The Human Use of Animals by Richard Griffiths
(Grove Booklet on Ethics, No. 46)
From the Church of England Newspaper dated 13th August 1982:
Most of us have been horrified at some time by the treatment accorded
to animals in abattoirs and laboratories. No doubt some of us have also
had doubts about some of the purposes for which some animal experiments
have been conducted; few of us, I suspect, have choked on our chicken
because of the suffering involved in some of the ways we rear and
slaughter animals in modern society. And still fewer have chosen the
Many of us see the press reports of the activities of some elements
in the animal welfare organisations as justification for dismissing the
whole movement, on the grounds that a number of well-meaning cranks are
clearly being manipulated by a few militant left-wing revolutionaries.
All of us to some degree try to avoid the rather unpleasant and awkward
questions which are quite justifiably raised.
Richard Griffiths clearly and concisely brings us back to the basic
questions concerning the way in which we treat animals. With
considerable understanding and sympathy he examines the arguments
advanced by various groups of animal welfarists to support their
activities and campaigns.
He is specially concerned with notions of 'animal rights,' based on
the extension of such concepts as evolution, intelligence, and
sentiency, which men share with animals, at least to some degree.
He demonstrates the inadequacy of each of these principles to sustain
the ethical superstructure which is so often built upon them. He
"the search for an adequate secular basis for animal rights is bound
to fail because of the over-riding difficulty of establishing any rights
at all... on a purely two-dimensional plane, without including some
notion of God." (p18)
He then links this conclusion to the biblical teaching on animals and
their relation to man which he has examined earlier in the booklet, and
looks at human duties from this point of view.
He reminds us of the role of Christians in the animal welfare
movements in the 19th century, and that in any biblical ethic "the
fundamental principle is the divine command."
But, having said this, he realises fully the problem involved in
applying scriptural principles to the present situation, and rightly
insists on the absolute necessity of biblical Christians being fully
conversant with the facts as they are - many of them very uncomfortable
to affluent middle-class Christians like myself.
Richard Griffiths concludes that contemporary declarations of the
animal welfare movement can only serve to further antagonise Christians,
who ought, on biblical grounds, to have real sympathy for the aims and
ideals of such movements. But that is no reason for ignoring the
challenge or the issues raised by the movement.
This is a well-argued, thought-provoking, and clearly written
booklet, worthy of the best that the Grove series on Ethical Issues has
so far produced. Much is accomplished in the space of 24 pages.
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