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From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner

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Feedback archiveFeedback 2017

Animals eating animals

iStockphoto tiger
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 Cosner, 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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Readers’ comments
Todd T., United States, 8 July 2017

My cat absolutely loves spinach and arugula. The second he hears the container open, no matter where he is in the house, he comes flying into the kitchen.

James L., United States, 7 July 2017

This question causes my heart to long for the second advent of our Saviour , Jesus Christ ! He promises us an eternity void of murder, wars , poverty , cancer , and all trace of sin , now that is a blessed Hope that we all can share. We do not have to worry about food , because the Lord has the best eats anyone can enjoy, He specializes in only the best! Thanks , and God bless everyone who loves their Creator , J.L.

Antuan S., South Africa, 7 July 2017

The Bible stating that plants were provided for food is not the logical equivalent of there being no carnivores (or omnivores). Nor that the eating of meat is as a result of the fall. It's a bit of a leap that is not really supported by scripture, so why promote it? How is it that the "fallen" food chain managed to be perfectly balanced and ecologically friendly? Maybe because God made it that way and saw that it was good.

Lita Cosner responds

Except as the article stated, Scripture teaches that God provided plants for food for both animals and humans originally, and Isaiah envisions a future time when carnivores return to that original plant diet. Also, the degree to which animals are carnivorous is often overestimated. The fact that the environment was able to adjust to the advent of carnivory just shows how resilient the ecosystem is, due to God's good design.

JUDY M., Australia, 6 July 2017

I believe cats have largely lost the ability to thrive on vegetable matter only as they have lost certain enzymes. It is easier for dogs to thrive on a vegetarian diet, and if I have another dog, as I plan to one day, I would certainly provide vegetarian (vegan) food for it to enjoy. as long as food is tasty there is no deprivation - in fact, the animal may live a longer, healthier life without cancer or arthritis. The longest-living dog was a vegetarian border collie, I have read.

Richard F., United Kingdom, 5 July 2017

We don't know but what are the timing options for (obligate) carnivores having the teeth for carnivory (or indeed the sinews for chasing their prey, the stereoptic vision to gauge distances, and the enzymes for digesting them. Were these built in to the tiger during creation week but lying dormant until God's curse, or did these characteristics appear at or after the Fall (which would be a form of planned 'mutation' and evolutionary survival of the fittest). I have always found the argument that a tiger's canine teeth were probably there for ripping into dense vegetation to eat rather unpersuasive. Or did tigers eat carcasses before the Fall. For that matter did plants and animals die before the Fall?

Geoff C W., Australia, 1 July 2017

I wonder how Brer Fox managed to figure out that he needed Brer Rabbit to be on the menu at his next dinner time, in order to get his vitamin A for the day.

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