In his Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ (published 2015), the Pope spoke about our duty to animals and to the environment. But his teachings about animals are not reaching the Catholic Community at large because the bishops are not communicating his words to the parish priests. So they in turn are not informing their congregations about our duties to animals. So it’s business as usual.

The main messages in the Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ regarding animals are, in my opinion, the following:-

1) a re-affirmation of the Church’s teaching, long neglected, that cruelty to animals is a sin

2) that animals don’t exist for humans, they exist in their own right, for God

3) that our treatment of animals is as important as any other aspect of “our Christian experience” as the Pope puts it

4) that we shouldn’t use animals without a need to do so, and

5) that if we need to use animals we cannot hurt or distress them. We must treat them with kindness.

So battery eggs are sinful, factory farms are sinful, trapping wild animals is sinful, and causing pain and distress during the slaughter process is sinful.

The bishops, at least in the UK, have ignored the issues relating to our treatment of animals.

In their letter to Catholics about issues to consider for the General Election 2015, there was not one word about animals. In their statement on what to focus on when voting in the EU Referendum, there was not one word about animals. In their letter about the General Election 2017, nothing about animals. On their website I could not find one word about animals, though I looked long and hard.

The only way for the Encyclical’s message about animals to reach, and to be taken seriously by, the mass of the Catholic population is for the bishops to instruct priests to bring the subject into their sermons at Mass. Otherwise nothing will change. We have hundreds of years of neglect to overcome, and I don’t think it can be done any other way.

(By the way, I ought to mention that the only summary of the Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ that I have read that has no spin on it is surprisingly that of the Vatican. The Vatican concludes that in the light of ‘Laudato Si’ an examination of the conscience should include a consideration of how we have related to animals and to nature, along with the usual how we have related to God, to other people and to ourselves.)

The Pope has made it clear that he wants a more synodal church. He wants the bishops to consult with the church at large. He denounces clericalism as ‘a gross deformation’ and states that by receiving the Holy Spirit in baptism we all have the right to be involved in the decision-making processes of the Church. So it follows that we should be telling the bishops how we feel, when we feel strongly about something. What I want to say to Catholics (and other Christians who are concerned about how we treat animals) is:- tell the bishops how you feel. Lobby your bishop about animal abuse. Especially write asking him to send a pastoral letter regarding the message of ‘Laudato Si’ concerning animals, to be read out during Mass. The addresses of all the Catholic diocesan bishops in England and Wales can be found on the website of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales:- Most countries will have a website containing the email addresses of bishops.