Last year, The HSUS launched its Animals and Religion program—a campaign that calls upon religious people to put faith into action. All of the world’s major religions speak to our responsibilities to animals, and we at The HSUS have not invented this concern, but reminded them of their own powerful traditions.
Since animals’ lives are bound up with our lives today and throughout history, it would be wrongheaded to think that the principles of kindness and mercy would not apply to animals as well as people. In referencing Luke 2:1-20, Pastor Glenn Pease in his sermon on Christmas Animals reminds us of the central place of animals in Jesus’s birth:
"In His birth our Lord Jesus identified with the animal kingdom. He was born in a stable meant for the shelter of animals. He was laid in a manger meant for the feeding of animals. The first sounds baby Jesus heard could have been the sound of animals. He was first announced to the shepherds whose whole life revolved around the care, feeding, and protection of animals. The wise men, who represented the Gentile world, made their journey to worship Him on animals. They were likely camels, although horses were not impossible. Mary likely made it to Bethlehem riding on a donkey. Later in His life, Jesus was in a context where He related both to the angels and animals. Mark 1:13 says, ‘He was with the wild animals, and angels attended Him.’ This was during His forty days in the wilderness. Angels and animals have this in common, they are both servants of God and man. They are both a part of the Christmas story." (Read a hymn that illustrates the animals’ role in the Christmas story here.)
Among Jesus’s many favorable references to animals in the New Testament, he is twice quoted (Luke 12:6, Matthew 10:29) as saying that the Lord cares for all his creatures, even those considered the "lowliest" of them: "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God."
Indeed, compassion for animals is not just an integral part of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, but it is a tenet and teaching of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, too.
And so, as the holiday reminds us to love others and spread goodness, it is impossible for me to imagine that the abuse or neglect of animals could ever be acceptable to a merciful God.