We know that animals can suffer. We know how horrible suffering is. So why do we treat animals as if they were inanimate objects? Why do we do unto them what we would on no account have done unto ourselves?

The Church teaches that it is a sin to cause unnecessary suffering to animals, but gives little or no guidance on what is unnecessary suffering. Factory farming, bullfighting, blood sports, the fur trade, product tests on animals – many would argue that these involve unnecessary suffering, but the Church is usually silent on these matters. The Catechism is wholly inadequate on this subject. What it gives with one hand ( we owe animals “kindness” ) it takes back with the other hand (we can use them for our gain).

Many of us know about the harm to humans that can result from animal exploitation:-it harms the soul because cruelty is a grievous sin. It harms the spirit because it hardens us and has a debasing effect. It harms the body because eating meat and dairy produce can be very unhealthy and can lead to many of our common illnesses. And medical experimentation on animals is so unscientific it can result in damage and death to humans. It harms the planet because rearing animals for food involves the waste, destruction and pollution of the land, forests, waters and air. Rearing animals for food also contributes to starvation because resources are taken away from the poor to grow meat for the rich, a process which gives back only about 10% of the calories and protein which was fed to the animals.

We humans exploit animals for food, clothes, sport, entertainment, medical experiments etc… But if we stop to think about this, surely we would realise that the logic of such exploitation means:- the strong can exploit the weak; the end justifies the means; the superior, more intelligent or holier can exploit the inferior, less intelligent or less holy. Think about it a bit more and surely we would see that vices cause us to exploit animals – greed/ self-interest/ materialism/ lack of compassion/ arrogance/ self-indulgence; while virtues cause us to oppose exploitation – humility/ love/ compassion/ seeing the presence of God in all things, and treating everything with respect.

When civilisation, with religion at its core, is based on the mass exploitation of animals, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line when it comes to denouncing abuse, but that shouldn’t mean that we draw no line.

The Church needs to get involved. She should not be interested so much in ‘bums on seats’ at Mass.  She should teach what is pure and good and right, even if we find it difficult to follow because of our fallen nature.

I have set up an online petition asking the Bishops of England and Wales, under the auspices of the Bishops’ Conference, to establish a Committee ‘on matters of responsibility and justice towards our fellow creatures’. This would complement the Committee which already exists ‘on matters of environmental responsibility and justice…’.

A Committee on Animals would enable the Church to focus attention on the moral aspect of how we treat animals, and would create a platform for expressing our concerns on these matters to the teaching body of the Church.

The petition can be found on the Care2 website where it can be searched for by name:- ‘Call on the Catholic Church to do more for Animals’.

( URL:-   http://www.thepetitionsite.com/394/779/718/call-on-the-catholic-church-to-do-more-for-animals/  )

A Committee on Animals is just a small step forward for the Catholic Church, but it would immediately improve the status of animals, and would be a model for other Bishops’ Conferences.

I urge all those who share my concern for all God’s creatures to sign this petition.