My son brought a book home from school today about whales. It states that whales are mammals like us and that “a mammal is an animal that has lungs and breathes air,” etc... My son asked, “So we’re mammals too?” I wasn’t sure how to answer this because the definition in the book started by saying mammals are classified as an animal that... I tried to help him understand that we are not animals but wasn’t sure how to answer whether or not we are mammals. Could you help me know how to answer this? Are humans mammals?

– B.F., Wisconsin

Killer Whale

Thanks for sending in this question. It’s great to see that you and your son are carefully examining the book about whales together.

The word mammal is man-made, meaning that it is a method of classification defined by people. Generally speaking, mammals are defined as animals that are warm-blooded, usually having hair or fur, and giving birth to live young, which they nurse by producing milk. According to this definition, people and whales are both classified in the category of mammals.

God has a different way of viewing people and animals. First of all, God created men and women in His image. This makes people unique and special. God did not create any of the animals in His image.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26

Beluga Whale

You can also see from these verses that God gave people authority over all animals, including whales. Another difference between people and animals is that God gave the gift of salvation to people.

Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and marred the special relationship they had with God. As a result, all people have a problem with sin and a broken relationship with God. Jesus’ death on the Cross provides the only way for this relationship to be repaired. Jesus, who is God, came to earth as a human, lived a sinless life, died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and rose again. Have you made a decision to accept the free gift of salvation? If you want to learn more, please read the Good News.

So as you can see, there are many very important differences between people and animals, regardless of how people choose to classify God’s creation. To learn more, please see:

Kids, we love to hear from you! If you have any questions, please ask an adult to help you submit them using this page on our website. We’ll be looking forward to receiving more interesting questions!