Questions of animal welfare and animal ethics are among some of the most discussed, controversial issues of our society. Images of animals suffering pain through intensive farming or killed en masse give rise to strong emotions, making factual discussions rather more difficult. In all cases, it is quite clear that it is not only farmers and agricultural policies that are responsible for animal welfare; consumers of animal products also carry responsibility.
For the churches too, issues of animal welfare and animal ethics are highly relevant, since they address fundamental questions regarding human-animal relationships, which are, from a Christian ethical perspective, relationships between fellow creatures. Humans and animals are God’s creation; they both carry the same God-given breath of life (Ps 104 : 10 – 18). Humans and animals are both subject to God’s promises of blessing and protection (Gen 9 : 16). The biblical visions of peace for a new world explicitly include animals (Is 65 : 17 ff.). With good reason, this biblical perspective of the close bond between mankind and animal was emphatically underlined by both creation theology and the conciliar process of commitment to justice, peace and the integrity of creation in the 1980s.
According to the Advisory Commission on Sustainable Development, it is now time to apply a comprehensive, civilisatory re-learning process to the relationship between mankind and animals within the context of our modern civilisation; one which is no less important than the process of decarbonising our global economy. It will require multi-faceted participation, encouragement and penetrating dialogue in all areas of the Church and society.