PETA: Don't call animals 'it' in the Bible
PETA wants Bible translators to consider using more animal friendly terms in the Bible
March 23rd, 2011
05:35 PM ET

PETA: Don't call animals 'it' in the Bible

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is calling for a more animal-friendly update to the Bible.

The group is asking translators of the New International Version (NIV) to remove what it calls "speciesist" language and refer to animals as "he" or "she" instead of "it."

The NIV is a popular translation of the Christian Bible. An updated translation was released this month. The translators said 95% of the 1984 translation remains the same. But the committee of scholars made a move to be more gender-inclusive in their translation into English from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. According to the Committee on Bible Translation's website:

In general, much more often than not ... "People” and "humans” (and "human beings”) were widely used for Greek and Hebrew masculine forms referring to both men and women. ... "Ancestors” was regularly preferred to "forefathers” unless a specific, limited reference to the patriarchs or to another all-male group is intended.

PETA is hoping the move toward greater gender inclusiveness will continue toward animals as well.

“When the Bible moves toward inclusively in one area ... it wasn’t much of a stretch to suggest they move toward inclusively in this area," Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vice president for policy, told CNN.

Friedrich, a practicing Roman Catholic, said, "Language matters. Calling an animal 'it' denies them something. They are beloved by God. They glorify God."

“God’s covenant is with humans and animals. God cares about animals," Friedrich said. "I would think that’s a rather unanimous opinion among biblical scholars today, where that might not have been the case 200 years ago.”

Friedrich, who is also a vegan and suggests the Bible promotes vegetarianism, puts a religious face on PETA's ethical arguments.

“What happens in slaughterhouses mocks God,” he said. People know intuitively that "animals are 'who' not 'what.' ... Acknowledging it would better align our practices with our beliefs.”

David Berger, the dean of Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel graduate school of Jewish studies, said  making the shift in English PETA is requesting would be difficult given the nature of ancient Hebrew.

“In Hebrew all nouns are gender-specific. So the noun for chair is masculine and the noun for earth is feminine. There’s simply no such thing as a neutral noun," Berger told CNN. “It’s unusual to have a noun that would indicate the sex of the animal.”

“In Proverbs it says, 'Look at the ant oh lazy person. See its ways,' " Berger said, quoting the English transition from the book of Proverbs. "In Hebrew it’s 'see her ways.' That's because the word for ant in Hebrew happens to be female. It’s not intended to exclude male ants as far as I know. It’s just an accident the Hebrew word happens to be feminine.”

He said that verse and many others are not intended to single out one sex or the other of the animals.

"It’s a little bit misleading given the fact in English the gender of the pronoun means something. It refers to the masculinity of the person or the animal that’s being referred to. In Hebrew in most cases its just sort of an accident of the masculine or feminine of the pronoun to which it referred," Berger said.

David Lyle Jeffrey, a distinguished professor of literature and the humanities at Baylor University, teaches about ancient texts and the Bible's relationship to literature and the arts.

“I agree with their contention that God cares for all of creation," Jeffrey said. "It is true that we have a responsibility to reflect that affection.

"In gender-inclusive Bible translation the generic terms for humankind, let's say, are then replaced with an emphasis on he or she. Instead of the generic he, you say he and she. I don’t quite see how that would work with animals," Jeffery said.

"Do we need to know the gender of the lion Samson slew? What would it give us there?" he said. "You could try to specify that, but you would be doing so entirely inventively if you did. It's not in the original language. ... Nothing is made of it in the story."

Jeffery said he sympathizes and agrees with PETA's position that God calls for humans to care for animals, but he said, "When you get to the point when you say, 'Don’t say it, say he or she' when the text doesn’t, you’re both screwing up the text and missing the main point you addressed."

PETA's Friedrich said his group's position has been bolstered by the creation care movement, in which many evangelicals are becoming more conscience about the environment.

"The creation care movement is certainly helpful,” he said.

Whether their arguments will be enough to sway the translators is yet to be seen. Friedrich said he has yet to hear back from the Committee on Bible Translation.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity

soundoff (495 Responses)
  1. God

    My beautiful children of this Earth!!
    I understand your thoughts on this subject and wish to express my thoughts to you. Please pay attention. I put those animals on the Earth for your enjoyment and security. Use them to till my land so that you may eat the grain. Raise cattle, chicken and other critters for food, if you desire. They are gifts to you from ME to use as you wish.
    The translations of the original book to what you read today is so off base any more that it does not matter if you genderize the animals from the original text. You have created special sauces and cooking techniques to enjoy all of my gifts of grain and animals. I smile upon you and wish you satisfaction within yourself and not to worry about what your enighbor is doing... mind your own business!!
    Yours truly,

    March 28, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  2. PETA Hates Animals

    I can't believe these idiots at PETA. I have told them over and over that every time they pull one of these stupid publicity stunts I go out and kill several animals, order a bucket of KFC, and purchase as many animal tested products as I can affortd. Yet they continue to act the fool so I continue to do everything I can to make sure that as many animals as possible suffer in labratories, slaughterhouses, and Vietnamese restaraunts. Why does PETA claim to love animals yet continuously act in a manner that they know results in animal slaughter? I guess they are just stupid.

    March 27, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  3. Sweet Jezus....

    ... its hard to decide which group is more annoying, christians or vegans. I could go the rest of my life not being proselytized by a bunch of self-righteous crazies.

    March 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  4. philwhite

    I'm a member of DDAL and the Humane Farming Association, but when it comes to messin with Biblical language, I'm agin it.
    It woud set a precident for other poltical agendas.
    We all know that God is aware when even a sparrow falls from the sky. The Book is good enough for me as is.

    March 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Julieveggie

      There is 50 different versions of the Bible in English. The Bible 'translation' is constantly being updated and changed when new information or awareness is discovered.

      Watch this video if you want a better undertstanding how the Bible is translated by Bart Ehrman,' Misquoting Jesus':http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=397006836098752165#

      March 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm |

    @jj The Bible relates that God accepted animal sacrifices. However, several later prophets objected to sacrifice, emphasizing that God prefers righteousness. Animal sacrifices are not required or even desired now, for at least two reasons. First, Paul encouraged self-sacrifice, writing, “[P]resent your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Second, traditional interpretations of Jesus’ death affirm that, because of him, animal sacrifice is no longer necessary. Christians, being new creations in Christ, may model Christ by choosing a loving relationship with all Creation. Indeed, Jesus twice quoted Hosea (6:6), saying, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7). http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/honoring.htm

    March 26, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • coloniel sanders

      i dont know about you but i think chicken is G- double-o-d good

      March 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  6. Ct

    Friedrich...are you kidding me? You're just another person looking to manipulate scripture for your own personal vegan gain. Genesis clearly says that Good have us authority over the animals. If you're familiar with the bible then you know what it says.

    Genesis 1:28 NIV

    God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

    God said we are to RULE over the animals. That means to have FULL AUTHORITY over. Pick a real issue to talk about. Like the person who was abused, the person struggling to keep their marriage together, the drug addict...What about the Cross?!! Stop wasting time on this useless topic and pick something that's going to further the kingdom, which is what God intended it for...you Pharisee!

    March 26, 2011 at 12:09 am |

      @CT As Christians, we are called to serve God, which means that we must be mindful of how our choices affect God and God’s Creation. The Bible relates that God gave humanity “dominion” over creation (Genesis 1:26),this as a sacred responsibility, not a license to ruin the environment and torment God’s creatures. Indeed, many of the world’s problems are due to human heartlessness and self-indulgence. Moving toward a plant-based diet is a responsible, effective, and faithful way to serve God and to protect God’s Creation.

      10 BILLION 'food' animals are brutally tortured & killed each year in the US. Christians Thank 'God' for this before they eat.
      Most Christians seem to be so CALLOUS to the suffering of God's animals that are used for food, but they treat their pets like spoiled children.

      Jesus did NOT eat animal products that came from INTENSIVE FACTORY FARMS where they keep animals so confined that they can't even move around. Jesus would NOT have approved of this type of cruelty that happens to God's animals. God created animals with needs, wants, feelings, and species-specific behaviors which factory farms completely deny them of. It is an abomination against God how animals are treated on factory farms. Do you approve: http://www.meatvideo.com Great Christian insight on how we are suppose to treat God's animals: http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/honoring.htm

      March 26, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  7. jj

    The Old Testament is full of animal sacrifice.

    March 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • hh

      Good point.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:18 pm |

      @jj The Bible relates that God accepted animal sacrifices. However, several later prophets objected to sacrifice, emphasizing that God prefers righteousness. Animal sacrifices are not required or even desired now, for at least two reasons. First, Paul encouraged self-sacrifice, writing, “[P]resent your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Second, traditional interpretations of Jesus’ death affirm that, because of him, animal sacrifice is no longer necessary. Christians, being new creations in Christ, may model Christ by choosing a loving relationship with all Creation. Indeed, Jesus twice quoted Hosea (6:6), saying, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7).


      March 26, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  8. iamthefredman

    The Bible. You want to rewrite the Bible. PETA people have really gone over the edge like bunch of lemmings on Kool-Aid. PETA has never saved one animal with all their tactics and fundraising and now they want to attack all of Christiandom? Wow!

    March 25, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  9. belle517

    P.E.T.A. = People Eating Tasty Animals
    He, she, it......I doesn't matter when your eating IT!

    March 25, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • iamthefredman

      That's great!

      March 25, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  10. PiddlyD

    I propose that when the 2012 end-of-days arrive, survivors collect and harvest vegans when possible. They're free-range and organically fed. Peta members will be the Kobe Beef of the apocalypse.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  11. Brad

    I think it's rather arrogant of PETA(mankind) to tell translators how to translate the bible. I like animals. but I recognize their place in the order of life as God created. These PETA people crusade for animals in ways that we should be crusading for humans, we sure could use their zeal! lol I believe you shouldn't comment on things you don't understand, and all who criticize the bible, have no understanding of it, and I'm speaking spiritually, not intellectually. Let's get our priorities straight PEOPLE!!!

    March 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • iamthefredman

      If they are so adamant about this Bible rewrite, why don't they print their own PETA Bible? Then all PETA members can sit around the same big campfire in the woods singing Kumbya, holding hands, and watching in horror as the freindly animals of the forest eat them alive.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  12. John

    It's funny the person says they're a vegan and they say that the bible supports veganism or whatever BS. Lol. We know from studies that the more vegetables you eat the less energy your cells have available and less elastic your brain is. We know that the only balanced diet is a mix of meat and vegetables. You can't eat all meat and you can't eat all vegetables. We know what happens when people try that: their health suffers. So go ahead and be a vegan, but you'll probably live a few years less than average and you won't have near as much energy and zest as a healthy person should.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  13. James

    God specifically tells us that we're more important than animals. Yes the live and share the earth with us. They were put here for us. Also, we're not to change the words of scripture. I've never seen an animal who could knowingly sin, or possessed the ability to proclaim Christ as his Savior.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Julievegggie

      @ James God does care for animals. You Christian leaders have FAILED to teach you! Proverbs 12:10 teaches, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast,” and Psalm 145:9 reminds us that “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.”

      The Bible describes God’s concern for animals repeatedly (Matt. 10:29, 12:11–12, 18:12–14) and forbids cruelty (Deut. 22:10, 25:4). Importantly, after the Flood, God made a covenant, stated five times, with animals as well as humans. All creatures share in the Sabbath rest (Exod. 20:10; Deut. 5:14). The Bible describes animals praising God (Pss. 148:7–10, 150:6), shows animals present in eternity (Isa. 65:25; Rev. 5:13), and affirms that God preserves animals (Ps. 36:6; Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20). Animals and humans look to God for sustenance (Pss. 104:27–31, 147:9; Matt. 6:26; Luke 12:6) and deliverance (Jon. 3:7–9; Rom. 8:18–23). God’s covenant in Genesis 9, in all five instances, is with all flesh, not just humans.


      March 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  14. Mike

    peta...what a bunch of idiots. I would type more but I am getting grease on my keyboard from my meatlovers pizza.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  15. kelsey

    your not supposed to change the bible or add to it.

    March 25, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • s2kMATTers


      March 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Translation

      Have you ever translated anything? O yeah, Have you ever gone through the 10,000+ manuscripts, which I think you might need to be a better informed about where the Bible came from before you go making statements like this. PETA is being quite overbearing with this, but they are hardly asking to "change" the Bible. They are putting in their narrow-perspective 2 cents worth like everyone else does when it comes to gathering the crap load of information required to make an educated guess at Bible translation and interpretation. And I'd suppose our "informed" friend (s2kMATTers) here, who seems to have a grudge against the Mormons is educated concerning these matter also... Seriously people, you can find this stuff on Wikipedia.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  16. Donald Goh

    PETA, how should Genesis 9:3 be translated "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; ". Would you want it be translated:"Every moving thing that liveth shall be friends of you,"

    March 25, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • Reality

      The Conservative Jews are way past the concerns of the pronouns used for animals in the bible:

      To wit: (a review worth "thum-ping")


      "New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument. "


      March 25, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Julievegggie

      Virtually all plants were destroyed by the Flood. Alternatively, God may have allowed Noah limited freedom to express human violence, since unrestrained violence was responsible for the Flood itself (Gen. 6:11–13). Importantly, this passage neither commands meat eating nor indicates that the practice is God’s ideal. Indeed, eating meat came with a curse—animals would no longer be humanity’s friends: “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast…” (Gen. 9:2). While eating meat was not prohibited, it represented a complete break from God’s ideal of animals and humans living peacefully together, as depicted in Eden and by the prophets.http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/honoring.htm

      March 25, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  17. augustghost

    Norman...you are a typical American fool

    March 25, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  18. bwydeman

    Man its crazy how animals are more important than human beings bless their hearts for caring for the animals and do believe we should respect God's creation but we have more serious problems to attend to then changing the word God because a animal is called a it. With third world countries lacking food and shelter it mind boggles me that the people of peta put so much effort in this cause in saving animals. Jesus is coming soon the animals on this planet will be destroyed by fire. Read Isaiah 66:15-17

    "For, behold, the Lord will come with fire ... and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves ... eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord." Isaiah 66:15-17.

    But didn't this law of clean and unclean animals originate at Sinai? Wasn't it for the Jews only, and didn't it end at the cross?

    "And the Lord said unto Noah, ... Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens ... and of beasts that are not clean by two." Genesis 7:1, 2.
    Answer: No indeed! The Bible has ample evidence that there were clean and unclean animals from the very dawn of Creation. Noah lived long before any Jews existed, but he knew of the clean and unclean, because he took into the ark the clean animals by "sevens" and the unclean by "twos." Revelation 18:2 refers to some birds as being unclean just before the second coming of Christ. The death of Christ had no altering effect whatever on these health laws, since the Bible says that all who break them will be destroyed when Jesus returns (Isaiah 66:15-17). The Jew's stomach and digestive system in no way differs from that of a Gentile. These health laws are for all people for all time.

    Jesus wants us to spread the everylasting gospel to all the world. Lets put more effort in ministry in God's work. Want to know why these things are happening in the last days check out these wonderful resources. http://www.amazingfacts.org, http://www.youtube.com/user/TheForerunner777, http://www.ktfministry.org

    March 25, 2011 at 6:12 am |
  19. are you kidding

    People actually send money into these idiots, thinking they are helping animals!

    Hey heres a question for all you peta (doesn't deserve to be in CAPS) supporters, what does the bible say about the 80+% of the animals that you take in and kill? Maybe if peta spent more of the money that they recieve on actually caring for the animals in their care, they wouldn't be killed, peta is the biggest hypocrite on the face of the earth! They are nothing but a joke! plain and simple!

    March 25, 2011 at 3:23 am |
  20. Norman

    I am going vegetarian, not because I love animals, it's because I hate vegetables!
    When PETA starts lobbying for the ethical treatment of unborn babies I'll start supporting some of their causes, re-writing the Bible will not be one of them though. We can not tamper with what God wrote to support our personal theology. I love all of God's animals, on my plate next to the mashed potatoes.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • coloniel sanders

      I am i strong beleiver that God put chicken on this planet to be battered up and fried and eaten. If PETA want to save every chicken on this planet we should make them buy 3 billion chicken coops first

      March 27, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • coloniel sanders

      dont forget the gravy

      March 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.