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Animals eating animals

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Published: 1 July 2017 (GMT+10)

Peter F. from Malta asks:

    I have the following questions for you.

  1. Regarding animals, God’s word says in the future they will not eat meat anymore. Some vegan people are giving non-meat diets to animals now. Would it be better if they waited for the Lord to do it? As they are now, it might harm them if they do not eat meat. After all the Lord wants them to eat meat for now.
  2. To be honest, I always see it as unfair on animals to suffer because of Adam and Eve’s Fall. Why did God put a curse on the natural world also and not just the humans?

Lita Sanders, CMI-US, responds:

Thanks for writing in. This is an interesting question! Let’s start with the biblical foundation on this.

  1. God created all animals to eat plants. In Genesis 1:30 God gives plants for food to all animals, indicating that no animals were created carnivorous. Therefore, carnivory was one of many effects of the Fall.
  2. Isaiah seems to envision a time when animals return to their vegetarian state (Isaiah 11, 65). Various groups place this time either during the millennium or the restored creation afterwards; for the sake of our argumentation either future time will suffice (CMI takes no eschatological positions beyond affirming the future return of Christ, the bodily resurrection of the dead at that time, and the physical restoration of creation). So part of the restoration of creation will involve animals no longer engaging in carnivory.

So the Bible says that all animals used to eat only vegetables, and one day they will return to that diet. What about now?

There is a tendency to overestimate the degree to which animals are carnivorous. Even many obligate carnivores like cats prefer some vegetation in their diet (my own pet cat adores catgrass and catnip, as well as any other plants I give her that are nontoxic to cats). There are accounts of many surprising vegetarians, like Lea the spaghetti lioness and Florence the vegetarian shark. Most theropods (the family of T. rex) were vegetarian, and the piranha has a cousin, the pacu, that is nearly indistinguishable but completely vegetarian.

So, does that mean that we should feed our pets vegetarian diets? First, it would depend on the species, but some animals, like cats, are considered obligate carnivores because their bodies no longer produce certain nutrients that they can only get from meat (although we have featured an article about one cat that refused to eat meat). One effect of the Fall is that some animals have lost the ability to produce essential compounds from plant nutrients, meaning they must get it from other animals. For instance, cats need vitamin A and taurine in their diets, which they can only get from meat. So while cats certainly like to eat a bit of catnip alongside their dinner, they do seem to require meat to live. Some veterinarians even plead with vegans not to own pet cats if they cannot in good conscience feed them the meaty diet felines require to be healthy. Some other animals could be in the same category.

If you are thinking of changing your pet’s diet for any reason, you should consult with your veterinarian to make sure that the diet is safe for your pet and will fulfill all its (post-Fall) nutritional needs. But just because animals (and humans!) will return to a vegetarian diet in the restored creation, that doesn't mean that it's better to do so now.

To address your other question: Why did the Fall affect animals, not just humans? One important reason is that Adam acted as the ‘federal head’ of creation. God gave him dominion, and so when he sinned, everything under his dominion also fell. You can search creation.com for "dominion mandate" for more about that idea.

I hope this is helpful.

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