The Fellowship of Life
by Clifford Longley, RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS EDITOR
From The Times dated Monday July 9 1990:
Attempts to ban fox hunting on the 150,000 acres of Church land in England fizzled out at the General Synod of the Church of England in York.
Animal rights activists still have slight hopes of influencing the synod next year, when a statement of Christian attitudes to the care of the environment is likely to be debated.
Andrew Linzey, Anglican chaplain at Essex university, and one of the church's leading campaigners for animal rights, said during the weekend debate, however, that the synod's failure to condemn hunting for sport would cause a massive reaction against the church. He blamed "manoevres" by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York behind the scenes for the way the debate had been neutralised.
The motion the synod was addressing asked it to "invite the Church Commissioners to review critically hunting for sport and intensive farming on church-owned land" while declaring its opposition to "all forms of cruelty and wanton killing of animals". It was proposed by the Archdeacon of Colchester, the Ven Ernest Stroud, who also wanted the synod to ask its board for social responsibility to undertake research into the theological basis of human responsibility to animals.
The archdeacon said cruelty to animals was worse than ever before. The RSPCA investigated 80,000 complaints of cruelty last year. "Add to this the dimension of intensive farming and blood sports, and one begins to see a problem of massive scale."
Public opinion was overwhelmingly in favour of a legal ban on hunting, he said. "Fox hunting, stag hunting and hare coursing have the same purpose as the now illegal pastimes of bear-baiting and cock-fighting - that is, to provide amusement for human beings."
His motion ran the gauntlet of a battery of amendments, many of them aimed at the reference to hunting. The synod was repeatedly warned of the danger of alienating those who lived in the country.
A poor quality debate was brought to an early close when Canon Jesse Sage of Canterbury diocese moved that the board should instead prepare a statement "of Christian stewardship in relation to the whole of creation", to stimulate, "a critical review of human responsibility to the living environment". The Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, said the original motion was "seriously flawed" and Canon Sage's amendment was promptly accepted by Archdeacon Stroud and then carried."
For a further account of the debate and the failure of the Church to take a lead, see Andrew Linzey, ‘Cruelty in the Church’s Own Backyard’, Chapter 14 of Animal Gospel: Christian Faith as If Animals Mattered (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1998), pp. 130-139.
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