But medication and insulin can actually increase your risk getting a heart attack or dying.
What you are not hearing about is another way to deal with this epidemic.
Today, I want to review in detail a new way to think about diabetes and next week I want to tell you exactly how to prevent, treat, and reverse it.
Let’s get started.
The diabetes epidemic is accelerating along with the obesity epidemic.
Type 2 diabetes, or what was once called adult onset diabetes, is an increasing worldwide epidemic affecting nearly 100 million people -- and over 20 million Americans.
We are seeing increasing rates of Type 2 diabetes, especially in children, which has increased over 1,000 percent in the last decade and was unknown before this generation. One in three children born today will have diabetes in their lifetime.
Yet this is an entirely preventable lifestyle disease.
In a report in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” Walter Willett, MD, PhD, and his colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated that 91 percent of all Type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented through improvements lifestyle and diet.
==> The Road to Diabetes Starts Early
Diabetes is often undiagnosed until its later stages. Insulin resistance, when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, is primarily what causes diabetes.
When your diet is full of empty calories, an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.), the body slowly becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and needs more to do the same job of keeping your blood sugar even.
High insulin levels are the first sign of a problem. The high insulin leads to an appetite that is out of control, and increasing weight gain around the belly.
High levels of insulin are warning signs -- they precede Type 2 diabetes by decades.
Insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome associated with it is often accompanied by increasing central obesity, fatigue after meals, sugar cravings, high triglycerides, low HDL, high blood pressure, problems with blood clotting, as well as increased inflammation.
These clues can often be picked up decades before anyone ever gets diabetes -- and may help you prevent diabetes entirely.
If you have a family history of obesity (especially around the belly), diabetes, early heart disease, or even dementia you are even more prone to this problem.
Most people know about the common complications of diabetes such as heart attacks, strokes, amputations, blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage. Some may even know that it increases your risk of dementia and cancers and can cause impotence.
But most people don’t realize that insulin resistance or pre-diabetes can be just as bad causing heart attacks, strokes, dementia, cancer, and impotence -- decades before you get diabetes.
In fact many people with pre-diabetes never get diabetes, but they are at severe risk just the same.
==> Living in Harmony with Our Genes
We were highly adapted to a nutrient-dense, low-sugar, high-fiber diet rich in omega 3 fats. But when we eat out of harmony with our genes, we turn on genes that promote diabetes.
Take Arizona’s Pima Indians, for example.
They were thin and fit 100 years ago, living on a diet of over 70 percent carbohydrates. They ate high-fiber, unprocessed plant foods and they had no diabetes or obesity.
Now, in just one generation, they are nearly all obese and 80 percent have diabetes by the time they are 30 years old!
It is important to diagnose Type 2 diabetes early, but it is often not diagnosed until very late.
In fact, all doctors should aggressively diagnose pre-diabetes decades before diabetes occurs, and before any damage is done to your body. Damage begins with even slight changes in insulin and blood sugar.
Unfortunately, there is a continuum of risk from slightly abnormal insulin and blood sugar to full blown diabetes. This should be addressed as early as possible on the continuum.
In a recent study, anyone with a fasting blood sugar of over 87 was at increased risk of diabetes. The lowest risk group had a blood sugar less than 81.
Most doctors are not concerned until the blood sugar is over 110 -- or worse, over 126, which is diabetes. Therefore, I recommend early testing with anyone who has a family history of Type 2 diabetes, central abdominal weight gain or abnormal cholesterol.
Don’t wait until your sugar is high.
==> Testing for Insulin Resistance and Diabetes
The tests I recommend include the following:
Insulin glucose challenge test with 2-hour glucose challenge, 75 grams measuring fasting, 1 and 2 hour blood sugar AND insulin. Your blood sugar should be less than 80 fasting and never rise above 110 or 120 after one to two hours. Your insulin should be less than 5 fasting and should never rise above 30 after one to two hours. I recommend this test for everyone over 50, and for anyone with any risk of insulin resistance, even children.
The hemoglobin A1C is an important measure of glycated hemoglobin, which can be an early indicator of sugar problems. It measures sugars and proteins combining into glycated proteins called AGEs (advanced glycation end products), like the crust on bread, or the crispy top on crème brule. These create inflammation, oxidative stress throughout the body, and promote heart disease and dementia and accelerating aging. The hemoglobin A1C should ideally be less than 5.5. Anything over 6 is considered diabetes.
Lipid profiles are important. An HDL or good cholesterol level under 60 and triglycerides over 100 should make you suspicious of insulin resistance. An HDL under 40 and a triglyceride level over 150 usually means diabetes.
An NMR lipid profile identifies the size of your cholesterol particles. With insulin resistance or Type 2 diabetes, you develop small LDL and HDL cholesterol particles. They are much more dangerous than larger particles and lead to increased risk of atherosclerosis or heart disease.
High sensitivity C-reactive protein is a measure of inflammation, one of the classic conditions that is both the cause and result of insulin resistance and diabetes. It should be less than 1, and is often associated with diabetes. In fact, anyone with a high C-reactive protein has a 1,700 percent increased risk of getting diabetes.
Homocysteine is often abnormal in people with diabetes. It is a measure of folic acid deficiency. It should be between 6 and 8.
Fibrinogen measures your risk of clotting, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. It is also a sign of inflammation and is associated with insulin resistance and diabetes. It should be less than 300.
Ferritin levels are often elevated. It is a nonspecific marker of inflammation associated with diabetes. It also can mean an overload of iron in the body. It should be less than 150.
Uric acid should be less than 6. Higher levels indicate problems with insulin resistance. This can lead to gout, which is related to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
Elevated liver function tests result from insulin resistance. This is the major cause of fatty liver and elevated liver function tests in this country. This is entirely due to sugar and carbohydrates in our diet that cause fatty liver, liver damage, and even cirrhosis.
These are tests any doctor can perform and are covered by insurance. I have included the interpretation with my written blog so you can know exactly where you should be.
That’s all for today.
In next week’s blog, I will tell you how to prevent, treat, and even reverse diabetes. I have seen this hundreds of times in my patients and there is no reason you can’t achieve the same thing if you apply these principles.
Till then, remember what Michael Pollan said: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Now I’d like to hear from you…
Have you been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes?
Have you been told that it is irreversible?
What steps have you taken to prevent diabetes?
Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.
Olshansky SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC, et al.A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. N Engl J Med. 2005;352(11):1138-1145.
Beckman JA, Creager MA, Libby P. Diabetes and atherosclerosis: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and management. JAMA. 2002;287(19):2570-2581. Review.
Wald NJ, Law MR. A strategy to reduce cardiovascular disease by more than 80%. BMJ. 2003;326(7404):1419.
Franco OH, Bonneux L, de Laet C, Peeters A, Steyerberg EW, Mackenbach JP.The Polymeal: a more natural, safer, and probably tastier (than the Polypill) strategy to reduce cardiovascular disease by more than 75%. BMJ. 2004;329(7480):1447-1450. Review.
Textbook of Functional Medicine, Gig Harbor, Wash: Institute for Functional Medicine; 2006. Chapter 7, page 60-61.
Reaven GM.The metabolic syndrome: is this diagnosis necessary? Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(6):1237-1247.
Grundy SM. Does a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome have value in clinical practice? Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(6):1248-1251.
Montonen J, Knekt P, Jarvinen R, Aromaa A, Reunanen A. Whole-grain and fiber intake and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(3):622-629.
Garg A. High-monounsaturated-fat diets for patients with diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;67(3):577S-582S.
Hu FB, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, et al. Diet, lifestyle, and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in women. N Engl J Med. 2001;(11):790-797.
Pollan M. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. New York: Penguin Press; 2006.
Phillips C, Lopez-Miranda J, Perez-Jimenez F, McManus R, Roche HM. Genetic and nutrient determinants of the metabolic syndrome. Curr Opin Cardiol. 2006;21(3):185-193.
Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, et al. Type 2 diabetes and the vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78(3):610S-616S. Review.
Salmeron J, Hu FB, Manson JE, et al. Dietary fat intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;73(6):1019-1026.
Gross LS, Li L, Ford ES, Liu S. Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the United States: an ecologic assessment. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79(5):774-779.
Gannon MC, Nuttall FQ, Saeed A, Jordan K, Hoover H. An increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78(4):734-741.
de Mello VD, Zelmanovitz T, Perassolo MS, Azevedo MJ, Gross JL. Withdrawal of red meat from the usual diet reduces albuminuria and improves serum fatty acid profile in type 2 diabetes patients with macroalbuminuria. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(5):1032-1038.
Chandalia M, Garg A, Lutjohann D, von Bergmann K, Grundy SM, Brinkley LJ. Beneficial effects of high dietary fiber intake in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. N Engl J Med. 2000;342(19):1392-1398.
Triggiani V, Resta F, Guastamacchia E, et al. Role of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, carnitine, vitamins, phytochemicals and trace elements in the treatment of diabetes mellitus and its chronic complications. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2006;6(1):77-93. Review.
Henriksen EJ. Exercise training and the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Free Radic Biol Med. 2006;40(1):3-12. Review.
Coyne T, Ibiebele TI, Baade PD, et al. Diabetes mellitus and serum carotenoids: findings of a population-based study in Queensland, Australia. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(3):685-693.
Jiang R, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Liu S, Willett WC, Hu FB. Nut and peanut butter consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. JAMA. 2002;288(20):2554-2560.
Bhathena SJ, Velasquez MT. Beneficial role of dietary phytoestrogens in obesity and diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;76(6):1191-1201. Review.
Klein S, Sheard NF, Pi-Sunyer X, et al. Weight management through lifestyle modification for the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes: rationale and strategies. A statement of the American Diabetes Association, the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, and the American Society for Clinical Nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(2):257-263. Review.
Rosmond R, Dallman MF, Bjorntorp P. Stress-related cortisol secretion in men: relationships with abdominal obesity and endocrine, metabolic and hemodynamic abnormalities. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998;83(6):1853-1859.
Halloween Rocks! Celebrate Early at the 4th Annual Really Really Free Market with:
live music by Free Stuff and DJ Suggested D. skillshares radical literature food and drinks provided by Freegan.info face painting for children Tarot Card reading an advice booth haircuts piñatas free clothes books movies software toys and much more!
AND MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED, so make sure you don't miss anything and come to St. Mark's Church on Sunday, October 28th between noon and 5 p.m.! 2nd Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets Bring friends and gifts, leave your wallet at home!
***************************************** The Really Free Market is an open-air bazaar and celebration, where we discard capitalist notions of interaction and have fun trying new models of exchange.
This will only be as great as you make it. We will provide the framework; you supply the material. Bringing free stuff and planning skill-shares are great ways to get involved.
If you have a skill to share, stuff to give away, a crazy art thing to do, music to play, an idea for entertainment or a topic to discuss; email us soon and let us know what you are planning! Otherwise, plan on bringing your own table or blanket and coming and going as you please.
If you want contact us, just e-mail: inourhearts[at]gmail.com.
Show up to St. Mark's Church with something to share, and let this be another step in our movement towards a really, really free world.
WHY REALLY REALLY FREE MARKETS?
Because there is enough for everyone.
Because sharing is more fulfilling than owning.
Because corporations would rather the landfills overflow than anyone get anything for free.
Because scarcity is a myth constructed to keep us at the mercy of the economy.
Because a sunny day outside is better than anything money could buy.
***************************************** Stuff to consider bringing, services you many consider providing:
music (bands/musicians --acoustic), food (pretty much anything), clothes, books, movies (vhs/dvd), recorded music (tapes, cds), computer software, kitchen supplies, electronics, plants, instruments, picture frames, office supplies, candles, knick knacks, toys, jewelry, skillshares (hands-on stuff like how-to change a bike tire, make sushi, make a stencil, get social services, etc. etc.), and skills (massage, haircuts, reiki, etc. etc.)
Sunday October 28th 12-5pm 4th Annual Halloween Really Really Free Market St. Mark's Church (2nd Ave Bet. 10th & 11th St.) NYC The Really Really Free Market is an open-air bazaar and celebration, where we discard capitalist notions of interaction and have fun trying new models of exchange. Expect free food, music, clothing, books other things and fun!
Imagine you can eat anything you want. Imagine you can eat as much as you want and not gain an ounce in most cases. Imagine losing between 6 -25 lbs per week AND keeping if off! Imagine a diet of raw foods.
Some with digestive or glandular disorders will not lose weight as quickly or easily, but they will usually still loss unnecessary weight. And their bodies will strive to heal on raw, live foods as it begins to re-balance, repair and rejuvenate. When first start eating raw foods, most people will need time to cleanse, detoxify and rebuild their digestive system before noticing substantial weight loss.
Excess weight is not an isolated issue, but is part of your "whole being.” An imbalance in one part of the body effects your entire system. Weight is a “symptom” of what is going on with your elimination system, glandular system, emotions, sleep patterns, stress levels, liver, colon, skin, lungs, blood, spirit and “chi” or energy levels.
The enzymes found naturally in whole, live, raw foods help with obesity at the "whole being" level. Enzymes do much more in your body than help digest food. Enzymes are responsible for every single chemical reaction in every single cell of your body. All your minerals, herbs, vitamins and hormones cannot do their jobs without enzymes. Your can't lift an arm or think one thought without the help of enzymes. In fact, you could say that enzymes are, biologically speaking, the source of life. A diet without a source of live enzymes is removed from the source of life. All removed from their source of life slowly begin to die. For us, that leads to dis-ease, excessive weight gain, depression - many of the maladies that plague the modern world today.
One of the “magic bullets” for easy weight loss is simply the action of enzymes. For example, lipase, a fat splitting enzyme, is found abundantly in raw, live foods. However, few of us eat enough raw foods to get enough lipase to burn even a normal amount of fat, not to mention any excess. Lipase helps your body in digestion, fat distribution and fat burning for energy. Lipase breaks down and dissolves fat throughout the body. Without lipase, fat stagnates and accumulates. You can see it on your hips, thighs, buttocks and the stomach.
Protease is another enzyme for maintaining a healthy body. Protease helps break down proteins and eliminate toxins. Eliminating toxins is essential when you are burning fat. Your body stores excess toxins in body fat. As your body begins to burn this fat the toxins are released into your system. This can sometimes cause water retention and bloating. Protease attacks and eliminates toxins. It is critical to have plenty of protease during fat loss.
Common sense tells us that if you cannot get enough nutrition from the food you take in, which is what happens when you cook food, your body receives a signal that it needs to store fat to prevent starvation and will hold on to even more fat. It will also send a signal that you are hungry. This results in a vicious cycle of eating more and more and still feeling hungry. Combine the physical effects with the mental effects of poor digestion and insufficient enzymes with your natural reaction to all of this emotionally. You have dis-ease, mental, physical, emotional or spiritual and often, all four at once, because you are an integrated being.
If you eat close to 100% fresh raw, whole foods, then you obtain adequate nutrition and enough enzymes to digest your foods properly. If you eat cooked foods, you'll be eating “dead foods” that have NO enzymes. Your body then must scavenge enzymes for digestion from other metabolic processes in your body, wasting energy and resources. However, living food enzymes will over time restore energy and stamina and rebuild your healthy metabolism of all nutrients, including fats.
Today's modern lifestyle KILLS enzymes in more ways than just cooking food. Stress can damage enzymes. Food additives can kill them. Frequent air travel, work outs, coffee breaks, air pollution, food irradiation and poor sleep - all kill enzymes. No wonder we are enzyme deficient! Eating raw, live, enzyme-rich foods is more than just a weight loss or digestion issue - it affects your whole life, your whole being. When you eat living, raw foods you will begin your life of bliss.
But the fact remains: the easiest, fastest and most natural weight loss program that also nourishes your body is raw, living, whole food.
Does plate size really matter when it comes to watching your weight? Or is it a silly trick your stomach probably won't fall for? As it turns out, in this case, size does matter. Researchers found that when you dish up your meal, you're likely to clean your plate, regardless of serving size. And when you use a large serving spoon and a large plate or bowl, you're more likely to help yourself to over 50% more food than if you use smaller utensils and dishes. To avoid doubling the self-sabotage, think petite. Petite plates and petite spoons mean petite you: http://www.realage.com/news_features/tip.aspx?v=1&cid=17251.
A couple of years ago, a homeowner in Seattle decided to take extreme action against the moles that had turned his lawn into a complex network of raised grassy veins. He poured gasoline into the mole holes, tossed a match and incinerated his yard.
Many of the approximately 60 million Americans with lawns can understand the feeling. A well-tended yard is not only personal territory, to be defended unto death, but also a work of art. Like a painting, it has form and color. Like a child, it is alive. No wonder feelings run high, and the lawn, as a canvas for personal expression, engages the suburban American male at the deepest possible level. Americans like Jerry Tucker, who turned his yard into a replica of the 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club.
The often-crazed love affair between Americans and their lawns is Ted Steinberg's subject in "American Green." Mr. Steinberg, an environmental historian at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, likens this relationship, and the insane pursuit of lawn perfection, to obsessive-compulsive disorder, and he may very well be right. That would at least explain the behavior of a homeowner who clips her entire front yard with a pair of hand shears, or Richard Widmark's reaction on waking up in the hospital after a severe lawn mower accident in 1990. "The question I asked the doctors was not 'Will I ever act again?' " he later recalled, "but 'Will I ever mow again?' "
How did a plant species ill suited to the United States, and the patrician taste for a rolling expanse of green take root from the shores of the Atlantic to the desiccated terrain of Southern California? The short answer is that it didn't, not until after the Civil War. Although Washington and Jefferson had lawns, most citizens did not have the hired labor needed to cut a field of grass with scythes. Average homeowners either raised vegetables in their yards or left them alone. If weeds sprouted, fine. If not, that was fine, too.
Toward the end of the 19th century, suburbs appeared on the American scene, along with the sprinkler, greatly improved lawn mowers, new ideas about landscaping and a shorter work week. A researcher investigating the psychology of suburbanites in 1948 observed shrewdly that the American work ethic coexisted uneasily with free time, and that "intense care of the lawn is an excellent resolution of this tension." At least until the moles arrive.
Mr. Steinberg cannot decide whether he is writing a cultural history, an environmental exposé or a series of Dave Barry columns. As cultural history, "American Green" is relentlessly superficial, a grab bag of airy generalizations and decrepit clichés about the cold war and the conformist 1950's. As environmental exposé, it is confused and poorly explained. It is impossible, reading Mr. Steinberg on lawn-care products, to assess risks. At times, it sounds as if any homeowner spreading the standard lawn fertilizers and herbicides might as well take out a gun and shoot his family. A few pages later, the environmental threat seems trivial.
Sometimes, he simply punts. Building a case against power mowers, which Mr. Steinberg regards as unsafe at any speed, he introduces the story of a "lawn professional" who lost the fingers on both hands while trying to keep a wayward mower from rolling into a lake. This might be a damning piece of evidence if Mr. Steinberg did not then add, sheepishly, that "perhaps this is a suburban legend." Half-serious, intellectually incoherent, "American Green" shambles along like this, scattering bits and pieces of history, sociology and consumer advice as it goes.
There are just enough fascinating bits to keep the pages turning. It is gratifying to learn that grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. An observer looking down at his own lawn sees brown dirt along with green grass blades, but only grass blades next door, because of the angle of vision. It is useful to focus on one of the pet claims of the lawn-care industry, that a lawn 50 feet square produces enough oxygen to satisfy the respiratory needs of a family of four. This is probably true, but, as Mr. Steinberg points out, superfluous, since there is no oxygen shortage on Earth.
Mr. Steinberg does make the case fairly convincingly that the pursuit of the perfect lawn cannot be explained without golf, which has played on the homeowner's weak sense of self-esteem by rubbing his face in fantasy images. Perfection at Augusta requires a team of specialists and a multimillion-dollar investment in infrastructure. The average golf green gets more pampering and primping than Heidi Klum's cheekbones, but that is the lawn that suburbanites want. Companies like Scotts have convinced them that to achieve it, they need to follow a regimen of constant seeding, watering, fertilizing and herbiciding.
The future looks troubled for the American lawn. Some homeowners have given up entirely, paving over their yards to create more parking space. Others are embracing the native-plant movement and turning their lawns into miniature prairies and meadows. Nellie Shriver, of the Fruitarian Network, stopped mowing for moral reasons. "It is impossible to mow the grass without harming it," she said. "We believe grass has some sort of consciousness, that it has feelings."
Even more alarming, for the lawn-care industry, is the kind of post-lawn sensibility exhibited by an Atlanta real estate broker. "When something bores me, I get rid of it," she said. "Lawns bore me."
"When it comes to feelings, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."(1) That is the moral bottom line for Ingrid Newkirk, founder and director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (or PETA). I intend to discuss in these pages the contentious issue of animal rights; yet for Ms. Newkirk the issue is settled: a boy has no more (and no less) rights than a rat.
Almost every week there is a story in the media about a research project stopped by an animal rights group, a protest against women wearing furs, a laboratory bombed by a militant animal rights activist, or a media figure protesting the conditions of animals on factory farms. What are all these protests about, and how should a Bible-believing Christian approach these issues? That is our subject in this pamphlet.
In 1975 Australian Peter Singer wrote a book whose title was to become the banner of a new movement: Animal Liberation. This book laid the foundation for most of the discussion since 1975, but it also set the tone of that discussion as specifically anti-Christian. Singer is quite clear about his distaste for Christianity: "It can no longer be maintained by anyone but a religious fanatic that man is the special darling of the universe, or that animals were created to provide us with food, or that we have divine authority over them, and divine permission to kill them."(2)
By using the echoes of specific passages from the Bible and claiming that only a "religious fanatic" could still believe them, Singer is making clear not only that his view is not based on anything resembling a biblical world view, but that, in fact, the Bible is the root of much of the problem.
It was Peter Singer's book that also made popular the rather ponderous term "speciesism." He writes of this as, "a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species."(3) Singer says speciesism is just as bad as sexism or racism.
So what does "speciesism" really mean? If you think it's acceptable to test a medicine on laboratory animals before giving that medicine to a sick child or a cancer patient fighting for life, then you, too, are a speciesist. If you believe it is all right to eat meat or fish or shrimp, you are clearly a speciesist, just as guilty as someone who thinks that slavery is an acceptable way to treat another human being, according to Singer and others in the animal rights movement.
Why should Christians even bother to think about issues like animal rights when people are not even treated as well as animals in places like Bosnia or Iraq or many inner cities? Christians need to be actively involved in speaking out and acting clearly on this issue because the very definitions of humanity, of human dignity, and human responsibility are being rapidly reconstructed and any hint of man as created in the image of God or of a God who creates and gives value is seen as "speciesist" and dangerous.
Are We the Creation's Keeper?
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.... They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. That's how God describes His coming kingdom in Isaiah 11.
Clearly God is concerned for all the animals He has created, and they will share a future, a non-violent future, with us. But what of today? How does God intend us to treat animals now?
The animal liberation movement opposes favoring humans over other animals. "Speciesism," they say, is treating humans as if they were more valuable than other animals. What does the Bible say?
God, in Genesis, tells us we have a responsibility as stewards to care for His creation. We are God's representatives on earth, but we are not Lords of the earth. In Proverbs Solomon says that "a righteous man cares for the needs of his animal" (Prov. 12:10). It is a mark of righteousness that we give animals the care they need. But at the same time we must understand that both we and the rest of creation have value because a sovereign God created us and gave us value because He cares about us. Our value comes from God and not ourselves.
Our concern for animals does not mean we should give up the Bible's insistence that we are unique in all of God's creation because we bear His image, or that we should immediately eliminate all use of animals for any purpose and live resolutely vegetarian lives. What place, then, should animals have? In Matthew 12:11-12 Jesus berates the Pharisees' willingness to help an animal on the Sabbath but not a human.
If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
Jesus' point is clear: we should have compassion on animals in trouble, but have even more compassion for human beings, because they are "much more valuable" than sheep! But Christians sometimes show little compassion for either.
As Christians we have often not lived up to our responsibilities to animals as creations of God. Frequently we have acted as if all animals are here only for our use, to do with whatever we wanted. We have taken God's statement in Genesis 1:28, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth," as giving us the right of despots, not the responsibilities of stewards. As Christians we have not set an example for the world of valuing the rest of creation because it belongs to God, and we have often abused the creation with no sense of damaging a creation that is not our own.
Next, we will look at what happens when people who deny God try to find an adequate basis on which to build value for themselves or animals, and how far into dangerous territory this can lead them.
From Animal Rights to Abortion: A Small Step from Man to Animal
"Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses."(4) This is how Ms. Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sums up her outrage at the killing of animals. What happens when well- meaning people try to give animals value without God? Ms. Newkirk may think she has improved our view of chickens by comparing them to Jews who were killed in concentration camps. But actually she only trivializes one of the most brutish examples of evil in our century. In her view numbers are everything; if more chickens than people were killed, then poultry farming is worse than Nazi Germany.
What is the foundation of Ms. Newkirk's sense of value? She speaks of Peter Singer's book, Animal Liberation, as "the Bible of the animal-rights movement." Singer develops a purely utilitarian view of the greatest good for the greatest number of beings that can experience pain. For Singer there can be no God over creation. He almost sarcastically says: "The Bible tells us that God made man in His own image. We may regard this as man making God in his own image."(5) So Singer turns to evolution to consider how we are related to other creatures.
Singer believes the evolutionary history of humans and other animals, particularly mammals, makes our central nervous system and theirs very similar. His conclusion? That many animals must feel pain like we do. Since we have no basis, in his view, to see humans as any different from other animals, if it is bad to do something to another pain-feeling human being, then it is wrong to do it to any other pain-feeling animal. The logic is simple, but it leads to just the kinds of confusion that cannot separate Jews dying in gas ovens from chickens dying in processing plants.
Where does a view like this ultimately lead? Singer willingly points the way in its application to new-born children. Writing for physicians in the journal Pediatrics, he shows how his ethic applies to humans,
Once the religious mumbo jumbo surrounding the term "human" has been stripped away...we will not regard as sacrosanct the life of each and every member of our species, no matter how limited its capacity for intelligent or even conscious life may be.(6)
With chilling clarity, Singer says that once we come to his position of valuing a life only if it meets certain requirements, it is much easier to take the life, not only of the unborn, but of those who have a "low quality of life." He argues for the right to take the lives of new-born children who do not have certain capacities for "intelligent or even conscious life." Singer concludes:
If we can put aside the obsolete and erroneous notion of the sanctity of all human life,...it will be possible to approach these difficult decisions of life and death with the ethical sensitivity that each case demands, rather than with a blindness to individual differences.7
In other words, if a baby does not measure up to Singer's standards, it is not kept alive. The values of animal rights, applied to people, lead coldly to abortion and euthanasia.
While there are many areas where Christians might disagree with the animal rights movement, one might well ask, Have we Christians lived up to the responsibilities God gave us towards animals?
Are Farm Animals Just Machines?
After the Flood, God tells Noah: "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." God also makes a covenant, not only with Noah, but "with every living creature that was with you--the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you--every living creature on earth" (Gen. 9:3, 10).
So, while there is no question that God has given us permission to eat meat, we must also remember that we are moving towards a kingdom in which, as we saw in Isaiah 11, all of creation will live at peace with one another. So what should we be doing now, as we await perfection?
We have already looked at problems with the animal rights position. On the other hand, there are some uses of animals that should cause Christians significant concern.
One of the great changes in Western economies has been the change from the small family farm to the huge "agribusiness." With this change has come not only increased production and lower food prices, but the treatment of animals as machines and land as a commodity. One area where animal rights activists have done commendable work is in showing the appalling conditions under which most farm animals now live.
Chickens live in battery cages that, on average, allow them only 36 to 48 square inches. This means that two chickens live in less space than a page of paper. Generally four or five chickens share a cage, so that they must almost physically live on top of each other. Does this sound like what Solomon means when he said that "a righteous man cares for the needs of his animal"?
As one other example, pigs too are treated as machines to produce food. The United States Department of Agriculture tells farmers: "If the sow is considered a pig manufacturing unit, then improved management...will result in more pigs weaned per sow per year." This is surely not man acting as a good steward of created beings that belong to God. The decline of any belief in God has been accompanied by a decline in any attempt to treat animals on farms as anything other than "manufacturing units" to be treated in whatever way will cause them to produce the most.
If we truly believe what the Psalmist says, that "The earth is the LORD's and all it contains" (Ps. 24:1), then we must not accept how those who do not believe this have acted. While we are directly given permission in Scripture to eat meat, it might well make a great difference in how animals are treated if Christians choose not to buy from those meat producers who do not tend to their animals as if they really did belong to God.
In the same way that if we believe in the sanctity of human life we must stand against abortion, so too, if we believe that "the earth is the LORD's" then we must consider whether we can support those who do not treat animals as animals but only as "manufacturing units."
I want to conclude this discussion with some suggestions about how we can both uphold the uniqueness of humans and stand against the mistreatment of God's creation.
Recovering the Creation as Compassionate Stewards
I have pointed out the disturbing consequences of abandoning the biblical view that humans are created in the image of God. As theologian and social critic Richard John Neuhaus perceptively puts it: "The campaign against `speciesism' is a campaign against the singularity of human dignity and, therefore, of human responsibility.... The hope for a more humane world, including the more humane treatment of animals, is premised upon what [animal rights activists] deny."(8)
If we are merely animals, we have no reason to be less species- ist than other animals. Dogs show no concern for the welfare of cats. If we are moral in a way that other animals cannot be, then we are both different from other animals and responsible to God for that difference. Because we have a spiritual aspect that no other animal shares, what the Bible calls the "image of God," we also have a responsibility to care for what God has entrusted to us. How should we live out that responsibility?
First, we must live in obedience to Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who reminded us that God clothes even the grass as an example of His care for all His creation. We need to demonstrate in our actions and in how we teach our children that we, too, consider all of God's creation as something that shows His glory.
Secondly, we must consider what our own role is as God's stewards. Just as not all are called to give their lives in vocational missionary service, so, too, not all are called to be full-time activists for better treatment of God's creation. But we are all called to be missionaries, and we are all called to be stewards and not spoilers of the natural world.
Medical research and experiments on animals provide an excellent place for Christians to be proactive. Animals must be humanely treated, but at the same time we have much to learn about the treatment of cancer, diseases of the nervous system, and the management of serious injuries from animal experiments. If a cure for AIDS or any one of a number of genetic diseases is to be found, it should first be tested on animals. However, just as on farms, we have a duty as stewards to see that animals are treated with the respect due them as part of God's creation. Like Jesus, who regarded helping the sheep out of the well as more important than keeping the Sabbath, so too we must speak out strongly for the humane treatment of animals whenever they are used by humans.
We have been given the right and the responsibility to rule over the earth by its Owner, God. Once Christians led in this area, starting the whole movement for the humane treatment of animals. Now we have little to say to our culture about real stewardship. We must read our Bibles carefully and prayerfully consider how God would have us help recover His creation. Animals may not have rights, but we as Christians clearly have responsibilities to them.
As Christians we must stand for man as created in the image of God and His creation as a reflection of His glory. Let us say with the Psalmist: "How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures" (Ps. 104:24).
1. Ingrid Newkirk cited in Charles Oliver, "Liberation Zoology," Reason (June 1990), p. 22. 2. Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (New York: Avon Books, 1975), p. 215. 3. Peter Singer, Animal Liberation, new revised ed. (New York: Avon Books, 1990) p. 6. 4. "Liberation Zoology," p. 26. 5. Animal Liberation, new rev. ed., p. 187. 6. Peter Singer, "Sanctity of Life or Quality of Life," Pediatrics (July 1983), pp. 128-29. (Cited in Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster.) 7. Ibid. 8. Richard John Neuhaus, "Animal Lib," Christianity Today, 18 June 1990, p. 20.
About the Author
Rich Milne is a former research associate with Probe Ministries. He has a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary. Rich works in the area of the philosophy and history of science, focusing in particular on the origin of the universe and the origin of life, and the history and philosophy of art. He and his wife, Becky, are currently on staff with East-West Ministries in Dallas, Texas. He can be reached via e-mail at @eastwestministries.org.
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