An ecumenical conference held at Annecy, France, last month has urged a
theology and ethic "for the liberation of life" - including "respect for
The conference participants were convened by the World Council of
Churches. Their proposed ethic also considers peace and justice, the
"integrity of the ecological community," and biological diversity.
Calling respect for animals a neglected topic in Christian
reflection, the group in its report says that it is "not a simple
question of kindness, however laudable that virtue is. It is an issue of
strict justice. In all our dealing with animals, whether direct or
indirect, the ethic for the liberation of life requires that we render
unto animals what they are due, as creatures with an independent
integrity and value."
The group says that the Bible and Christian theology "speak with one
voice: animals do not exist for the sake of the unbridled bold pursuit
of human avarice and greed." Yet, they observe, "literally billions of
animals are made to suffer (pain and death) every year in the name of
corporate mass-production and consumer over-consumption."
The group's report outlines several areas of concern - among them the
unnecessary use of animals to test and develop cosmetics and household
products; fashion trends (notably related to fur products); and food
production methods in "corporate animal agriculture" which mean
unnecessary "massive animal deprivation and death."
The participants criticise the use of animals in circuses, stage and
aquatic shows, rodeos, bullfights, and fights organised between other
animals such as cocks and dogs.
Also viewed negatively in the group's report are recreational
hunting; "wasteful, needlessly duplicative and poorly executed
scientific use of animals"; killing rare and endangered species: and the
"compulsory dissection of animals" which is part of traditional rites of
passage for children and adolescents in the "affluent world".
The Church Times, 6th October 1988.