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A Publication of


From The Ark Number 187 Spring 2001:


Every so often it is a good thing to pause awhile to consider what you are about. That is just what the Ark committee did last year when they took a whole day at the Missionary Institute in Mill Hill, London, just to step back and reflect upon what the Ark, or the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare to give it its full name, really stands for and how it should work to achieve its goals.

The chief goal that we have is the whole-hearted adoption of animal welfare within Catholic Christian teaching and praxis. We will know when that has been attained when papal documents are issued on it, when guidelines are produced by bishops’ conferences, when seminaries teach its values and schools place it on their curricula; when priests preach it and bidding prayers pray for it; when Catholic farmers and scientists refuse to engage in certain animal-cruel practices on grounds of conscience, and when each and every lay person is left in no doubt that lack of compassion to all living creatures is unChristian, to be deplored, and to be actively countered through consumer choices and life-styles.

We have a long way yet to go. Despite there being a rich heritage of Christian tradition and teaching which is wholly animal-friendly, there is at the same time a strand of Catholic life which is resistant to conversion to this cause. How many rough words of dismissal must be endured, or even those infuriating smiles of amused tolerance, before supporters of animal welfare will be taken seriously? It is a comforting thought that many of the Church’s saints had to endure similar ridicule and impatience in their life-time! But what pains us above all is that it is not us who really suffer from this, but billions of vulnerable, voiceless living beings who have so few defenders.

Whether certain priests in Italy (p. 9) and religious in the USA (p.41) will be shamed into change depends partly on their seeing animals as having value in themselves, as God’s creatures. That requires a huge undoing of years of indoctrination of anthropocentrism. As the Holy Father said to farmers last November, the words about ‘dominion’ in Genesis ‘entrust the earth to man’s use, not abuse. They do not make man the absolute arbiter of the earth’s governance, but the Creator’s "co-worker".’ The work of the Creator is to make a planet of breathtaking beauty, filled with living creatures joined together in a web of inter-relatedness and inter-dependence. The honour of being God’s ‘co-worker’ does not make us masters of this world, but servants. For it is His world, not ours, and the animals are His creatures, not ours. They should all be treated, as indeed should all human animals, with the respect and love their Creator has for them. Let us work with the Creator and His plans for all, and not against.

Return to The Ark No. 187

For questions, comments and submissions, please contact:
Deborah Jones at The Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare

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