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

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Reviews
Animals and Christianity

A book of readings edited by Andrew Linzey and Tom Regan. Published by SPCK.

It would be a mistake to suppose that these readings are confined to Christianly reminders of our obligations toward non-human life. The editors' own commentaries are predictably excellent and there are welcome contributions to compassionate commonsense from such as C.S. Lewis, Cyril Joad, Fritz Schumacher and Stephen Clark.

(The omissions are glaring. Why, for instance, no Henry Salt, whose Creed of Kinship showed he had a far higher religious awareness than most churchmen?)

Many of the remainder are bile-inviting excerpts of such arrogance, insensitivity and irrelevance as almost to invite pity for such easily destroyed Aunt Sallies.

Indeed, while I welcome this handy condensation of the barbarous and illogical myths that have been perpetuated over the centuries by orthodox churchmen, and are still seen as 'gospel' by many today, I feel the selection is contributory to the animal rights debate mainly as an exercise in demolition. Surely by now we have enough texts from Singer, Clark and the present editors, exploding the untenable position of those who, denying souls to non-humans, see no case for treating animals as other than useful and insensate tools created for humankind's wanton use? Do we need more evidence of how readily exploration of theodicy has been turned into glorification of the theo-idiotic?

What is lacking is not books giving the intellectual giants of the rights movement the chance once more to score off the shallow thinking of past theologians and the minor academics and clerics who have followed them, but a fundamental examination of the roots of the Christian religion, and of how those roots have been deformed by faulty nourishment. For make no mistake, the Church's attitude to animals will last for as long as it subscribes to the primitive doctrines that remain its cornerstones.

The decline of Christian teaching, and invasion by the worst aspects of secular humanism, has been traced in a book, The Philosophy of Compassion, that does not even get into the 'further reading' list of Animals and Christianity. Yet what that book says is vital to an understanding and hope of reversal of that betrayal of the Christian religion and Western idealism of which Dean Inge wrote:

"History seems to show that the powers of evil have won their greatest triumph by capturing the organisations which were formed to defeat them, and that when the devil has thus changed the contents of the bottle he never alters the label."

Also from the prolific Regan/Linzey team has come Song of Creation (Marshall Pickering), an anthology of poems in praise (sometimes a little faint) of animals. A very welcome selection that deserves to be in every classroom and pew.

Jon Wynne-Tyson

From the May/June 1989 edition of Agscene - journal of Compassion In World Farming.

Reproduced with Thanks

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