Controversy: Are Strong Protections of Private Property Rights Necessary for Species Preservation?

By Krueger, Frederick W.; Richards, Jay W. | Journal of Markets & Morality, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Controversy: Are Strong Protections of Private Property Rights Necessary for Species Preservation?


Krueger, Frederick W., Richards, Jay W., Journal of Markets & Morality


The protection of endangered species is a biblically mandated responsibility for Christians and Jews. The Scriptures declare that all land is owned first by God; humans are stewards who act on behalf of God and in obedience to His commandments. The Judeo-Christian tradition requires property owners to care for the land so that endangered species are protected and preserved. Therefore, Christians and Jews should not only support protection for endangered species and their habitat, but they should oppose the notion that public funds should compensate landowners who must use their property to further the good of creation and society.

Observant Christians and Jews should have no question about the importance of protecting endangered species. The Scriptures are clear on this question. Orthodox Christian theology, as expressed through its saints and great theologians, declares care for the animals. Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, Orthodox, and evangelical churches, plus the main branches of Judaism, all support care for animals, especially endangered species. Even medical science declares the value of saving species, and emphasizes that human research has barely surveyed 5 percent of botanicals for potential pharmacological benefits, this means their value for human well-being is scarcely appreciated.

The Biblical Foundation in Brief

References to animals occur hundreds of times in the Bible. Some key Scriptural themes include the intrinsic worth of animals, the obedience of animals to their God-given nature, the service of animals to humans, and the fact that animals give glory to God and shall "sing in the heavenly choir." (1) These themes weave together to form a biblical imperative for the ethical treatment of animals. The few passages cited here only introduce the depth of meaning in Scripture about animals.

Animals Fulfill a Command from God

   And God said, "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving
   creatures ... and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open
   firmament of heaven." And God created ... every living creature
   that moveth ... and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them,
   saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters ... and let
   fowl multiply in the earth" (Gen.1:20-22).

The implications of this passage are several: (1) biodiversity is inherent in creation; (2) humanity shares the world with other creatures; (3) destruction of species violates God's intention as he gives them purpose and direction; and (4) habitat preservation is fundamental to species preservation.

When God creates the birds, animals, and plants, each is given a place and purpose in creation. Each species has value in God's sight because He deliberately creates them and calls their creation "good." This implies that an exclusively utilitarian view is not an appropriate perspective as there is intrinsic value in all parts of creation.

God commands every creature to "be fruitful and multiply" and to fill the earth. Therefore, they owe an obedience to God to perpetuate themselves. This means human action cannot abrogate or set aside what God has commanded by destroying any species. Preservation of animal species becomes a ministry and noble work of discipleship because it gives love and service toward the maintenance of God's good creation.

Importantly, the command to the animals to be fruitful and multiply comes before the command to humans to be fruitful and multiply. This means that any action that destroys a species or that passively stands by and fails to act when the command of God is being violated disregards God's intent for the world. Failure to respect this command is a sin, because it represents willful disobedience of God's decree for the world.

God's command that every place where creatures dwell bring forth abundantly presumes suitable habitat. This means a healthy environment in which people, animals, and plants all live together and flourish. …

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