, nor are we condemned if we kill one for meat. (The Bible does talk about kindness to animals and admonishes against mistreatment.*)
So, the next time you look into your dog’s eyes—or snail’s eye, for that matter—remember you’re seeing a nice dog with a pleasant personality. You're not looking into a soul.
* Kindness to animals: Deuteronomy 25:4 (repeated in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 9:9 and 1 Timothy 5:18); Proverbs 12:10; Matthew 12:11; Luke 14:5.