The Fellowship of Life
Dear Mrs Murray,
Thank you very much for your letter of 29 March 1998, and for the SAE you kindly enclosed.
As you rightly say, I am concerned about animal welfare, and strongly believe that other species should be treated humanely.
The Creation stories in the book of Genesis tell us that human beings have been given "dominion over the beasts of the field". I myself believe that this includes the responsibility of life and death over them. The Jewish law lays down a strict code for the slaughter of animals both for sacrificial purposes and also for food. We may think that some of these laws are barbaric, but I believe they were ahead of their times as far as humaneness is concerned when they were given. Of course more humane methods still are now in place, especially in Great Britain, and other countries could learn much from the very strict laws governing the slaughter of animals in this country. Certainly, concern for the dignified rearing of animals, their feeding and general welfare, and for better rules governing the transport of live animals should constantly exercise the Christian mind.
What I cannot agree with is that animals should be thought of in precisely the same way as human beings. Men and women alone have been created "in the image of God", and very special and particular rules must always apply to them. We are "higher than the brute beasts that perish", though we must always treat them with care and with dignity. This, however, does not preclude the humane slaughter of animals, and I am satisfied that meat eating is a legitimate part of a healthy and balanced diet.
With all good wishes,
Return to Letter to the Bishops - 1998
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