Theologian says that for the animals they’re “nowhere”
Church inaction over animal welfare compounds animal cruelty, said Professor Andrew Linzey, a theologian at Oxford University and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.
Linzey spoke at a special Sunday service for animals at London’s Westminster Abbey.
He noted that investigations by the RSPCA of animal cruelty had risen from 137,245 in 2007 to 159,686 in 2010, and that animals used in research experiments endure immense physical and emotional suffering. The plight of millions of animals in factory farms, he commented, is conveniently ignored.
The churches “are nowhere in this debate,” Linzey said. “With a few honorable exceptions – and I mean a very few – English archbishops and bishops haven’t even addressed the issue in the past decade or more. Almost all church leaders, who are normally loquacious in lamenting regressive social policies, can’t even register cruelty as an issue.
They talk airily of environmental responsibility, but when it comes to confronting our specific duties to other sentient creatures, (they) fall silent.”
The root problem, Linzey said, is a failure of theology, especially the “idolatry” of thinking that God is only interested in the human species.
“Christians haven’t got much further than thinking that the whole world was made for us, with the result that animals are only seen in an instrumental way as objects, machines, tools and commodities rather than fellow creatures. To think that animals can be defined by what they do for us, or how they meet our needs, is profoundly un-theological.”
People who attended the service praised Linzey for his sermon.
“We share planet Earth with other creatures who deserve our respect and compassion and who have physical and emotional needs,” said Elizabeth Allison. “So often they are treated as commodities and are valued only for their usefulness to us rather than beings in their own right. Caring, compassionate people should be appalled that such a situation is allowed to exist.”