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


Christianity and animals - nasty strand

A 'Nasty Strand' in Christianity which condones the suffering of animals has been attacked by the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt. Rev. John Baker.

The Church's record on animal rights is poor, the Bishop writes in the current issue of his diocesan newspaper, Sarum Link. "Most Christians prefer to pass by on the other side."

In particular, Bishop Baker criticises the 'rather nasty strand' in Christian thinking which has argued that animals have no 'souls', and therefore it is not wrong to treat them in any way that suits ourselves.

"But that is hardly the point," he states. "Whether they have 'souls' or not, the fact is that they can feel pain and misery. And, to put the matter at its very lowest it does our 'souls' no good to be needlessly cruel."

Bishop Baker goes on to consider a number of aspects of animal welfare, among them fox hunting. While he does not come down firmly on either side of the argument, he writes: "Hunting folk must realise that, for all the joy and prowess of their sport, many people, who do not speak from ignorance, are clear that as practiced it involves unacceptable cruelty."

The Bishop also has misgivings about the food industry. While most farm animals lead happy and healthy lives, he agrees, millions of others are "raised in conditions that deny most of their basic needs and instincts. We transport them in ways that cause pain, injury and slow death. We slaughter them by processes that inflict terror and sometimes intense suffering."

The Church's duty in all this, Bishop Baker concludes, is to "encourage all concerned to find ways of feeding ourselves, curing disease, and enjoying leisure which do not bring pain and misery to those creatures of God who are in our power and so have the more claim on our compassion."

Church Times, August 4th, 1989.

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