Over the centuries, many Christians have been active in promoting respect for all living creatures.


Rabbits in monastery's garden - West Malling, UK, 2014

Rabbits in monastery's garden - West Malling, UK, 2014

Undoubtedly, some people have misused religion to promote bullfighting, hunting and other forms of abuse. But others, both priests and lay Christians with their hearts closer to the Gospel, have opposed violence against animals, and have opened their arms to all creatures. The number of animal-friendly Christians is huge, their most famous representative being St Francis of Assisi.


Recently, Pope Francis has been speaking more openly about the need for Christians to be good stewards of all creation. In Britain, this has triggered the launch of a petition asking the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to set up a Committee “on matters of responsibility and justice towards our fellow creatures”.


Such a Committee would ensure that the Catholic Church, at least in England and Wales, focuses its attention on the moral aspects of how we treat animals of all species, and it would be a means by which those who are concerned about animal suffering could bring their concerns to the teaching body of the Church.


The petition – which has been set the very achievable target of 1,000 signatures – can be signed by anyone, regardless of country of residence or religious creed, by clicking here.


Remaining within the Christian tradition, it is worth remembering some words of Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his foreword to the Global Guide to Animal Protection published by the University of Illinois, quoted on the website of the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (ASWA):


“I have spent my life fighting discrimination and injustice, whether the victims are blacks, women, or gays and lesbians. No human being should be the target of prejudice or the object of vilification or be denied his or her basic rights.


“But there are other issues of justice – not only for human beings but also for the world’s other sentient creatures. The matter of the abuse and cruelty we inflict on other animals has to fight for our attention in what sometimes seems an already overfull moral agenda. It is vital, however, that these instances of injustice not be overlooked.


“I have seen firsthand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged.


“It is a kind of theological folly to suppose that God has made the entire world just for human beings, or to suppose that God is interested in only one of the millions of species that inhabit God’s good earth.


“[...] Our dominion over animals is not supposed to be despotism. We are made in the image of God, yes, but God – in whose image we are made – is holy, loving, and just. We do not honour God by abusing other sentient creatures.


“If it is true that we are the most exalted species in creation, it is equally true that we can be the most debased and sinful. This realization should give us pause … There is something Christ-like about caring for suffering creatures, whether they are humans or animals.”


You can sign the petition addressed to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales by clicking here.




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