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


The Human Use of Animals by Richard Griffiths
(Grove Booklet on Ethics, No. 46)

From the Church of England Newspaper dated 13th August 1982:

Most of us have been horrified at some time by the treatment accorded to animals in abattoirs and laboratories. No doubt some of us have also had doubts about some of the purposes for which some animal experiments have been conducted; few of us, I suspect, have choked on our chicken because of the suffering involved in some of the ways we rear and slaughter animals in modern society. And still fewer have chosen the vegetarian option.

Many of us see the press reports of the activities of some elements in the animal welfare organisations as justification for dismissing the whole movement, on the grounds that a number of well-meaning cranks are clearly being manipulated by a few militant left-wing revolutionaries. All of us to some degree try to avoid the rather unpleasant and awkward questions which are quite justifiably raised.

Richard Griffiths clearly and concisely brings us back to the basic questions concerning the way in which we treat animals. With considerable understanding and sympathy he examines the arguments advanced by various groups of animal welfarists to support their activities and campaigns.

He is specially concerned with notions of 'animal rights,' based on the extension of such concepts as evolution, intelligence, and sentiency, which men share with animals, at least to some degree.

He demonstrates the inadequacy of each of these principles to sustain the ethical superstructure which is so often built upon them. He concludes that:

"the search for an adequate secular basis for animal rights is bound to fail because of the over-riding difficulty of establishing any rights at all... on a purely two-dimensional plane, without including some notion of God." (p18)

He then links this conclusion to the biblical teaching on animals and their relation to man which he has examined earlier in the booklet, and looks at human duties from this point of view.

He reminds us of the role of Christians in the animal welfare movements in the 19th century, and that in any biblical ethic "the fundamental principle is the divine command."

But, having said this, he realises fully the problem involved in applying scriptural principles to the present situation, and rightly insists on the absolute necessity of biblical Christians being fully conversant with the facts as they are - many of them very uncomfortable to affluent middle-class Christians like myself.

Richard Griffiths concludes that contemporary declarations of the animal welfare movement can only serve to further antagonise Christians, who ought, on biblical grounds, to have real sympathy for the aims and ideals of such movements. But that is no reason for ignoring the challenge or the issues raised by the movement.

This is a well-argued, thought-provoking, and clearly written booklet, worthy of the best that the Grove series on Ethical Issues has so far produced. Much is accomplished in the space of 24 pages.

Rowland Moss

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