The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973


British Catholics 'apathetic' over animal rights

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 products.

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 sympathetic replies.

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.

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