The Fellowship of Life
Animal liberation now - tomorrow may well be too late
From The Catholic Herald dated October 8th, 1982:
Leading animal rights campaigner Vivien Clifford asks why the Church chooses to remain silent over the torture of sentient creatures.
The animal kingdom has recently taken on a new importance, owing to the rapid formation of a movement, the aim of which is to ensure the natural rights of all non-human creatures, which, until now, have been withheld by the oppression of Man.
The bird has a right to fly and not spend its entire life in a cage. The fox should live free from the terror of the hunt. An animal should have the right not to be experimented upon in the name of science.
Surely the dominion God gave man over the animals was not meant to become a tyranny, escalating to such a point that millions of sentient beings die in agony for profit mongers, and many precious species are on the brink of extinction? It seems that never before, in the history of mankind, has there prevailed such exploitation of the other forms of life that share our world. The Animal Rights Movement has not come too soon to offset this. However, many of the members of this movement are disillusioned by the Church, whose voice, they feel, is hardly heard on the abuse of God's creatures. Why isn't the Church outwardly condemning the evil practices of vivisection, factory farming, blood sports and the vile fur trade, all of which are carried out, not, as some believe, for the benefit of humanity, but to provide cruel pleasure and make a small percentage of the population rich?
Last week, I attended the annual general meeting of the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare. The meeting was headed by Father Kevin Daley and Mrs. May Bocking, editor of the Ark magazine, published monthly since the formation of the study circle in 1935.
During the meeting many aspects of animal cruelty were discussed and members were urged to take action by way of protest letters and peaceful campaigns against a gruesome annual event which takes place during a four day festival in a Spanish village. Hundreds of people flock to see participants aim stones, bought from the villagers, at live ducks, geese, doves and rabbits, which are tied to poles. These poor creatures have to endure many blows, which break their legs, wings, or damage their eyes, before death gives them a merciful release from their agony. The winners of this cruel, sadistic sport take home the dead animals for food.
The Church believes that only humans possess immortal souls. Is this why living creatures may be stoned to death in countries like Spain? What could be more degrading to the soul than torturing innocent defenseless animals for sport?
Descartes, as most people know, held the theory that animals had no souls and therefore could feel no pain. He and his contemporaries dissected living animals, likening their screams to the noise of breaking china.
The question is not "Do animals have souls?" but "Do animals feel pain?" Anyone who accidentally treads on their pet's paw and hears the accompanying cry, knows the answer.
After the AGM, Father Daley conducted a Mass for the animals. Later I spoke to Mrs. Bocking asking her what specific purpose the Study Circle serves by being Catholic. She told me it is interdenominational, but exists to correct the general attitude held by non-Catholics that Catholics are indifferent to animal welfare.
An immediate aim of the Catholic Study Circle is to eradicate a quotation that appears in the Catholic Encyclopedia - "Animals may be used by man for amusement and sport provided there is no excessive cruelty."
At my question on the Church's apparent apathy to animal abuse, she informed me of a plan to hold an international symposium on World Day for Laboratory Animals next spring, where leading members of the Church will be invited for discussion and viewing of an anti-vivisection film.
"This will be the first symposium of its kind" Mrs. Bocking fervently exclaimed. "The clergy do not openly criticise man's appalling mistreatment of the animals, because they are hardly aware of the situation. Their theological studies and training omit mention of the animal kingdom."
"Animal Welfare Pilgrimages are a regular event in our group" said Mrs. Bocking. "Our Lady said 'Go to Lourdes', so we do and take part in the traditional daily procession, holding up the banner of The Ark." These visits are to promote the cause of animal rights. A similar pilgrimage is planned for Rome in the near future.
Bishop Agnellus Andrew OFM, once of the National Catholic Radio and Television Centre, now heads the Office of Social Communications in the Vatican. It is through him that a delegation of members of the Ark may have audience with the Pope, petitioning him with the numerous examples of Man's present callous attitude and treatment of the other inhabitants of this earth.
Mrs. Bocking and Father Daley said the Pope has already openly condemned vivisection and animal cruelty. Mgr Fusaro, who founded the League of St Francis 20 years ago in defense of animals and nature was recently told by the Pope "To preach in all the Churches of Italy and on radio and television in favour of the rights of animals." The Monsignor said "This is a moment in history."
The Circle was set up to study the quotations, thoughts and philosophies of the Saints, Popes, Cardinals and Bishops, most of whom had great respect and feeling for the animal kingdom.
The most famous of these is, of course, St Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of the animals, whose feast day was this week; and this year marks the eighth centenary of his birth. It seems that at last his message that all God's creatures should be treated with love and afforded their natural dignity is breaking through, spearheaded by the Animal Rights Movement, whose selfless campaigning has much affinity with the Christian faith.
The Church has a strong voice. Let it be heard loud and clear in all countries in its condemnation of man's barbarous treatment of animals.
Catholic Concern for Animals: http://www.all-creatures.org/ca/
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