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



From The Bishop of Ripon - 25 Jan 1991

"I would not use the phrase 'animals have souls' but say that they are animate beings - the soul is not a possession but a dimension of existence.

"I would agree with Roman Catholic thinking that there is a distinction between humans and other animal existence, but would not accept the Roman Catholic view expressed in the leaflet you sent that animals are mortal whilst man continues his existence beyond earthly life. I think that the New Testament teaching is that all life beyond death is dependent upon the grace of God and that the whole creation (animal life included) is in some way to be set free and to find its ultimate fulfilment beyond this age. This seems to me to be the teaching of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans. I believe that all creation has its own integrity. Its existence, independent of human existence, has value in God's eyes - it doesn't exist to please, or to serve us, although man has a particular responsibility as the most self-conscious developed and social of the animals to act as steward for the whole creation.

"The relationship in which we are placed therefore is one of respect. The ethical consequences, leading to particular behaviour, must be governed by this principle. I do not equate this with saying that under no circumstances must we kill. This is an Indian attitude which is carried to extremes in the Jain religion - this requires no killing and even requires masks over the mouth, so that living organisms in the air are not destroyed. Christian teaching, I believe, needs to be much more balanced than this. To give one or two examples only - amongst many - I believe that it would be right to destroy animal life to prevent the spread of disease, or even to maintain ecological balance. It is in the light of this principle of respect that I would come to your question about table food. I find no difficulty in accepting that animals may be used for food, provided that their life is reasonable and that their death is humane."

Return to Peggy Murray's Questions 1990-92

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