Who Is My Neighbor?
Like others in the CVA, I have a deep conviction
that our animal cousins are included in that company. My heart's
feelings received strong confirmation from my dissertation research.
Studying Near-Death Experiences, I learned about a deeper form of
the well-known Life Review. A small number of experiencers have
not only seen their whole lives to date, but have relived them,
with an expansion of consciousness that included the experiences
of all those they have ever encountered. They found that they were
undergoing, from inside others' consciousness, the impact of their
own deeds. Of all their kind and loving deeds (and words, and even
thoughts) they were now the recipients. They also felt all the effects
of their unkind and destructive actions. This was true not only
of people (including even unknown passers-by on the street) but
of animals; it extended even to the earth itself. Persons who felt
overwhelmed by the harm they had done in many cases reported that
Christ (or some other guardian by their side) looked on in compassion,
uncondemning, encouraging them to believe that Divine Love has the
I felt I began to understand Biblical conceptions
such as "the books were opened, and every one was judged by
his (her) deeds" and "We shall give an account of every
idle word" and "Love your neighbor as yourself" and
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. . ." "Whatever
you have done to the least of these. . ." and "You shall
not muzzle the ox who treads out the grain." Wise counsel,
since some day you may feel just what the ox (or the dog, or the
cat, or the pig, or the chicken) is feeling.
I also recall reading that about 30% of returned
experiencers become vegetarians, a percentage considerably higher
than the national average. (Unfortunately I don't remember the source
or the exact figure.) It seems to be part of a new outlook on the
world as having a deep oneness beyond all divisions.
Gracia Fay Ellwood
First Things: A Monthly
Journal of Religion and Public Life
August 1, 2003, vol. 135, August 1, p. 9.
Animal Rights and Wrongs; Correspondence.
Richard John Neuhaus is to be commended for the respect
he pays to Matthew Scully's new book Dominion and the call therein
to examine the rightness of our raising animals for food ("Wild
Moralists in the Animal Kingdom," Public Square, April). The
huge industrial farms that provide nearly all animal-based foods
today inflict pain on the weakest of creation through castration,
debeaking, and tail-docking without anesthesia. Furthermore, factory
farming systems frustrate every God-given drive in these innocent
animals: chickens can neither spread their wings nor establish a
pecking order, while piglets and calves are weaned quickly, if not
immediately removed from their mothers. Artificial insemination
rules on today's farms; natural reproduction is prevented by the
quest for efficiency and profit and the hormone-saturated, artificially
enlarged bodies these industries create.
Father Neuhaus, Mr. Scully, and all Christians are
right to conclude that these practices constitute the wrong answer
to God's entrustment of the care of His creatures to humanity. We
are called by God to treat with love and mercy the animals that,
by their mere existence, bless and give Him glory. Responding to
that call should begin each time we sit down to eat. Adopting a
vegetarian diet, as Mr. Scully himself has, meets the biblical demand
for just environmental stewardship and follows Christ's precedent
of ministering to the exploited. This choice for nonviolence and
kindness, against cruelty and the "might makes right"
mentality, is a most practicable means for alleviating an average
of ninety-two animals each year of the sorry "existence"
that factory farms entail.
Readers interested in receiving a free pamphlet about Christianity
and vegetarianism by Fr. John Dear, S.J., can contact email@example.com.
Daniel Paden, Director, Catholic Vegetarian
Society, Norfolk, Virginia
An Open Letter to the Bishops
Please forgive this unusual form of communication, but the matter
has now become urgent, and there is little time left. The Government
has now published its Bill on Hunting, and shortly both Houses in
Parliament will have an opportunity to make their views known. I
have read carefully the contributions made by the bishops in the
Lords, and I believe that there are important theological and ethical
considerations that have yet to be articulated.
The bishops who have spoken so far are concerned about
the welfare of the rural communities they represent,and also about
the social and cultural aspects of hunting. Some feel, quite understandably,
that rural concerns have been marginalised, and that farmers are
experiencing unique difficulties. It is less clear, however, that
these bishops have heard those who regard the issue of cruelty as
central to this debate. While some bishops have made references
to animal welfare, very few have fully addressed the issue of cruelty.
I define ‘cruelty’ as the deliberate infliction
of suffering upon a sentient creature – when it is not performed
for that individual animal’s own benefit (for example, in
a veterinary operation). That hunting with dogs is ‘cruel’
is uncontestable.There is ample scientific evidence that all mammals
experience, stress, terror,shock, anxiety, fear, trauma, foreboding,
as well as physical pain. It is also ‘deliberate’ in
that those who hunt do so with the express aim of pursuing a creature
to its death. Not all may witness the death, but those who participate
can be in no doubt about the result, at least, for most of the hunted
Humans are moral agents with the freedom to make moral
decisions. That consideration is of central relevance to the debate
about hunting. What is so objectionable is that moral beings, who
should know better, choose to engage in an activity that results
in cruelty.There is all the difference in the world between the
accidental or instinctual infliction of harm by non-moral things
or agents, and the volitional infliction of suffering by moral agents.
In short: it is the difference between an ‘accident’,
or a ‘misfortune’, and a morally evil act.
It therefore will not do, as some bishops have attempted,
to justify hunting by reference to the facts that ‘foxes are
not kindly in their ways’, or that, ‘the natural world
is not a kindly place’, as if nature was a moral textbook,
or capable of relieving us of our obligations as moral agents. Strictly
speaking, cruelty is a wholly human act; it presupposes freedom
There are good theological grounds for regarding such
acts as intrinsically objectionable. Human beings are made in the
‘image of God’ and given ‘dominion’ over
animals. It is true that, in the past, both notions have been used
to defend an exploitative attitude toward animals, but there are
almost no scholars today who endorse that implication. Rather, we
are to act as God’s deputies – made in the image of
God who is holy, loving and just, and uniquely commissioned to care
for creation as God cares. To the question, ‘Why should we
care for animals?’ there is only one biblical answer: ‘We
given that duty of care’.
From this standpoint, the deliberate infliction of
suffering on ‘lesser creatures’ who are wholly in our
power, and who are, strictly speaking, morally innocent, is a gross
betrayal of our God-given responsibility. It is Christologically
unenlightened for one bishop to defend hunting by arguing that,
‘there is in the tradition of the three Abrahamic faiths a
gulf fixed between the human race and the rest of the created order’
– as if power was its own justification. That ‘gulf’
should, at least in part, be filled up by the exercise of moral
solicitude. As C. S. Lewis observed, our superiority over animals
partly consists in our acknowledging obligations to them which they
cannot acknowledge to us.
But cruelty is not just an intrinsically objectionable
act; it is a token of moral meanness; a practical example of our
failure to live generously after the example of Jesus. There is,
as Cardinal Newman indicated, ‘something so very dreadful,
so satanic in tormenting those who have never harmed us, and who
cannot defend themselves,who are utterly in our power [and] who
have weapons neither of offence or defence …’. And he
concludes his consideration of the Christ-like innocence of animals
with this appeal: ‘Think, then, my brethren of your feelings
at cruelty practised on brute animals, and you will gain one sort
of feeling which the history of Christ’s Cross and Passion
ought to excite within you’.
But there is more. Hunting is not undertaken (as all
killing should be) as a regrettable act sometimes made necessary
in a sinful and fallen world, rather it is celebrated as a ‘sport’.It
is here, most of all, that we should glimpse its utter incompatibility
with the Gospel of God’s free, generous love in Jesus Christ.
People hunt because they enjoy it. In the words of Baroness Mallalieu:
‘Hunting is our music, it is our poetry, it is our art, it
is our pleasure …’. Thousands have not marched in London
simply to defend the ‘most efficient’ means of killing
It is crucial to understand why the taking of pleasure
in the infliction of suffering is so morally deplorable. It may
be morally permissible to smack a child when performed with the
intention of rectifying regressive behaviour. But all should properly
recoil at parents who enjoy this act. The taking of pleasure renders
what might, conceivably, be a morally licit act into one that is
disturbed, even depraved. A ban on hunting (any more than a ban
on smacking) will not by itself prevent such depravity, but it will,
at least, limit the number of victims.
Specifically, there is a Christian dimension which
deserves to be articulated. It is we – the species to whom
so much power has been given - who should faithfully reflect that
trust by acts of care and generosity to the animal world. If God’s
power in Christ was manifest in acts of sacrificial love, and a
special solicitude exhibited towards the poor, weak and vulnerable,
should not our power be so similarly directed?And are all those
Christian virtues to be solely exercised in relation to ourselves?
I fear not only the judgment of God, but also the
judgment of history. Is hunting now to be counted among the long
list of moral issues, including capital punishment, votes for women,or
the protection of children, on which bishops have either frustrated,
or voted against, reform? There is no more desultory experience
than reading the past record of Anglican bishops on moral issues.
Specifically, it is odd to see bishops so apparently
uncomprehending of the anti-cruelty cause since our Christian forebears
pioneered it. Many luminaries of the nineteenth-century –
William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury and Fowell Buxton –
to take only three examples, saw it as their Christian duty to oppose
cruelty in all its forms.Anglican priest, Arthur Broome, founded
the SPCA (as it then was) in 1824 as a Christian organisation.
In 1909, the Bishop of Hereford sponsored - with the
support of five other members of the bench of bishops - a bill to
outlaw deer hunting, pigeon shooting, and rabbit coursing. Speaking
in support, the, then, Archbishop of Canterbury commented that,
‘I firmly believe that fifty years hence it will be found
as impossible for the then members of your Lordships’s House
to realise why we refrained from taking exception to rabbit-coursing
as it is pursued today as we now find it difficult to understand
why a hundred years ago exception was not taken to things like bull-baiting’.
Almost one hundred years later, it appears that the sensibilities
of (at least the most vocal) Christian bishops are no more advanced
about hunting and coursing than they were about bull-baiting.
The hunting debate is at a critical juncture. The
Government is now proposing a fudged piece of legislation, which
will allow the hunting of foxes, mink, and hares, to continue under
license. Licensing will imbue these ‘sports’ with a
kind of legitimacy, which they do not possess morally, and ought
not to have legally.Indeed, the whole notion of ‘licensing’
cruel acts is an affront to moral theology.
The so-called principles of ‘utility’
and ‘cruelty’ (like the question-begging formula ‘necessary
cruelty’) presuppose a wholly utilitarian (and secular) justification
for cruelty. There are times when some measure of compromise may
be morally laudable, but this is not one of them. Hunting mammals
with dogs for sport belongs to that class of always morally impermissible
acts along with rape, child abuse, and torture. Whatever else is
true, the Christian Gospel and cruelty are incompatible.
In the debates so far, the bench of bishops have voted
for the continuance of hunting. But I do not believe that these
bishops represent the mind of the Church in England, or of the wider
Anglican Church in this country. I appeal to those many bishops
who are opposed to hunting, whether in the Lords or not, to make
their voices known – and I would be grateful to hear from
It would be tragic if the Church utterly wrong-footed itself in
this debate to which it has so much to contribute.
I wish you – and all God’s creatures –
a peaceful Christmas.
Oxford OX4 1EG
Commentary on PETA's Holocaust
Tel: 01865 201565
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey is a member of the Faculty of Theology
in the University of Oxford, and holds the world’s first post
in theology and animal welfare – the Bede Jarrett Senior Research
Fellowship – at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. He is Honorary Professor
of Theology at the University of Birmingham. His books on animals
include: Animal Theology (SCM Press, 1994), After Noah (Mowbray,1997),
Animals on the Agenda (SCM Press, 1998), Animal Gospel (Hodder and
Stoughton, 1998) and Animal Rites (SCM Press, 1999). In 2001 he
was awarded a DD by the Archbishop of Canterbury for his ‘unique
and massive pioneering contribution in the area of the theology
of creation, with particular reference to the rightsand welfare
of God’s sentient creatures’.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’
(PETA) national tour of a controversial Holocaust exhibit draws
parallels between the Nazi concentration camps and contemporary
factory farms. Perhaps inspired by Charles Patterson’s book
Eternal Treblinka, the exhibit contains photographs showing similarities
in the ways Jews were treated by the Nazis and how animals are treated
on contemporary factory farms. There are several quotes from Jewish
writers who note the parallels, including Nobel Prize laureate Isaac
Many Jewish leaders have expressed outrage, as have
the traditionally anti-PETA conservative columnists and talk-radio
personalities. Whether intentionally or not, I think they all miss
PETA’s point. It seems clear to me that PETA is trying to
show that victimizers have similar mindsets and methods, whether
the victims are humans or animals.
Critics object that PETA is equating humans and nonhumans.
I think the PETA exhibit shows the parallels between the victimizers
rather than the victims, but the exhibit may be open to a range
of interpretations. Christianity teaches that humans hold a special
place in Creation, but it also reminds us that all of Creation belongs
to God. Factory farming, then, is a crime against God, whether or
not the Holocaust was a greater crime. Showing similarities in the
ways humans dishonor God does not demean victims. Rather, it reminds
faithful believers that even sincere Christians can, perhaps out
of ignorance, bring misery to God’s Creation.
Critics have expressed outrage because the PETA exhibit
“demeans” the Holocaust. I disagree. We should not treat
the Holocaust as a unique event. While the Holocaust was distinctive
in scope and cruelty, we can only learn from this tragedy if we
seek to understand why humans repeatedly victimize innocent individuals.
In recognizing that animals, too, can be victims, we may gain further
insight into human cruelty and destructiveness. Such insight is
necessary, I am convinced, if we are to have any hope of realizing
the Jewish prayer, “Never again.”