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


CCC Welfare of Animals conference

On 25th January 240 people packed into the Westminster Conference Centre to attend the Christian Consultative Council for the Welfare of Animals Conference.

The Very Reverend Edward Carpenter pointed out that this was a "very significant day indeed". He went on to point out "that many Christians are now becoming concerned and active as it becomes apparent that cruelty is becoming institutionalised".

A message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev. Robert Runcie said "As science advances so must dominion over the animals be seen and practised as stewardship with both giving and receiving".

Ruth Harrison, author of Animal Machines and a member of the Farm Animal Welfare Council pointed out that animals are highly evolved sentient creatures and therefore the suffering involved in factory farming is on a vast scale. Farm equipment, such as battery hen cages, pens and stalls, are there to benefit the producer only. She gave a graphic description of many of these appalling systems. As she said, "We have permitted technology to win over our moral conscience" and yet it is "our highly developed moral conscience" which makes us different from the animals. She suggested that with food mountains in Europe and massive unemployment there should be subsidies for natural farming instead of subsidies for keeping land unused.

At this point Audrey Marshall, writer and ex-broadcaster spoke from the audience urging the Bishops to recommend an attitude of stewardship towards animals and all of the earth.

Les Ward spoke about problems concerning pet animals. (300,000 pedigree dogs are destroyed each year), and back-garden horses.

Richard Ryder showed how many churchmen of the 19th century had spoken out against vivisection and he suggested that experimenters should be "obliged to use alternatives".

The Rt. Reverend John Baker, Bishop of Salisbury, quoted the Bible extensively. Should the ideal of the wolf lying down with the lamb be our vision of the future?"

He then went on to point out that "the Christian must attach to all human beings, whatever their personal moral worth or lack of it, the inexhaustible value that God loves them . . . exactly the same principle applies to other creatures. We are to see them as God sees them".

He suggested that the way forward was by the dual process of the awakening public awareness coupled with action. He suggested that people could refuse to buy "the products of cruel processes" and that "there is a real place for the protest gathering, provided that it is peaceable". He asked all Christians "to give our churches no peace until they take up the cause of animal welfare".

Lord Soper admitted that there was a certain ambivalence in some of the teachings of Jesus but that at any rate we should catch his spirit of compassion. He referred to the fur trade as "a dirty capitalist business".

It is really good to see the Christian churches becoming alive to the issue of animal welfare at last. We hope this meeting will be only the beginning of a powerful campaign by the churches and the Bishops in the House of Lords.

We are grateful to Hilary Nimmo for attending this conference on our behalf and sending us her report.

From the May 1986 edition of Agscene - journal of Compassion In World Farming. Reproduced with Thanks.

See also: Men and animals  

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