VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Human dominion over the natural world must not be
taken as an unqualified license to kill or inflict suffering on animals,
a Vatican official said. The cramped and cruel methods used in the
modern food industry, for example, may cross the line of morally
acceptable treatment of animals, the official said in an article Dec. 7
in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.
The article, titled "For a More Just Relationship With
Animals,'' was written by Marie Hendrickx, a longtime official of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. She said that in view of the
growing popularity of animal rights movements, the church needs to ask
itself to what extent Christ's dictum, "Do to others whatever you would
have them do to you'' can be applied to the animal world.
The "Catechism of the Catholic Church'' says it is
legitimate for humans to use animals for food and clothing, and to
domesticate them for work or leisure. But Hendrickx pointed out that a
small but significant change in wording was made between the catechism's
first edition and its official Latin edition on use of animals for
medical experimentation. Such experiments are now called morally
acceptable only if they contribute to caring for or saving human lives.
Moreover, the catechism says that in general it is "contrary to human
dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.''
Hendrickx said the question today is whether "the right
to use animals to feed oneself implies raising chicken in cages that are
each smaller than a notebook.'' "Or raising calves in boxes where they
cannot move or see the light of day? Or pinning down sows with iron
rings into a nursing position so that piglets can suck the milk without
ever stopping, and thus grow faster?'' she said. Likewise, she
questioned whether the right to dress oneself with animal skins meant it
was morally acceptable to let fur-bearing creatures die slowly in traps
from hunger, cold or bleeding.
Hendrickx also questioned treatment of animals in
traditional spectacles that have survived into the modern age, like
bull-fighting or "throwing cats or goats off a bell-tower.'' She was
referring to the tradition in a Spanish town of tossing a goat from a
50-foot bell tower into a piece of tarpaulin, to mark the beginning of
the festival of St. Vincent, the town's patron saint. The town gave up
the practice earlier this year after years of protest from animal rights
groups. She said that spectacles involving cruelty to animals are
sometimes justified as "cathartic'' acts that release collective
aggression. But experience shows the opposite is true: where brutal
spectacles are popular, aggression only seems to increase, she said.
Hendrickx said that in applying church teaching,
Catholics should remember that causing suffering to animals should be
avoided unless there are serious reasons to do so. Feeding oneself or
one's family is a legitimate reason, but the sole motive of profit is
not, she said.
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A Sincere Plea For Help, Buffalo Friends
17 December 2000 Issue
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