The Fellowship of Life
Animals can't say no
Sir: All my life I have grieved over the spectacle of animal
suffering and the Church’s indifference to it. So here is a heart-felt
“thank you” to Mary Kenny and The Tablet for the article “Animals can't
It took some courage to write that article and print it in a Catholic
journal for, to express concern for animals let alone admit to doing
anything for their welfare, is asking for trouble. At best one is
regarded as a sentimentalist, at worst a near heretic. “My dear”, they
say, “you've got your priorities wrong”. I do not know why, but it's
always assumed that one cannot be helping with the RSPCA and also be
subscribing to CAFOD, collecting for Christian Aid, supporting LIFE and
visiting the sick. One may be devoted to stamp collecting, mountain
climbing, Gregorian chant or golf and be accepted as normal but animals
“God loves all that he has made”, we preach, “and we are the stewards
of his creation”. What is the quality of our stewardship? All over the
world animals are neglected, beaten and starved; cruelly exploited for
gain and greed; tortured for sport and pleasure; subjected in scientific
laboratories to experiments fiendish in their ingenuity to cause pain
and agonising death. Would it not be wonderful to hear the Christian
voice raised in protest and if, even once in a while, prayer was made on
their behalf and some word of encouragement spoken to those who strive
to alleviate their suffering? But on the whole the silence is deafening.
There are some exceptions of course and gleams of hope. Pope Pius V
in 1567 excommunicated all who took part in bullfights (did the news
ever get to Spain!) Pope Pius XII refused to receive visitors who
include matadors among their party. In 1920 Cardinal Gaspari described
the so-called “sport” as “human savagery”. Cardinal Manning campaigned
against vivisection. Then there was St Martin de Porres (and indeed many
another saint) with a tender care for all living creatures. In our own
day Dom Ambrose Agius OSB worked and wrote tirelessly for the cause of
animal welfare. The Revd Basil Wrighton, a man of profound scholarship,
contributes enormously in the fields of theology and philosophy to our
better understanding of the subject. The Very Revd Kevin Daley, Dean of
Shrewsbury, is chairman of the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare
and the editor of its excellent magazine The Ark. The Benedictine nuns
of Talacre Abbey, Prestatyn, N. Wales, in addition to their other good
works, run a shelter for a wonderful assortment of rescued animals.
May I end with this experience. Last year I had the joy of visiting
the Holy Land and, as lector, participated in a beautiful open-air Mass
on the Mount of the Beatitudes. As I read those unforgettable precepts
and even as I said “Blessed are the merciful,” I saw a dog lying under
some trees close by. There was a large open wound on one leg and its
eyes and ears were one mass of sores. It was so thin and weak it could
scarcely move. After Mass I spoke to someone connected with the shrine.
He glanced at the dog, shrugged and said. “Oh there are lots like that.”
Blessed are the merciful!
Margaret E. Moloney
Sir: The recent article on “Animals can't say no” by Mary Kenny (5
February) and the subsequent letter from Miss Moloney (12 February)
cannot go without reply. It is true that animals are misused and
ill-treated in many ways, but I hardly feel that the use of animals in
laboratory experiments is one of the worst. There are so many
misunderstandings on this topic that I cannot hope to clear up all of
them in a single letter. I do feel, however, that many people are
unaware of the legislation we have in this country regarding
Here in the United Kingdom we have a more rigid set of rules
surrounding animal experimentation than anywhere else in the world.
Before any experiments can be carried out each experimenter requires a
licence under the Cruelty of Animals Act. Most experiments carried out
under these conditions involve the painless killing of an animal prior
to removal of specific body organs for investigation. Alternatively,
they involve the anaesthetisation of an animal for the duration of the
experiment, after which it is killed. Recovery is not normally allowed
because of the likelihood of pain-inducing injury being caused.
Where more elaborate experiments are intended, which may result in
discomfort, or pain, for the animal, a special application has to be
made to the Home Office for a certificate permitting such work to take
place. This application outlines the research techniques necessary for
the investigation, and the purposes of their use. If, and only if, the
proposed experiments are approved, the certificate is allowed and the
experiments may proceed. Home Office inspectors regularly make spot
checks on research establishments to ensure that the above code of
practice is being adhered to. In actual fact few, if any, prosecutions
have ever been made under the Cruelty to Animals Act. This reflects not
the lack of vigilance of the inspectors but the fact that research
workers, as a whole, take a conscientious attitude to the use of animals
in their experiments. In addition the loss of one's licence, and even
prosecution, would certainly jeopardise the job of any research worker.
The majority of cases where painful procedures are employed are in
research into debilitating or life-threatening diseases, for example
rheumatoid arthritis, or cancer. On a personal level, anyone who has
seen a close relative suffering from an incurable disease will
appreciate the importance of the hope that one day a cure might be
found. The cost of animals' lives is indeed high in such research, but
this is the price we have to pay.
Dr Anne Brookes
Sir: Dr. Anne Brookes writes (26 February) “The recent article. . .
by Mary Kenny and subsequent letter from Miss Moloney cannot go without
reply”. I would not presume to speak for Mary Kenny but would be glad to
add further comment of my own.
My original letter (12 February) was a plea for Christians to look
with serious, prayerful and merciful concern at the problem of animal
suffering. Dr Brookes chooses to concentrate on the field of animal
experiments in scientific research. She writes: “I hardly feel that the
use of animals in laboratory experiments is one of the worst ways of
ill-treating animals.” Well perhaps not. Only God knows. Who can
Dr Brookes admits, and indeed, there is abundant, well-documented
evidence that these laboratories are places of misery and suffering,
sometimes so prolonged and acute as to be reminiscent of Belsen. Torture
is an ugly word but I think it accurately describes the infliction of
extreme pain without anaesthetisation.
It is true that in the United Kingdom a system of licences, a “Code
of Practice” and spot checks by inspectors impose some restraint and
curb the worst excesses. (May God help the victims where even these
“safeguards” do not exist.) But none of this makes the actual pain
experienced any less. Dr Brookes tells us that there are few
prosecutions under the Cruelty to Animals Act. Well, there would not be,
since activities that would normally be liable to prosecution are, in
laboratories, perfectly legal.
However, utterly revolting as it is, all this is acceptable, we are
told, since it is for the good of mankind and the noble end justifies
the horrible means. Incidentally this “good” seems to include poisons
useful for chemical warfare, the profits of the cosmetic industry and
the manufacture of cleansing agents since animals are used to test these
There is now a growing body of medical and scientific opinion, which
repudiates this whole policy of animal experimentation, declaring that
the same and indeed better results can be obtained by other methods.
Surely here the voice of the church should be of enormous value
welcoming, encouraging and supporting these efforts. But do we really
care? “Animals”, the theologians tell us, “have no rights and anyway
pain and suffering are not in themselves evil.”
Meanwhile Dr Brookes concludes: “The cost of animals' lives in such
(scientific) research is indeed high, but this is the price we have to
pay." We have to pay! Oh no, we do not pay. The animals do that and as
Mary Kenny reminds us, they “can't say no.”
Margaret E. Moloney
Sir: I beg to differ from Dr Anne Brookes (Letters, 26 February).
Though quantitatively turning the mammon worshippers from beef
production would lessen the massive cruelty to animals of our times, I
am convinced that laboratory experiments represent qualitatively the
area of the most exquisite torture to animals, most recently including
psychological deprivation, atomic radiation and burning.
I would suggest that Dr Brookes, if she was not there, should write
to the British Association for the Advancement of Science (23 Savile
Row, London W1) for a copy of the papers on live animal experimentation
delivered last year, to update her knowledge. For example, Britain is no
longer world leader in animal legislation; a list of kinder countries
has been recently updated by Miss Viola Huggins to the Anglican Society
for the Welfare of Animals. Besides, what is the use of legislation when
it manifestly does not work.
The Cruelty to Animals Act is over 100 years old and was passed when
only 200 odd experiments per annum were performed. Now the same number
of inspectors (13, and about to be threatened by cuts) supervise several
million experiments mostly ending in death; to kill is not kind. Thus
unfortunately there is truth in Dr Brookes one statement that few
prosecutions have been made under that Act.
“The cost of animals' lives is indeed high in such research but this
is the price we have to pay.” Perhaps Dr Brookes would be willing to
give a paper to some respectable scientific/theological/medical/legal
body putting the case that any cruelty to an animal has ever, even in
the case of cancer or rheumatoid arthritis, furthered a cure
unobtainable as swiftly by alternative methods, not to mention the
recent discrediting of such experiments due to species variation. It is
important that reasonable action be taken very fast, not merely because
of the violence of some of our frustrated young people acting on emotion
but because the EEC is about to formulate a new law even weaker than our
Victorian one, allowing, among other abuses, live experiments in
secondary school laboratories.
We are a cruel age and as Catholics we do lag behind. Perhaps we
forget that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
gave birth to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Children; we forget our own past when Cistercian monasteries were named
as a result of their kindness (for example, Urscamp, where a baited bear
was rescued); and when saints like Francis and Anthony preached to birds
and fish, like Hubert heard them speak, and like Bernard, Dominic,
Benedict, Cuthbert and Gertrude of Nivelles were associated and depicted
with, respectively, a sable puppy, a black dog, a raven, an otter and a
mouse, while the lesser known St Bernard of the Alps even had a great
dog named after him.
Sir: Dr A. Brookes adds little to the present debate on animal
experimentation since much of what she writes is incorrect or misleading
(The Tablet, 26 February).
It is true that experiments calculated to cause pain are permitted
only when the scientist holds a licence from the Home Secretary. It is
not true to say, however, “that most experiments carried out under these
conditions involve the painless killing of an animal prior to removal of
specific body organs for investigation” – very few experiments, if any,
fall into this category.
It is also true that a special certificate has to be issued for what
Dr Brookes calls “more elaborate experiments” which may result in
discomfort or pain for the animal. What is not stated is that, in the
vast majority of experiments performed in Britain (over 82 per cent), no
anaesthetic whatsoever is used. Even if only one per cent of such
experiments caused severe pain that would still amount to nearly 35,000
experiments where the animals' suffering was not relieved.
The fact that there have been no prosecutions has no bearing on the
matter, since the legislation is drawn so wide that it is almost
impossible for a licensee to commit more than a technical offence.
Experiments may continue where an animal is suffering either severe or
enduring pain. It is only when an animal is found to be suffering severe
and enduring pain that the experiment must end – and it is the scientist
who makes that decision.
The whole question of animal experimentation is a moral as well as an
ethical and social issue of our time, and if the public are to form a
judgement the true facts must be presented.
See: Animals can't say nohttp://www.all-creatures.org/fol/art-animals.html
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