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



Mad cows put on moral menu

From the Church Times - 29 March 1996:

It is wrong to remodel animals into meat machines, says Oxford theologian by Catherine Osgerby

The beef crisis has exposed a theological void in the Church over the treatment of animals, says a leading academic.

Humans are now suffering the consequences of having abused their fellow created beings, says the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, who holds the chair in Theology & Animal Welfare at Mansfield College, Oxford.

"A world in which cruelty to animals goes unchecked is bound to be morally unsafe for human beings," he said on Tuesday. "We see with BSE that, by degrading animals, we create a direct health risk to human beings." If animals were treated as dustbins, those who ate them ended up eating dustbins.

"Human beings are not God," he said. "It's wrong to take absolute power to redesign or remodel animals into meat machines."

His words are echoed on page 8 of this week's Church Times, where Bishop Hugh Montefiore argues that changing herbivores into carnivores shows a gross lack of respect for animals and goes against the natural law of their being. "It is a horrible offence for which, it seems, we may be horribly punished."

And the campaign group Christian Ecology Link quoted Mary Grey, Professor at La Sainte Union College, Southampton, and editor of Theology in Green, as saying that moral sensitivities concerning meat-eating had been dulled. "The Churches should take on an ecological aspect to their mission," she said.

Professor Linzey said it was a tragedy that there was so little church comment or theological discussion on animal welfare. The Church of England was not being advised on animal welfare; there was no officer and no committee concerned for it. "The Church should be a leader in the movement for the protection of animals, but it's not even in the procession," he said.

Traditionally, the Church had sided with agriculturalists. "God is the creator of billions of species, and the Church should take notice of the 99.7 per cent or so of other species."

When the Church did express an interest it worked on the same basis as government committees, which did not confront ethical issues, but managed them. Scientists were hand-picked, and were either amenable to government views or didn't take a strong stance.

But the Revd Jeremy Martineau, the C of E's national rural officer, said his team was most concerned about the livestock-farming community. In a letter to agricultural chaplains and rural officers this week, he said that farmers urgently needed government help, and the support and understanding of the whole country. "The countryside and the rural economy need livestock farmers to maintain employment, manage the rural environment and to produce quality food for the nation."

Meanwhile, caterers at Church House were doing as millions of households across the country have done, and taking British beef off the menu until more information became available.

At Bishopthorpe, the Archbishop of York's secretary said, "We think it's a bit late for the Archbishop, because he's had beef already. We do enjoy pork, lamb and chicken - that's the royal 'we', of course. We probably won't give beef to guests."

Lambeth Palace was still considering its position. "Each menu is chosen for each occasion," said a spokeswoman. "The Archbishop and Mrs Carey eat quite lightly, as they do a lot of eating out, and they tend to eat a lot of chicken and vegetables."

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