Despite the implications for human health, climate change, social justice etc, meat-eating is increasing world-wide. So the welfare and comfort of the animals used for food, both in their lives and in the manner of their deaths, must be a high priority.
Dr Marie Hendrickx, of the Vatican’s Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, seriously challenged today’s industrial treatment of animals:
“Does the right to use animals for food imply the right to raise chickens in tiny cages where they live in a space smaller than a notebook? Or calves in compartments where they can never move about or see the light? Or to keep sows pinned by iron rings in a feeding position to allow a series of piglets to suck milk constantly and thus grow faster?”
(‘For a More Just Relationship with Animals’, L’Osservatore Romano, 24 January 2001).
Similarly, Pope Benedict XVI, in a 1992 interview, gives a powerful denunciation of certain farming practices, namely the method of producing foie gras, and intensive poultry conditions:
“Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible [for foie gras], or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds [as in egg-production and broiler units], this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.”
(God and the World, p.79).
CCA supports as a minimum standard of welfare for farm animals the full implementation of the Five Freedoms, a code of the Farm Animal Welfare Council:
- freedom from hunger and thirst;
- freedom from discomfort;
- freedom from pain, injury and disease;
- freedom from fear and distress,
- freedom to express normal behaviour, which includes providing sufficient space, proper facilities and the company of the animal’s own kind.
These conditions would prevent the ‘farming’ of basically wild animals for fur – and the day will come when trapping too will be considered as having no place in the modern world, where substitute furs both look and feel similar to the real thing.
In poor and developing countries animals – such as donkeys, camels, oxen and llamas – are used for carrying loads and for pulling ploughs, carts and so on. Their owners benefit when welfare standards are raised, either by education or other support. Often however there has built up a culture of indifference to animal suffering, one which the Church needs to address as part of its mission to the poor.
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