“Our dominion over animals is not supposed to be despotism. We are made in the image of God, yes, but God – in whose image we are made – is holy, loving, and just. We do not honour God by abusing other sentient creatures. They deserve our compassion and respect.”
The words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his first major statement on animal welfare in which he exorts people to fight injustice to animals.
In an introduction to the newly published Global Guide to Animal Protection, the South African human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner says “I have spent my life fighting discrimination and injustice, whether the victims are blacks, women, or gays and lesbians an no human being should be the target of prejudice or the object of vilification or be denied his or her basic rights. But there are other issues of justice – not only for human beings but also for the world’s other sentient creatures.”
“The matter of the abuse and cruelty we inflict on other animals has to fight for our attention in what sometimes seems an already overfull moral agenda,” he continues. “It is vital, however, that these instances of injustice not be overlooked.”
“I have seen firsthand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority.
“Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged.”
Archbishop Tutu goes on to remark that “it is a kind of theological folly to suppose that God has made the entire world just for human beings or to suppose that God is interested in only one of the millions of species that inhabit God’s good earth.”
“If it is true that we are the most exalted species in creation, it is equally true that we can be the most debased and sinful,” he says. “This realization should give us pause. There is something Christ-like about caring for suffering creatures, whether they are humans or animals.”
And the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town emphasises his desire to see churches leading the way by “making clear that all cruelty – to other animals as well as human beings – is an affront to civilized living and a sin before God.”
Edited by Oxford University theologian, Professor Andrew Linzey, the Global Guide to Animal Protection is the result of collaboration between the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, a world-wide association of academics from all disciplines, and the University of Illinois Press.
Aiming to raise awareness of human indifference and cruelty toward animals, the guide features more than 180 articles.
It also includes inspiring accounts of attempts by individuals to challenge and change exploitative practices. It is available to purchase in paperback or as an ebook.
Originally published in Vegan Future newspaper. Read the newspaper for 18 pages of vegan news from around the world.