The 2018 CCA Ecumenical Retreat was held at Hinsley Hall in Leeds from Monday 10th to Thursday 13th September. As well as masses and thoughtful liturgies and prayers which focused on the animal creation, there were a number thought-provoking speakers. Dr Deborah Jones spoke about ‘Faith Food’ explaining what foods people of different faiths ate and the reasons for their preferences. Dr Clara Mancini spoke about her work at the Open University with animals as co-designers, where researchers are using a new ethics for working with animals when designing technology that animals have to interface with, to encourage the animals they work with to tell them what their preferences are. This is a game-changing breakthrough in ethics in animal research. Clara also gave this talk at the Norwich Conference and it is the subject of her article in this edition of The Ark. Dr Richard Ryder spoke about advocacy, speciesism and painism, a talk also presented at the Norwich Conference and the subject of his article in this edition. Barbara Gardner spoke about The Animal Interfaith Alliance (AIA) and its work with Animal Advocacy and the Law, particularly the ground-breaking work of the Nonhuman Rights Project that AIA is supporting, where animal lawyer, Prof. Steve Wise takes cases to court in the US to argue for the recognition of legal personhood for chimpanzees, elephants and whales in law and to give them the right of freedom. This was the subject of a talk that I gave at the Animal Law Conference in Berlin in the summer and is reported on in the autumn 2018 edition of Animal Spirit.
The guest speakers were Fr Denis Keating who spoke about his experiences as a Roman Catholic priest and Sue Malcolm, founder of Friends of Baxter Animal Care who spoke about her new organisation which provides Reiki healing to animals.
Prayers were held in the morning and evening and were led by Ken Kearsey, John and Wendy Brayshaw, Judy Gibbons and Wanda Oberman and Fr Denis Keating who also held the masses. A wonderfully uplifting event was the Musings, Meditations and Music, designed and led by Irene Casey. Finally everyone made merry at the Musical Interlude on the last day.
The Retreat was, as always, a spiritually uplifting and refreshing and re-energising event. When, in one session, we went around the room asking people why they came to the Retreat, most people agreed that they often felt isolated, as people who were concerned about animal suffering, in their home communities and they needed the comradeship of like-minded people. This comradeship was certainly found here. With that comradeship and the ability to share in some wonderful vegan catering provided by the staff of Hinsley Hall, we all left refreshed and renewed.