How can I describe the Rev. Andrew Linzey? It didn't take me long to realize
that the best description of him is that he is a man of compassion. In my
opinion, this is a rarity among "religious" people. Try talking to your priest, minister,
rabbi, imam, r eligious sister or brother re animal rights issues and see how far
it will go. Surprise me with a comment which will restore my confidence in
"religious" people. While my suggestion is a tease, I truly believe that religion
has far to go re concern for animals. I believe that Rev. Linzey explains well
why this is so when I relate some of his beliefs in this regard.
Should you think that I am anti-religious, nothing can be further from the truth.
But though a Catholic, I derive almost all my inspiration from Jesus Christ and
some of his saints. Brian from Facebook's Catholic Vegetarian group, even
asked me if I was Catholic after reading some of my comments. I laughed.
Indeed I am I told him, and I attend liturgy daily. The difference between me and
most Catholics is that I believe that truth is found in many of us - a truth which is
not always recognized in the church. Pity -because one of the church's teaching
is called the Mystical Body of Christ where Jesus Christ is the head and we are
all are the members of His body.
I also believe in serendipity. Yesterday I "stumbled" upon Rev. Linzey's link among
my Favorites. It made me remember gratefully why I admired him so much for the
past 40 years. He was also featured in the "Ark," the bi-monthly magazine of Catholic
Concern f or Animals which I received in the mail yesterday. Yes, this wonderful
man was certainly "thrust" upon me again and I am grateful remembering him anew.
There are other men of compassion like Wayne Pacelle of HSUS, Dr.Eliot Katz of
In Defense of Animals, Gene Bauer of Farm Santuary, Nathan Runkle of Mercy for
Animals, and Michael Budkie of SAEN - Save Animals from Experimentation Now.
But what makes the Rev. Linzey different from them is that he is a man of the cloth.
Isn't it sad that I can find almost no others like him in Catholic or Christian circles?
But yes, I do know of ONE -t he Rev. Frank Hoffman who, with his wife, maintain
the internet site- all-creatures.org which keeps us abreast re animal issues, stories,
poems and even vegan recipes.
Hopefully, there are other men of the cloth like Rev. Linzey and Rev. Hoffman, but I
believe they are rare. And sadly when it comes to Catholic priests, I know of none.
At one time Fr John Dear, S.J. was considered an animal advocate, but upon looking
him up on the internet, I found that he is basically interested in peace and people
projects. Personally, I believe a more holistic view would include concern for God's
animal creation as well.
I knew that Rev. Linzey had written a number of books. And the one which interested
me most is titled "Animals and Christianity" - edited by him and Tom Regan. I
immediately pulled out my "dusty" Cleveland Public Library card and went searching
for it in the catalogue section on the internet. And yes, there it was. Though I sent
a message in the library's contact section, I have not heard from them yet. I guess
a telephone call is now warranted.
What intrigued me most about this book is that it is the first anthology of Christian
texts on animals, with extracts from people on both sides of the debate. I will be able
to read what Aquinas, Augustine, Bonaventure, Irenaeus, Descartes, Thomas More,
Calvin, Tolstoy, Wesley, Schweitzer, and Barth had to say on this subject.
I know that I will not be impressed and even disagree with what Aquinas, Augustine,and
Descartes wrote. I also know that Tolstoy, Schweitzer, and probably Thomas More wrote
compassionately in this regard. The others are a question mark for me and I hope that
they too were also positive re the treatment of animals.
In a nutshell -who is Andrew Linzey? Wikipedia's opening paragraph sizes him up
pretty well I think: "Andrew Linzey is an Anglican priest, theologian, author, and
prominent figure in the Christian vegetarian movement. He is a member of the
Faculty of Theology in the University of Oxford and held the world's first academic
post in Ethics, Theology and Animal Welfare - the Bede Jarret Senior Research
Fellowship at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford."
Phew! Now- that that is out of the way, I think you will appreciate him not so much
because of his accomplishments in academia, but because of his great sensitivity
and compassion for all God's creatures and the wonderful way he writes about them
and our need to admit them into our circle of compassion.
The article starts with a quotation from Blessed JH Newman - "Cruelty to Animals Is
As If a Man Did Not Love God." His thoughts would flow from this beautiful "truism."
He starts his address with the good news that sensitivity to animals is increasing in
the United Kingdom. He notes that hunting and coursing have been banned, sow
stalls and battery cages are being phased out, testing for cosmetics has been
effectively discontinued, and the use of great apes in experiments has been
He believes that these positive outcomes are the result of philosophical work
being done on the moral status of animals. And just as important he says is the
scientific data revealing that all mammals experience not just physical pain, but
also mental suffering such as fear, foreboding, shock, trauma, stress, distress,
anticipation and terror. Previously, these feelings were considered belonging
only to the human condtion.
But then the bad news -really bad news It seems to negate the good news
because he says that animal abuse is growing. He likens it to a multi- headed
hydra. Cut off one head and another grows in its place. A nimals are once again
being used in genetic manipulation. Advances in abolishing some aspects of
factory farming now see the emergence of mega dairies in which eight thousand
cows are to be kept permanently inside factories where there is no natural light.
Pastures will be a thing of the past for these cows. He even mentions the possible
advent of 'mega- piggeries' to house no less than 30,000 pigs. He sadly notes
that we are turning animals into food machines.
Unfortunately, we in the US already have some mega dairies and mega-piggeries
though we call them CAFOs. If there was ever hope for the betterment of farm
animals, I thought it would start in England. I guess I was wrong.
He also sadly notes the increase of many complaints of cruelty investigated by the
RSPCA. The number rose each year from 2007 to 2010. He is not sure whether
this is because of greater sensitivity or greater callousness, but says the overall
trend is disquieting.
Another question he poses is -Why is it that we cannot as a society see that
animal cruelty like cruelty to children, should not be tolerated? And then the question
which is always on my mind he addresses as well. Wh ere are the churches?
He answers that easily with a simple and succint statement -they are nowhere in
He sees this as a fundamental failure in theology. I truly appreciate his thoughts on
this subject which has always dumbfounded me:
"All this represents not just a failure in moral perception, but a fundamental failure
in theology, much deeper and much more profound than is commonly appreciated...
Christian theology needs animals to save itself- and ourselves - from idolatry, By
'idolatry,' I mean the attempt to deify the human species by regarding the interests
of human beings as the sole or exclusive concern of God the Creator.. To avoid
this charge, theology needs to show that it can provide what it promises - namely
a truly Godward (rather than a simply anthropocentric) view of the world. Its
obssession with human beings to the exclusion of all else betokens a deeply
unbalanced doctrine of the Creator."
Aren't his thought processes amazing? I would love to send to all the 365 Bishops
in America! Sadly, I no longer can. I've been writing letters all my life - to editors
and legislators for 40 years, to the Bishops of the church in 2001, to the Catholic
priests in the Cleveland area in the 80's, to 100 US Senators in the 70's, to the
five Catholic theolgians in the 90's and now I'm writing to area superintendents
to incorporate the wonderful i dea of the Philadelphia group who are teaching animal
concerns once a month to 5th graders in a particular school. What a wonderful idea,
but how hard to incorporate. So far- from the Cleveland Bd. of Education - a polite
e-mail response saying that they have to look into this with regard to the express
goals of their curriculum. Not what I had hoped to hear, though I certainly realize
that incorporating a pilot program for 5th graders is something which requires work
and effort in setting up.
Earlier, I had wondered about Barth's thinking in regard to animals. I no longer
have to. IT IS NOT POSITIVE. Linzey was astonished by Barth's doctrine of
creation. He defines creation as anthropology or the doctrine of man. Linzey quotes
him as saying: "He who in the biblical message is called God is obviously not
interested in the totality of things and beings created by Him, nor in specific beings
within this totality, but in Man.." Linzey looks on this staement as crass and I agree.
Here- all this time I've been blaming only Thomas Aquinas with his utility principle
as the reason for a lot of animal suffering. Now of course - I'll have to add Karl
Barth who, despite this "terrible" teaching Linzey still considers him to be the
greatest theologian of all times. Go figure.
And what are the reasons we so often hear as to why we basically exclude
animals from our circle o f compassion? Here are Linzey's condensed explanations
WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN DOMINION OVER ANIMALS......Dominion does not mean
despotism. For centuries Christians have interpreted Genesis I as meaning little
more than 'might is right'... In Genesis 1:26-9 humans are made in God's image,
given dominion, and in the subsequent verse given a vegetarian diet. Herb-eating
dominion is hardly a license for tyranny. Our power over animals is a power to care,
not to exploit.
* WE HUMANS ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD...But the God in whose image
we are made is a God of love, mercy, justice. It is difficult to see how being made
in that image can justify the infliction of pain whatever the motives.
* BUT THE BIBLE IS PREOCCUPIED WITH THE SALVATION OF HUMAN BEINGS....
Well, from my perspective, so it should be. Humans need saving from their wicked-
ness and violence. That animals will be redeemed strikes me as rather obvious--after
all they are morally innocent or blameless, not sinful, violent and wicked like human
beings. (Bravo, Rev. Linzey!)
* WE SHOULD CARE FOR CHILDREN RATHER THAN ANIMALS.....(It is rather ironic
but it was the RSPCA's efforts in the first place which resulted in the establishment
of a charity to address children needs in England) They saw, as we need to see, that
the cause of cruelty was indivisible. A world in which cruelty to animals goes unchecked
is bound to be a less morally safe world for human beings.
* WE SHOULDN'T INDULGE ANIMALS WHEN HUMANS ARE STARVING. Well, as
we all know, there would be more food to eat in the world if we all became vegetarian
or vegan. Animals are protein machines in reverse, since grain fed to animals could be
used to directly feed hungry humans." (So common-sensed, but in my opinion, most
refuse to acknowledge this truth.)
* BUT HUMAN SUFFERING COMES FIRST....Well, in my book, all suffering is suffering.
It is all part of the great conceit and hubris of the human species to suppose that only
human suffering really matters or matters most of all.....
Linzey ends with thoughts of Christian clergy on the side of animals. Among them were
Newman, Primatt, and Broome. In my opinion, a fitting ending for this post is Humphry
Primatt's quote from his great work "The Duty of Mercy and the Sin of Cruelty." In his
1776 book he penned this remarkable insight re man and animals:
"We may pretend to what religion we please, but cruelty is atheism. We may make
our boast of Christianity, but cruelty is infidelity. We may trust to our orthodoxy but
cruelty is the worst of heresies. "
Thank you Rev. Andrew Linzey for your wonderful thoughts, insights and concern for
God's animal creatures. May your words one day bear much fruit. Certainly, they are
words of compassion which surely God has inspired.