Fledgling Ministry Challenges Animal Testing
Religion News Service
Saturday, May 29, 2004
WAYNE, N.J. -- Last month an estimated 500,000 people
across the United States took to the streets and raised over $90 million
for the March of Dimes' WalkAmerica campaign.
But for Jan Fredericks, the annual event, the largest
walk for charity in the United States, is offensive.
At the walk at a high school in Wayne, N.J.,
Fredericks and a few other activists handed out leaflets and held up
posters urging donors to rethink their support of the charity, which
fights birth defects.
"They think they're doing a good thing ... I want them
to realize that their money might be going towards animal research,"
said Fredericks, 51, founder of God's Creatures Ministry, a fledgling
group she hopes will put Christians in the forefront of the animal
Not all passersby at the walk appreciated the
"We're supposed to kill animals to save people,"
yelled one motorist, punctuating his view of the three with an
God's Creatures Ministry is not alone in targeting the
charity. Two closely linked organizations -- the Physicians Committee
for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), based in Washington, D.C., and People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), based in Norfolk, Va. --
have targeted the March of Dimes and other charities for using animals
PETA and PCRM argue that money spent on animal
research could be more effectively spent offering prenatal care and
education to pregnant women.
Michele Kling, March of Dimes senior health and
science press officer, said that in the United States "at least 150,000
babies are born with serious birth defects each year, and more than
470,000 babies are born prematurely."
Whenever possible, the charity funds non-animal
research, she said from the March of Dimes headquarters in White Plains,
N.Y. When funding research using animals, the charity endorses rules for
humane treatment laid down by the National Institutes of Health and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kling added.
The soft-spoken Fredericks, who calls herself an
introvert, doesn't like making dogmatic pronouncements. Her ministry is
based on a personal conviction that God feels the pain of all living
Her ministry's motto is Psalms 145:9: "The Lord is
good to all, compassionate to every creature."
The Wayne resident's home office reflects her beliefs.
Animal rights leaflets are stacked everywhere.
"I've always had a heart for animals," said
Fredericks. Raised in the United Methodist Church, she attended a
variety of churches over the years. Ten years ago, the New Jersey native
was received into the Roman Catholic Church.
Seven years ago, while living in the Scranton, Pa.,
area, and attending Marywood University, Fredericks got to know a PETA
activist and learned a great deal about animal cruelty.
Fredericks believes that God was preparing her.
"I really felt he was with me, showing me," said
Fredericks, who earned an MA in counselling from Marywood.
Her mission became evident -- to help change the
hearts of activists who are cool to Christianity and of Christians who
are unconcerned about animal cruelty.
"We (Christians) should be out there on the frontlines
-- teaching things and doing things for compassion. We're not doing it,"
said Fredericks, a therapist at a psychiatric facility.
Fredericks says the Catholic Church's teachings on
animal issues are a good start but should go further. The church's
catechism says that animals should not be made to suffer or die
needlessly; however, animals may be used for food, clothing, labour and
leisure and for medical research "within reasonable limits."
She believes these principles should be taught to the
faithful. "It should be coming from the top," said Fredericks, whose
activism includes protesting at fur merchants, fast-food restaurants and
last year's WalkAmerica event in Bloomingdale, N.J.
Fredericks promotes a vegetarian diet and links to
other religious animal rights organizations at the God's Creatures Web
Her vision is big, though her group has only some 10
members. She wants to build a coalition among activist groups, educate
teachers and parents about animal cruelty, and counsel animal abusers,
"If you follow the Lord, you are probably going to be
an animal rights person," she said.