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Can Animal Rights and Vegetarianism (Veganism) Succeed Without Church Support?
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Comments by Stephen Augustine 17 June 2002

Maynard and Others,

I've been thinking about this thread in the past few days since I had a conversation with my rather evangelistic neighbour, Alan, who lives down the street.  Alan always takes any opportunity to invite folks to his church and to ultimately accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour as the path to Heaven.

Until two weeks ago we lived next to a 4-acre dense thicket of trees and blackberry brambles.  The thicket was home to rabbits, pheasants, quail, raccoons, and birds of all kinds.  The property owner in an attempt to make the land more saleable decided to clear all the brush and small trees.  So, now we live next to a bare 4-acre patch of ground quite devoid of avian and vertebrate life.

I happened to meet Alan on the street and bemoaned to him the loss of the thicket and the habitat it provided for the multitude of birds and animals.  Alan wasn't particularly concerned and in fact was somewhat pleased because the two rabbits that lived in the thicket liked eating seedlings in his vegetable garden and now the rabbits were conveniently displaced. I then expressed concern for the plight of the rabbits (and other animals) now that their home was destroyed and mentioned that good stewardship of God's creation would call us to hold concern for the animals that lived in the thicket.  To this Alan responded saying that it was proper for us to control the rampant populations of animals. I asked him how he interpreted the Genesis stewardship directive and his response was that it meant that humans were to manage Earth's resources to our benefit and part of that management strategy should include managing animal populations. I asked him if in fact the problem was not with rampant animal populations but with rampant human population growth and shouldn't we take voluntary steps to curb our own population? Alan said that that decision was to be left to God and was not anything that we should address. The conversation proceeded for a while with my putting out some of the ideals of Christianity (such as vegetarianism) and Alan responding with the limitations (God granted permission for a carnivorous diet).

So, if I was an "animal rights activist" being exposed to Christianity through my neighbour I'm not sure that that would have have a very pleasant introduction. In my mind there were two glaring issues, the first was the almost complete lack of compassion for non-humans and the second was the insistence on human supremacy and the unspoken right to procreate until we are as "numerous as the stars in the sky". I wonder if my encounter with Alan is a true reflection of the larger conversation that is going on everywhere else with state of the natural world and the corresponding Christian response.

In this instance would "animal rights and vegetarianism" be better off ignoring Alan or might it fail if those concerned did not enter into dialogue with Alan?

In Christ's Peace,
Stephen

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