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


'Catholic Herald' debate (1983)Letters

No theological support for vivisection

Dr Haine seeks to oppose concern for laboratory animals on theological grounds: but his case rests on a half statement of the facts.

Man is indeed made in God's image and the righteous (Dr Haine omits any distinction from the unrighteous - is this significant?) are predestined for eternal life. It is also true that the rest of the animate creation is not made in the same image and that its destiny, therefore, may not be identical. However, there is much more to be said than this.

In the first place, we know from scripture that the animate creation receives its life from a similar inbreathing of the Spirit as does man (Psalm 104: 29-30) and that the Spirit fills the whole of the creation (Wisdom 1:17). God created all animate things so that they could live and he takes no pleasure in their extinction (Wisdom 1:13-14). It is man's duty, therefore, to respect the animate creation: and it is the unrighteous who use it thoughtlessly (Wisdom 2:6).

That our Lord was not a vegetarian is no argument against this respect for the animal world. At the time of Creation man was given the plants to be his food. It was only in a dislocated world after the Fall that sinful man was permitted to eat the flesh of animals as well; but even then he had to recognise, by abstaining from blood, that the life of these animals belonged not to him but to God. The Apostolic Church sought to keep alive this reverence for animals even when used for food, but we seem to have forgotten alike the prohibition on consuming blood and its meaning.

The most important Scriptural witness to the case for a respect towards the animal creation is provided by St Paul (who was hardly a sentimentalist). Far from there being no heavenly destiny to look forward to, the created world is waiting longingly, through all its frustrations and innocent suffering, for the day when it can "enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God".

To a selfishly man-created view of creation, therefore, Scripture opposes a view which balances man's God-given privileges against the equally God-given right to life and hope of final freedom that belong to the animal creation, which now is filled with the Holy Spirit.

Richard Gem

There was once a priest, in 16th century Italy, who vivisected convicted criminals and prostitutes as a spare time hobby. There were, of course, no anaesthetics then, and it is very unlikely that any of his victims volunteered. As a result of his vivisecting one unfortunate woman, medical knowledge was significantly advanced, and his name, in adjective form, became universally known:- Canon Fallopius, born Modena 1523, died Padua 1562.

"The end justifies the means" and "might is right" are the two oldest and foulest heresies known to man. They are the basis of the Marxist state and of vivisection. No amount of pseudo-theological sophistry will ever alter that.

The late Professor Aygun (Ankara University) renounced vivisection in favour of tissue culture. Dr Richard Ryder of Cambridge also "kicked" the vivisection habit, and has become a powerful animal welfare campaigner both within the RSPCA and outside it.

He has strongly condemned as "speciesism" the arrogant assumption that only humans matter. Some scientists may be able to renounce vivisection without incurring swinging penalties in money and career prospects, but it is possible that your correspondent of May 20, is less fortunately placed. It takes a courageous man (or woman) to quarrel with his/her bread and butter.

He blasphemes, however, when he suggests that Christ would nod approvingly at the atrocities to sentient animals inflicted in the name of science. He should ask himself: "Shall I spend no longer in purgatory than Prof Aygun? Is my work really pleasing in the eyes of the Lord?

"The Devil can cite scripture for his purpose" (Shakespeare - The Merchant of Venice). Fortunately, Dr Haine has not attempted to justify himself in this way, though he could certainly have tried.

It is NOT ex-cathedra that the (estimated) 3,000 quintillion living creatures with which homo sapiens share this planet will not share paradise with him. On the contrary, St Paul says that the whole of creation is waiting for the redemption; and, before him, the Prophet Isaiah forecast that "They shall neither hurt nor destroy in all Thy holy mountain."

The small number of creatures which we presently regard with horror or fear, not always without good reason, will be seen much more fully for what they really are: the wonderful works of God.

It was a former Soviet Ambassador to London, Mr Litvinov, an official atheist who said "Peace is indivisible". The same is true of justice, mercy and compassion. Redress for man's evil deeds demands the survival, in the "many mansions" of "My Father's house" of all 3,000 quintillion AND their ancestors. O.K.?

Mervyn Bocking
Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare

Reading Dr Haine I can only think he is confusing this transitory life with eternity. How can the fact that we have immortal souls possibly give licence to evil practices leading to "an improvement in the quality of life for the human race"? To know, love and to serve God in this world, and to be happy for ever with Him in the next are the catechism words spoken by Fr Michael Joseph Canavan before he died. Is this doctrine now outdated?

Killing animals is one thing. Slow torture of defenceless creatures also made by God for His glory is another thing and dreadful in the extreme. When this is for tests of yet more unnecessary varieties of cigarettes, cosmetics, washing powders, etc attempted justification is farcical. If this convoluted argument is accepted theology, I will settle for sentimentality.

J Bourlay

Dr Haine is "dismayed by a world day for laboratory animals". He "thanks God for the thousands of animals which have died in the development of drugs". (In 1981 four million experiments took place on living animals - many without anaesthesia). He dismisses as "over sentimental" those who grieve over such agony.

My suggestions (May 6) that "as good and better results can be obtained without using animals" he castigates as "deception". He objects that Sr Francis "tries to bring religion into the argument". In the next breath he himself asks "I wonder what Christ would have said".

Fr Brocard Sewell of Carmel on Sunday Oct 3 1982 in Westminster Cathedral said: "What, for instance, are we to think about scientific experiments, often of agonising cruelty, performed on living animals? What advances in medicine and surgery have been made possible by such means? Many who have studied the matter say none. Others who can speak with the authority of a medical training, believe that certain gains in these fields have been made through such methods . . . if this is so, we still have to ask: are such experiments morally justified? Some would say yes because of man's special position in the universe: others believe that even if such vivisection were useful to mankind it could only be justified on the ground that the end justifies the means: the principle that "justified" Belsen and Auschwitz.

Cardinal Manning said in 1882 (after quoting some of the fiendish experiments of contemporary vivisectors) "Nothing can justify, no claim of science, no conjectural result, no hope for discovery, such horrors as these. Also, it must be remembered that whereas these torments, refined and indescribable, are certain, the result is altogether conjectural . . . (this being so) it appears to me. . . we have a case so strong that I cannot understand any civilized man committing or countenancing the continuance of such practices.

Perhaps we could end with the words of Cardinal Newman, "There is something so very dreadful, so satanic, in tormenting those who have never harmed us and are so utterly in our power."

And from thousands of compassionate hearts will go up the cry "Amen".

Margaret E Moloney

Last October on the feast of St Francis, the annual sermon on the animal kingdom at Westminster Cathedral was given by Father Brocard Sewell, O Carms. It is a safe bet the pulpits will be silent till the next feast of St Francis.

The Students Catholic Doctrine by Hart covers every aspect of the Church's teaching. However, there is no mention of animals and the treatment of them. It is hardly surprising young Catholics from our schools are entirely ignorant of the Church's attitude to animals.

Seminaries, the training ground for future priests, teach that as animals do not posses rational souls, they are not important. The animal kingdom which God created for His Glory, is important to Him, and therefore it should be important to us.

An imposing array of quotations from Popes, Cardinals and Bishops are a feature of God's Animals by the late Father Ambrose Agius, OSB. It is regretted they have not reached the man in the pew; the pulpit is silent.

We are pleased the former image of animal lovers being linked with sentimental old women has gone. The Catholic Herald has ventilated the subject of the care of animals. It is to be congratulated.

J.J. O'Connor

I was very surprised to read Dr Haine. A true Christian does not go about rejoicing in the fact that animals are tortured purely in the interests of science: a true Christian condemns all forms of animal abuse. Can Dr Haine find a passage anywhere in the Bible where Christ says that animals can be abused by man in any way they choose?

Research on animals for the testing of shampoos, cosmetics, and washing powders is not necessary, testing has been done without the use of animals and quite satisfactory products have been produced and are on sale.

As for weedkillers, a quite unnecessary product in my view, I have a much better and cheaper one, a hoe.

Regarding the testing of drugs for curing various ailments, there are more side effects from drugs than there are illnesses; I would like everyone and especially the doctor to know that after suffering years from terrible headaches I was finally cured, not by one of those modern drugs which he puts much faith in, but by acupuncture.

Dr Haine would do far more good in educating people to live a healthy life by proper diet and exercise than continually prescribing these poisons which helpless animals have to die for in their millions.

Mrs Elaine Jackson

The views of Dr Haine are a cause for alarm! Such rigid orthodoxy runs the risk of insensitivity.

Many would seek to question the traditional 'men have immortal souls, animals do not' argument, while not denying man's rightful place as the dominant species, in the 'image of God'.

If we accept, as I think modern science would force us to, that all life is a harmony in the biosphere, and that some element of truth is to be found in Darwin, man can be seen as different from animals only in degree and not in kind.

True, we are an emergence, with sophisticated reason and self-consciousness; true, we have dominion over the earth; true, we can respond to God in a unique and responsible manner, possessed, as we are, of a moral conscience, but cannot animals also respond to the divine, feel, show loyalty and affection and show some form of intelligence and self-consciousness? As the owner of two cats, I certainly think they can! May I point the readers, also, to a helpful chapter in Russell Stannards "Science and the Renewal of Belief" (SCM Press 1982)? The chapter is entitled "The Emergence of the Human Spirit", and one marvellous line from this is; "It would not surprise me to learn that St Peter's gates are kept ajar for the odd dog or dolphin to squeeze in!" This may be objected to as a trifle unorthodox, but, in that case, was not our St Francis of Assisi unorthodox for preaching to the birds? The issues of eating meat, or of animal experiments, are secondary to this more fundamental and theological question. Even if some of us would justify some animal experiments, on the basis of 'rather animals than humans', must there be the amount and frequency of experiments that there are? Why do not different companies share results rather than keep on repeating the same experiment in different situations? Are good old capitalist ethics making more animals suffer than necessary? What would Our Lord have had to say about that?

Finally, some words from Aquinas, where he warns us, "lest through being cruel to animals one becomes cruel to human beings . . . "

Kevin O' Donnell

As a direct result of the letter I have today sent in an application to join the Animal Liberation Front. I am 61 years of age, am coming up to retirement, and as a soldier who fought for many years in North Africa and throughout the Italian Campaign, I am further prepared to give them the benefit of my military knowledge and to take part in whatever attacks are deemed necessary to rescue laboratory animals.

Name and address supplied

In a national paper this week an editorial tells of "Tripper", a collie who has saved the life of Jim Rigg, his master, twice in the past four months. "We cannot express in words our gratitude to the Trippers and Rovers but maybe they can sense the special relationship. We humans do." So runs the Editorial. Would to God in Heaven we all had a special relationship for incarcerated laboratory animals.

Margaret Payne

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