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


God and Animals

The Rev. R.C.R. Adkins, M.A.
Rector of South Pool with Chivelstone, Devon

Reproduced from The British Vegetarian of Sep/Oct 1964 with Thanks to the Vegetarian Society:
A little time back my telephone bell rang; that is not unusual, it is continually ringing. What did surprise me, when I lifted the receiver, was to receive an invitation from I.T.V.(Westward) to appear on television. I had broadcast before, but so far I had always been in front of the television set, looking at the programmes, not behind the set being televised.
This invitation, the producer told me, was due to the controversy that had arisen over the action of two Devon vicars who had invited the local Hunts to meet at their vicarages. The League Against Cruel Sports had sent a strong protest against this to the Bishop of Exeter, but the Bishop had declined to intervene and his press secretary had stated that he supported the practice of hunting.
The I.T.V. had asked the Bishop's press secretary to put the case for hunting on television, and I was invited to put the opposite point of view.
I was delighted to accept the invitation; I am always glad to do anything I can for the great cause of kindness to animals.
When I arrived at the studios I found everyone most helpful. When it came to the actual television programme I found that my opponent, another Devon clergyman, rested his case on the words in the first chapter of Genesis that God said to man, "Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
Now the fact that Man has dominion over the animals is undoubtedly true, but it is also true that God has dominion over Man. If we fail, therefore, to show mercy to animals, the sovereignty over whom God has, for a time, delegated to us, we cannot expect to receive mercy from God, Who has supreme power over us.
Jesus said, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
If, therefore, we fullfil our stewardship over animals, by hunting them for pleasure, trapping them for money, and slaughtering them in millions for food, we can hardly complain if God says to us, when our life here on earth is over, "Inasmuch as ye have done it to these, your brethren, ye have done it to Me. Depart from Me."
It's strange how quick we are to take the lives of animals for any pretext that suits us, and yet not one of us, having taken that life, can bring it back to life.
It doesn't take the work of a moment to crush a beetle to death under our feet, but we cannot, with a lifetime's work, create ourselves the life that we took so quickly and heedlessly.
This does not mean that we should never terminate a life, but it does mean that it is a very serious thing to do, and that it should never be done lightly.
I have had on two occasions to end the life of a dog. Each one had been my companion and friend, but they both had been stricken by paralysis which made their earthly lives a misery. I believe, however, that when this life of mine on earth is over, I shall meet them again on the Other Side.
God, we believe, is Love, and therefore every person - and every animal - who really loves has something of God, something immortal, in him. So those animals whom we loved, and who devotedly loved us, are not dead as we perhaps mistakenly thought - they are radiantly alive in another plane of existence. We shall meet again.
To put animals out of their misery is the one thing we can do for them which, under the present state of the law, we cannot do for our human friends. Yet, as a parish priest, who has had to try and comfort people in great pain, I have come firmly to believe in euthanasia - to end the earthly life of a man or woman who is suffering from an incurable disease which is also inflicting intense pain.
We tie people to life which has become unbearable; we tie people to unhappy marriages which have become hell on earth because of our refusal to reform the divorce laws, but at least these fortunately form only a small part of the world's population.
With animals, however, we are in a continual hurry to untie them from life on this earth. A never-ending stream of animals makes its sad and weary way to the slaughter houses, and not a voice of protest is raised from the Christian Church. Only vegetarians seem to care, for if vegetarianism became prevalent, slaughter houses would cease to exist.
The continual infliction of pain and suffering on our brethren, the animals, has also a degrading and brutalising effect on those who perpetrate it. The agony of animals is bad enough in all conscience, but at least they are free from sin - no human being can make that claim. When therefore we cause animals to suffer we are increasing still further the barrier that exists between ourselves and God because of our wrongdoing, maybe making that barrier impenetrable, even by God.
To my mind this is the worst part of the brutalities suffered by animals at the hand of man, for as a soul is something of God, it is, in fact, made up of love, for Love is God. Therefore when we are cruel to a defenceless animal we are killing part of our souls and, if that cruelty is committed again and again, then there is a real danger of not only making an impenetrable barrier between ourselves and God, but of completely destroying our souls.
And so I come back to where I came in - the controversy on television over the question of hunting. My main contribution to that programme was to emphasise the fact that fox hunters were doing far more harm to their souls than they did to the poor animal they chased. The fox, at least, only lost his life on this earth; the hunter may be losing, what is far more important, his life in the next world.
As I pass by a butcher's shop crowded with customers waiting for their week-end joint, I sadly reflect that although we would be horrified at the idea of eating the flesh of a man who, while he was alive, did everything he could to harm us, we seem to have no qualms at eating the flesh of animals who have done us no harm at all.
It was said of the greatest Man that ever lived, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save." I wonder if that occurred to a man who, seeing two rats running along together, threw a stone at this vermin, as he thought of them. One rat was killed by the stone, the other did not move although the stone had not struck it. The man discovered that the animal was blind and still held in its mouth the piece of straw by which it had been led by the other rat.
The animals look to us, themselves they cannot save, are we going to save them?

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