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


'The Universe' - Debate (1997)

Teaching our young to respect animals

I read your nature watch on the children’s page in The Universe (February 9) and I wanted to emphasise how useful it is to bring up the children to love nature and animals.
We have been so busy destroying plant and animal life and we are now turning on human life.
I save money for stray dogs, myself, to try to persuade people to keep them alive.
Eleanor Barnes

No respect for God
You are right to be concerned that the possibility of a human clone being produced is so close (Comment, March 2). Reflecting on this I was struck by quotes from the various commentators who showed scant concern about the genetic tampering of our fellow ceatures but were simply worried about the implications for humans.
These type of experiments seem to me to be part of a continuum and reflect a lack of respect for the whole of God’s creation, whether carried out on humans or other creatures. Are they not simply, a sign of man’s arrogance, towards the rest of creation which has led to the abuse and disposal of human embryos and the ecological crisis itself?
As we approach the millennium, we would do well to heed Thomas Benny’s words:
“The human community and the natural world will go into the future as a single sacred community or we will both perish in the desert”.
Stephen Retout

Challenge to care for environment
Thank you for the article 'Respect for all creation' (The Universe, March 30) showing the Pope's deep understanding of environmental issues.

The Pope's ecological teachings are a valuable resource for teachers concerned to counter New Age environmental spirituality, criticised by Professor John Haldane in the same edition of The Universe.

Such teachers would also do well to consider the rich heritage of Christian teaching and praxis on the environment.

Francis of Assisi, declared patron of ecology by Pope John Paul II in 1980, exemplifies a spirituality which embraces love of creation and concern for the poor.

The Benedictine tradition of simplicity of lifestyle, awareness of the contemplative dimension of creation, and stewardship is another strand which has profound relevance for us today.

In his 1996 CAFOD lecture Cardinal Etchegeray said: "The jubilee should be an occasion for us all to reflect on what stewardship means regarding our approach to nature as well as to production and consumption patterns especially in the wealthier countries."

Such a challenge is too important to be ignored by the Catholic community and left to the New Age movement.

Stephen Retout

See 'Respect for all creation'

Respect the earth
I have been impressed by recent letters regarding the ‘seamless garment’ of Catholic social teaching. However, I am surprised that there has been no mention of the importance of the rest of creation and our role in the ecological crisis.
This week the second European Ecumenical Assembly takes place in Graz in Austria.
The theme of Reconciliation – Gift of God and Source of New Life adopts a seamless garment approach and takes up the Gospel challenge of “all that keeps us apart and threatens our life as persons, as communities and as a planet”.
The Graz working paper on ecology calls on the European Churches to consider bringing theological and ethical criteria to bear on the debates over genetic engineering and bio-ethics.
Among other proposals they are also asked to put public emphasis on the rights of future generations.
It is good to see pro-life issues set in a context of justice and peace for the whole earth community of people, including the unborn, animals, plants and ecosystems.
The Graz working paper on ecology is a profound challenge to our current lifestyles and assumptions about matters such as transport, agriculture and economics.
Graz should resonate with our jubilee preparations and provide an ecumenical impetus to bring planetary stewardship to our local churches.
Stephen Retout

We mustn’t go to the dogs
The article in The Universe on June 29 about the dog which attends Mass in Lancashire shows that the British are obsessed with animals.
It is we human animals who need redemption, so there is no place in Church for other animals. The lives of millions of people in this country are blighted by dogs so we should at least be able to get away from them in Church.
P. Kelly
See Sean, parish’s best friend

Rights of all creation
According to Robert Whelan, co-author of The Cross and the Rainforest, “animals do not have responsibilities and therefore do not have rights” (The Universe, July 6). Couldn’t the exact same thing be said of the unborn or the mentally handicapped of our own species?
We should be wary of moral meanness in our dealings with the rest of creation.
John M. Gilheany

What about basic right to life
Jack Scarisbrick is correct in his call for the Pro-Life movement to declare the gospel of life to a world yearning to hear it (The Universe, August 3).
It is indeed a strange double standard that the movements for animal rights, disabled rights, and women's rights often fail to recognize the most basic of rights - the right to be born.
But perhaps a change in the language we use to declare this gospel might help. Rather than talking about 'rights' as if they stand on their own, reference could be made to 'that which is right'.
The language of debate would in this way shift from abstract - and often impersonal - concepts, to being rooted firmly in morality. The politics of Right and Left would become the politics of right and wrong. 
A pro-life stance means respect for life in all its forms, and affirms the fundamental equality of all human beings before God. We are all made in God's image and it is from this basic premise that concepts of 'what is right' must flow.
Jonathon Bartley
General Secretary
Movement for Christian Democracy

Take bull by the horns
The World Society for the Protection of Animals is asking the Pope to condemn the senseless cruel brutality dealt out to bulls in Spain. The BBC highlighted their sad plight earlier this week. As part of their fiestas the Spanish people set fire to the horns of the bulls. They then taunt and shout at the tormented creature as he runs amok in a state of shock. Many of these festivals are held in honour of the anniversaries of the Saints.
Is it not time that Church authorities demonstrated some integrity? How can a Church preaching love and compassion show such wilful neglect towards other species of God’s creation? Animals have nervous systems. They feel physical and psychological pain and stress. Why does the Church stand by and condone this cruelty by its silence and indifference?
I was baptised and brought up Catholic. It is incongruous that a religion which shows no compassion or concern at the psychopathic battering and abuse of God’s innocent creatures can claim at the same time to represent a Christian God. Certainly this cannot be the same God that I have come to know and love!
David Doble RGN

Fr Mule must learn green gospel
Fr Hadrian Mule deserves our sympathy. His parish community which is usually obsessed with personal guilt and sex now has a family of Green Christians and a radical feminist (The Universe, August 24)!

But perhaps on this occasion he has not heard the authentic voice of the faithful and missed the Green message implicit in St James and Deuteronomy.

For example the latter records the institution of a sabbath for the ox, donkey and other animals as well as humans. This has implications for our society which exploits animals in intensive factory farming. Your excellent article on BSE highlights one result of this failure to consider animal welfare.

The letter of James (Chapter 5) gives a potent Green critique of our over-consuming lifestyles and food politics, warning the rich to "lament, weep for the miseries that are coming to you". Our relationship with the whole of creation reneges many Biblical texts and it is a pity that Fr Hadrian is not alone in failing to see the relevance of Christianity to ecology.

Hadrian should be setting a better example to his flock and show concern for the balance of nature by not using pesticides on church land. Sacredness is not confined to 'relics and incense' - we stand on holy ground.

A hopeful sign is that he now follows St Francis, the patron saint of ecology. Can we look forward to some collaborative ministry with the 'Green Family' helping to produce a harvest festival or a service for the feast of St Francis next month?

Stephen Retout

Editor's note: A reader's response to the newspaper's resident fictional diarist.

Solidarity with animal world
The bull baiters of Spain should bear in mind the words of our Holy Father spoken on January 19, 1990: “Animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.
“Animals are as near to God as men are”.
One hopes the Spanish will speedily cease torturing, baiting and fighting the bulls.

Such cruelty ill befits a Catholic country.
BC Heaton

Britain said a big ‘No’
In reply to the article 'Don't ban cruel fox hunt' (August 17), I want to say that the results of the recent Gallup poll, which concluded that 81 per cent of people are against hunting and believe it to be cruel, are to be welcomed.
However, the belief, as highlighted in the article's headline, that hunting should not be banned on the basis of the lower figure of 63 per cent wanting a ban is wrong and needs to be put in perspective.
During the 1997 general election, 13.5 million people voted for the Labour party, resulting in what has been described as a clear mandate from the people. The Gallup poll revealed that more than 60 per cent of people support a ban on hunting with dogs.
This represents approximately 25 million individuals which, by any comparison, translates into the clear and unequivocal message that hunting with dogs is fundamentally cruel and has no place in modern Britain.
Indeed, every year around 100,000 wild animals are killed by dogs in the name of sport. Foxes, deer and hares are torn to pieces by hounds, or shot after an exhausting chase.
The hunting of animals with dogs does indeed cause unnecessary and prolonged suffering in that animals such as foxes suffer multiple bite wounds, savaging and disembowellment before death. Furthermore, it is a sport designed to provide an unnecessary long chase to provide pleasure and enjoyment for the so-called sport's participants - a message that the British people have overwhelmingly accepted.
Miles Cooper
Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals

God’s creatures deserve respect
In response to the Questions of Faith article (The Universe, October 19) relating to our duty as guardians of all God’s creatures, the caption under the photo of fox hunters grossly underestimates the level of support for the anti-hunt ideal. I was disturbed by the way it read “some sections of the population” as if all who disapprove of fox hunting are in the minority. This is in fact far from the truth.
Being an avid fan of nature and having concern for all of creation I do indeed believe that animals are sentient beings and deserve a great deal more respect than is currently given them. Having seen footage of the treatment of animals in western laboratories and the costs involved in these outdated and barbaric practices, I think we would be wise to weigh the moral and indeed financial costs against whatever it is we in the west seemingly overspend on our pets.
World hunger is a human disgrace and is totally unnecessary so I was pleased to hear it reported that more and more Christians are becoming vegetarian. Literally millions of animals are cruelly exploited and destroyed each year in the UK alone for fundamentally no better reason than to perpetuate greed. I for one pray for the day these practices come to an end.
Miss D Blackmore

Compassion for God’s creatures
May I express my support for two letters in The Universe – one by David Doble RGN (August 31) and the other by B C Heaton (September 7), both concerning the inhumane treatment of bulls in Spain.
The horns of bulls are set alight and shouts and taunts are hurled at the poor demented creatures as they run around in terror.
Others, such as chickens and goats, are tormented too.
Chickens, I understand, are thrown from balconies, and some form of torture is meted out to goats.
Every Maundy Thursday a donkey is terrorised through the streets of Vilanuera.
I hate Maundy Thursday because of this.
Frequently these disgusting events take place on saints’ days.
What sort of Christianity is this?
I am not a Catholic, but God is the centre of my life – a God of love and compassion who cares for all his creatures, who suffer pain and stress as much as we humans.
How can the Church ignore what they know goes on?
The suffering of abortion is regularly dealt with.
Why is the suffering of these creatures not stopped by the Church?
Mrs D Hill

Vegetarian myth
I refer to your article ‘Meat taken out of the frame’* (The Universe, November 2). Aside from the fact that no animal is killed to produce gelatin – it is simply a by-product of the meat industry – can anyone explain to me the relevance of this piece of blatant vegetarian propaganda to me as a Catholic?
Christ was not a vegetarian. He was not even a member of the anti-hunting lobby.
Indeed, on one occasion he even used his divine powers to work a miracle (Luke 5, 1-11) to ensure that a hunting party enjoyed a successful conclusion.
Vegetarianism is, at best, a harmless foible of a slightly dotty minority and, at worst, a bizarre heresy.
There is absolutely nothing to support vegetarianism in sacred scripture, the living tradition of the Church or the authentic magisterium put together, not to mention the entire spiritual heritage of the Fathers, Doctors and Saints of the Church!
Graham Moorhouse

Editor's note: a news digest piece about the phasing-out of slaughterhouse derivatives in camera film

A hunter turned defender of beasts
I hope that some readers may join with me in asking the saints to cast a kindly eye on the anti-hunting Bill on November 28, especially those saints who, often way ahead of their time, understood and respected the feelings of animals.
St Francis of Assisi (of course) and St Martin de Porres come to mind immediately, two great advocates of the respectful treatment of our fellow creatures.
Animals do have feelings, not our feelings perhaps, but not that different from ours. They, too, can feel fear, anxiety and pain. Hunting denies that animals have feelings, or it says that we may safely ignore their feelings; but, since it was God who gave animals feelings, are not hunters ignoring God?
Unwittingly, no doubt, at least that is what I tell myself – I was a hunter myself.
Hugh Paine

Tolerance is a virtue
Mr Moorhouse is entitled to his opinions on the question of vegetarianism (November 16). He should, however, be more tolerant.
I have no objection to being regarded as “slightly dotty” but, “bizarre heresy”? Surely to quote scripture in support of such an argument is dangerous? There is much in our Church that our separated brethren regard as not supported by scripture.
Tee-totalism is not supported by scripture but those who abstain do not attract the same ridicule as vegetarians.
Norman Wilson

Taking care of creation
As a Patron of the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, I was deeply disturbed by the recent letter ‘Vegetarian Myth’.
However we may interpret Genesis, one of the clearest implications is, surely, that within such idyllic states nothing that kills is allowed a place!
Even long before Christ’s birth amongst the animals, prophets envisaged a greater Paradise restored than was ever lost through man’s sin; and in it, even the lion eats straw as does the ox.
We repetitively pray: “Thy kingdom come”, yet we envisage it as confined to our own predatory species. But I ask: Who in their right minds would ever want to enter such a gloomy hereafter? It would be a veritable purgatory!
St Paul – hardly an animal rights advocate! – speaks of the restoration of all life through the Greater Adam. Indeed, he was conscious of the whole creation being in travail and looking for liberation through God’s children; while John envisages the worship of the redeemed being led by representatives of the animal creation.
Much, admittedly, is figurative. Nevertheless, the message is clear. And, whereas there was room in the Old Testament ark for the salvation of animals, the Church – which claims to be the New Testament ark of salvation – blatantly casts them out!
As a non-Roman, I affirm that all denominations are guilty of shirking God’s love as only of relevance to fallen humanity; and if this is spiritual progression then I want no part in it!
We humans must one day appear before the Good Shepherd to account for our stewardship of His creation. Jesus said: “To whom much has been given, from them much will be required.” Then Heaven help us!
Rev James Thompson

Animals Padre's website: Animal Padre's Christians Against All Animal Abuse

Protecting animal values
In response to Mr Moorhouse’s letter, (The Universe, November 16) it should be noted that although Jesus did not give a detailed prescription on how we should treat other forms of sentient life, the way of peace and compassion and of caring for others weaker than ourselves is central to His life.
Jesus’ sayings towards sparrows (Matt 10.29) support the idea that God’s care extends to the most ‘insignificant’ of creatures.
Do any of your readers (apart from Mr Moorhouse) seriously believe that the Prince of Peace would endorse stag hunting or intensive farming?
Vegetarianism is consistent with Man’s stewardship of the planet, and shows respect for God’s creation.
Moreover, since many times more vegetarian food can be produced per hectare than meat, vegetarianism would also further CAFOD’s objectives.
Respect for animals (as St. Francis recognised) is essential to the Christian way.
Bob Wright

Too biased towards bill
I was very concerned to read of your support, by giving so much publicity, for Michael Foster’s anti-hunting Bill. Informed argument is essential to this debate.
At the Countryside Rally last July, experts like David Bellamy came to support us, as he knows the well being of foxes and deer depend on hunting.
As far as cruelty is concerned: those foxes usually caught by the hounds are either old, injured or ill. Without the hunt the fox would take weeks or months to die.
The labour party is said to oppose the killing of foxes but supports abortion. Can we therefore conclude that this Government considers the life of a fox to be more important than that of a baby? In giving this Bill your support, are you not also encouraging the same attitude?
Mrs Joan C Franklin
See Articles: Dogged MP pins ban bid on poster – campaign offers a ray of hope for female deer and The last hurrah for fox hunters?
Reproduced with thanks

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