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



'The Universe' - Debate (1998)

Animal abuse is no 'sport'
It is very encouraging to read that your paper is giving support to Mr Foster's anti-hunting Bill (re Mrs J Franklin's letter, The Universe, December 21).
The more support the better. It is high time the Church spoke out about the abuse of animals for what is called a 'sport.' It was James Froude who observed: 'Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself.'
Meryl Tookaram
See 'The Universe' - Debate (1997)

Making a meal of those veggies
Page 33 of The Universe (March 15) offered several vegetarian recipes.
That's fair enough for those who like such cookery.
But my husband and I and our two sons are farmers from a long line of farmers; and we bitterly resent the mantra chanting of vegetarians about cruelty to animals and factory farming.
We have no record of anything like that. If frightening people to stop eating meat means telling lies it doesn't say much for their morals.
Mrs W Oliver
See Article: Adopting the greens alternative 

Sowing seeds of more sorrow for world poor
I read your recent articles on the genetic engineering of food with great interest. However, I feel that there is a key dimension to the issue which you did not mention: the implications of bio-technology for poor countries and agricultural communities in the Third World.
The bio-technology industry is one of the fastest-growing in the world and is largely controlled by transnational companies.
Seventy five per cent of research is driven by the economics of agribusiness and this dictates that, for example, the emphasis goes on the 150 crops that are grown commercially, although there are 220,000 plant species on earth.
It also dictates an emphasis on intensive agriculture, with single crops grown in huge fields and the widespread use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers, even though these degrade the soil and the surrounding environment in the long-term.
The majority of Third-World farmers are small-scale, farming a number of crops using traditional methods. According to Indian ecologist Vandhana Shiva: "Far from feeding the world, people are going to starve because of genetically engineered foods. More and more peasants will see their crops substituted through bio-technology."
In her country, thousands of farmers using the genetically engineered seeds from US transnational Monsanto have been forced to change from their traditional agricultural practices and are now dependent on the company which supplies the seeds and chemicals. They are forced to pay a 'technical fee' to Monsanto over and above the cost of the seeds and can be fined if they are caught using chemicals other than Monsanto's.
Another dimension is the "bio-prospecting" of transnationals in gene-rich Third World countries and this doesn't stop at food crops. Indigenous communities in Latin America and Asia have complained bitterly about the gathering of their genes by complanies who then patent them, claiming them as their own property.
Twenty years into the future, the impact of eating tomatoes that don't rot and bananas containing vaccines may become clearer. Third World peoples and those who work with them can identify now the dangers for sustainable development of regarding bio-technology as a 'technical fix' for meeting food needs in the future.
CAFOD is amongst those agencies with the foresight to have supported since the early 1980s projects such as the Seeds Action Network and GRAIN (Genetic Resources Action International) which monitor the impact of bio-technology on Third World agriculture.
Fr Sean McDonagh of the Columban Society warned in his book The Greening of the Church of the dangers of First World corporate seed companies pillaging the genetic resources of the Third World countries, developing new varieties of seeds, then selling them back to the Third World countries and in the process making a huge profit.
He says: "The Christian Churches should lobby to ensure that this kind of power over the living world is not concentrated in the hands of the few.
They should also insist that all aspects of genetic engineering be debated within an ethical and religious context and that whatever emerges from it by way of techniques and knowledge must belong to the public domain and must not be used to disadvantage the poor further."
Ellen Teague

Our faith must look at ecology
The decision by our bishops to form a new committe devoted to the environment will be enthusiastically welcomed by the Catholic community. Building on the Common Good it is a clear sign that the ecological teachings of the Holy Father are to be integrated into mainstream Catholicism.
At the grass roots level I find considerable interest from those whose instinct is that our faith must have something to say about the ecological crisis and indeed have some hope to offer.
Some churches give an opportunity for the congregation to offer petitions 'from the floor' and this is a good way of bringing concern for our fellow creatures and habitats into the liturgy. Our services of reconciliation can include ecological sins but rarely do.
But, we can easily miss the point that the Eucharist has a profound ecological dimension which is often overlooked. We can forget the significance of the gifts of bread and wine. "Fruits of the Earth and work of human hands."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the Eucharist is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the whole of creation. "Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful and just in creation and humanity."
Henri de-Lubas reminded us that "the Eucharist makes the Church". In a real sense then our Church should have an ecological dimension; that is, our local Eucharistic communities should show the sensitivity to creation which is so clearly lacking in our market-driven society.
It will be fascinating to see how this insight is developed, both through the environmental committee and the proposed bishops' document of the Eucharist.
Stephen Retout

Green issues key to future
I read your article 'Starvation disaster is closer still' (Universe, May 10) with great interest.
World famine may be even more likely now that genetically engineered crop seeds have been produced which will not reproduce.
Farmers in poor countries normally save their seeds from one season to the next, but can't afford to buy new seeds every year from the agro-chemical companies.
I was also pleased to see the letter in the same edition from Stephen Retout, 'Our faith must look at ecology'.
Christian Ecology Link is encouraging churches to look at their impact on the environment and accept the millennium challenge with points awarded for environmental initiatives.
A Millennium certificate can be applied for. Details from...
A Wells

Green Universe is doing so well
The Universe continues to do its good work of reminding the Catholic community of the continuing threat to our bio-diversity.
The comment on August 9 highlighted that one of these threats arises from genetic engineering of farm crops.
The development of herbicide resistant crops, followed by blanket applications of herbicides, could wipe out much of our natural flora in a generation.
This is in addition to the potential elimination of beneficial insects and habitats for wildlife.
In the same issue the extinction of Bristish sea birds as a result of global warming was mentioned. Once again our lifestyle choices are having a destructive effect on our fellow creatures in the earth community.
In this context we need to recover the sense that the bio-diversity in these islands is a precious gift from God. Pope John Paul's words in 1990 need to be heeded:
"The created universe has been given to mankind, not for selfish misuse, but for the glory of God..."
When awarding the Franciscan Environmental Prize to Costa Rica in 1991, the Holy Father asked that country to continue its work of counscious-raising for the protection of the environment by spreading a culture that is attentive to the values of our ecosystem.
Thank you to The Universe for publishing articles which are within the deep tradition of our faith.
Stephen Retout
See Article: Pursuit of choice may be death of us all 

Spread the green gospel for the next millennium
Thank you for calling attention to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' massive public relations campaign on behalf of car use.
SMMT's money would be better spent planting trees to filter pollution and improve children's health.
Every Christian can help in small ways.
First, let us walk, bicycle or share transport to all Church-related activities.
Second, let local Churches Together plant 20 indigenous trees, from our own gardens, as our millenial gospel, one tree for each Christian century.
When the local millennial copse is planted on Church land we might even remove a bit of asphalt near a church and replace it with a tree.
Dr Edward P Echlin

Animals and us
The recent coverage which The Universe and other Catholic newspapers have been giving to animal issues is a heartening development.
The attitude of a great number of Christians toward animal rights and welfare has for too long been miserable. Even the Catechism presently hints that to care about animal abuse is to neglect responsibilities towards our own species.
Yet there is a growing realisation that it's not a case of animals or us but animals and us. As Romans 8: 18-23 makes clear, human and animal suffering are one and the same. We all share the same 'bondage of corruption' and look forward to a shared redemption (Acts 3:21).
It is good to see animals rights campaigners featured alongside peace activists, overseas aid workers, pro-life campaigners and all who seek to actualise the spirit of Christ's teaching in today's disordered world.
John M Gilheany

You don't need to spoil animals
I agree with John Gilheany, 13 September, that we should do all we can to abolish cruelty to animals but I expect he will disagree with my attitude to pets.
When I was young (I am 82) we lived in the country and there was plenty of space to exercise the dog which we had. He flourished on dog biscuits and fresh food and I don't know where we would have gone to consult a vet.
Millions of pounds are now spent on tins of dog food and expensive visits to vets. Where do all the profits go? I can understand elderly people who live alone feeling comfort from the company of a dog or cat and young children like to have something to love.
I object when pet keeping is taken to excess. In the small close where I live one single mother with a 12 year old boy and her father has two dogs and three cats.
Almost all the houses have one or two cats and it is a constant struggle for those with no pets to keep lawns and borders free of cat mess.
I could write pages about the thoughtlessness of people in regard to nuisance to neighbours.
Much of the money given to pet food makers and expensive vet's fees would serve a much more Christian purpose if it went to the starving children in countries overseas.
John Hill

Regulation of pets will help to stop cruelty
I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of Mr Hill, as expressed in your letters page of October 4.
One way to reduce cruelty to animals is for their ownership to be regulated. Many organisations, including the RSPCA, pressed the previous government repeatedly to upgrade the dog licence, as a well-funded license scheme would be in the interests of society as a whole and the dogs themselves.
These calls fell upon deaf ears, including those of a very influential Catholic politician in that government, so that they deregulated altogether.
But when this very influential Catholic politician contemplated the horror which awaited his canine chums upon his return to Blighty, he immediately proposed an electronic registration scheme together with doggy passports and doggy vaccinations.
These proposals are being discussed at government level in the Advisory Group on quarantine chaired by Proffessor of Ethics Ian Kennedy.
This is good as there is a very unethical situation vis a vis children and dogs in our society.
However a relaxation of the quarantine laws will mean a big increase in dog tourism and a consequent huge increase in enforcement and veterinary costs at Immigration paid for by the tax payer.
There will also be an increased risk of bringing in rabies and the other nasty diseases to infect pets, agricultural animals and what is more important, children.
Anyone wishing to keep the status quo should write to their MP and Mr Jeff Rooker at Westminster.
This is necessary as there are hugely powerful vested interests on the Group, in the form of pet food manufacturers and organisations promoting pet ownership, in favour of change.
P Kelly

Lost species diminish our uniqueness
I was pleased to read your article "Extra Protection for our feathered friends" (Universe October 11), about plans to look after the habitat of birds and protect bio-diversity.
God created all these species and the Bible instructs humans to be good stewards of all He created. Whenever a species is lost it affects other creatures. For instance, if birds are destroyed by pesticides then the insects that the birds used to feed upon multiply and cause problems to humans.
Bio-diversity of plants and creatures is very important. There are thought to be cures for cancer and other diseases in the plants of the rain forests, yet these are being burnt and felled for profit at an alarming rate. Trees help to purify the air we breathe.
When we allow the earth and its inter-dependent eco-system to be damaged, then we humans suffer too.
A Wells

Misuse of animals
With regard to the photograph in last week's Universe of Fr Henri Lambert "baptising" the baby panther for a circus, can I just say how sad I was that you found it necessary to publish such an item.
Not because of the "baptism", but the fact that it appears to give the Church's blessing on the training of animals for man's amusement and entertainment.
You only have to read the recent case where the elephant keeper was jailed for battering an elephant during a "training" session, to know what goes on.
All I can say is "God help the baby panther" - I'm sure the good Lord never intended animals to be abused in this way, especially wild creatures.
Ms Maud James

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