The Fellowship of Life
From Mr John M Gilheany, author of Familiar Strangers: The Church and the Vegetarian Movement in Britain (1809-2009)
SIR – When Sir Paul McCartney launched an international campaign to encourage “Meat-Free Mondays” a few years ago, concern was expressed among Catholic commentators that a unique aspect of the faith had been forfeited and basically recycled by secularists.
On the surface, the two forms of weekly abstinence appear to be
disparate. The Catholic penitential tradition will in future require
vegans to transcend temporal tastes with precisely the same effort and
sacrificial focus as those who regularly consume animal products.
Whereas those of a secular “flexitarian” persuasion who decide to cut
down on their meat intake are inclined to view the traditionally western
foodstuff as increasingly unsustainable; both environmentally and
There is no evidence of such considerations in the recent announcement by the bishops of England and Wales (Report, May 20).
However, there seems to be an implication that to renounce meat in
order to facilitate “control of self-indulgence and unruly appetites”
and “connect to the pain and suffering of the world” (Leading article,
May 20) – is to acknowledge the uneasy relationship that exists between
spirituality and slaughterhouse products.
Such a vision may remain centuries away for the Church and certainly other elements of modern society. Yet it might be pertinent to reflect upon the institutional violence of the slaughterhouse at least once a week, while striving towards spiritual separation from a less than divine state of affairs.
The Catholic Herald (10/6/11)
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