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. MemberoftheOtherPETA

    If God had not intended for man to eat animals, then why did He make them out of meat/

    March 24, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • AnarchistScholar

      Based on the same logic, you are 'eatable' as well then, aren't you?

      March 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Yumiko

      Open the hunt. harvest the meat to feed the stnrviag people and homeless. On day PETA may come to understand that the NRA wre not here to promothe cage hunts but rather to help the hurd by thining out the unfit and stragelers. In this way saving the anamals from the fate of stnrviag due to overpopulation.

      June 26, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  2. Chris

    You've got to be kidding me.. I can understand one of the original foundations of PETA was animal testing and such.. but COME ON PEOPLE... who's running PETA now??? They get mad cause Obama swatted a fly on tv?? They pay the Octamom $5k to wear a shirt.. and now they want them to be referenced as He/She in the bible??????

    Personally PETA has become nothing more then a simple "animal *lovers*" group and I'm kind of scared of what the authorities might find if they REALLYchecked into the background of its members. A reference to a ranch in Washington a few years back strikes a cord.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • CC Croft

      I don't think most PETA members actually care very much about animals at all.

      March 24, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  3. CLK8122

    Actually, PETA does NOT have animal welfare as its primary goal–proof is in its kill rate in its "shelters." PETA's "Animal Record" report for 2010, which PETA filed with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, shows that PETA employees killed 94 percent of the dogs and cats in their care last year. During all of 2010, PETA found adoptive homes for just 44 pets. Just 44 dogs and cats—out of the 2,345 PETA took in. Those numbers are abysmal, and they and offer little hope for homeless animals to escape perishing on PETA's version of "death row." Still think PETA cares about animals? I've seen some of their brochures where they refer to pet ownership as "slavery" and support the free ranging of all animals–yup, there's a nice thought–think of how many dogs and cats, horses and cows we could kill on the highways or through disease by "freeing" them all.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • lashumdra

      Your state fish and game office slhoud get involved and allow an emergency cull hunt. When Elk have no natural predators and water and food are scarce it is a sign that your local ecosystem cannot support them and mother nature is getting rid of them in her own way. To avoid a waste of valuable game meat you slhoud buy a .300 Win Mag, get your division of wildlife to give you a tag and go harvest yourself a steak and a you can even make a belt!On a lighter side, in Colorado where I live the state has been known to drop hay for the Elk durng rough winters.Cheers!

      June 26, 2012 at 7:33 am |
  4. Brian

    Hisotrical records inicate that the blood of animals flowed out of the Jerusalem during the Passover sacrifices, with literally hundreds of thousands of animals being sacrificed. What about the covenant with Abraham and the cutting of the bull in half? In addition, given the vision of Peter in the book of Acts to "kill and eat" I would think that PETA is absolutely opposed to Christianity. Those who support PETA have no sense of reason.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  5. SpiderMan

    and please........don't even get me started with all the cult lemmings and their man-made, pretend gods of worship

    March 24, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  6. SpiderMan


    yet another group of activist lemmings attemptnig to push their wacked-out, mind warped concepts onto everyone else....

    LOL...what's new here?

    you people should be, at the very least lobotomised, because you certainly aren't using your brains for anything productive or anything that actually has a positive impact.

    it's always...."do what we say, do what we say, do what we say"

    when will you lemmings do the rest of the world a favor and put yourselves out of your misery?!?!?

    you are the weakest links and even the animals have more brain power, ability and common sense than any of you!

    no wonder you have the need to feel so 'special' to yourselves....very typical for a lemming.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  7. Paul

    Scientists in Asia discover new new species, declare it "delicious".

    March 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  8. friendbear

    Firstly to the nuts who keep saying hitler was veggie he wasnt, he ate pretty much eveything, including a few people i dare say lol! also there is no difference between the suffering of animals in slaughterhouses and people in concentration camps, all are part of the body of God, fed by him – it all hurts him, read ecclesiastes, 3rd, the term "they" (their, they're etc) instead of "it" would denote both "who" not what and be none gender specific. 🙂 SO much has been lost through poor translation, but this kind of thing isnt a problem!

    March 24, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  9. Mandy

    This is just mind blowing! The translations should be as close to the original Greek and Hebrew as can be TRANSLATED!

    Here are words from our Lord:
    Revelation 22:18-21
    18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book : if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book ; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. 20 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

    Changing, these afore mentioned things in the text, is a double edged sword. God cares for every creation, but he has provided things for all of us to be sustained. If I choose to eat animals and my brothers and sisters in Christ or fellow humans choose to eat plants and seeds it is each persons choice. We should never impose our views on eachother in a way that is off-putting.
    PETA needs to get a grip. Live your life as you see fit. If PETA put as much effort into humanities as they do in the ethical treatment of animals then this world would be a better place and we would have litte or no need for such an orginization. I agree abusing an animal is unacceptable. I do not in anyway advocate that, but there is a broad line that defines what is actual abuse. Giving animals in scipture gender specific tags is of no worth to christianity. If God had thought it would be of importance He would have concieved it from the begining of Creation, and it would have been.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  10. S.B. Stein

    This is silly. Part of translation is interpretation which is what I learned as an undergrad. Maybe PETA should do their own translation. They must realize that the language is part of the time and understanding it was written. I am sure that most scholars understand that.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • PoodleSweat

      You forget that to become a member of PETA you MUST have a double digit IQ. If you creep into the 100s you are too smart and declined membership. I guess it's fitting that the PETA members are sheep.

      March 24, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  11. PoodleSweat

    PETA should go the way of the Dodo.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  12. iloveanimals

    PETA should keep their claws, paws, fins, etc. out of the bible.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  13. CC Croft

    This is ridiculous. You would be hard-pressed to find a person who truly believes in animal rights than myself. However the term "it" is used when you do not know the gender. Just as when a woman is pregnant and doesn't know the gender of her child yet, the baby will be referred to as "it". When I was in the process of adopting a dog, I didn't know if I would be getting a male or a female and I said "it"...

    Yes, animals have souls and intense emotions. That means they should be treated with dignity.

    Most of what PETA suggests is ridiculous fodder that would completely crush most animals. I mean they think we shouldn't have pets at all. Most domesticated animals would have no idea how to take care of themselves, and even if they did what habitats are available to them? That would go over SO well, for the animals and for humans.

    PETA doesn't seem to have much interest in the reality of animal welfare. They are extremists and no matter the topic, extremists are dangerous.

    Leave the Bible's referencing to animals alone. 😛

    March 24, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • candy23

      Amen to that I think PETA went to far this time. I love animals very much and I believe you treat a animal very well i

      March 24, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  14. gerald

    I want to call my group PETA. PEOPLE EATING TASTY ANIMALS!!! Yum Yum. Duck smothered in rasberry marmalade. Grilled venison. Pheasant. Delicious. The best meat in I have eaten is elk.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  15. Ali

    Thanks Peta- You are always good for a laugh!

    March 24, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  16. Apostle Eric vonAnderseck

    {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} Apostle Eric says; And Satan keeps hammering away at the words of God till only the corners will be showing, and then they will file the corners to avoid any injuries or law suits. http://apostlestoday.net/

    March 24, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  17. Moe Priell

    One word to sum up PETA – NUTS!

    March 24, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  18. AGuest9

    remove what it calls "speciesist" language ?????

    Let the animals write their own!

    March 24, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  19. Krallen

    I think this is ridiculous. Animals don't have souls. They are just animals. They can't read the Bible and Im sure they would not care if they are being called it. PETA must be running out of things to do if this is all they can come up with.

    March 24, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Tom

      Actually, there's no such thing as a soul, and there is no objective "authority" to determine whether humans are "worth' more than other animals or ameba or anything else. The concept of worth is just another outgrowth of the survival instinct. Now, ceratinly I'll save a human child before a hatchling, if I have to choose, but I'll save my own child before I'd save someone else's child (if I have to choose). It's all a survival instinct and has nothing to do with soul or heaven or god or gods or other phantasmagoric ephemra.

      March 24, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • come on man

      @ Tom
      And how in the world do you know that?

      March 24, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • COlady

      @comeonman, because Tom has read and studied something other than the fictional work known as "The Bible".

      March 24, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  20. David Johnson

    Something for us all to think about, as we go about our day:

    Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses.
    -Ingrid Newkirk (PETA)


    March 24, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Sybaris

      and yet their god didn't prevent the slaughter.

      March 24, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • MsB

      How many ways can you cook a chicken? Let me count the ways, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, - heck don't have all day - let's just say LOTS!

      March 24, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • alan auerbach

      That you can associate the genocidal slaughter of humans with that of chickens is astounding.

      Oh wait. Hitler was a vegetarian. Is that the connection?

      Just astounding.

      March 24, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Krallen to Sybaris

      God created animals for us to enjoy and yes for us to eat. If you don't like meat thats cool but God put them here for us for food. People should be more concerned about the welfare of other people not animals

      March 24, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Aaron Mendelson

      I'm Jewish and in PETA. I don't like the fact that she said that but I dislike more people who use this one quote to make PETA look bad. PETA has good intentions.

      March 24, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • PoodleSweat

      Hey Aaron! No extremist group has good intentions. I think if you did a little more research you would find other animal friendly groups that do a lot more good than PETA.

      The first sign that you have joined the wrong group is their actions cause hatred. Wake up!!

      March 24, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Jake

      And every single one of those chickens will be DELICIOUS to eat.

      March 24, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Chris

      Aaron, I respect your desire to protect animals. It's a valuable cause. However, I have to say, PETA is a terrible organization. It's just hungry for media attention and, frankly, it either has or still does financially support domestic terrorists like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). I have a problem with any group that feels it needs to use violence and property damage to get its point across.

      March 24, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
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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.