Can an animal liberation theology be far behind?
In his 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America,
vegan author John Robbins writes:
"The livestock population of the United States today consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed over five times the entire human population of the country. We feed these animals over 80% of the corn we grow, and over 95% of the oats...
"Less than half the harvested agricultural acreage in the United States
is used to grow food for people. Most of it is used to grow livestock
"The developing nations are copying us. They associate meat-eating with the economic status of the developed nations, and strive to emulate it. The tiny minority who can afford meat in those countries eats it, even while many of their people go to bed hungry at night, and mothers watch their children starve...
"In a world in which a child dies of starvation every two seconds, an agricultural system designed to feed our meat habit is a blasphemy. Yet it continues, because we continue to support it.
"Those who profit from this system do not need us to condone what they are doing. The only support they need from us is our money.
"As long as enough people continue to purchase their products they will have the resources to fight reforms, pump millions of dollars of 'educational' propaganda into our schools, and defend themselves against medical and ethical truths.
"A rapidly growing number of Americans are withdrawing support from this insane system by refusing to consume meat. For them, this new direction in diet-style is a way of joining hands with others and saying we will not support a system which wastes such vast amounts of food while people in this world do not have enough to eat."
In a letter to Pope John Paul II, challenging him on the issue of animal experimentation, Dr. Michael Fox of the Humane Society argued that the word "dominion" is derived from the original Hebrew word "rahe" which refers to compassionate stewardship, instead of power and control. Parents have dominion over their children; they do not have a license to kill, torment or abuse them.
A Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast points out that the lives of the saints teach compassion towards all living beings.
"Unfortunately," says Brother David, "Christians have their share of the exploitation of our environment and in the mistreatment of animals. Sometimes they have even tried to justify their crimes by texts from the Bible, misquoted out of context. But the genuine flavor of a tradition can best be discerned in its saints...
"All kinds of animals appear in Christian art to distinguish one saint from another. St. Menas has two camels; St. Ulrich has a rat; St. Brigid has ducks and geese; St. Benedict, a raven; the list goes on and on. St. Hubert's attribute is a stag with a crucifix between its antlers. According to legend, this saint was a hunter but gave up his violent ways when he suddenly saw Christ in a stag he was about to shoot...Christ himself is called the Lamb of God."
According to Brother David, "...the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging--to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets, to pigs and chickens and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer."
Roman Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-90), wrote in 1870 that "cruelty to animals is as if a man did not love God." On another occasion, he asked:
"Now what is it that moves our very heart and sickens us so much at cruelty shown to poor brutes? I suppose this: first, that they have one us no harm; next, that the have no power whatever of resistance; it is the cowardice and tyranny of which they are the victims which make their sufferings so especially touching...there is something so very dreadful, so satanic, in tormenting those who have never harmed us and who cannot defend themselves; who are utterly in our power."
Cardinal Newman compared injustices against animals to the sacrifice, agony, and death of Christ upon the cross:
"Think of your feelings and cruelty practiced upon brute animals and you will gain the sort of feeling which the history of Christ's cross and passion ought to excite within you. And let me add, this is in all cases one good use to which you may turn any...wanton and unfeeling acts shown towards the...animals; let them remind you, as a picture of Christ's sufferings. He who is higher than the angels, deigned to humble Himself even to the state of the brute creation."
Reverend Marc Wessels of the International Network for Religion and Animals (INRA) writes:
"The most important teaching which Jesus shared was the need for people to love God with their whole self and to love their neighbor as they loved themselves. Jesus expanded the concept of neighbor to include those who were normally excluded, and it is therefore not too farfetched for us to consider the animals as our neighbors.
"To think about animals as our brothers and sisters is not a new or radical idea. By extending the idea of neighbor, the love of neighbor includes love of, compassion for, and advocacy of animals.
"There are many historical examples of Christians who thought along those lines, besides the familiar illustration of St. Francis. An abbreviated listing of some of those individuals worthy of study and emulation includes Saint Blaise, Saint Comgall, Saint Cuthbert, Saint Gerasimus, Saint Giles, and Saint Jerome, to name but a few."
Rose Evans, a pro-life Episcopalian and editor and publisher of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a "consistent-ethic" periodical on the religious left, says there are more Christian vegetarians than Jewish vegetarians. Yet some people still react to the idea of Christian vegetarianism as though it were an oxymoron.
"Compassion cannot be rationed...The acceptance of one cruelty, under whatever pretext, predisposes men to accept and excuse any and every other cruelty, given suitable pretexts. And the one case of cruelty to which most men refuse to extend their compassion, is the case of slaughter for food...
"The acceptance of that cruelty is what conditions men to accept and tolerate other cruelties like vivisection, hunting and trapping...There is little hope of abolishing the manifold cruelties to animals which disgrace our society, until men give up the habit of eating flesh."
---Reverend Basil Wrighton, Roman Catholic priest, 1965
"To stand for Christ is to stand against the evil of cruelty inflicted on those who are weak, vulnerable, unprotected, undefended, morally innocent, and in that class we must unambiguously include animals. There is something profoundly Christ-like about the innocent suffering of animals. Look around you and see the faces of Christ in the millions of innocent animals suffering in factory farms, in laboratories, in abattoirs, in circuses and in animals hunted for sport."
---Reverend Andrew Linzey, Anglican priest, 1998
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): 501 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510 (757) 622-PETA