A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals
There is a form of cultivated hardness, a spurious form of ‘courage’ in some people at both ends of the social spectrum. Those from landed estates relish the ‘pleasures’ of hunting and shooting, and those from ‘sink’ estates glory in the reflected toughness and violence of their dogs.
Both sets of people ridicule the ‘weakness’ or ‘political correctness’ of those who deplore the bloodshed of animals. The reaction in the press to the banning of bullfighting in Catalonia mirrors this cultural divide in our society. Many Christians, including clergy (alas), side with the hunter against the hunted, the repression of tender feelings against the expression of them.
Yet John Henry, Cardinal Newman, now Blessed, was not afraid of feelings – as his sermon on the crucifixion demonstrates. It is necessary, he knew, to feel keenly in order to act properly: ‘True love both feels right, and acts right’. And the first example he gives to stir up feelings of Christians towards the crucifixion – emotional pain and outrage – is that of the effect that cruelty to animals has on the human heart. There are some who might condemn the link made between the suffering of animals and that of Christ.
What actually needs to be condemned is the inauthentic courage that dares not admit to feelings of sympathy and compassion. True courage accepts the likelihood of ridicule and rejection.
At the same time there is an inauthentic form of sympathy, a sentimentality that is pervasive in our culture. The cuteness of young lambs, chicks and calves appeals strongly to some of the very people who unthinkingly collude in the acute and prolonged suffering of these creatures in factory farms. There are pet owners who see no continuity between their beloved companion animal and other species, especially food animals or those they condemn and destroy as ‘vermin’.
We see by several articles in this issue the very real continuity between all species, including our own.
There are species that are considered so low in the chain of being that they do not feature often in the discourse of animal welfare – the marine invertebrates and insects – but here their champions have their say. Nothing living of God’s wonderful creation is beyond our concern.
We are, as we are frequently told, the only species made in God’s image, and if we are to reflect that image, if we are truly to represent God on earth, we need to be fully genuine, totally authentic in both our sympathy and our courage. However small and insignificant each of us is, then we can at least know that we are helping to bring about the fulfilment of the divine purpose of creation – the shalom, the harmony of all and between all.
Go on to: Blessed John Henry Newman
Return to: The Ark Number 216 - Winter 2010
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Deborah Jones at Catholic Concern for Animals
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