President Trump is technically correct. That a human person is an animal is a biologically objective truth. But, I think it’s safe to say that we all know that’s not what the President really meant. What he really meant I would argue, was that by their actions MS13 gang members were so evil as to forfeit any claim to human dignity.
However, this claim is not consistent with Jewish or Christian moral teaching. The Bible teaches that only humans, not animals, can be judged as evil. Animals have no moral agency. They act as nature dictates. Put a single bowl of food before two starving dogs, one an adult and the other a puppy, and the adult dog will eat the entire bowl. Sharing is not among an animal’s natural inclinations.
To commit evil is a manifestly human characteristic. Indeed, the inclination to do evil is one of the two hallmarks of humanity. The second hallmark is the inclination to do good. Animals, unlike humans, do not create institutions to take care of the sick, poor, or oppressed. Humans do.
In the second creation story God creates man and animals very differently. When He created the animals in Genesis 2:19) he instilled in them the inclination to behave as nature would dictate. As such, animals are ruled by natural impulses that cannot be ignored. However, when He creates mankind (Genesis 2:7), he instills in them two inclinations. Like all animals, humans possess the inclination to act according to nature. The second inclination, unlike animals, is an inclination to rise above animal nature and act for the good of others. In other words, the Bible reveals that humans have moral agency and animals do not.
When an MS-13 murders a child in cold blood, he is rightly subject to judgment. When a male lion takes over a pride and kills all the cubs, he is not subject to moral judgment. The mail lion simply exercises his natural inclination. We are human because we are expected by God to prefer good over evil and act accordingly. MS-13 gang members are human and will suffer judgment accordingly.
Learn what it means to be human – On Being Human