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Sarah Withrow King: Animals Are Not Ours (No, Really, They’re Not)

Unfortunately for readers, the book contains several significant weaknesses. First, the text lacks sufficient focus. For instance, King quickly moves from talking about the alleged horrors of intensive fish production (often called factory farming) to research on mice and rats. Granted she dislikes them both but are they morally equal? Her failure to engage the subject matter at a deeper level is demonstrated by her ignoring Christ’s behavior that appears antithetical to her opinion such as Christ’s treatment of fish (see pp.52ff; 66). Second, like many Christian animal activists, she ignores evidence that diametrically opposes her position. Now granted, many scholars never allow evidence to get in the way of a good theory. So, King is in good company here. But I want readers of this review to know that there is a lot of counter-evidence against her view and that of others in the Christian animal protectionists movement. My dissertation and subsequent publications discuss many of them (see Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations, 2009), but I will list a few of them here. Consider the following passages and ask yourself: Do these passages support to the notion that Christ came to stop animal suffering through His reconciling work?

  • Isaiah 25:6. In the eschaton, YHWH will provide a feast with bone-marrow on the menu.
  • Luke 15:23. The Prodigal Son parable mentions a fatted calf. Have you thought about how the calf got fattened up?
  • Matthew 8:30 and parallels. If Christ cared so much about animal suffering, why did He send the demons into swine? Why did He not save them from drowning or resurrect them when they did?

There are many more. Note, I have not even discussed how her interpretation of various passages (e.g. Deut. 25:4; Isa. 11:6) fail under exegetical scrutiny. Likewise, her treatment of words exemplifies the error known as illegitimate semantic totality transfer. For example, on p. 32 King claims that Joel’s prophecy concerning God’s promise to pour out His spirit on all flesh includes animals (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:22-28; see p. 77) presumably because animals also have flesh. It does not seem to occur to her that flesh may be used more narrowly here to refer to humans.

Third, King makes many assertions without references to support them. On page 68, she claims that animal testing is less accurate than other types of studies designed to study product safety. She may be correct. But without a reference, we just have to take her word for it.

There is much to criticize in this book, but I suspect readers get the idea. Nevertheless, if you are looking for more rules to follow, then I would highly recommend this book. King provides many rules to live by that will help you suffer under the bondage of another legalism, should that be your desire.

Reviewed by Stephen M. Vantassel


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Category: Fall 2017, Living the Faith

About the Author: Stephen M. Vantassel, Ph.D. theology (Trinity Theological Seminary), M.A.T.S. Old Testament (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), B.S. Biblical Studies (Gordon College), is a tutor of theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School in Broadstairs, U.K. and Assistant Editor for the Evangelical Review of Theology and Politics. His dissertation on the role of animals in Christian theology was published in expanded form in Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009). He lives with his wife in Lewistown, Montana. He regularly posts articles at

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