In his first major statement on animal welfare, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has urged justice and protection for all creatures.
Commenting on the launch of The Global Guide to Animal Protection, the leading rights campaigner said this past week that “Churches should lead the way by making clear that all cruelty – to other animals as well as human beings – is an affront to civilised living and a sin before God.”
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.
The volume is edited by Oxford theologian Professor Andrew Linzey, a member of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Oxford and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics (www.oxfordanimalethics.com).
In his foreword to the book, Archbishop Tutu writes: “I have spent my life fighting discrimination and injustice, whether the victims are blacks, women, or gays and lesbians. 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. 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.
“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.
“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.
"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. This realisation should give us pause ... There is something Christ-like about caring for suffering creatures, whether they are humans or animals,” he concludes.
Dr Tutu is Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his anti-apartheid work.
The Global Guide to Animal Protection is published in both the UK and USA on 30 December