Animal Padre's
Christians Against All Animal Abuse
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From the Christmas 2006 Issue

‘At The Cross, At The Cross Where I First Saw The Light’!

Sunday the 16th of December found a group of us holding a vigil within the ancient city of Chester. We assembled at The Cross: a spot from which past reformers such as Matthew Henry had expounded the Gospel. And, though the previous days had been ‘pea- soupers’, the sun came out for us and, following prayer, a brief message by ones self, and Judi leading us in two carols, we then made our way in a dignified single procession - down the pedestrianized precincts - before standing outside the cathedral.

I’ve no doubt that many consciences were pricked, and not least a rather drab group of hot gospellers whose only theme seemed to be: ‘unless you get born again like us then you are eternally lost’ Well, we stood at their side for a while until we raised our banners up from the ground. What they read obviously disturbed them and one said he’d rather that we moved a little away – which of course we did; and then I let them know that I could preach louder than they. Well, quite hilarious if not so downright sad! If one’s concept of salvation only embraces the self styled elect and saved who frequently ranter in several city side streets, then give me the company of their ‘presumed’ damned every day!

As for the poster I held displaying a sweat shed for breeding turkeys intensively, my mind goes back to one’s first parish. Indeed, it was one of late1960s affluence. Yes, and following a possible visit to a young couple following a christening, the young farmer was most anxious to show me how he’d ventured out in to an intensive form of breeding. ‘The thing for the future’, he assured me and – on reaching a large shed - as he began to slide open the doors it might have appeared as if he was about to show me his latest ‘baby’ of a Mercedes or a Bentley! But instead, to my horror there was a loud and eerie humming in my ears; a warm stench; and long necks looming out of darkness. These were Turkeys crammed together and looking as if from a Frankenstein or Alexander Poe’s horror film. Indeed, I was utterly aghast, yet tried to cover it. ‘Might not this new innovation be a trifle cruel?’ I hesitated to suggest. ‘Not at all; it’s the farming of the future; and I’m in on it!’ was the gist of his hearty reply.

Well, I went home to the rectory deeply disturbed by what I’d seen. What was the matter with me? He wasn’t disturbed at this new innovation, which would certainly increase his profits astronomically. Perhaps I was over sensitive. However, armed with a leaflet or two of relevant literature and also aware of my responsibility for ‘the cure of souls’ I returned a week or so later. But this time the young farmer was out; and I had time to speak in depth with his young and hospitable wife who over nine months previous had been married in to affluence.

I can only remember that I won her heart over how defenceless birds and animals needed to be justly and lovingly cared for; and she could see no reason why they should not revert to the previous free range lifestyle. Well, we left most amicably and not without a prayer by myself offered for her, her husband, their young baby; and all the livestock within their care.

Consequently – quite unexpectedly – several days later, who drove up to the rectory in his red Jaguar car (registered VET 1) than did the local veterinary surgeon? With much difficulty, but aided by two sticks because of his crippling M.S., the fellow demanded to see me. One can only say that he was utterly livid: “Someone needs to take it on himself to address you, and I have taken it upon myself to do so as you are upsetting quite a number of my top clientele. Indeed, you have almost created a rift between a young man and wife over alleged animal cruelty on their farm!…………”. Well, a most heated debate followed in which I gave as good as I got. The simple gist of the matter was that intensive factory farming methods were one hundred percent humane as far as the vet was concerned; and as for my previous criticism from the pulpit of vivisection – there was absolutely no cruelty whatsoever in the same.

Well, my final words to him - during the period that happened to be Advent - was that God’s love had conquered my heart and, like John the Baptist, I would preach the truth and rely on Him. His parting words from the rectory were stark and almost threatening: ‘be very careful that someone does not knock off your head, like they did John the Baptist’s!

Yes, diplomacy has never been my top asset! A Church In Wales rector once said to me: ‘always avoid a direct confrontation!’. Well, I think I’ve lived in Yorkshire long enough to call a spade a spade – if not sometimes a shovel! Yet in unintentionally offending anyone else, it always hurts me far more than it does them. However, I dare not remain silent when dumb creatures are being horrifically exploited. I’d rather be a John The Baptist than an ecclesiastical jellyfish (void of backbone). Jesus Himself was far from tactful. That’s why the church leaders so despised Him; handed Him over to be flogged; yes, and horribly crucified!

Friend, may the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph & Mary, & the peace of the Christ Child, be God’s wondrous gift to You!

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