By John Pitt
From a report on the 'Humane Education
Symposium' published in the former British Union for the Abolition of
Vivisection journal Animal Welfare, October 1980
One of the penalties of having a verbal delivery that might best be
described as like a lawn-mower being used on a cobbled pavement is
undoubtedly that of being unable to risk commenting unfavorably on the
articulation of others.
I therefore find myself mightily
relieved when I am called upon to record my appreciation of the talent
in this direction of actress Damaris Hayman, pedagogue-cum-priest Fr.
Alan Wynne, and his Anglican counterpart, the Rev. Andrew Linzey, who
combines the duty of Chaplain and Lecturer in Religious Studies to an
older age-group of students.
Damaris Hayman, whose best-known
affiliation is surely that of being "with the Woolwich", had already
indicated in her review of Animal Rights and Ethics in The Ark magazine
how closely she went along with Dean Carpenter's committee's published
These feelings she articulated further in her address,
'Food Animals', which she historically enough opened with that
ever-popular catch-phrase from John Donne: "No Man is an Island . . ."
As Secretary of the Farm Animal Welfare Co-ordinating Executive
(FAWCE - with a final E - not to be confused with FAWC), she proved
herself yet again to be highly conversant on the subject of exploitation
of animals destined in part or whole for the human dinner table.
She did not, however, believe that reform could - or, it appeared,
really should be brought about by humans working out their impulses of
anger in acts of violence against those whose animal exploitation acts
"Violence breeds violence", she said, perhaps,
unconsciously making the "activists'" major point for them, and adding
that acts of violence of the Babraham invasion variety can - to echo the
words of Babraham director, Dr. Barry Cross: "add to animal stress". Her
final offering was to the effect that:
"Without compassion (to
fellow humans, too) we might just as well not get into this situation".
Father Wynne, according to the synopsis of his address, 'The Basis
of Social and Moral Philosophy', would attempt to discuss "how it is
possible to decide whether an action is right or wrong in the light of
the present general non-conformity to any particular moral codes". And
He was also billed to discuss how, however, "traditional
ideas, with their roots in Christianity, can aid a deeper understanding
of relationships within creation and could lead to a more responsible
and creative approach by man to the animal world". In which I think he
certainly tried but failed - but not for lack of special pleading.
For all that - and maybe it is largely because I am by habit too much of
a freethinker to give credit for any bar the most outstanding expression
of any kind of orthodox religious thought on ethics or morality - I was
delighted by one or two of his trenchant observations. For instance:
"If man is deaf to moral considerations, he is not deaf to
And I was also impressed when he reasoned that
since Man alone among animals was capable of reflection this
automatically gave him "unique responsibility".
I still believe
that this begged a very large question indeed but, here, just perhaps
for once, I am inclined to agree with the popular theory that the end
justifies the means.
To me it does not matter why, or how, human
animals choose to be more considerate to their fellows. It only matters
that they do.
The Rev. Andrew Linzey, who is clearly more at
ease now that he is lecturing than he was while serving an internship in
a Dover parish, did not by contrast suggest in his paper that it is
better to be a Christian animal welfarist than not to be bolstered by
faith of any kind.
What in fact he offered in 'Moral Education
and Reverence for Life' was one of the most lyrical addresses I have
Doubtless he was helped in this by taking
Schweitzer's renowned classic Ehrfurcht vor den Leben, the book that is
better-known by the poor translation of its German title into Reverence
I was delighted to hear Linzey explaining that the
word, reverence meant something far less than Schweitzer had intended in
Schweitzer employed an expression that conveyed more
than mere awe and recognition of an infinite, indefinable force.
The German word held more than a tinge of fear and anxiety within the
general feeling of humility and awesomeness.
defended Schweitzer in the face of those who criticised him since, if
not before, his death some 15 years ago for having apparently failed to
take into account the differing values of respective life-forms, failing
to differentiate between the sentient and the non-sentient and, in
general, for not being practical.
I shall not attempt, mostly
out of respect for the very perfect way in which he expounded his
defence, to paraphrase Andrew Linzey's delivery.
It can be
summed up without being mangled.
Schweitzer's concept was too
broad, too general and too non-specific to be widely accepted.
Had he confined himself, or had he not posessed so strong a character,
or had he even sought to work among his fellow-Europeans, he might have
escaped so much posthumous back-biting.
Reproduced with thanks.
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