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Herbivores, Carnivores and the Created Order

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Man was authorised in Genesis 1:29 to eat anything from the plant kingdom. A vegetarian diet only is mentioned, despite the earlier reference to livestock. We can infer, therefore, that sheep, cows, etc., were not originally given for meat-but for milk and other dairy products, wool, and to assist in tilling the ground. Of course, the livestock can have an anticipated use of supplying meat (after the Flood, Genesis 9:3) and also of supplying blood sacrifices in worship (after the Fall, inferred from Genesis 3:21).

A related issue raised in Genesis 1:30 concerns the diet of the nephesh animals. They also were given “every green plant” to eat, so a vegetarian diet was also for them. As far as getting food was concerned, predation, blood-shedding and death were not part of the original creation order. This was the case for both man and animals (for a fuller discussion, see Stambaugh, 1991). We find it difficult to reconstruct in our minds the situation that then existed. Today, the carnivorous animals seem to be such an important part of the food chain that we cannot imagine them to have lived in any other way.

Some Basic Types, such as the Cat Family, are now entirely carnivorous. Cats are born hunters and everything about them, from instincts to bodily features, points to their being designed as efficient predators. What dramatic changes have occurred therefore since creation! Despite the problems, the Scriptures seem clear enough. Predation was not part of the created order-nor will it be part of the new creation, where “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. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox” (Isaiah 11:6-7). Since the removal of predator instincts is linked with redemption, there is a strong case to be made that the origin of predation was after the Fall: either as part of the Edenic Curse or as a consequence of it (Stambaugh, 1991). For another interpretation, i.e., the pre-Flood world was vegetarian, see Lambert (1983).

This contrast between Genesis 1 and the present day is raised as a problem by non-Christians. After discussing the subject of limited variation with an individual, the following objection was put to me.

“The biological development necessary for the transformation of a world of entirely herbivorous animals into a world where predation is everywhere and in which life cycles of so many species are so intricately and inextricably bound requires something more than a limited variation.”….

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