Animal Padre's
Christians Against All Animal Abuse
"Christ’s redemption is for the whole of creation!"

From Spring 2009 Issue

The Flock That Christendom Forgot: Or, an animal padre’s up hill pilgrimage!

What made me get involved in animal activism? This is a question I have frequently been asked, and the answer is two incidents.

My first experience

I am now 79 years of age and my first impetus to speak out occurred in the middle sixties when I was a newly ordained Congregational minister, with pastoral oversight of a thriving church in Barnsley and the other within the picturesque Yorkshire village of Clayton West, near Wakefield. One remembers the incident well! It was a Sunday afternoon and across from the village’s Manse was a track that went into the country. Indeed, hardly had we started on this uphill walk than did my previous wife remark on the stench that was coming from what appeared to be an old Nissan hut of the war years.

However, as we moved closer, she who was then my wife spoke in horror of the sound that was coming from within it. “Why, it’s none else than one of those horrid breeding huts in which poultry are reared in utter darkness. And there’s the proof: the windows are all boarded up so that they can’t even see the light of day. Such cruelty should not be allowed. Something needs to be done about it!.” She looked at me; saw by my face how I was feeling, and speedily added, “Yes, but we can’t do anything. The folk in this village are very much interrelated Jim, if we protested then the whole community would tell us, as ‘comers in’ where to go. We’d be literally hounded”

Yes, and my former wife was correct. Indeed, already I had been criticised for outspokenness. On a recent occasion the Deacons had edited my Church News Letter. They’d chosen to tone down what I had written before handing it in at the printerss. As a consequence, heated words had already been exchanged. Well, I hadn't studied five intensive years away from home to be a mere puppet in the hands of a local church board and, consequently, felt justly peeved. over the issue. More and more, I was feeling envious of the local Anglican rector. Along with other vicars and rectors, he had what was known as 'the parson's freehold'. It was a privilege that had come about in the far off past due to frequent clashes between the parson of the parish and local gentry, such as a squire, pontificating to God’s representative in the parish

Consequently, after repeated business meetings at this village Chapel - where those who paid the piper felt justified in calling the tune! -1 realised that to minister to a whole community unhindered one needed to transfer to the Church Of England, even though I would not receive a protected freehold until having served one’s title as a curate; and this would take a minimum of three years.

My second experience

Well, 1 need only add that it occurred during those three years as a curate which, after the first year seemed an eternity! Yes, and all because of a clash well through the second year due to local animal cruelty:: On my way back to the curates house from the mother church a small wood had to be traversed; and on one occasion within it I beheld a site that turned one’s stomach: a cat was hung up, strangled from the branch of a tree by a piece of string, and its very eyes were hung out from the sockets. Well, as if this were not enough, on reaching home my former wife pointed to a bird – by no the first! - which had been deliberately shot by young thugs of the area snooping round the parish with air guns.

Indeed, the bird we picked up was - if I remember correctly - breathing its last; and such was becoming almost a nightly experience. I’d witnessed enough. Something had to be done. So, on the spur of the moment I speedily concocted a letter and sent it to the Doncaster Evening newspaper. Indeed, in response to it a reporter and photographer came out on the scene; and this resulted in front page coverage within the next evening's paper. It was illustrated with the horrific illustration of the strangled cat inside, along with the front-page headline: 'Curate attacks local thugs'. Consequently, later that evening 'the balloon went, well and truly, up!' The Vicar phoned me, demanding to know why I had made such a public outburst. Indeed, he affirmed, I was giving a bad name to his parish and, already, a deputation from the mothers of the young thugs had made their feelings known on his doorstep. “What harm is there”, he furiously raged, “in having air guns? Two of my lads possess them!”

(to be continued next quarter).

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