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A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals


Selections From The Ark Number 204 - Autumn/Winter 2006


Let no-one ever say that Britons care more for animals than they do for people. Two recent news items surely killed that old myth. One mentioned that the British evacuees from the fighting in Lebanon were not allowed, unlike those under French supervision, to take their pets with them. These would be left to starve to death. The second was the almost incredible account of the animals left on a farm after their owners had been jailed for non-payment of fines (for animal cruelty!). The cattle were not fed or watered and simply shot when their suffering became ‘too great’. How a so-called civilised country could tolerate such abuses simply demonstrates the great need for our work. For among the voices you would not hear in the face of these or similar scandals is that of the Christian Churches. Why not? Because they do not see that issues concerning animals are really serious, really worth bothering with, really deserving of comment or consideration.

One Anglican bishop has so far denounced unnecessary air travel as sinful – good for him; global warming affects all creatures (human and other) adversely, so we support his stance. The Pope and all the bishops have condemned the violence of war – good for them; warfare affects all creatures (human and other) adversely, so we support their stance. Now, we wait to hear from the Pope, bishops, priests and the people next to us in the pews, that something that affects any non-human creature adversely is to be condemned. But we may be waiting a while yet. Meanwhile the non-human creatures suffer.

Christmas may still be a few weeks off when you read this, but when it does come we will be put in mind again of the wonderful graciousness of God. The self-emptying, or kenosis, of the Son of God coming to us as a vulnerable human baby always stands in contrast with the greedy self-centredness of the way we celebrate the festival. From the very beginning of his earthly life Christ demonstrates the kenotic principle as the very way of God. This is the way the Christian should try to live; it is the model for our approach on life – the way we treat our neighbour, our world. So does the kenotic, self-emptying, principle hold good in the way we treat other creatures? Surely it does. We cannot be consistent if we are selfless in all other respects and selfish when it comes to animals. If we are to be the servants of others, following the model of the One who came to serve, then we must be the species that serves the others. For our Advent meditation, we can ponder on all the ways in which our ‘master’ attitudes and actions can be transformed into ‘servant’ ones in relation to people, animals and the world we all inhabit.

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