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. MrLogada

    Animals can't read...they don't know the bible says it...I'm sure they don't car

    Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them RULE OVER the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." (Genesis 1:26, NIV)

    Man is superior.

    "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." (Genesis 9:3, NIV)

    Eat meat....

    nuff said

    December 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  2. SadieSadie

    I have now heard it all. Peta is insane.

    April 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  3. markjuliansmith

    How about the same rights for women or do the come second to chickens?

    April 15, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Salma

      My in-laws bought my wife and me matihcng ESV study Bibles for Christmas and we have been reading/studying from it primarily this year. Loving it! I grew up with King James, I read it in my youth,I read it in my Sunday school,It's how I learned the truth (bonus points for anyone who can name that tune)But then I got into Bible bowl at age 12 or so and discovered NIV. Spent years and years there, then I realized I was allowed to read other translations. My wife just bought me a pocket-sized Holman Christian Standard Bible a week ago Saturday and I'm loving it, too!So now my favs are (in no particular order) ESV, NLT, NASB, NCV, HCSB, and the old standby, Mr NIV (I actually got to where I didn't care at all for the NIV, but I think I was just burned out on it). I also dig the Message. I'll have to try God's Word version.Great post. May I steal your idea, Trey?

      June 26, 2012 at 5:56 am |
  4. alumette

    It is sad to see humans unable to make their own decisions in terms of accepting other species with respect. The bible is an old book written by people wanting to control groups. So far it has worked really well. It is taken away that special ability we have to elevate ourselves and experience our own spirituality without the brain washing of organized religions.

    April 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • alumette

      correction: it has taken away.

      April 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  5. Renee

    When PETA "humanely euthanizes" the animals they get from animal shelters in the back of vans, do they call them him or her...or it? Don't believe me? Seach it using a news function. You will find this is not anti-PETA people saying this, it's news and has resulted in court actions against individuals acting on behalf of PETA. Know who you support and "like" on FB and with your donations. If PETA was so concerned with animal lives and rights, why would they kill them, just like the food companies and the testing facilities and the animal products producers they condemn? Support a group that walks the walk!

    April 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  6. Pat McCormack

    Mm – in reading the old bible, the Hebrew God allowed the priests to eat the flesh of the sacrifices. In fact, the meat of the sacrifices were a significant part of the priests' diet. The only thing He prohibited was blood – they were not to drink blood nor eat meat that was still bloody.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  7. Mari

    This is what happens when a bunch of hypocrites have too much time on their hands.

    P.S. For those of you who don't believe that PETA kills their animals instead of finding them Forever Homes, just Google "PETA kills animals". You'll get a lot of results.

    April 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Facts only

      Perhaps a little research should be conducted before making such suggestions:

      ""PETA Kills Animals" is a project of the Center for Consumer Freedom created to defile the reputation of animal-rights activists and promote misinformation about animal cruelty."

      "The Center for Consumer Freedom is a pro-food-and-beverage industry front group that attacks anyone who criticizes smoking, fast food or alcohol."

      Just Google "Richard Berman". You'll get a lot of results.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  8. Tyler

    So when my dog is on the floor, slobbering all over the carpet, wanting a treat, that is glorifying God?

    April 10, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  9. Rusty

    Give it a rest you morons, for crying out loud are you really so bored that you have to pick a fight with the bible so that some animals don't get their feelings hurt?

    April 8, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  10. Mark

    If the bible was supposedly inspired by god, why are you making second-guesses two thousand years later to change the bible to match your personal views?

    By the way, all translations are subject to interpretation. Wonder how much has been re-written over the past millenia and how much it will change in the future.

    April 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  11. Mark

    You know you've made god in your own image when he believes all the same things you do.

    April 8, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  12. JJB

    Who cares if its a he or she?
    they taste the same either way

    April 8, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  13. Nunya

    Animals are routinely sacrificed in the good book to appease an all-knowing God who is a fireball in the sky. Why wouldn't PETA be more worried about that as opposed to a goat being referred to as "it".

    April 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  14. phoenixrocket

    this is incredibly stupid. I think some of the things that PETA does are good and worth doing. However this is a reach, what does it matter? The bible is a book that was composed a couple thousand years ago. I am quiet certain that the animals in biblical times are already gone and do not care. Furthermore you can not convince me to switch to a plant based diet. I eat meat and I simply dont care. Its a food chain we humans are at the top. Animals eat each other and that is ok but I who am a mammal cannot eat meat? C'mon PETA go do something worth while. Hey I hear the president smashed another bug, go get on his case again. Spare me

    April 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  15. Cass

    Romans, Chapter 14

    Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    April 7, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • David

      Amen! To pretend that the Bible teaches vegetarianism is to ignore the content of the Bible. Daniel wasn't avoiding meat because vegetarianism was ordained by God, but because the meat was corrupted and unclean under Hebrew tradition.

      I'm a conservationist and monetarily support a number of environmental and wildlife causes. We are called to be good stewards of Creation. That doesn't mean we can't eat meat.

      April 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Sonali

      Scuse me, I'm I'm having a bit of trbloue with me wing. I think it's broken. Can anyone help? Do I know anyone that can help? -spreads wings as gospel music plays- -insert complete lol here-

      November 8, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  16. clevercandi

    "Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you." Genesis 9:3

    April 5, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  17. GreyGeek


    April 2, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  18. agramante

    Except that, humans have canine teeth. Biologically we're omnivores.

    It's possible to live a very healthy life as a vegetarian, no doubt (though I have one friend who nearly died trying to be a vegan). It's also possible to live a healthy life on almost nothing but meat–check out the inuit. If their diet isn't 100% marine animals, it's pretty close.

    This biblical nonsense is just that, nonsense–I don't recall to many he-vs.she episodes among animals anywhere in it. Pretty much, where gender is an issue (such as with a pronoun) in translation, it's due to the gender of the species itself, not any specific male-female distinction. Among biblical edits, this is one of the more foolish I've heard of.

    The bible is what it is, whether you believe it or not–a testament to the cultures it emerged from. It also says that man is worth more than many sparrows (Paul), and in Genesis that man is to rule the world. Both positions are debatable, to say the least.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Julieveggie

      Our so-called "canine teeth" are "canine" in name only. Other plant-eaters (like gorillas, horses, and hippos) have "canines", and chimps, who are almost exclusively vegan, have massive canines compared to ours.

      Our early ancestors from at least four million years ago were almost exclusively vegetarian.

      Our omnivorism means we're capable of eating meat (useful from a survival standpoint if that's all that's available), but our bodies aren't geared for it to be a normal, significant part of our diets.

      The animals most similar to us, the other primates, eat an almost exclusively vegan diet (and their main non-plant food often isn't meat, it's termites).

      Our teeth, saliva, stomach acid, and intestines are most similar to other plant-eaters, and dissimilar to carnivores and true omnivores.

      Among animals, plant-eaters have the longest lifespans, and humans are certainly in that category (and yes, this was true even before modern medicine).

      We sleep about the same amount of time as other herbivores, and less than carnivores and true omnivores.

      The most common cause of choking deaths is eating meat. (source) Real carnivores and omnivores don't have that problem.


      April 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Kevin

      First, horses do not have canines, they have tushes (which are vestigial tusks). and usually only the males have them.
      Second, chimps and other primates most certainly *do* eat meat when it is available- in preference to fruits or vegetables. (when given a choice, they go for the meat)
      I'm afraid that your knowledge of veterinarian science is as shakey and unreliable as your knowledge of medical and dietary science.
      Prehaps you might try actually researching the subject instead of simply regurgitating PETA propaganda.
      (and nothing you have said excuses PETAs behavior at their so called "animal shelter")

      April 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • julieveggie

      @ Kevin, definition of tushes 1.A long pointed tooth, in particular a canine tooth of a male horse

      April 3, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • julieveggie

      @Kevin, Its been proven that humans thrive BETTER on a plant-based diet:

      The American Dietetic Associationis the world' s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals has released an updated position paper on vegan diets that concludes such diets, if well-planned, are healthful and nutritious for adults, infants, children and adolescents and can help prevent and treat chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.


      April 3, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Kalsom

      University of PennsylvaniaResearch Study on evacuation durnig Hurricane IreneWe’re interested in household evacuation durnig Hurricane Irene and its effect on people with pets.If interested, please visit surveymonkey.com/s/upennpetstudy to complete a brief survey or email with any questions or concerns.

      November 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  19. Perplonked

    This entire organization is hypocritical.

    If they care about animals so much, why kill them yourselves?

    Human beings naturally consume meat also, why ONLY eat plants?

    April 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Julieveggie

      Did you watch the video link I posted? The best way to STOP animal suffering is to STOP eating animal products.

      I eat a only plant-based diet. I don't feel right about having an animal suffer and die for my taste buds when there are SO many other foods I can eat. Now I do understand if there are NO other food choices for someone that eating animals is justified. It has been proven that the human bodies thrives better on a well-balance, plant-based diet according to the ADA: The American Dietetic Association has released an updated position paper on vegan diets that concludes such diets, if well-planned, are healthful and nutritious for adults, infants, children and adolescents and can help prevent and treat chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • hehe101

      Egg-xactly! Who honestly cares about calling animals "it" or not. Someone's going to have to read through a VERY large book and try to use context clues to see if the animal is male or female. If there is a line like "They rode in on a donkey, and it rested by a stream" there is no way to tell if it (the donkey) is male or female. How do they feel about pilots and sailors calling their planes "she" and "her"?

      April 6, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • CharlieXans

      What makes you think meat production will stop due to a few people not eating meat? That does nothing. Only a massive conversion of carnivores to vegans would. I'm not even talking millions, I'm talking 10 millions, 100 millions, even billions. Try to block off a street in the middle of NYC by standing in the middle of it alone and you will see what I mean.

      May 1, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  20. mike

    PETA kills animals. They also support terrorism against animal testing facilities...ironically, their vice president uses insulin and claims she needs it to live.

    April 1, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • julieveggie

      Over 99% of animal cruelty in the United States occurs in the production of meat, dairy, and eggs. PETA Does an amazing job converting people to a plant-based diet with a culture mind-set and programmed to think animals are here for our use only. I dare you to watch this 12 minute video: http://www.meatvideo.com FEEDBACK WELCOMED after you watch.

      Its been proven that humans thrive BETTER on a plant-based diet:

      The American Dietetic Associationis the world' s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals has released an updated position paper on vegan diets that concludes such diets, if well-planned, are healthful and nutritious for adults, infants, children and adolescents and can help prevent and treat chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.


      April 1, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Joe

      The Bible is the inspired word of God. Many places throughout the old testament male and/or female animals are specified. Otherwise gender is irrelevent. You also have to consider the culture of the time and also who the Bible was originally written to, and who wrote it. Animals were used for farming, hauling, transportation, textiles, and , of course food. In the book of Genesis, God gave man dominion over the cattle, fishes, everything that creepeth upon the earth, etc., etc. This means that we can eat them, or whatever. I agree that they should be treated better, a lot of animals are friendly and make good pets and companions, but we still have to remember their place in the food chain. The Bible, being the inspired word of God, shouldn't be modified to fit anyone's point of view, this is an insult to God since He is where it came from. The argument of whether animals should be called "it", "he", "she", or whatever in the Bible is totally irrelevant and stupid, since God is sovereign and He can call them or inspire us to call them whatever He wants. Furthermore, animals eat each other and sometimes us, so why shouln't we eat them, that's how God designed nature after all.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:22 am |
    • lagnafe

      PETA= People Eating Tasty Animals

      April 11, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • meateattinggal

      Here's one thing that I don't understand about Peta. Humans have eaten meat for CENTURIES! But they refuse to see that, also its pretty ironic for me ( I live in PETA's headquarter area literally 10 minutes away yuck!) they can be found regularly protesting places on the beach and around here the men wearing designer LEATHER mind you, not patent leather actual leather, shoes and the women with cow leather or alligator handbags. Its a group full of hypocrites and murderers. They kill more animals than they help, they offer spay and neuter clinics but abhor owning animals, they are against any cures with medicine if it occurred through the help of lab mice. Nothing but hypocrites. Maybe someone needs to take the tax-exemption ID away from them and let the radical nut jobs have it.

      April 20, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
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.