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


Lenten Press (2002/03)

Give Up Meat for Lent? Don't Be Ridiculous

It may be Lent, a time of abstinence and self-sacrifice, but if there is one thing that Church of England bishops appear unable to give up, it's meat.

The days of gorging on pheasants may be long gone, but bishops are still not willing to go for a whole month without their steak and chips, a vegetarian group has discovered.

Every bishop was sent a letter from the Christian group, called Veg4Lent, asking them to endorse the campaign for not eating meat in Lent, but not one was able to give it their backing.

The group suggest that Lent "provides an ideal opportunity to reflect on the countless innocent lives sacrificed to satiate meat consumption", and asked the bishops to consider that vegetarianism can become "assimilated within a more widespread Christian approach to life".

Whether on grounds of theology or taste, the bishops seem less than convinced by the vegetarian argument. "I do not believe that vegetarianism is 'an essentially grave moral issue'. I believe that it is a matter on which opinions differ, and I respect those who are vegetarians," said the bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev John Oliver, whose own son does not eat meat. He added that he does not believe that there is any necessary link between vegetarianism and the Christian faith.

This was a view shared by many, including the Bishops of Carlisle, Norwich, Ripon and Leeds. The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Rev David James, a keen lover of curries, didn't think twice about turning the idea down: "As I am not a vegetarian it would be hypocritical of me to support your initiative," he said.

The Rev Prof Andrew Linzey, a Patron of the group, said that he was unsurprised that the bishops would not give up meat for Lent. "They are not there on this issue. They don't care for creation. If you look for any response on cruelty and indulgence, the bishops aren't there. They don't lead on issues of creation concern.

The Bishop of Hereford said that he believed that good husbandry and good abattoir practice are entirely compatible with animals being part of God's creation.

However, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Peter Foster said that he had deep misgivings about modern animal rearing, and said that he keeps a few hens in a fully free-range situation as a personal protest. "I am willing to, and where possible actually do, pay a premium price for meat from freely reared animals."

The Church of England Newspaper (10/4/03)

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