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ANIMALS . According to one prominent definition of the term animal, religion is both created for and practiced by animals, since humans are, in modern biological terms at least, incontrovertibly members of the animal family. But what of other animals, ranging from the simplest of creatures to domesticated work partners to large-brained, extravagantly wild creatures who exhibit emotional and intelligent lives in community? What part have these beings had in human religious life and belief?

Renewal of an Ancient Inquiry

At the very end of the twentieth century, scholars of religion renewed and deepened the ancient inquiry into other living beings' place in religious traditions as a whole. As a result, twenty-first-century scholarship on religion and animals continues to develop in a wide-ranging, inclusive, and interdisciplinary manner. It is now clearer than ever that the earth's nonhuman life-forms have, from ancient times, had a remarkable presence in religious beliefs, practices, images, and ethics. Engagement with these other lives ranges from the belief that some are divinities who bring blessings into the world to the conviction that the animals are merely unintelligent objects created by a divine power expressly for humans use.

Other biological beings' presence in the religious imagination has been neither static nor simple. Ivar Paulson observes that with the development of agriculture and animal domestication, "much of the earlier numinous power and holiness experienced by the hunter in his encounter with the game was lost" (1964, p. 213). This altered, nonspiritual status is carried through in the 1994 Catholic description of the place of nonhuman lives in the believer's world: "Animals, like plants and inanimate things, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2,415, p. 516).

The story of religion and animals goes well beyond accounts of their divinity on the one hand or subservience on the other. Held at times to be individuals in every sense that humans are individuals, and even ancestors, family, clan members, or separate nations, the life-forms outside the human species have regularly engaged humans at multiple levels, and thus at many times and places energized religious sensibilities dramatically.

A range of issues

Contemporary scholarship on the intersection of religious sensibilities and nonhuman animals undertakes the daunting task of engaging the entire gamut of humanity's complex relationships with other biological lives. Beyond the familiar tradition of using animals for food and other material needs, nonhuman creatures have served as fellow travelers, communal society members and workers, and, often, intermediaries between the pyhysical world and the supernatural realm. For many peoples, kinship with nonhumans has been maintained through dreaming and waking visions, as well as ritual ceremonies in which interspecies bonds are honored.

Many religious traditions have attempted to analyze the essence not only of human lives, but of the relationship between human and nonhuman lives and even the nature of nonhuman animals' daily and existential realities. The historical Buddha is quoted on this subject often, as in this passage from the Majjhima Nikāya : "Men are indeed a tangle, whereas animals are a simple matter. " The tendency of religious traditions to pass judgement on the value of animals' lives has had a profound impact on human thinking about the earth and its other inhabitants. The historian of biology Ernst Mayr argues that Christianity has profoundly influenced biological matters because Christianity "abolished free thinking" by making "the word of God the measure of all things" (1982, p. 307). Mayr believed that Christianity was responsible for establishing Western culture's controlling assumptions about the important notion of species, and that a crucial change in the Christian worldview occurred during the Reformation, by which species came to be seen as unalterably static rather than subject to development and change: "The fixity and complete constancy of species now became a firm dogma [because a] literal interpretation of Genesis required the belief in the individual creation of every species of plants and animals on the days prior to Adam's creation" (p. 255).

Mayr's comments reflect the interest that many disciplines outside religious studies and theology have in the role religious traditions have played in developing many basic assumptions about nonhuman lives. Interest is also spurred by the recognition that although religions' relationships with animals are ancient, many religious traditions have, over time, narrowed their already minimal appreciation of nonhuman creatures. In the Western cultural tradition, for example, studies of animals by Christian theologians and interested believers have declined in the last few centuries. Nonhuman animals have been broadly dismissed in Western culture's secular circles through various developments since the seventeenth century in philosophy (for example, Descartes's thesis that other living beings are more like clocks than like humans) and scientific experimentation (particularly powerful in the late nineteenth and throughout the twentieth century).

In the latter half of the twentieth century, the place of food animals and laboratory animals in industrialized countries became increasingly that of a mere resource, even as dogs and cats were more and more frequently included as family members. Wild animals held an ambiguous position: sometimes thought of as pests or recreational hunting targets; sometimes as representatives of the natural world's power and majesty.

The forms of religion dominant in most societies where animal research and food production became key industries were amenable to such uses. In addition, religious institutions remained, on the whole, silent regarding environmental and habitat damage. As a result, in many ways religious institutions, like secular institutions, failed to notice or take seriously humans' profound and destructive impact on nonhuman lives.

Renewal, and even deepening, of the ancient inquiry into animals' place in religion occurred in response to this increasing crisis, and for independent reasons as well. Inquiries outside religious circles about nonhuman lives produced remarkable information that revealed some nonhuman animals to be decidedly more complex than Western culture and science held them to be. The findings of various biological sciences, for example, provided grounds for a more respectful evaluation of various animals' complex lives. When such details were noticed and taken seriously, the resulting openness had the potential to re-create ancient religious understandings about the human community with other lives. Additionally, the interfaith dialogue tradition of the second half of the twentieth century revealed deep concerns for the ethical dimensions of human interactions with other animals and highlighted religions such as Jainism and Buddhism that did not share the Western anthropocentric agenda.

The religions of the world have had, and will continue to have, a major impact on the way their adherents, as well as the secular world, look at the realities and moral responsibilities of the human interaction with other animals. Believers, religious leaders, scientists, and scholars of religion now have a much keener awareness of how engagement with other animals will reverberate in a multitude of issues.

Sources of complexity

Many of the issues surrounding religion's interaction with animalsethical matters, symbolism, ritualsare, when considered individually, extraordinarily complex. Over the millennia, religious traditions have produced an astonishing variety of beliefs, factual claims, symbols, and actions on many everyday subjects. Even if the frame of reference is only a single tradition, views of nonhuman animals can, across time and place, be in significant tension.

Further complexities stem from living beings' significant differences from one another. Some are mentally, socially, and individually extremely simple; others are mentally and socially complex and so enigmatic that we may not be able to understand their lives at all. Ignorance of the features of other animals' lives has often led to crass oversimplifications both within and outside of religion. Such coarse caricatures are encouraged by the way humans talk about other living beings, for upon careful examination much human discourse about other animals is revealed to rely upon profoundly inaccurate descriptions of their lives.

Religious institutions, as enduring cultural and ethical traditions, have often been the primary source of answers to a fundamental question: "Which living beings really should matter to me and my community?" The field of religion and animals attempts to assess the many ways in which religious traditions formulate answers to this question, and, in their cultural milieux and beyond, to influence how living beings outside the human species have been understood and treated.

The Role of Inherited Perspectives

The influence of traditional religious doctrines has caused many believers' perspectives on nonhuman animals to be dominated by something other than a careful engagement with the animals themselves. Sometimes inherited preconceptions have taken the form of dismissive generalizations found in documents held to be revealed. Sometimes a one-dimensional sketch of a few local animals has operated as a definitive assessment of all nonhuman animals' nature, abilities, and moral significance.

At other times, positive but inaccurate stories have operated similarly to obscure the actual realities of the local nonhuman animals. Custom and tradition that underlie inflexible claims about animals can present severe problems for historians, theologians, and believers who wish to engage evidence that contradicts, in letter or spirit, a heritage of views that is inadequate or misleading when assessing empirical realities.

Animals as Symbols

Religious art, writing, dance, and oral traditions abound with images of the world's nonhuman living beings. Some are connected in one way or another to the animals portrayed, but many are not closely related to the animals whose images are used. Some studies of religion and animals have been confined solely to the study of such images, thus ignoring the actual biological beings themselves.

Stanley Walens observes that misinterpretations of animal symbols have plagued both anthropological and religious studies: "The tendency of Western scholars to ascribe to a particular animal symbol the meaning it has in Western culture is one of the fundamental errors of Western comparative theology." Scholars now recognize that the alleged simplicity of early and indigenous religions was more a by-product of the "coarse analytic methods of researchers and of the inability of the outsiders to capture the depth and complexity by which people in tribal societies are able to metaphorize themselves and their world" (Walens, 1987, p. 293).

Caution is thus in order when dealing with symbols that use nonhuman animal images, for as Walens notes, "The capable scholar must look very skeptically at the record of animal beliefs in pre-Christian societies" (p. 294). In particular, the scholar must also be careful of purporting to talk about "animals" when what is being discussed are animal images that work primarily, even exclusively, to convey some feature of human complexity rather than any information about the nonhuman beings whose images are being employed for human-centered purposes.

Ethical Concerns

Religion has traditionally been the cradle of humans' ability to exercise concerns for "others," a category that has historically included both humans and nonhumans. The study of religion and animals has been greatly complicated by the fact that some religious traditions insist that the universe of morally considerable beings includes all living beings, while others have had, ethically speaking, a pronounced human-centered bias, asserting that humans are the only living beings that really matter. While these competing claims differ radically in how far human concern should reach outside the human species, they share the conviction that humans are characterized by a profound ethical ability to care for others. Central questions in the study of religion and animals are thus these inherently ethical queries: "Who have the others been?" and "Who might the others be?"

Treatment of Other Animals

Because most religious traditions embrace the insight that actions speak more loudly about what one really believes than do words, any assessment of a religion's view of animals must be represented, at least in part, by some account of how it actually treats other living beings. If a religion features images of bulls in its temples but allows cattle to be treated with brutality in the world outside the temple, this gives us an important insight into their underlying beliefs. Another religion may prohibit the harsh treatment or killing of cattle but include no images of the animal in its worship, rituals, or material culture. The former may leave artifacts that suggest bulls were important, but daily life in the latter suggests a more respectful engagement with cattle. Each religion engages with cattle in its own way. A careful analysis can provide much information about underlying social values.

Linked Oppressions

Religious traditions often suggest that when a human harms another living being, the actor and even other humans are desensitized, so that they may subsequently do even more harm (Thomas Aquinas made this argument, as did Immanuel Kant). This insight has been one of the classic justifications for traditions prohibiting cruelty to animals. Contemporary sociologists and law enforcement officials advance a modern version of this idea based on evidence that certain instances of human-on-human oppression, such as domestic violence, are psychologically linked with violence to nonhuman animals. A related insight is advanced by the Oxford historian Keith Thomas, who suggests that in western Europe the domestication of animals "generated a more authoritarian attitude" and "became the archetypal pattern for other kinds of social subordination" (1983, p. 46). The study of religion and animals can, when it addresses the idea that oppression of one kind of living being leads to the oppression of other kinds of living beings, be closely tied to social justice concerns that now are common features of religious institutions.

Transmission of Views about Animals

As carriers of a culture's worldviews, religious traditions are ancient educators in cultural, ethical, social, ecological, intellectual, and political matters. In this role, religious traditions quite naturally have transmitted from generation to generation views of nonhuman animals, for the latter are inevitably around and with us in our local communities. As suggested by Ernst Mayr, these views affect the most basic human ideas about animals' nature, as well as their place in, or exclusion from, human communities.

This feature of religion is always a highly contextualized piece in any religious tradition's larger puzzle, and an essential task in the study of religion and animals is to discover how a particular human community's engagement with the local world plays in its larger worldviews and lifeways.

Previous Scholarship on Religion and Animals

Greek and Roman thinkers were heir to a remarkable tradition of vigorous debate regarding whether nonhuman animals possessed mental and social abilities, including language, senses of justice and morality, and even reason. Richard Sorabji concludes that Augustine was the pivotal figure in shutting down the vibrant debate in the Hellenistic world about the specific abilities of nonhuman animals. The result was a broad dismissal in the cultural tradition and, in particular, its religious institutions regarding other animals' significance. Since the time of Augustine, the vast majority of scholarship in the Western intellectual tradition has gone forward on the assumption that humans alone are intellectually complex, capable of emotional depth and commitment, characterized by social connections and personality development, and able to develop the kinds of autonomy that moral beings intuitively respect.

This dismissal of animals, long a centerpiece in academic curricula and pedagogy, is now in tension with the rich information developed in the life sciences about animals' mental, social, and emotional complexities. Even so, academic expression in the twenty-first century, including religious studies and theology, continues to reflect the anthropocentric bias of the Western tradition.

Believers' engagement with nonhuman lives is an ongoing challenge for religious pedagogy. Sociological studies reveal that ethical concern for nonhuman animals' welfare continue to have a place, subordinated though it may be at times, in the complex Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions as they carry their ancient ethical insights forward. Francis of Assisi and Albert Schweitzer are cited regularly as examples of believers with a profound concern for other animals. Influential figures like Rūmi, Maimonides, Ibn Taymīyah, and Isaac Bashevis Singer also included animal-friendly themes in their works, and Augustine's fellow Christians, including Ambrose of Milan, Basil of Caesarea, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Thomas Berry, have in creative ways reflected their tradition's capacities for seeing and caring about living beings beyond their own species.

It is thus misleading to suggest that all who have thought about religion and animal issues have, naturally and obviously, dismissed nonhuman animals in the manner of the mainstream Western intellectual tradition that remains dominant today. The recent emergence of a more systematic and open-minded treatment of nonhuman animals in the doctrines, rituals, experiences, ethics, myths, social realities, and ecological perspectives of religious traditions suggests that when a clearer picture is drawn, it will be a rich tapestry of alternatives for interacting with the earth's nonhuman beings.

Institutionalized Religious Views: A Survey of World Religions

Anthropocentric biases continue to dominate many modern religious institutions' discourse generally, and their official pronouncements and conceptual generalities reflect the prevailing assumption that humans alone are the appropriate subjects of human ethics. Mainstream religious institutions have generally failed to challenge the frequently cruel way animals are treated in modern industrialized societies. There have been some challenges, mostly from indigenous traditions and those of the Indian subcontinent.

A survey of the views of nonhuman animals that dominate major religious traditions reveals that traditional and mainstream religious institutions have, on the whole, accepted not only humans' domestication of some animals for food and work, but also deprecated nonhuman animals generally and scorned the value of careful engagement with other animals' day-to-day realities. Such a survey also shows, however, that various subtraditions and prominent figures within the larger tradition often have questioned whether core values of the overall tradition aren't violated by both subordination and facile dismissals of nonhuman animals. It is not uncommon, then, for some part of religious traditions to have engaged nonhuman beings in some fuller way such that even if their place is not front and center in institutional pronouncements, ritual, or traditional language, nonhuman animals remain present and relevant to some believers' spiritual and ethical lives.


The Hindu tradition offers an immense range of views about the living beings who share our ecological community. Two general beliefs dominate Hindu conceptions of the human relationship to other animals. First, human beings, recognized to be in a continuum with life, are considered the paradigm of what biological life should bethus one often finds the hierarchical claim that human status is above that of any other animal. Second, belief in reincarnation, a hallmark of most Hindus' beliefs, includes the notion that any living being's current position in the cycle of life is a deserved position because it has been determined by the strict law of karma.

These two beliefs have resulted in an ambivalent view of animals. On the positive side, animals are understood to have souls and be worthy of ethical consideration; the notion of nonharming, or ahisā, for example, applies to them. On the negative side, all of the earth's numerous nonhuman animals are understood to be inferior to any human. According to the sanatana dharma, the eternal law and moral structure of the universe, all living beings, human and nonhuman, are born into that station in life for which their past karma has fitted them. Humans who in past lives acted immorally are destined to be born as nonhumanan inferior life because animals' lives are thought of as particularly unhappy, at least compared to human existence.

The ambivalence toward nonhuman life is negative in the recurring implicit and explicit scorn shown to animals (as well as to lower-caste humans). The positive side appears in the tradition's remarkable ethical sensitivity to other animals as beings who should not be killed. Many Hindu scriptures include the injunction that one should treat other animals exactly like one's own children. Central religious texts, such as the gveda and Atharvaveda, hold that the earth was not created for humans alone, but for other creatures as well. Daily life in India, especially at the village level, provides many examples of coexistence with other animals, the best known of which is the sacred cow. There are, however, many examples of mistreatment as well.

Humans, even if Hindus believe them to have a privileged place in the hierarchy, are also believed to have special obligations to all living beings. This ethical claim is often buttressed by the close association of many Hindu deities with specific animal forms. Rāma and Ka were thought to have reincarnated as a monkey and a cow. Ganesh, an elephant-headed god, and Hanuman, the monkey god, have long been worshiped widely in India.

Historically, around 500 bce the animal sacrifice that dominated the ritual life of the brahminical tradition was challenged by Buddhists and Jains as cruel and unethical. This challenge had a great effect on the later Hindu views of the morality of intentionally sacrificing other animals, and ahisā, the historically important emphasis on nonviolence, has now become a central feature of the tradition.


Buddhist ideas about nonhuman animals share many features with Hindu views, because both reflect cultural assumptions that dominated the religions of the Indian subcontinent. For example, all animals, human and otherwise, are viewed as fellow voyagers in sasāra (the cycle of death and rebirth). Compassion toward other animals has often produced expressions of concern for other living beings in Buddhist literature that lead many believers and scholars to claim that Buddhism takes a kind, sympathetic view toward nonhuman lives.

Alongside this very visible feature of the Buddhist tradition, however, sit complicating features, for in important ways Buddhism has a negative view of nonhuman animals' existence and abilities. Buddhist thinking groups all nonhuman animals into a single realm or category, which in the hierarchical social structure that dominated the Indian subcontinent meant that other forms of life were inferior to the human realm. Hence, the very fact that a being is born as any animal other than human is thought of negatively.

The animal world is viewed as an unhappy placeas the historical Buddha said in the Majjhima Nikāya, "so many are the anguishes of animal birth." Birth at a "subhuman" level in the Buddhist hierarchy is conceived to be the direct result of less-than-ideal conduct. A human who violates moral norms is constantly threatened with punishment in the next life as a lower animal. Nonhuman animals are regularly described by Buddhists as so simple, relative to humans, that their lives are easily understood by the superior human intellect. Buddhist scriptures characterize animals as pests who are in competition with their human superiors.

Even though these factors lead to descriptions of animals in the Buddhist scriptures that seem fundamentally negative, these views are moderated by central ethical commitments. The First Precept states that a Buddhist will refrain from killing any life forms. Some portions of the tradition, though not all, emphasize vegetarianism as a means to this end. The well-known bodhisattva 's vow to refrain from entering nirvāa until all beings are saved reflects one prominent feature of the Buddhist tradition's deep concern for beings outside the human species.

Buddhist engagement with other animals, then, is a mixture of the tradition's heavy investment in hierarchical thinking and a strong ethical commitment to the value of life in all its forms. Despite all its avowed respect for nonhuman lives, however, the tradition has never emphasized seeing other animals in terms of their own realities. This leads to a dismissive prejudgment of animal life, which is undermined by careful engagement with animals' actual lives.

The Abrahamic traditions

Just as the religions of the Indian subcontinent share many common assumptions, the views dominating the Abrahamic traditions also have important assumptions in common. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are dominated in many essential respects by what amounts to ethical anthropocentrism, that is, a pronounced tendency to focus on the members of the human species as if they alone should be the object of ethical and moral protection. It is a fundamental article of faith in the Abrahamic traditions that the world was designed by a divine creator who elevated the human species above all other forms of life. This human-centeredness, which manifests itself in a tendency to justify practices that harm other animals, is, however (as in the Indian subcontinent traditions), moderated at critical points, as when sacrificial rules mandate that the victim's death be brought about as quickly as possible.


Ideas about nonhuman animals are not simple in the Judaic tradition, in part because the Hebrew Bible contains diverse and even contradictory views of humans in relation to other living beings. A prominent model focuses on the importance of keeping humans safe from dangerous animals. A more utopian vision is that of peace with and among wild animals, which can also function as a metaphor for cosmic and social peace among humans. Of these two views, the first dominates, for human interests are characteristically seen in Judaism as far more important than animals' interests. Richard Bauckham has noted that the idea that humans need "peace from evil animals" is an "ancient tendency" stemming from the Jewish tradition's decision to see "wild animals primarily as threats to human life" (1994, p. 8).

Philo Judaeus, a first-century Jewish historian, employed an image of a continuous warfare by the animals against humankind. This negative image of animals who are not under human control is contrasted with the tranquillity of humans' relationship with, and domination of, domesticated animals. There is some irony in this view, for the notion that wild animals are evil, a common biblical theme, is rooted in the belief that disorder in nature stems from archetypal wrongs committed by human ancestors and the unfaithfulness of Israel.

Alongside the Hebrew Bible's dominant view that wild animals are evil is the countervailing notion that other animals were created by God, who is proud of them (as expressed in various passages in Job ) and daily feeds them. Living under God's reign, other living beings at times appear as examples of right order, in great contrast to humans. Many provisions, such as the law codes (Exodus 2223 and 34, Leviticus 22 and 25, and Deuteronomy 1426) recognize the welfare of other animals, at least to some extent. Such provisions are limited, however, primarily to: (1) the welfare of domestic animals, that is, those that work for or produce benefits for humans, and (2) restrictions on how sacrificial animals could be killed.

Although scholars such as Stephen Webb argue that the practice of animal sacrifice benefited nonhuman animals in general, the practice raises complex issues, for animal sacrifice functioned as an institutionalized means of atoning for human violations of moral rules or purity taboos. The fact that nonhuman beings suffer because of human wrongs is, of course, related to the human evaluation of human and nonhuman lives. Why only those animals useful to humans were chosen for sacrifice is worth further inquiry into the role that anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism play in the general practice of animal sacrifice.

Judaism arose in geographical areas that afforded believers only limited exposure to the most complex nonhuman animals (such as elephants, chimpanzees, whales, and dolphins), a fact that may account for its sometimes one-dimensional view of nonhuman lives. Jewish materials, nonetheless, particularly by virtue of the body of traditional Jewish law that concerns itself with animal welfare known as tsa˒ar ba˒alei chayim, provides a basis for arguing that care for other animals of all kinds is mandated by the core values and insights of the tradition.

Nonhuman forms of life are mentioned in some of the covenants found in the Hebrew Bible, including the covenant with Noah in Genesis 9:916. Some theologians, such as Andrew Linzey, who argues that Christians have a theological duty to protect nonhuman animals, make a great deal of this in their works. Others have argued that the larger context, including the preceding set of verses (Genesis 9:17), which mentions that "the dread of you should be upon every beast" and "every moving thing that lives shall be food for you" radically qualifies the significance of nonhuman animals' inclusion in the covenant established in Genesis 9:916 and reflects that other animals are "in the subordinate relationship to humankind which has already been set forth in Genesis" (Murray, 1992, pp. 3334).

Yet even if humans are conceived in the Jewish tradition as separate from the rest of life in critically important ways, an important sense of connection remains by virtue of the number of specific animals mentioned and observations about the variety of life these suggest. The early Hebrews noticed and appreciated the extraordinary diversity and interconnectedness of human and nonhuman beings.


The Christian tradition inherited and developed the Hebrew vision of humans as distinct from all other animals. Some believe the Christian tradition narrowed this heritage by its handling of the biblical claim that all humans, and only humans, are made in the image of God and have been given dominion over the earth. Some early proponents of Christianity, including Origen and Augustine, asserted that part of Christianity's basic message is a fundamental, radical division between human animals and all other animals. In important ways, this has led to the exclusion of all other animals' interests when they are in conflict with even minor, unnecessary human interests.

Historically, the expression and development of Christian views of animals reflects ties to both Hebrew and Greek sources. Early Christians borrowed from them their fundamental cultural assumptions. The result over time was an amalgam in which connections to nonhuman animals were subordinated to human superiority. Ultimately, humans came to be seen as distinct in every relevant way from other animals, and therefore ontologically superior to the rest of creation.

This led prominent sects within Christianity to persistently refuse to examine other animals' realities. The extent of the denial can be seen in the comment made by Pope Pius IX (r. 18461878) to English antivivisectionist Anna Kingsford: "Madame, humankind has no duties to the animals." Pius IX backed this up by "vigorously" opposing the establishment of a society for the protection of animals in Rome.

Christianity faces a basic challenge from the developing body of knowledge about nonhuman animals. Based on data from the biological sciences and an appreciation of indigenous cultures' respectful engagement with life outside our species, many people now argue that at least some nonhuman life-forms are proper objects of human morality. It remains to be seen whether the Christian tradition (or any religious tradition) will finds ways to integrate new factual information into its views of nonhuman creatures.


Islamic views often reflect the Abrahamic emphasis on humans as the centerpiece of a created universe, but Islam also shows a countervailing recognition of the moral dimension of the very existence of other animals. Even though the Qurʾān frequently asserts that other animals have been placed on Earth solely for the benefit of humans, how humans treat other animals, who are deemed creatures of Allāh, also plays an important role in the tradition. The Qurʾān and other central writings of Islam reflect numerous ways in which believers have recognized that other animals have their own importance. For example, sūrah 6:38 states that other animals have their own communities: "There is not an animal in the earth, nor a flying creature on two wings, but they are communities like unto you." Muammad himself commented, "Whoever is kind to the creatures of Allāh, is kind to himself." He also compared the doing of good or bad deeds to other animals to similar acts done to humans.

The result is that there are both negative and positive views of other animals at the center of the complex Islamic tradition. As with Judaism, the ritualized slaughter of animals for food (dhabh ) reflects the basic belief that humans are divinely appointed representatives of Allāh (Khalīfa, often translated as "vice regent" or "steward"). This is one version of the claim that other animals, even if not on earth solely for human use, are subordinate to humans and in special instances ordained for human use.

Although humans are, in the Islamic tradition, the centerpiece of creation, and thus the most important living beings, ethical sensibilities regarding other animals are still prominent, as in the rules governing the humane killing of sacrificial animals. Thus, the Islamic tradition provides moral space, as it were, for the view that other animals have an integrity and inherent value of their own.

The Animal Presence outside the World Religions

Views of the place of animals in human lives are far different outside the mainstream religions. Native or indigenous traditions worldwide often reflect a spiritual kinship with many kinds of nonhuman living beings. John Neihardt begins the now famous account Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux (1932) with observations about sharing and kinship with other animals: "It is the story of all life that is holy and is good to tell, and of us two-leggeds sharing in it with the four-leggeds and the wings of the air and all green things; for these are children of one mother and their father is one Spirit" (p. 1).

Communication with specific kinds of animals, often mammals or birds known to be highly social and intelligent, such as dolphins or ravens, are often found in nature-oriented spiritual traditions. Most show a deep concern for and connection with nonhuman animals as fellow beings or even as individuals not unlike humans. Many contemporary nature-oriented religions, which tend to be decentralized and to give primacy to individual experience, emphasize nonhuman animals. Relatedly, respected members of contemporary scientific communities, such as primatologist Jane Goodall and cognitive ethologist Marc Bekoff, have emphasized the relevance to human spiritual quests of studying and understanding animal behaviour. Noticing and taking nonhuman animals seriously is also evident in the Chinese folk, Daoist, and Confucian traditions, Japanese Shintō, the Jain tradition of India, Sikhism, and many other religious traditions that offer profound insights into the importance and ethical dimensions of the human connection with other natural beings.


Considering the seemingly simple question of how the two important topics of religion and animals intersect raises many possibilities. One of these is a deeper understanding of religious traditions' roles in shaping human concepts of, discourse about, and ethical engagements with the Earth and its nonhuman inhabitants. The religious component of a human interaction with other animals can offer significant personal value as well. An increasing number of theologians, ethicists, philosophers, poets, and scholars from many disciplines have echoed Thomas Berry's insight: "Indeed we cannot be truly ourselves in any adequate manner without all our companion beings throughout the earth. This larger community constitutes our greater self" (Berry, 2005).

See Also

Anthropomorphism; Bears; Birds; Cats; Elephants; Evolution, article on Evolutionism; Fish; Horses; Lady of the Animals; Lord of the Animals; Monsters; Rabbits; Sacrifice; Snakes; Totemism; Tricksters, overview article.


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Walens, Stanley. "Animals." In The Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Mircea Eliade, vol 1. New York, 1987.

Webb, Stephen H. On God and Dogs: A Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals. New York, 1997.

Paul Waldau (2005)


views updated Jun 08 2018

16. Animals

See also 45. BIRDS ; 61. BULLS and BULLFIGHTING ; 70. CATS ; 88. COCKS ; 125. DOGS ; 164. FISH ; 211. HORSES ; 225. INSECTS ; 353. REPTILES ; 374. SNAKES ; 423. WOLVES ; 427. WORMS ; 430. ZOOLOGY

the condition of having teeth without roots attached to the alveolar ridge of the jaws, as in certain animals. acrodont, adj.
a parasitic relationship between animals that has a destructive effect on one and no effect on the other. See also 44. BIOLOGY ; 319. PLANTS .
the realm of animals; the animal kingdom.
1. the state of being an animal.
2. animal existence or nature in human activity; the animal in man as opposed to the spiritual.
an animal with a tongue like that of man, as the parrot.
a creature resembling man, as an ape. anthropoid, anthropoidal, adj.
anthropopathism, anthropopathy
the assignment of human feelings or passions to something not human, as a deity or an animal. anthropopathic . adj.
a hoofed animal having an even number of toes or digits on each foot, as pigs, sheep, deer, etc. artiodactylous, adj.
1. an advocate of kindness to animals.
2. British. an antivivisectionist.
a compiler or writer of bestiaries.
an allegorical or moralizing commentary based upon real or fabled animals, usually medieval and sometimes illustrated.
the study of the physiological processes of plants and animals. biodynamic, biodynamical, adj.
the branch of ecology that studies the interrelationship of plant and animal life in their common environment. bioecologist, n. bioecologic, bioecological, adj.
the study of the relationship between structure and function in plants and animals. biostatical, adj.
the animal or plant life of a particular region.
a method of movement, characteristic of certain animals, by swinging with the arms from one hold to another.
the branch of zoology that studies crustaceans. carcinologist, n. carcinologic, carcinological, adj.
a meat-eating animal. Cf. herbivore . camivorous, adj.
a relationship between animals or plants in which one lives with or on the other without damage to either. Cf. parasitism .
a vital force in plants or animals, similar to human effort. See also 319. PLANTS .
an intense fear of contact with animal fur or skin. doraphobe, n.
the study of sea urchins. echinologist, n.
a nonparasitic relationship between animals in which one animal lives on the surface of the other.
epizootic, epizooty
a disease affecting many animals at the same time; an epidemic amongst animals. epizootic, adj.
epizootiology, epizootology
the science concerned with the factors involved in the occurrence and spread of animal diseases. epizootiologic, epizootiological, adj.
estrus, oestrus
the condition of being in rut or sexual arousal, applied particularly to the female. Also spelled estrum, oestrum . estrous, oestrous, adj.
the study of animal behavior in relation to habitat. ethologist, n. ethological, adj.
haruspicy. extispex, n. extispicious, Obsolete, adj.
1. the animal life of a particular time or region.
2. a study of or treatise on the animal life of a particular time or region. faunal, adj.
a person who studies or writes on animal life; a naturalist.
a form of divination by natural phenomena, especially from inspection of the entrails of animal sacrifices. Also called extispicy, haruspication . haruspex, aruspex, n. haruspical, adj.
the study of worms, especially internal worms.
a plant-eating animal. Cf. carnivore . herbivorous, adj.
abnormal development, especially increased size, in plants or animals, usually as a result of cross-breeding.
an animal that inhabits the burrow, nest, or other habitation of another animal. inquiline, adj.
a particular type of animal life whose absence is a characteristic of a region. lipotypic, adj.
a disease, chiefly of farm animals, characterized by paralysis and impaired vision and caused by eating locoweed.
a mythical or fabulous beast with the head of a man, the body of a lion or tiger, and the feet and tail of a dragon or scorpion. Also spelled mantichora .
the branch of biology that studies the structure and form of animals and plants. morphologist, n. morphologic, morphological, adj.
an abnormal love for mice.
an abnormal fear of mice.
the science of the early or youthful stage of animal development. nealogic, adj.
any animal or plant.
the scientific description of the organs of plants and animals and of their structure and function. organographist, n. organographic, organographical, adj.
the study of the organs of plants and animals. organologist, n. organologic, organological, adj.
pl. animals that lay eggs. Cf. ovovivipara, vivipara . oviparity, n. oviparous, adj.
pl. animals that lay eggs that are hatched in their bodies, so that young are born alive, without connection to a placenta.
a relationship between animals in which one gains sustenance from the other. Cf. commensalism . See also 44. BIOLOGY ; 319. PLANTS .
a group with genetic relationship. Cf. phylum.
any of the major subdivisions of the plant or animal kingdom. Cf. phylon . See also 247. LINGUISTICS .
a place where pigs are kept; pigpen; pigsty.
a carnivorous animal. predaceous, predacious, adj.
a relation between organisms or animals in which one feeds on the other. predatory, adj.
a plot of land, square or rectangular, marked off or set out for the study of plant or animal life.
1. rabbits collectively.
2. a place where rabbits live or are kept.
an animal or plant surviving in one area after becoming extinct else-where; a survival of an earlier period. relict, adj.
a breeding or nesting place of rooks or of any gregarious bird or animal.
selective breeding to develop strains with particular characteristics. stirpicultural, adj.
Rare. the business and art of raising swine.
the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of animals so that they appear lifelike. taxidermist, n.
a container for keeping small animals.
a form of divination based upon observation of the movements of animals. Also called zoomancy .
the worship of deities that are partly animal and partly human in form. Also called therianthropism, theriolatry . theriomorphic, theriomorphous, adj.
the branch of biology that studies the breeding of domestic plants and animals.
a mammal having hoofs, as the cow, horse, etc. ungulate, adj.
Obsolete. a cow house, shed, pasture, or other place where cows are kept. Also vachery .
a condition of some animals, and especially of some fowls, in which the female, when old, assumes some of the characteristics of the male of the species. virilescent, adj.
an enclosed environment, as a glass container, in which plants or animals are raised under conditions that approximate their natural habitat. Also vivary .
a vivarium.
pl. animals that bear living young. Cf. ovipara, ovovivipara . viviparity, n. viviparous, adj.
1. the killing of a fox by methods other than by hunting it with hounds.
2. the killer of a fox.
a derangement in which a person believes himself to be an animal and acts accordingly. zoanthropic, adj.
the science of veterinary surgery.
the distribution of animal life by geographical location. zoogeographer, n. zoogeographic, zoogeographical, adj.
zoogony, zoogeny
1. the generation of animals.
2. a study of animal generation. zoogonic, zoogenic, adj.
1. the branch of zoology concerned with animal description.
2. pictorial art in general, but especially that which shows animals. zoographer, n. zoographic, zoographical, adj.
the worship of animal gods. Cf. theriomorphism . Also called zootheism . zoolater, n.
the branch of biology that studies and classifles all living creatures. zoologist, n. zoological, adj.
a form of divination based upon the observation of animals or their movements under certain circumstances. Also called theriomancy .
an abnormal love of animals.
the measurement and comparison of the sizes of animals and their parts.
the attribution of animal form or nature, especially to a deity. zoomorphic, adj.
zoonomy, zoonomia
the laws of animal life or the animal kingdom. zoonomist, n. zoonomic, adj.
the study or science of the diseases of animals; animal pathology. Also zoopathy .
the performing of experiments on animals, especially the lower animals. zooperal, adj.
a love of animals. zoophile, n.
zoophilism, zoophily
love of animals. zoophilist, n. zoophilous, adj.
an abnormal dread of animals. zoophobe, n.
the study of animal physiology and form. zoophysical, adj.
the physiology of animals, as distinct from that of humans.
an animal, as a sponge, coral, etc, that resembles a plant more than an animal; any of the Zoophyta. zoophytic, zoophytical, zoophytoid, adj.
the branch of zoology concerned with the zoophytes. zoophytological, adj.
the process of surgically grafting tissue from a lower animal onto the human body. zooplastic, adj.
a form of hallucination in which the sufferer imagines he sees animals. Also zooscopy .
a branch of psychology that studies animal behavior.
zoological classification; the scientific classification of animals.
the principles of animal husbandry. Also spelled zootechnics . zootechnician, n. zootechnical, adj.
the worship of animal gods; zoolatry. zootheist, n.
1. the dissection of animals other than man.
2. the anatomy of animals. zootomist, n. zootomic, zootomical, adj.


views updated May 18 2018


Animals are believed to exhibit psychic faculties similar to human beings. In her account of a case of haunting in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 8, R. C. Morton mentions two dogs who saw a ghost. The medium Mrs. J. H. Conant believed that her pet dog and cat saw the spirits she described clairvoyantly. The dog barked and snarled; the cat arched its back, spat, and ran to hide. Sir William Barrett recorded the case of the Montgomery sisters who saw a ghost floating across the road; their horse stopped and shook with fright. The watchdog of the Rev. Samuel Wesley crouched in terror during the poltergeist manifestations at Epworth Vicarage (see Epworth Phenomena ). In a poltergeist case on the Baltic Island of Oesel in 1844 a number of horses were frightened by thunderous noises coming from a nearby underground vault. The case is described in Robert Dale Owen 's Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World (1860).

Ernesto Bozzano collected many cases (published in the Annals of Psychic Science in 1905 and in Animaux et manifestations metapsychiques in 1926) in which animals as agents induce telepathic hallucinations; in which they act as percipients simultaneously with, or previously to, human beings; in which they see human or animal phantoms, collectively with human beings in which phantom animals are seen in haunted spots or periodically appear as a premonition of death. Out of a total of 69 cases, in 13 the animals were subject to supernormal psychic perceptions in precedence to humans, and in 12 they perceived things that the persons present were unable to see. In more than one-third of the cases, therefore, the animals' perception had precedence to humans. Bozzano pointed out that animals, "besides sharing with man the intermittent exercise of faculties of supernormal psychic perception, show themselves furthermore normally endowed with special psychic faculties unknown to men, such as the so-called instincts of direction and of migration, and the faculty of precognition regarding unforeseen atmospheric disturbances, or the imminence of earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions. Although man is destitute of such superior faculties of instinct, nevertheless these same faculties exist in the unexplored recesses of his subconsciousness." (See also Earthquake Prediction )

In the case of avalanches, the presentiments, especially attributed to horses, are still more mysterious. The deathhowl of dogs in anticipation of the death of their master or a member of the household is a well documented phenomenon. Gustave Geley recorded a personal experience of this in From the Unconscious to the Conscious (1920).

Supernormal perception may also work in a lower scale of life. Sir William Barrett suggested that the color changes of insect life to suit the environment might be due to causes of stigmata, i.e., suggestion unconsciously derived from the environment.

That there may be latent high faculties in animals which vie with the powers of genius was demonstrated by the famous case of the Elberfeld Horses, although many scientists have been skeptical of the evidence. An Italian horse, Tripoli, showed similar talent after a course in mathematics. The dog Rolf, of Mannheim, learned to calculate by attending the lessons given to a child. (See Proceedings of the ASPR, Vol. 13 [1919]). Rolf sired Lola who attained considerable fame as narrated in Henry Kindermann's Lola; or, The Thought and Speech of Animals (1922). She could calculate, tell the time, and phonetically spell out answers to questions. When she was asked what was the name of the Mannheim dog, she replied "mein fadr" (Mein Vater) i.e., "my father." All present had expected her to answer "Rolf."

Carita Borderieux's Les Nouveaux Animaux Pensants (Paris, 1927) tells the story of Zou, the author's calculating dog. In Proceedings of the ASPR Vol. 38, Theodore Besterman described his personal encounter with Borderieux's dog and claims to have discovered that the dog interpreted unconscious movements of Borderieux's hand. Unconscious movements were also put forward to explain the phenomena of the Elberfeld Horses, but they often gave correct answers to mathematical problems when the answer was not known by the questioner.

Unconscious signals or secret code falls far short as a theory of explanation in the case of Black Bear, the Briarcliff pony, who not only solved mathematical problems and spelled answers by selecting letters from a rack, but, according to narratives in the journal Psychic Research (April 1931), exhibited clairvoyant or telepathic powers by correctly describing playing cards which were turned face down. Black Bear either answered correctly or refused to venture an answer at all. He was never at fault and solved his problems with a supreme indifference. Mrs. Fletcher, one of his visitors, whose birthday was to occur shortlya fact which could not normally have been known to either Black Bear or Mr. Barrett (his trainer)asked these questions: "Black Bear,there is an anniversary coming soon. Can you tell me what it is?" The pony spelled out "Birthday." Mrs. Fletcher then said "That is right, now, can you tell me when it will be?" and Black Bear replied "Friday." "What date will it be?" was the next question, and Black Bear at once spelled out "August 3rd."

Regarding the survival of animals, no definite proof is available. Materialization seances in which animals are seen do not offer evidence in themselves of survival. It is the continuation of personality and memory of which proof is demanded. Obviously, the barking of dogs is not sufficiently expressive for the purpose. After-death communications, however, do assert that animals also survive. Nevertheless, as an interesting speculation, the direct voice communication given to H. Dennis Bradley should be registered. According to Bradley, animals such as tigers and snakes, etc., go to an animal kingdom, there to be redrawn upon for physical life on Earth. Animals, such as dogs and cats, that are capable of love and loyalty live with the spirits in their plane. Said Andrew Lang, "Knowing cases in which phantasms of dogs have been seen and heard collectively by several persons simultaneously, I tend to agree with the tribes of North-West Central Queensland that dogs, like men, have khoihave spirits."

In various countries of the world, the special sensory abilities of animals have been used in war and defense situations. Robert Lubow, professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University, Israel, revealed various extraordinary developments in the use of animals in his book The War Animals (1977). The Russians trained porpoises and dolphins to recognize different kinds of metal plates in warships in order to lay mines beside enemy ships, rather like the story in the film Day of the Dolphin. In Hong Kong, police tested the use of rats to sniff out heroin. In Britain, the Royal Air Force devised a system of coating aircraft flight detectors ("black boxes") with a special substance odorless to human beings but detectable by trained dogs, who can locate the recorders after a crash. During the Vietnam war, Prof. Lubow successfully trained nearly one hundred dogs to find mines and booby-traps. Insects were used at military establishments to detect the presence of intruders. Pigeons were trained for aerial reconnaissance to identify man-made objects from natural features of the landscape; a radio direction finder would be triggered by the pigeon's landing, transmitting the information to a remote patrol. In Israel, dogs have been used successfully to detect letter-bombs in the mail. The scent of the explosive is apparently perceptible to a dog even in a sack of 600 letters.

(See also Anpsi )


Boone, J. Allen. Kinship with All Life. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1954.

Bozzano, Ernesto. "Animals and Psychic Perceptions." Annals of Psychic Science (August 1905).

Burton, Maurice. The Sixth Sense of Animals. New York: Taplinger, 1973; London: Dent, 1973.

Gaddis, Vincent, and Margaret Gaddis. The Strange World of Animals and Pets. 1970. Reprint, New York: Pocket Books, 1971.

Kindermann, Henny. Lola; or, the Thought and Speech of Animals. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1923.

Lilly, J. Man and Dolphin. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961.

Lorenz, Konrad. King Solomon's Ring. New York: Time, 1962.

Lubow, Robert. The War Animals. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977.

Maeterlinck, Maurice. The Unknown Guest. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1975.

Schul, Bill. The Psychic Power of Animals. Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett, 1977.

Selous, Edmund. Thought-Transference (or What?) in Birds. London: Constable & Co. Ltd., 1931.


views updated May 17 2018



Significance . Animals played an important role in Egyptian religion. Most of the Egyptian gods could at times be depicted either as an animal or an animal-headed human. Since the Egyptians apprehended their gods through the natural world, it is not surprising to find that animals were viewed as manifestations of the divine. Several theories have been suggested as to why this view was the case. Henri Frankfort has suggested that it was the apparently unchanging nature of the animals that impressed the Egyptians. From generation to generation, humans exhibit changes in appearance, while animals appear the same. An important element in Egyptian theology was that the perfect pattern of existence had been established by the gods at the time of creation, called the sep-tepythe.dfirst time, and it was important that this pattern be maintained. Animals would seem to have been more successful than man at maintaining their form established at the first time. Another suggestion, by Hellmut Brunner, is that it was the animals’ possession of superhuman powers, such as flight, speed, stealth, heightened senses, and strength that made the Egyptians perceive them as beings through whom the gods were manifest. One thing is certain: the Egyptians did not see a wide gulf separating gods and humans from the animals. The creative powers of the mind and tongue were thought to be operative in the gods, mankind, and animals equally. A hymn to Amun states that he cares even for worms, fleas, mice in their holes, and insects. The First Intermediate Period (circa 2130-1980 b.c.e.) nomarch (provincial governor) Henqu states that not only did he give bread to the hungry and clothing to the naked in his nome, but he also provided the jackals of the mountains and the birds of the sky with food, putting good deeds toward humans and animals on the same level. Given the close association between animals and the gods, it is not surprising that animals could be worshiped not as gods but as the means through which the gods manifested themselves, much as a statue was worshiped as a vehicle through which the god was manifest. This distinction was lost on the Greeks, who, when they encountered Egyptian religion, thought the Egyptians were worshiping the animals as their gods, as the following quotation from Clemens Alexandrinus makes clear:

The temples [of the Egyptians] sparkle with gold, silver and mat gold and flash with colored stones from India and Ethiopia. The sanctuaries are overshadowed by cloths studded with gold. If, however, you enter the interior of the enclosure, hastening towards the sight of the almighty and look for the statue residing in the temple, and if a [priest] or another celebrant, after having solemnly looked round the sanctuary, singing a song in the language of the Egyptians draws back the curtain a little to show the god, he will make us laugh about the object of worship. For we shall not find the god for whom we have been looking inside, the god towards whom we have hastened, but a cat or a crocodile, or a native snake or a similar animal, which should not be in a temple, but in a cleft or a den or on a dung heap. The god of the Egyptians appears on a purple couch as a wallowing animal. Translation by K. A. D. Smelik

Sacredness . Evidence for the veneration of animals dates back to the fourth millennium b.c.e. Predynastic burials of gazelles, dogs, cattle, monkeys, and rams have been found at Badari, Naqada, Maadi, and Heliopolis. The care taken in the burial of these animals and the fact that they were buried with grave goods is considered to be evidence for a cult of sacred animals in Egypt at this early date. The earliest mention of a particular sacred animal, the Apis bull, dates to the reign of King Aha of Dynasty 1 (circa 3000-2800 b.c.e.). During Dynasty 26 (664-525 b.c.e.) the cult of sacred animals received renewed emphasis, perhaps as a resurgence of Egyptian nationalism, and

reached their acme during the Late (664-332 b.c.e.) and Ptolemaic (332-330 b.c.e.) periods. Most of the large animal necropolises date to the latter period.

Temple Animal . There were three types of sacred animals in ancient Egypt. One type is the temple animal. These animals performed the same function as cult statues and were considered vessels through which the gods could make their wills manifest. These animals lived in or near a temple and were distinguished by special markings. For example, the Apis bull, which lived at Memphis, was a bull with a white triangle on its forehead, a crescent moon on its chest and another on its flanks, and double hairs (black and white) in its tail. The Apis bull was thought to be the ba, or manifestation, of the god Ptah. At certain times of day the bull was released into a courtyard where worshipers would gather to see him and receive oracles. People could put a yes-or-no question to the bull, and the answer was received when the bull entered one of two stables. When the bull died, there was a time of widespread mourning, and an elaborate embalming and burial ceremony was carried out. The Apis bull was buried in a stone sarcophagus in a mausoleum known as the Serapeum at Saqqara. The search for the new Apis bull then began. Other examples of such temple animals include the Mnevis bull at Heliopolis (Atum-Re), the Buchis bull of Hermonthis (Montu), the

ram of Mendes (Osiris-Re), and the ram of Elephantine (Khnum).

Same Species . Those animals that belong to the same species as the temple animal represent the second type. These animals were not thought to be special manifestations of particular gods, but because the god or goddess could appear in the guise of one of these animals, others of the same species were considered dear to the god. Large numbers of these animals could be kept near a temple. At Saqqara there was an extensive complex of buildings dedicated to the care of flocks of ibises (associated with Thoth), falcons (associated with Horus), and cats (associated with Bastet). Such large collections of animals served as the source of the enormous number of animal mummies that have been preserved. Sacred animal necropolises throughout Egypt contain literally millions of mummified animal burials. In addition to the ibis necropolis at Saqqara, there are necropolises for cats at Bubastis, rams at Elephantine, crocodiles, snakes, falcons, and ibises at Kom Ombo, and ibises and falcons at Abydos. Other animals that were buried include sheep, dogs, baboons, jackals, fish of several species, shrews, scorpions, and scarab beetles. The main differences that separate this category of sacred animal from the first is that there was only one temple animal at a time; the temple animal received a cult, while these animals did not, and the mortuary services for the temple animals were much more elaborate.

Votive Offerings . The reason for the mummification and burial of such enormous numbers of animals in ancient Egypt is related to their association with the gods. People who visited the various temples during festival periods were anxious to make an offering to the god in an attempt to earn his blessing. One acceptable votive offering was the mummified remains of an animal associated with the god. A prayer inscribed on a jar containing an ibis mummy asked Thoth to be benevolent toward the woman who had embalmed his sacred animal. Most such offerings took place during festivals. In order to ensure a plentiful supply of animals for pilgrims, the priests were not adverse to hastening the death of an animal. At this point, the extent of this practice is uncertain. The one population of animal mummy that has been systematically studied is cats. An examination of their mummies at the British Museum reveals that the majority of them died either at two or four months old, or between nine and twelve months, although the average life span of a cat should have been around twelve years. In addition, a common cause of death among the cats was a dislocation of the cervical vertebrae, which could be the result of violently twisting the head of an animal until its neck broke. Other cat mummies show evidence of having been bashed over the head. Apparently the sacredness of these animals to the gods did not prevent the priests from doing what was necessary to supply a pilgrim with a mummified animal.

Private Homes . The third type of sacred animal includes members of the same species as the temple animals that were kept in private homes as representatives of the gods. For example, snakes, cats, or dogs were often kept in homes and buried at their deaths. This practice is analogous to the construction of household shrines to allow for domestic worship.


Ann Rosalie David, The Ancient Egyptians: Religious Beliefs and Practices (London & Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982).

Jaromir Malek, The Cat in Ancient Egypt (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993).

H. te Velde, “A Few Remarks upon the Religious Significance of Animals in Ancient Egypt,” Numen, 27 (1980): 76-82.


views updated May 29 2018


In the early days of space travel, scientists wanted to ensure that animals could survive spaceflight before they attempted to send humans. During these first animal flights, scientists were able to test how a living organism would react to the unique environment of spaceflightincluding such factors as cosmic radiation , the high rate of acceleration during the flight, and the effects of reduced gravity, also known as microgravity, on the body's cells and vital organs (e.g., the heart and lungs). The evaluation of animals in space also gave scientists information on how the brain would behave in microgravity.

Dogs Lead the Way

The first animal was launched from the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico on June 14, 1949. Albert 2 was a monkey, and he traveled 134 kilometers (83 miles) above Earth in a V-2 rocket . His heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate were analyzed, but he died on his way back to Earth when the rocket's parachute failed to open. The first successful live-animal spaceflight happened on September 20, 1951, when the Soviet Union sent a monkey and eleven mice into space and back in a rocket. Then on November 3, 1957, the Soviets sent a dog named Laika in a special animal compartment on Sputnik 2. Laika became the first animal to orbit Earth, although she died after four days in space.

On August 19, 1960, the Russians sent up two dogs, Strelka and Belk, on Sputnik 5. These two animals survived fifteen orbits, returned to Earth, and later gave birth to litters of healthy puppies. The following year, two Soviet missions, Sputniks 9 and 10, each carried dogs that survived the flight and returned home. After these and other successful dog flights, scientists began sending monkeys and chimpanzees, because their bodies most closely resembled the human body. These missions paved the way for human space travel because they proved that vital organs, such as the brain, heart, and lungs, could function in microgravity.

The Neurolab Shuttle Mission: How the Brain Works in Space

In April 1998, animals played an important role on the Neurolab mission aboard space shuttle flight STS-90. This mission was dedicated to studying the effects of weightlessness or microgravity and other aspects of the space environment on the nervous system. Researchers were interested in how microgravity affects an animal's sensory systems. Signals from the sensory systems relate to balance, vision, and muscle movement and allow an animal to maintain stable vision, posture, coordination, and motion. A variety of species were on Neurolab, including rats, mice, swordtail fish, toadfish, crickets, and snails. Such experiments help scientists develop computer models so they can study how living organisms change while in space, including how their development and growth are affected. Studies on the brains, bones, muscles, and hearts of animals in space help scientists keep track of the effects that the space environment has on humans.

NASA Pulls Out of Bion Mission

In the United States, animals used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are protected under regulations outlined in the "Principles for the Ethical Care and Use of Animals." In the mid-1990s, NASA was criticized by animal rights activists for participating in the Bion 11 and Bion 12 missions. The Bion programs were cooperative ventures between the United States, Russia, and France, and were intended to study the effects of low gravity and space radiation on primates such as monkeys. Activists claimed, however, that these studies were unnecessary because humans were already safely spending extended periods of time in space.

In December 1996, the Bion 11 satellite sent two rhesus monkeys into space, and they returned to Earth safely two weeks later. But the day after their return, one of the monkeys died after it had an adverse reaction to anesthesia when researchers where trying to surgically remove bone and muscle tissue samples. The second monkey also had an adverse reaction, although it survived. The Bion missions were the first that involved placing animals under anesthesia immediately upon returning to Earth after spending extended periods of time in a low-gravity atmosphere.

NASA investigated the Bion mission and determined that the monkeys were at a great risk when exposed to the anesthesia so soon after returning to Earth. Because of this risk, NASA declared that the United States would not participate in Bion 12 or any other future Bion missions.

see also Life Support (volume 3); Primate, Non-Human (volume 3).

Julie L. McDowell


National Research Council. Space Science Board. Human Factors in Long-Duration Spaceflight. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 1972.

Internet Resources

The Brain in Space: A Teacher's Guide with Activities in Neuroscience. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. <>.

"NASA Suspends Future Participation in Bion Missions." American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology. <>.


views updated May 23 2018


Animals are a group of multicelled, living organisms that take in food. Most animals reproduce sexually (with sperm fertilizing an egg), can move about, and are able to respond to their surroundings. Of the separate divisions of living organisms, the animal kingdom forms the largest in terms of the number of species.

Animals range in size from barely visible one-celled animals to the 100-foot (3.48 meter) blue whale. Different creatures may slither, burrow, climb, run, swim, and fly—yet they are all considered part of the Animalia kingdom. The Animalia kingdom is one of the five major divisions of all living organisms. The other kingdoms are Monera (bacteria with no nucleus); Protista (one-celled organisms with a nucleus); Fungi (multicelled organisms that take in food); and Plantae (multicelled plants that make their own food).


There are six major characteristics of all animals, whether they are worms or whales. First, animals cannot produce their own food (as plants do) and must therefore rely on eating other living things. Second, animals cannot use protein, fats, and carbohydrates directly and so must first digest or break them down into smaller molecules. Third, because of their need to find food and a mate, as well as escape from an enemy, animals have developed a way to move from place to place. Fourth, animals are multicellular, having many cells that are highly specialized. Fifth, animal cells are eukaryotic, meaning that each has a nucleus surrounded by a membrane. Sixth, animals are able to respond quickly and in the correct manner to changes in their environment.


To classify the different types of animals or to group them by their similarities, biologists have divided animals into vertebrates (those with a backbone) and invertebrates (those without backbones). Although vertebrates, such human beings, whales, elephants, and dolphins, are the biggest and brainiest of the animals, about 97 percent of the entire animal kingdom is made up of invertebrates like worms, sponges, clams, and insects. The next thing a person who classifies animals considers is the physical arrangement of an animal's body parts. Some animals (like humans) have what is called "bilateral symmetry." This means that if an imaginary line were drawn from top to bottom of an animal, each half of its body would be a mirror image of the other. Those with "radial symmetry," like sea anemones, have their body parts arranged in a circle around a central point. Others like a sponge, have no definite shape at all and are called "asymmetrical."


Among the major divisions of better-known animals, it is possible to group several according to some of their easily identifiable features. One of these groups includes animals with exoskeletons or strong and light skeletons on the outside of their bodies. Examples of animals with exoskeletons include horseshoe crabs, oysters, and snails as well as insects like spiders and ticks. Animals with a backbone include fishes with gills, amphibians who live on land but need to breed in water, and cold-blooded (animals whose body temperature changes with the environment) reptiles like lizards, snakes, and crocodiles. Birds evolved from reptiles as their scales changed into feathers. They lay eggs and can fly. Mammals are warm-blooded and give birth to live young. The strangest group of animals may be the echinoderms or "spiky skin" animals like starfish. Their structure and shape are completely different from other animals, including five identical parts and a skeleton of plates inside their bodies. Although echinoderms have no head, brain, or blood, they are still members of the animal kingdom. The animal kingdom, of which human beings are one part, includes a wide variety of different but related life forms.

[See alsoArthropods; Echinoderms; Mollusks; ]


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Animals. The resemblances between many animals and humans, not least in their dependence on food and air, has given to animals a special status in all religions. Thus it has been widely believed that suprahuman realities, not least divine and diabolic, can take on the form of animals. They can also epitomize, in the form of totems, the networks of relationship which constitute a human society. Bearing, as they do, the obvious signs of vitality, animals have been a major part of sacrifice, becoming instrumental in expressing the many needs which humans have felt in their relation to God and to each other. Some religions (e.g. Islam) have retained animal sacrifice (ʿId al-Aḍḥā), but others have reacted strongly against the efficacy of such acts (e.g. Buddhism and Jainism). However, even in religions where the sacrifice of animals has taken, or does take, place, animals may be given a high and revered status. Judaism and Islam emphasize that they come from the hand of the Creator, and while they are to some extent given to humans for their use and food (e.g. Qurʾān 16. 5–8), this is within limits, and must always be in the context of kindness. Among Hindus, there is a controlling sense that that which alone is truly real (whether conceived of as Brahman or as God) underlies and guarantees the subsistence of all appearance: ‘This form is the source and indestructible seed of innumerable incarnations within the cosmos, and from it the appearances of all different living beings are created, heavenly beings, animals, humans, and all other kinds.… Thus you should regard deer, camels, monkeys, donkeys, rats, reptiles, birds and flies as though they are your own children’ (Śrimad-Bhagavatam). This underlying attitude is epitomized in the sacred cow (go). Not surprisingly, animals can be the focus of worship and in particular can be the forms of incarnation (avatāra). The principle of ahiṃsā, emphasized and reinforced among Jains and Buddhists, led to a strong preference for vegetarianism (for this issue in general, see FOOD). An attempt to mobilize the resources of religion for greater care of the environment and of animals within it was made in the Assisi meetings and declarations in 1986.