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Existence of God: Morality

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Jailed for Killing Snails?

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

It does not happen very often. But occasionally, national newspapers will carry a front-page banner that rivals even the best tabloids. Such was the case with The Times—one of the leading newspapers from the Republic of Ireland—on July 10, 2004. The headline read: “Kill a Snail and Go to Jail?” The article featured a large picture of a snail, and shared the prominent page-one position with an article titled “Intelligence Services Get Blame for Iraq Failings.” This must be a joke—right? Surely such goings-on must be tabloid journalism at its best? Ah, if only that were the case.

The article begins: “People who mistreat animals will face fines of up to £20,000 (roughly US$35,850) and year-long prison sentences under welfare laws to be announced next week…. The legislation will also offer protection to creatures such as insects, slugs, worms, caterpillars, and butterflies if scientific evidence proves they suffer pain” (Elliot, 2004, p. 1). Get the jails ready, because there’s going to be a huge influx of four- and five-year-old boys! How many youngsters have graduated from first and second grade without crunching a few bugs underfoot? I know of boys who would be facing life in prison (and maybe the death sentence!) for their interest in terminating bugs. Speaking of annihilating bugs, are exterminating companies like Terminix® and Orkin® breeding “serial killers”?

As incredible as it may seem, this legislation only toughens laws that are already in place in that country. The new bill doubles the current maximum six-month sentence, and increases the fine up from £5000 (roughly US$9,000). The new bill is being sponsored by Ben Bradshaw, the minister in charge of animal welfare. Under the new law:

  • There is a maximum jail sentence of one year.
  • Fines of up to £20,000 are possible.
  • Children under 16 are banned from buying pets.
  • There is a ban on giving animals or goldfish as prizes.
  • Insects and worms will have the same protection as cats and dogs.

The insanity does not stop there. Two additional articles on page two elaborate further on the front-page article (see Coates, 2004, p. 2; Scruton, 2004, p. 2). The article by Sam Coates focuses primarily on the relationship between gardeners and slugs, and how it will be affected with this new legislation. Slugs are a serious problem for gardeners in that area. Many gardeners cut them in two, use chemicals to dehydrate them, or drown them in bowls of beer or coffee. But animal rights activists are determined to give the slugs the upper hand. As Coates noted:

A spokesman for PETA, the animal welfare group, said that this [killing slugs—BH] was unacceptable. “Compassion must be extended to all living beings. Stamping on a slug sets an example to children that harming animals is acceptable, or that “might makes right.” People might view snails and slugs as insignificant. But there needs to be more widespread compassion (2004, p. 2).

My question is: Do these animal rights activists believe they know better than God? It was God Who created slugs and snails in the first place. And yet, He said that humans were to have dominion over the creatures that He had made (Genesis 1:26,28). The psalmist echoed these very directives when he praised God by saying, “You have made him [man—BH] to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:6-8, emp. added). God put these things here for us to use and enjoy—not to become a legal obstacle that prevents gardeners from being able to grow food. (see “Animal Right’s,”)

As ridiculous as it sounds, this new legislation seems to have been inevitable. Having been inundated with Darwinian theory for more than a century, it was only a matter of time before atheists and evolutionists began espousing that humans are on the same level with slugs and snails. After all, according to their theory we all have the same common ancestor. Evolutionary science does not view humans as unique in the animal kingdom, and thus we are only slightly separated from the insects and slugs we see crawling along the ground.

While evolutionists may continue to argue that we share a common ancestor with animals, the fact is, humans are distinctive. Humans possess a soul—a spirit—that lives on after the death of the body (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Zechariah 12:1; Luke 16:22-31; Hebrews 12:9; James 2:26). Animals do not share this spiritual dimension in common with humans. While animals possess an animating life force, when they die, they cease to exist. No part of their being continues to exist beyond physical death. (cf. “Do Animals Have a Soul?,”). We may love the family cat or dog, but on the Day of Judgment yet to come, that cat or dog is not going to have to account for all the things it has done during its life on Earth. Humans will. New legislation that punishes with fines or jail time will not change that fact.


Coates, Sam (2004), “Animal Lovers Rise to Defend the Gardner’s Slimy Enemy,” The Times, Saturday, July 10.

Elliott, Valerie (2004), “Kill a Snail and Go to Jail,” The Times, Saturday, July 10.

Scruton, Roger (2004), “The Real Answer is That There is No Answer,” The Times, Saturday, July 10.

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