Christian views on the status of animals have varied greatly. The traditional view is that humans are 'made in God's image', very different from other animals. We're special, and we have been given 'dominion' over nature. This means humans can use animals to meet their own needs, and do not need to worry about the animals' well being.
However, many Christians disagree. God made all of the animals, and He saw that they were good. God gave humans 'stewardship' over the animals, which means we need to look after them and care for them.
Church of England
(a) reaffirms the biblical vision of creation according to which: Creation is a web of inter-dependent relationships bound together in the covenant which God the Holy Trinity has established with the whole earth and every living being.
(i) the divine Spirit is sacramentally present in creation, which is therefore to be treated with reverence, respect and gratitude
(ii) human beings are both co-partners with the rest of creation and living bridges between heaven and earth, with responsibility to make personal and corporate sacrifices for the common good of all creation
(iii) the redemptive purpose of God in Jesus Christ extends to the whole of creation.
Lambeth Conference, 1998
“The fact that animals may be used in scientific procedures for the benefit of people shows that we believe that human beings have more value than animals. But the fact that we minimise the pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm that animals may have to undergo shows that we regard them as having intrinsic value.”
Our Responsibility for the Living Environment 1986
"The Church recognises the need for animals to be used in certain research to improve medical understanding, veterinary or behavioural knowledge, and to test for the safety of chemicals, and understands tat such testing is a requirement of law. It also, however, affirms that responsible stewardship of the natural world requires all animals to receive careful and sympathetic treatment, both during their lives and in the manner of their dying."
What the Churches say, CEM
Roman Catholic Church
Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.
The Catechism 2415
God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives.
It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.
The Catholic Church teaches that we should have respect for animals, and not cause them un-necessary harm. However, animals should not be treated like people, and it is okay to eat meat, wear leather and experiment on animals.
The Baptist Church
“Most Baptists would be sympathetic to the use of animals in medical research, but less enthusiastic about their use in cosmetic products.”
Rev. Anne Wilkinson-Hayes, 1992
Society of Friends (Quakers)
“We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over Nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life.”
Quaker Advices and Queries 42
“The most controversial area of animal exploitation for Quakers is that of medical experimentation. There are many Quaker doctors and some medical researchers who hold Home Office licences to experiment on live animals The latter would justify their actions by citing the beneficial results which they feel can be achieved for humans and animals through the knowledge gained."
What the Churches say, CEM
The Earth is the Lord’s. We share creation with all other creatures. Christians serve as stewards under God.
Animal testing - We condemn needless or unjustifiable testing on animals. Experiments on animals to assess the effect of cosmetics is wrong.
Farming - Intensive factory farming practices – such as caging chickens in batteries – where the welfare of the animals involved is not considered should be challenged.
Hunting and sports - Cruel sports, such as stag hunting and hare coursing, are to be condemned, not only for the suffering imposed on the animal but also for the effect on the human participant.
Conservation - Many animal species are threatened with extinction or decimation because of human activities. This is a terrible situation and endangered species must get special protection.
Statement on the Treatment of Animals, 1980
“It should be horrifying that millions of animals are killed every year in laboratory experiments, but most of them have been bred for the purpose and the outcome of the experimentation is valuable advance in both human and veterinary medicine."
“Unnecessary or unjustifiable experimentation, as on the effect of cosmetics; the use of numbers of animals in an experiment far in excess of a reasonable control and check number; excessive duplication of experiments in different laboratories; the use of animals when valid results could be secured from tissue cultures; are all to be condemned."
A Methodist Statement on the Treatment of Animals, 1980