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



SPEAK FOR THE ANIMALS - Animal Rights: a non-secular perspective

The Church in the Dock

Have you ever asked yourself: "Why now?" Not: "Why am I here now" which is another question altogether but why now, in this late twentieth century, are passions of caring groups being so aroused by the slaughter of animals - an evil perpetrated by man since the beginning of time.

Throughout the centuries a few enlightened thinkers have spoken against our exploitation of animals. Some religions practise respect for animals, even revering them, for example the Jain belief: "Harmlessness is the only religion". Not so Christianity.

In earlier days, although the Church played an influential role in the large rural communities, landed gentry gave the directions and clergy were often dependent upon them for their livelihood. Was it likely, then, that a clergyman with an uneasy conscience about the killing of animals would question the Squire, his earthly lord and master of the hunt? The ignorant tenants, who attended church mainly through fear of chastisement if they did not conform to standards befitting their lowly circumstances, received no guidance. The voice from the pulpit was silent, and the Bible was no more helpful, containing so many contradictions.

As late as the 1930's the Rector was addressed as 'Sir' and treated with deference by his flock. His sermons were heeded. Nowadays the Rector is 'Peter' or 'Paul' to his declining congregation, and sometimes criticised more than respected. His influence has waned and what could have been a great opportunity if a courageous, united Church had examined its conscience and spoken out, has been lost. Even now, when there is such an outcry from animal welfarists, the Church, which should be at the forefront of the revolution, is still strangely silent. The Church's weaker influence has, however, proved to be a mixed blessing, for intelligent, compassionate people with religious feelings have found a new freedom and are now reasoning for themselves.

A clergyman, too, can now have independent views without fear that he will lose his living, and several notable examples come to mind. For the Church as a whole, though, a very weighty stumbling block stays in place. As with the old gentry, Royalty - and the monarch as Head of the Church of England - continue to give no lead against slaughter.

Because of a dormant conscience, the general public is guilty of apathy, yet it is within the power of ordinary people to bring about political change as well as help to crack that hard nut - Big Business, which only sees God's creatures in terms of profit.

In his 'Outspoken Essays' Bishop Inge (1860 - 1954) writes of animals that "if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form". With fewer restrictions on us than in the past, there is licence for evil AND good. Let us hope that, with God's help, we can soon make at least some restitution.

For all those countless pyres of poor, innocent, ill-used animals throughout the ages, from this Custodian - SORRY.

Inner Truth

A perennial subject of controversy is whether or not Jesus Christ ate flesh.

Unfortunately, Jesus did not shout from the rooftops his opposition to meat eating. I think, being the man he was, he would have definitely done so if he had felt as strongly as we do, and his views and actions would have been recorded repeatedly in the Gospels. All Christians would then have been vegetarian and the world would, to say the least, have been a better place.

To me, whether or not Jesus was a vegetarian (or vegan) matters very little, although it would be comforting to know he did not eat meat - for the animals' sake and not because of diet.

What does matter is that, like many others who have been blessed with awareness, I know that what has been done to the animals is against God's will. Therefore I do not feel the need for any verification.

Animals Before Humans

It is often said that people who love animals more than other human beings fall short in their human relationships, being inadequate and inferior to the full blown homo sapiens.

With animals, such people have a rapport stronger than that which the hypocrites, who knowingly eat those they profess to love, can ever attain. True animal lovers do not eat animal flesh. The incidence of ethical vegetarianism in our prisons would make interesting reading, as, on the other hand, would conclusive evidence that seasoned meat eaters are in fact bloodthirsty, for, if not governed by self-interest or gluttony; they simply callously disregard what is happening in slaughterhouse, laboratory, hunting field and water, and so tacitly concur. Nowadays, with so much publicity, there is no excuse for not knowing what is going on. As Schweitzer says: "The quiet conscience is an invention of the devil".

Loving animals more than people is not a personality deficiency; rather it is a bonus of perception leading to understanding of and closeness to another species of God's creation. The meat eater lacks this awareness, failing to appreciate qualities in all animals. As a carnivorous Mother Superior once remarked: "Sheep are such stupid creatures. When one runs away from us they all run away". Wise sheep!

No doubt there are some of us who often feel ashamed of being a human being. In today's world there are fewer restraints on us all, and those who are unprincipled can - and do - take advantage of this greater licence. In our group, and indeed the whole circle of the animal rights movement, we have an opportunity to meet most of our like. Perhaps the time is not too far off when the meek will inherit the earth, for dedication to a rightful cause such as ours is a powerful stimulus.

Originally published as a pamphlet by the 'Custodians' network

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