God did not give humans domination over animals

By John Di Leonardo

Lent—the Christian religious observance commemorating the 40 days Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert and enduring temptation by Satan, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke—has begun.

Long before I discovered Jainism, I was raised Christian. I attended Church every Sunday, went to Bible school, worked in the rectory, and was even a Eucharistic minister. Like all observant Christians, each year I gave up something important to me from Ash Wednesday until Holy Thursday 40 days later to honor Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.

Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for George Bush and Sarah Palin, wrote about Lent in his book Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy: [T]here was a time when Christians fasted from animal products throughout all forty days of Lent, a form of self-denial still found among the orthodox and matched in Islam by the prohibition on killing game while on pilgrimage.

The next step seems obvious to me. If sanctity is the goal, and flesh-eating a mark of the Fall, the one is to be sought and the other to be avoided. Why just say grace when you can show it? Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, the life of a pig or a cow or fowl of the air isn’t worth much. But if it’s the Grand Scheme we are going by, just what is a plate of bacon or veal worth? The skeptical reader can write me off as misguided, if not mad. I am betting that in the Book of Life “He had mercy on the creatures” is going to count more than “He ate well.”

This Lent, I invite readers of all faiths to consider these words alongside Genesis 1:26-1:29:

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. 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.

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

God did not give humans domination over animals. He charged us with dominion—or stewardship—over His Creation. He also did not give us animals as meat, but fruits and seeds instead. No matter your faith, it is clear no benevolent Creator would the cruelties of a slaughterhouse.

For this week’s Anuvrat, I invite readers to make a 40-day Lenten commitment of your own, whether this is practicing a new Anuvrat each day or one Anuvrat—such as giving up meat and dairy—to last the entire 40-day span. It takes 30 days to create a new habit, so 40 should be more than enough to go vegan. I replaced dairy with vegan alternatives after reading Dominion 15 years ago and I’ve never looked back.



John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].

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