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


It's not a sin to starve your dog says archbishop

From the Sunday Express, January 8th, 1989:

A storm erupted yesterday over an Archbishop's claim that cruelty to dogs was acceptable - because they do not have souls.

In a remark sure to outrage animal lovers everywhere, Archbishop Alfredo Battisti declared that animals, "did not count".

"They are not people and therefore have no soul," he said. "To beat up a dog or leave it to die of starvation is not a sin. For a dog is not a person and therefore has no soul. So no sin is committed."

The Archbishop made the controversial statement to a shocked crowd in the Italian town of Udine.

Within hours his home telephone was buzzing with complaints from thousands of animal lovers demanding a retraction.

In Britain, leading Catholics and animal welfare groups were furious.

An RSPCA spokesman said: "It's absolutely outrageous. How can a man of God advocate cruelty to another living creature?"

"This is the sort of remark which encourages maniacs who enjoy seeing dogs suffer."

Father Patrick Browne, private secretary to Britain's leading Roman Catholic Cardinal Basil Hume, said: "I am appalled."

"It is accurate to say that as far as Roman Catholics are concerned, dogs do not have souls. But any form of cruelty for its own sake is morally wrong and sinful.

"Human life is sacred, but so is animal life. We have only to remember St Francis of Assisi".

Monsignor Michael Smith, who assists the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark said: "Of course there is a difference between killing or hurting a dog and killing or hurting a person, because a dog does not have a soul, but it is still morally wrong to hurt any animal."

Archbishop Battisti made his comments during a speech against abortion. He said people who were cruel to animals went to prison, while those who carried out abortions went free.

As a result of the barrage of criticism in Italy he may be forced to explain to the Pope.

A spokesman for the Vatican said: "The Pope has recently made clear his ideas on preserving nature and animals, that they all make up the balance of this world that God created for man."

The MP for Udine - on the border with Yugoslavia - called for the Archbishop's resignation, as did the city fathers.

Gianfranco Gambassini said: "The man is obviously of very bad taste and a fool."

Bruno Fillipin, said the Archbishop had given people "a licence to treat animals badly."

NB Archbishop Battisti issued a press statement in response to the media backlash in Italy against his homily: No justification for those who are violent to animals.

See The Ark, April 1989.

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