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


REFLECTIONS on the fight for justice for animals

An address given at the Crusade Against All Cruelty to Animals A.G.M. on October 23rd, 1971 by patron, Canon H.J. Hammerton, M.A.:

It is indeed the greatest possible pleasure for me to have made this pilgrimage to the home of the Crusade Against All Cruelty to Animals and I find it to have a happy and homely atmosphere. The cover picture of the current issue of the "The Living World" is of a family of swans and the caption inside is: 'Happy family in a North London park'. Now I shall always think of the Crusade Headquarters as a happy family in a North London street. Perhaps there is a sense in which this is misleading. Might it not be that the happy welcoming atmosphere is a cover-up for something? Would it not be a finer description to call this place an arsenal, providing us with weapons in the shape of information and inspiration in our battle for justice in the earth, justice for the animals? They cannot plead their own cause, either by peaceful demonstration or by violent uprising. They look to us to seek justice for them, and if we don't, justice they will not have.

Mr Fryer doesn't look like a revolutionary and Miss Cooper is very well disguised if she is one. But, you know, that is what they are, and that is what we all are. Freedom fighters, seeking the freedom of animals to inhabit this world which belongs to them as well as to us and to inhabit it without fear of constant exploitation or willful cruelty. Most revolutionaries are motivated by a desire for better conditions for themselves or for their peers and whoever heard of a revolution that sought better conditions for others? But this is what our movement is about. We have nothing to gain for ourselves, unless indeed it be the freedom to sleep at night with a clear conscience because the world is at peace and all the inhabitants of the world, human and animal, are at peace as well. That, I am afraid, is only a dream at the moment; and the battle must continue and it must be determined and total warfare.

Many of you will perhaps have read Konrad Lorenz's book "On Aggression". It was a happy moment for me when I was present at the granting of honorary degrees a few years ago at Leeds University and when I discovered that Conrad Lorenz was one of the recipients. He is a good man, inspired by the vision of peace and goodwill that extends beyond human relationships with one another to relationships with animals, in which the suspicion of centuries is slowly melted away and replaced by confidence growing out of unfailing and trustworthy kindness. In his book Dr Lorenz says that aggression should not be removed from human life so much as redirected. And this in fact is what happens. The pitched battle is replaced by a battle on a football pitch though sometimes it must be admitted that the distinction is hard to see. Humour and laughter are often the sublimation of our aggressive instincts, parlous enough in all conscience, but showing traces of their ancestry when we laugh at the misfortunes of others. The Germans have a word for it, I believe - Schadenfreude. Well, it was this kind of sublimation I had in mind when I called this Centre an arsenal. There is live ammunition here, of no use for guns and mortars but powerful in our redirected aggression on behalf of justice for the animals and it must be, I am afraid, against those who either with evil intent or through ignorance mercilessly exploit our animal neighbours. This is the kind of spiritual warfare that is directed from this Centre and the Council of Management is there to provide the direction of the strategy.

Since this warfare is of the kind that St. Paul often spoke about - spiritual warfare - it will be conducted without personal acrimony. In fact, lack of this could be our strongest weapon. I often used to wonder as a boy what the words of St. Paul meant when he said "Be ye angry and sin not". The Gospels made clear that some kinds of anger are sinful but this sentence envisages a kind of anger that is not. That kind of anger was displayed by Jesus in the temple. There he blazed with anger at the desecration of His Father's House, and the exploitation of His Father's children. But it was not an anger that was prompted by any desire for personal advancement. He was not campaigning for his own rights. He was upholding justice and he was deeply angry when that justice was denied.

This righteous indignation can be and must be ours sometimes, but let us see to it that no vindictiveness makes our motives impure. I say this because I believe it is possible in our cause for anger that is insufficiently sublimated to take on the nature of a personal vendetta and when this is so our cause can be harmed. This aggressiveness we do not want. I believe it is possible to get to the point when we are almost glad that some act of cruelty to animals gives us an opportunity to direct our aggression towards those who are responsible. And it is then that we lose our sense of proportion, and our cause is dismissed since it is presented in such an obviously unbalanced way. What I have long admired about the Crusade is its sense of proportion and its care not to overstate the case; because when the case is overstated, our witness is discounted. Whatever you think about the redoubtable Mrs. Whitehouse, who has attacked abuses in other directions, it is certain that because of some lack of discrimination in her attacks and sense of proportion, her case goes by default with very many reasonable people.

Let us then keep our aggression trained on the right target - unjust practices that keep the animals disadvantaged - and when it is necessary to attack the persons and the organisations who are responsible for this, let us do it fearlessly but do it without rancour and with balanced judgement. There is such a thing as winning an argument and losing a friend. Far better, if we can, to win both. I emphasise this because much of the cruelty we campaign against - in farming practices, in scientific experiment and in 'sport' at the expense of animals - much of this is due to ignorance which it is our job to dispel.

I saw only the other day an advertisement for a Christmas food hamper and first on the list of items was pate de foie gras. Perhaps that is deliberately disguised in French like those tiresome menus with which high class hotels try to confuse us. Still I don't suppose many know that foie gras really is diseased liver with the disease deliberately induced by the forcible feeding of the goose. The Crusade can supply a picture of this forcible feeding and I guarantee that after seeing it not many people will touch pate de foie gras again. I believe, if I remember rightly, that the picture was taken in France which leads me to wonder what the effect on our work is going to be if we go into the Common Market with countries where the legal safeguards against cruelty to animals may be even laxer than they are here. Perhaps next year our A.G.M. will be in Paris and after that - God help us - in Madrid!

But the point I'm making is that we can dispel ignorance by facts, we can advance our cause considerably, because for every villain who cares nothing for animal suffering, there are, I believe, a dozen people who are unwittingly cruel from ignorance. If they knew that a young calf had to be enclosed virtually in its own coffin while still alive just to supply us with white meat, if they could see a picture of the calf which we can supply they would turn away from their veal with loathing when they realise for the first time the price in animal suffering which has had to be paid for it. This is where we need the Crusade. They have the ammunition. All they want are frontline ranks to discharge it. Their literature and publicity are first class and we owe it to them to ensure that it has the widest circulation and impact.

I mentioned villains a moment ago. Yes, there are those who pay no attention to animal suffering and one or two here and there who positively enjoy it. I can't explain this. I can only bow my head in shame at the contemplation of it. I believe that loss of any sense of the future is responsible for much delinquency today. Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. This is a proverb which has really come into its own again. I believe, too, that wrong handling of children can blunt their moral sense perhaps permanently. I didn't see the item on the television the other night but I was struck by the title of it, "If at first you don't succeed" - that is, in the training of children - "If at first you don't succeed, you don't succeed." It's a very sad title, in fact, and perhaps over-stated again, but we know what it means, that something happens in the first few years and the moral sense can almost permanently be blunted. But anyone who talks like this today is smeared with the frightful title of 'do-gooder'. But whatever the reason, deliberate cruelty is there and must be combated. Only last week I was talking to a leader of a youth club in a difficult part of Leeds. They are a first class body of young people with the usual one or two exceptions and one of them - one of the exceptions - came in one evening with a hedgehog he'd picked up somewhere in the street, oddly enough, and after some preliminary investigation, he put it down on the ground and just stamped on it - stamped on it.

This deliberate cruelty - it's a baffling thing - but it will not be removed by the giving of facts and the supplying of information. It is a moral education that is required, as our Chairman has already reminded us, and how do you give that? Generally, I think, it is not taught but caught. If cruelty is infectious well, then, so is compassion. Let us see to it that our compassion is of the infectious kind, and children catch it most easily. And I applaud the Crusade's initiative in their work with children. Nothing could be more important. This is really getting at the heart of the problem. It's a slow and a long-term project but I think it is the only one, and I'm still old fashioned enough to believe that moral education is best grounded in religious education. People of all faiths and of none can join us in championing the cause of animals. We will join hands with anybody but at least you'll allow me my vision - and some of you I know will share it - of a universal Father who is responsible for all life, who marks the sparrow's fall, who is worshipped by all His Creation, by men consciously and by animals simply by being themselves live, loving and furry.

God takes pleasure in his diverse Creation, and looks to us to accept guardianship of the animals. When they serve us we must see to it that cruel exploitation is avoided. If it is not then there is a djinn in the universe, evil is let loose and it will find its way back to us. God's desire that peace and goodwill should prevail between man and animals was transmitted to one of the old prophets who lived some eight centuries before Christ. And could I do better than end with his vision of universal peace in the earth. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox and the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

Originally published in The Living World no.5, 1972

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