|Religion and the Animal Industry, Overview:
The Case for Christian Vegetarian Activism
by Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D., CVA medical director
Nearly all vegetarian advocates have had the frustrating experience of hearing someone declare, "God made
animals for people. We're supposed to eat animals." Many find it hard to have sympathy for Christianity after
hearing that…The Bible describes the Garden of Eden as vegetarian (Genesis 1:29-30), and the prophet
Isaiah envisioned a similarly peaceful end of time, when the Messiah will come and "the wolf shall lie with the
lamb" and "the lion shall eat straw like the ox" and "they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain."
(Isaiah 11:6-9) Veganism is clearly a biblical ideal. Furthermore, there are many passages (mostly in the
Hebrew Scriptures) that oppose cruelty to animals and praise compassion for animals…the harmful effects of
animal agriculture on the environment, world hunger, animal welfare, and human health lead the Christian
Vegetarian Association (www.christianveg.com) to conclude that, if Jesus were among us today, he would likely
be a vegetarian.
Reaching out to Christians
I don't think an animal rights/animal liberation position readily derives from Christian tradition, but a strong case
against factory farming and any unnecessary killing of animals receives powerful support. That many
Christians fail to see this should not prompt animal-friendly Christians to leave their churches. Rather, they
should persistently and respectfully encourage their church communities to study and reflect on what the
Christian faith teaches about humankind's proper relationship to nonhuman Creation.
Many animal advocates, frustrated by Christianity’s humanocentric tendencies, may find the Christian faith
altogether unappealing. Nevertheless, I urge them, when distributing veg. literature, to also offer materials
aimed at Christian audiences. In Cleveland, Vegetarian Advocates primarily distributes Vegan Outreach's
Vegetarian Living, and many people who visit our tables are interested in the Christian Vegetarian
Association's pamphlet What Would Jesus Eat…Today? Most Christians find the CVA pamphlet very
compelling, while many Christians are unmoved by animal rights or other secular arguments. Sometimes,
Christians challenge the pamphlet's content, and these Christians are simply advised to contact the CVA.
Benedict XVI Continues Tradition of Papal Concern for Animals
Just hours after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was named Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005, PETA offered
congratulations & urged His Holiness to include animals in the Catholic Church's areas of concern.
Pope Benedict XVI has spoken movingly about the exploitation of all beings. When he was asked about the
rights of animals in a 2002 interview, he said, “That is a very serious question. At any rate, we can see that
they are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them. Animals, too, are God's
creatures . . . Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce
as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this
degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that
comes across in the Bible.”
Cardinal Ratzinger was echoing official church teachings, as laid out in the Catholic Catechism, which states
clearly that “Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere
existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness
with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. . . . It is contrary to human dignity to
cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”
In our letter, we asked His Holiness to bring his own compassionate vision to the public: “We hope that you will
continue to speak out for these exploited beings. In recent years, our membership has swelled with [Catholics]
who believe that animals, like people, have a sacred right to life and need to be protected from violence. . . .
We turn to you now, as you take on your momentous duties, and humbly ask that you lead the way into a new
era of compassion and respect for all beings, regardless of species.”
Compassion for animals was also a prominent theme in John Paul II’s papacy. Pope John Paul proclaimed that
“the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.” He went on to say
that all animals are “fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect” and that they are “as near
to God as men are.” Animal lovers everywhere were overjoyed! He reminded people that all living beings,
including animals, came into being because of the “breath” of God. Animals possess the divine spark of life—
the living quality that is the soul—and they are not inferior beings, as factory farmers, fur farmers, and others
who exploit animals for profit would have us believe. After he became Pope John Paul II, His Holiness went to
Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, and spoke of the saint’s love for animals. He declared, “We, too, are called
to a similar attitude.”
PETA is hopeful that Pope Benedict XVI will continue to speak out for animals in his papacy as he did as a
cardinal and that he will take a stand against the hideous treatment endured by God’s creatures. Catholics can
honor the teachings of Pope John Paul II and the sentiments of Pope Benedict XVI by incorporating
compassion for animals more fully into their own lives.
Article found on GoVeg.com
February 2, 2005
Sharpton Joins With an Animal Rights Group in Calling for a Boycott of KFC
By MELANIE WARNER
The Rev. Al Sharpton will not eat at KFC and he doesn't think you should either. The rap mogul Russell
Simmons is also joining the Sharpton campaign.
"If we give our money to KFC, we're paying for a life of misery for some of God's most helpless creatures," says
Mr. Sharpton in an eight-minute video that will be shown outside KFC's around the country.
PETA has been waging a campaign against KFC for two years. The organization was eager to enlist Mr.
Sharpton because KFC has many stores in largely black neighborhoods and in late 2003 KFC executives told
investors they were making an increased effort to market to blacks.
Mr. Sharpton and PETA are demanding that KFC force its chicken suppliers, like Pilgrim's Pride and Perdue, to
give chickens more room in factory barns and to make use of a process that puts birds to sleep with nitrogen
before they are killed. They are also asking KFC to stop its suppliers from forcing such rapid, hormone-driven
growth that the birds crumple under their own weight.
PETA said that unlike other companies, KFC has been largely unresponsive. "KFC has been by far the most
stubborn corporation we have attempted to work with," said PETA's president, Ingrid Newkirk, in a written
Yum Brands, which also own Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, declined to comment on PETA's demands and
allegations. "PETA is an organization more interested in promoting vegetarianism than the truth," a
spokesman, Jonathan Blum, said.
PETA recently won a concession from McDonald's, which said it would study the possibility of requiring
American suppliers to use the process of so-called controlled-atmosphere killing.
Several years ago, in response to PETA's "Unhappy Meal" campaign, McDonald's, which buys one of every 20
eggs sold in America, agreed to buy eggs only from farms offering hens extra water, more wing room in their
cages and fresh air.
PETA says it has chosen to shed light on the chicken industry in recent years because large chicken
producers and sellers have made little movement toward more humane practices. "The chicken industry is way
behind the beef and pork industries," said Dr. Temple Grandin, associate professor of animal science at
Colorado State University and a member of Yum Brands' animal welfare advisory council. "They need to work
on getting some of the same auditing systems in place."
Animal welfare specialists like Dr. Grandin agree with PETA that the short lives of chickens need to be
improved. Dr. Grandin said that as many as 6 percent of birds suffer broken wings or legs when workers pack
them into crates and onto trucks.
"A lot of workers aren't adequately trained," said Dr. Mohan Raj, a senior research fellow at the University of
Bristol in Britain and a veterinarian who has studied chicken welfare practices in the United States.
America's churches are a likely starting point for a grassroots revolution in food production: From Methodists'
support of systems that are as natural as possible to a recent statement by U.S. rabbis that humans should
strive to prevent animal suffering; many denominations condemn the cruelty of factory farms.
For the millions of egg-laying hens trapped in tiny battery cages across the U.S., the latent power of America's
religious communities could one day help signal the end of miserable confinement. The HSUS's All Creatures
Great and Small campaign will tap into that power this October by asking religious individuals and entities to
purchase only cage-free eggs.
Participants can make an online pledge through an animation in which they free a chicken from a cage before
inviting others through social networking sites to do the same. They can then download materials to use in
youth groups, Sunday schools, sermons, and bulletins, as well as watch a documentary telling the stories of
people whose religion inspired them to make dietary changes.
Planned for the month long feast of animal champion St. Francis of Assisi, the campaign fits naturally on the
liturgical calendar, says Christine Gutleben, director of animals and religion for The HSUS. And as people learn
more about the issues, they'll ideally be inspired to make permanent changes in the way they eat. "The hope,"
she says, "is that [going] cage-free is just a gateway, a first step into more mindful food choices."
Angela Moxley - HSUS All Animals Magazine