The Catholic Church and the hierarchy and clergy of other Christian
denominations in Britain are apathetic towards the plight of animals
used in scientific experiments, according to the organisers of an
anti-vivisectionist conference held in London last week.
The conference, Religious Perspectives on the Use of Animals in
Science, was organised by the National Anti-Vivisection Society
and the International Association against Painful Experiments on
Animals, with the aim of convincing all Churches of the need to stand up
for animals used in experiments for weapons, cosmetics and other
The Hindu and Buddhist Churches were strongly represented, as were
Christian Churches from the Continent and, in particular, America, but
the response from British clergy was minimal.
The Secretary of the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, which
has been campaigning for animal rights for forty years, said the
response from Catholic clergy was "pathetic". The National
Anti-Vivisection Society sent invitations to 20,000 clergy listed in
Crockford's Directory of the Anglican Church, but received only ten
Professor James Gaffney, Professor of Ethics at Loyola University,
New Orleans, explained that the Catholic Church's apathy in Britain and
America is in part caused by fear that the cause is an unpopular one,
but also by the legacy of Pope Pius IX's opposition to animal rights -
he saw the cause as a potentially liberalising influence on the Church -
and the writing of theologians who have defended his stance.
A poll carried out for NAVS this February by NOP Market Research
discovered that 81 per cent of the sample, taken from all over Britain,
either favoured or strongly favoured a reduction in experiments on
animals, while 67 per cent felt that testing alcohol and tobacco on
animals should be banned.
The traditional Catholic view, Professor Gaffney said, was that the
mistreatment of animals was only bad in as much as it had an adverse
moral effect on human beings. He called for a new approach, not based on
such harsh humanistic premises.
Professor Tom Regan, a Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina
State University and Chairman of the Conference, said that the
mistreatment of animals was against Christian morals and inconsistent
with the spirit of the Ten Commandments.
From The Catholic Herald dated 3 August 1984.