nonviolence and animals

From a conversation with a vegan friend...

I agree that animals are not sinners. I suppose that does make them superior often. In my understanding, it's part of being a free spiritual being that we can reject God's way and make ourselves "lower" than the other members of creation who always obey the good nature God gave them. I think this explains your correct observation that human beings often act much worse than other animals.

I'd like to follow this idea of the sinlessness of animals to then question what it means to be moral, loving, and merciful in our relation to other animals. Certainly, we don't generally see animals being cruel to other animals, but usually just killing for food or fighting in self defense. So, as you say, we shouldn't be cruel to animals either (our current cruelty, like we see in the meat industry, is a result of our human sinfulness and should be rejected). But doesn't the behavior of sinless animals raise the question of whether all violence against animals is necessarily wrong or unloving, i.e. against God's will?

I understand you differentiate between necessary killing for food and unnecessary killing, when we have other food options. But in my experience it seems that animals do sometimes kill other animals out of "preference" rather than just for nutritional necessity. For example, raccoons eat a variety of foods. But when they get a chance to kill a chicken, they take it (as one raccoon did quite regularly here recently). I see cats do the same with a mouse or bird, though they have cat food available. Do you think this is wrong? I'm just not sure animals would share your definition of morality and love, though I believe they faithfully obey God's will in their nature.

I wonder if your assumptions about nonviolence (or even mercy) towards animals comes from Jesus' teachings about how we should treat other human beings, which seems to me to have a different meaning and purpose than simply reducing physical suffering. Jesus' nonviolence seems to be directed more to the spiritual aspect of human beings. (It doesn't seem to make any sense from a biological perspective.) He wished to inspire a free and willing response from human beings that was not forced through violence or threats, motivated by love not fear. But this only makes sense in relation to free spiritual beings, sinners who need to change by their own free will.

That seems to me to suggest that we shouldn't try to apply the same teachings on nonviolence to other animals. And I don't see Jesus (or other parts of the biblical teaching) applying it that way. Do you?