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


Replenish the Earth: A History of Organised Religion's Treatment of Animals and Nature  

Lewis G. Regenstein (SCM Press, 1991)

I care not for a man's religion whose dog or cat are not the better for it - Abraham Lincoln

The world's great religions have promulgated lofty principles on man's relationship with animals, but, as Lewis Regenstein shows in this fascinating book, fine words never yet helped a tortured animal.

Mr Regenstein is anxious to motivate the religious communities by demonstrating that their holy books, leaders and saints have spoken strongly about animals. But he is not afraid to contrast fine statements with poor practice, for example: "In Judaism, one who does not treat animals with compassion cannot be regarded as a righteous individual" (Dr. R. Schwartz), and the appalling conditions in America's kosher slaughterhouses; "He who does not willingly cause the pain of confinement and death to living beings, but desires the good of all, obtains endless bliss" (The Code of Manu, Hindu), and the pitiful conditions endured by animals on India's streets and in her slaughterhouses; "Life is as dear to a mute animal as it is to any human being" (The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist) and the painful lack of concern for animal welfare displayed in Asian Buddhist countries; "He who takes pity even on a sparrow and spares its life, God will be merciful to him on the day of judgement" (The Qur'an, Muslim), and the day to day brutality shown to horses in North Africa and the Middle East.

Christianity receives the author's most profound criticism. The kindlier practices of the early Christians contrast strangely with later philosophers' claims that animals cannot feel pain, or it doesn't matter if we cause pain to them, as they have no souls.

It is encouraging to note the many examples of radical re-thinking by some (definitely not all) of the world's religious leaders. Perhaps we shall see a reawakening of conscience and consciousness where animals and the natural world are concerned. If it is not too late for Isaiah's vision: "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid . . . they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord." (Isaiah 11: 6-9)

Reviewed by Joyce D'Silva

From The Vegan, Summer 1991 edition. Reproduced with thanks to the Vegan Society

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