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


Letters - By J. M. Gilheany

No dignity in slaughter

Year after year, the Genesis verse 9:3 is uprooted from its original context in an attempt to harmonise slaughterhouse activity with the Christian path through life. (Agneta Sutton: "Creations that insult human dignity" - The Catholic Times, August 26).

The divine dispensation received by a fallen Adam and Eve before an impending ice-age has little relevance in today's affluent European nations. We have a reluctance to progress from the ancient lifestyle of those that were taught to aspire towards approximating the vision: "...Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Yet the historical Vegetarian movement in Britain was driven by deeply religious individuals whose concept of "human dignity" extended to those that were demoralised and degraded through slaughterhouse employment.

A certain incongruity remains between civilised existence and acts of slaughter which involve throat-cutting. The ethical disparity is evident within any advanced culture and particularly pertinent to religious life. Yet theology often lends itself to the reversal of right from wrong rather than acknowledgement of human fallibility. The Catholic Dictionary of 1897 was particularly detested by humanitarians for over fifty years for suggesting: "The brutes are made for man who has the same right over them which he has over plants and stones."

We have nonetheless made considerable progress in that semi-critics of vegetarianism are prepared to acknowledge "...sentience and awareness will be the basis on which others are deemed worthy of respect." Yet the implications are immense and for many compassionate people the Catholic Church still appears to be walking backwards.

If we are prepared to compromise the peaceable kingdom on earth for the sake of sausages or hamburgers then many who would otherwise consider Catholic spirituality will continue to shake their heads.

It is time the Church understood that there are ethical elements within society that will not always distinguish between imperfect witness and the trappings of savagery.

Catholic Times

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