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. Jobert

    Well Simple....PETA movement is obviously wrong (getting naked to be noticed) ...Why not adopt a human being, why not fight human cruelty, rather than animal cruelty... PETA has a "beast" in them, that beast is not a friend but an enemy of the GOD. Distorting truth and attention of many from an important commandment of " loving God and loving one another" to love your PET!, And Now changing the bible translation to fit their cause! oops your mask falls down real BEAST it defines the real you and whoever supports PETA supports this BEAST. There are other ways to help animals but to change the bible that crosses the line.

    April 1, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  2. Napping

    PETA grinds my gears. What they are doing isn't love to anymals. It's borderline beasiality...
    I'm gonna have a large medium-well done premium steak with blue cheese butter tonight and PETA can suck it!

    March 31, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  3. IchI

    PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is calling for a more animal-friendly update to the Bible
    So the Bible is like Wikipedia?
    I guess Wikipedia, loosely translated, is "Good Book"

    March 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  4. Kimpoy

    PETA’s latest ridiculous campaign

    March 30, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  5. lokii

    It's Nice to know PETA is there to put the bible straight since the Lord, Jesus, the Apostles, and all the rest are apparently wrong. People need to stop trying to fit the bible to their beliefs and fit their beliefs to the bible.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • julieveggie

      I do not share your interpretation of the Bible. I believe God's will for us is to be Vegan. The bible depicts a peaceful world at creation and at the end of time. God found everything in Eden 'very good,' and gave all animals and humans a vegetarian world(Genesis 1:29-30). Several prophesies such as Isaiah 11:6-9, foresee a return to this vegetarian world where the wolf, lamb, lion, cow, snake and little child co-exist peacefully." Christian Vegetarians believe we should strive towards the peaceable kingdom Isaiah envisioned. Christian vegetarians believe we should try to follow Christ's mission, expressed in the Lord's prayer. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

      When I am being accused of picking and choosing biblical verses; my response is, because the Bible is open to such a wide range of interpretation, all Christians pick and choose certain biblical verses that support their believe system. The God I pray to is about love, peace, and compassion for all creation.

      In the past people used the Bible to justify slavery, segregation, and the oppression of women. We now understand this was a misuse of the Bible and its true intent. The same is true for eating meat.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  6. William Demuth


    March 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  7. William Demuth

    Testing for censorship

    March 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  8. Bill McKendry

    So, will PETA change their name to PETMFA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Male and Female Animals)? Or Maybe it should be PETGA (People for the Ethical Treatment of both Genders of Animals)? Or maybe it needs to be PETAGRCRNO (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals including all Genders, Races, Colors, Religions and National Origins)?

    March 29, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  9. VoipOfReason

    Next thing you know, they'll want to change an actual piece of great literature, like Huckleberry Fin.... DOH!

    March 29, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  10. Krystal

    This is ridiculous. But I suppose PETA having a bible, even an inaccurate, slightly altered bible cant hurt or destroy my beliefs. And I believe I love to eat it.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • julieveggie

      @Krystal 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 & tight 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 how God's animals should be treated: http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/honoring.htm

      March 29, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Steve, the real one


      Jesus did NOT eat animal products that came from INTENSIVE FACTORY FARMS where they keep animals so confined & tight 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 how God's animals should be treated: http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/honoring.htm
      What's you take on abortion? I am saying you feel so strongly about animals you must be livid about abortion, slavery, domestic violence, etc. (which I hope you are btw)

      March 29, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • julieveggie

      @ STEVE, I stay on topic. This article is about animal cruelty not abortions.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  11. Christin

    What's worse is that we're even allowing these people, who detest our beliefs and our God, to even have a VOICE IN OUR BIBLE!!! Shame on the NIV editors! Stand your ground and stand up for what's RIGHT!!!!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  12. Christin

    Shame on these people! Who do they think they are to insist on THEIR OWN PREFERENCES when it comes to GOD'S WORD?! It's not about YOU and what offends YOU. It is about HIM!!!

    I suppose the next thing you'll suggest is that we remove the majority of the Old Testament because of all the animal sacrifices!?!?!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  13. confuzd


    March 29, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  14. Tomas

    I love to eat IT 😀

    March 29, 2011 at 4:42 am |


    March 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  16. Angela

    Wow, vegetables are living, too. How awful to kill and eat vegetables and take away their life. Every time you take a bit of a vegetable it kills the living cells that make it live and thrive. Cant' you hear the vegetables scream. Perhaps it is convenient that plants don't have blood; otherwise, vegetarians would be aware that they are taking a life when they eat. I think we should all eat dirt and rocks and other dead things. Then we would truly preserve life and not be hypocrites.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Tom

      That time is actually coming, Angela. Watch the movie Avatar, and beyond the transparent America bashing, there is a strong component of hysterical plant protectionism.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  17. skyhigh

    I am delighted to learn that PETA is trying to raise consciousness about our culture's routine abuse of animals for food!! Thank you PETA! An animal, like a human, is a he or a she, not an "it" - this is blatant speciesism!! Obviously people who have been brainwashed to eat animals and animal secretions will protest, and say that these precious and sacred beings are just things, but that is only the program speaking. The spiritual path doesn't start until one questions the cultural program. Otherwise, it's just robot talk, really. Punch the button, and out comes the pre-programmed response.

    Let's question the routine violence in our culture, and it should start with our religions and their texts! Great job, PETA and Bruce!

    March 28, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Tom

      100s of thousands of years...Yup the brainwashing continues. Even if you don't believe in God (as most PETA folk don't) You can't really blame George Bush for people the world over for choosing meat in their diet. Why not go give those lions and tigers a good working over with your human-loathing belief system. See where that gets you.

      March 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Josh

      Wow, since the dawn of man we have eaten animals. it is the cycle of life. What is humane about a lion eating an animal alive. is it the people that have eaten animals just as animals eat animals since the dawn of time that are brainwashed or is it a PETA orginazation that compared to the age of man is in its first minute of life that is brainwashed.

      Where do you people come up with this crap. Eating meat is as old as man or animals breathing air. but now we are all brainwashed?

      Hey, lets give wild animals Tranquilizers so they can humanely put their prey to sleep before they eat them. Hell while we are at it lets tell them how brainwashed they are for eating meat. i mean where do we draw the line on this crazyness

      March 29, 2011 at 5:46 am |
    • julieveggie

      @ Josh, I DARE you watch this link: http://www.meatvideo.com Feedback welcomed after you watch the whole 12 minute video.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  18. Debbie Hargrove

    The Bible states somewhere something about we are not suppose to as much as even change even a word in the Bible. God help who ever does this.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • julieveggie

      There is 50 different versions of the Bible in English. The Bible 'translation' is constantly being revised & updated when new information or awareness is discovered. Translating the Bible is very complex process that most Christian do not understand because translator had to fill in the many holes that were left in the early copies of the Bible. It the translator's interpretation & bias that would filled the missing words or meaning in the early copies of the Bible. In translating from Hebrew or Greek to English could have 20 different meaning, so interpreters took liberties in what they think the Bible is trying to convey.

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

      March 28, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • julieveggie

      In translating the Bible from Greek or Hebrew to English a "WORD" could have 20 different meanings, so interpreters took liberties in what they think the Bible is trying to convey.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Tom


      Since the vast preponderance of PETA members are atheist, and support the extermination of human life from the womb, don't you think it is a little "over-stepping" of them to try and interject their beliefs where they don't believe?

      March 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  19. julieveggie

    We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form." ~ Franklin Le Van Baumer, Main Currents of Western Thought (1978), p. 774

    March 28, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Isaac

      Do not try to claim animals and humans as equal or even distant cousins. If you believe the bible, God asks man to "Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Even going as far as calling some animals 'livestock' meaning that their purpose is to supply food for man. And if you dont believe in the bible, you shouldnt be posting on this wall.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  20. Laurie

    God also gave us reason...and these people have forfeited theirs

    March 28, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • edwardmatthew


      March 29, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Christine

      Isn't PETA the same group who used images of the cross over the private parts of a womens body? Seems like they are using Christianity to get attention to their cause. Attacks against Christianity makes the national news, saving little animals does not. So PETA becomes social bullies against Christians. Good thing there are other animal charities to support.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Christine

      I just saw the "naked woman cross photos" were released in Dec 2, 2009 (Huffington Post) and then this "change the Bible" just before Easter. Christian bullying. Who is at the helm of PETA?

      March 29, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Christine

      Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA CEO: Newkirk was born in Britain where she lived in the Orkney Islands and in Ware, Hertfordshire. Her father was a navigational engineer, and the family moved to New Delhi, India, when she was seven, where her father worked for the government, while her mother volunteered for Mother Teresa in a leper colony and a home for unwed mothers. Newkirk attended a convent boarding school in the Himalayas for well-to-do Indian nationals and non-natives. "It was the done thing for a British girl in India," she told Michael Specter for The New Yorker. "But I was the only British girl in this school. I was hit constantly by nuns, starved by nuns. The whole God thing was shoved right down my throat." (source: Wiki)

      March 29, 2011 at 11:38 am |
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About this blog

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.