Do animals have rights? It is becoming quite common to think so. Talk about animal rights follows on, of course, from talk about human rights. Those who advocate animal rights are proposing we extend the idea of rights from humans to other animals. How should Christians think about this? Does the Bible give us any guidance?This is an excellent, well-argued and thought-provoking piece, carefully supported from Scripture, with a useful list of references. I really do urge you to read it in full. I don't know if Richard Bauckham is a Franciscan, but he'd be very much at home in Franciscan company, of that I'm sure!
I can't help ending with the article's last couple of paragraphs - the picture of learning to worship with the animals is just irresistable...
In my view, the most important way in which Scripture sets us alongside the animals as fellow creatures is its portrayal of the worship of God by all of god’s creation. Modern readers of the Bible sometimes take such passages to be mere poetic fancy. Of course, they do not mean that other creatures worship God in the ways that we do. Other creatures worship God just by being themselves. They exist for God’s glory. Their worship expresses the value they have for God.
The best way to learn to value other creatures is to learn to worship with them, to recover the sense, so powerful in the book of Psalms, that our own worship is part of the worship of the whole creation. In worship we do not stand above our fellow-creatures, but beside them and before the God who created us all. The Bible never suggests that we help other creatures to worship. Rather, a passage like Psalm 148 gives the strong impression that they help us to worship. Coming to appreciate the value they have for God raises our hearts and minds in praise to their Creator.