Working towards a more compassionate world through education and advocacy

Increasing our Compassionate Footprint

September 2015

Cover Page   |   Table of Contents   |   Editorial    |    1     |     2     |    3     |    4    |    5    |    6    |    7     |    8    |    9    |    10    |    11     12   |   13   |   14

continued: ...   Will Theology rescue non-human animals from Human Oppression?

In 2015 Pope Francis

said in the Laudato Si...


“Living our vocation to be protectors of God's handiwork is essential to a life of virtue;  it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”


“It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly." 


“The Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.”

In 2014 Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and President of the South African Council of Churches, said ...


“We need a transformation of society at the level of culture itself. We need to realize that we have been captured by the lure of consumerism to believe our happiness and success depends on what we eat, wear, own and use…


We are trapped in the logic of consumerism which emphasizes what we lack, downplaying what we already have. We are reminded daily of our unfulfilled needs, thus placing consumerism at the heart of culture.


The over consumption of animal-derived products – meat, eggs, milk and so on –

is part of this culture of consumerism and places an enormous burden on human health, as well as on the lives of animals which are crammed into factory farms in order to supply our demands, especially for cheap meat…


The Church has a moral and theological responsibility to set aside this stupidity and embrace its role of stewardship of our beautiful earth and all its creation. We need our congregations to become eco-congregations...”




synopsis continued ... Professor Kai Horsthemke

  My preferred argument and strategy for the liberation of animals is a steady roll out of rights.


Our best available tool is to accord rights to non-humans. Moral rights very often precede legal rights. Before women had any legal rights their moral rights had been acknowledged by moral and political reformers.


Slavery was legal in many parts of the world but there were moral reformers who appealed to justice long before legal rights were given. Thus, I suggest that morality is a precursor of law.


Young infants have rights, as do the mentally incapacitated or patients with progressive Alzheimers disease have rights, simply because they can be said to have interests that can be protected or safe-guarded by an appeal to rights.


By the same token, non-human animals have interests in life, liberty and enjoyment of life, free from disease, and are therefore deserving of corresponding rights.


If we think of rights as the backbone of moral concern and interaction and compassion as the heart, then we begin to get closer to achieving an understanding of true liberation. Animal Liberation can be achieved – even if only in our own consciousness to start with. This would free us from the role of oppressor.  If we take rights seriously then there is no excuse, for example, for rearing and killing animals for human consumption.


Animal Liberation will become Human Liberation.


According rights to non-humans will be a contentious matter for years to come and the movement will be criticised for respecting animals at the expense of human beings. It will be criticised as not respecting cultural traditions. But culture is not sacrosanct. Virginity testing and female genital excision are examples of traditional customs that are clearly not in the interests of the young girls who are at the receiving end of these practices. They deserve the attention of anyone opposed to moral injustice.


The concept of ubuntu has commonly been given a human-centred interpretation but the idea that ‘I am because we are’ can be interpreted to include other animals too. This is a beginning.


There remains a lot of work to be done but the substratum is there within the thinking and philosophy on the African continent. 


"Let us start with daily accountability: what are we going to eat, what pharmacological products are we going to use, what are we going to wear."

In the discourse of liberation, we find that if one grouping of humanity is regarded as inferior, the ‘superior’ grouping suffers just as much.


  • For example, the liberation of woman, liberated men.

  • The liberation of slavery, liberated the oppressors.

  • Any kind of hierarchy is potentially dangerous.


There is a God image that I love to work with. It is found in Deuteronomy 10:17.

God reveals Himself there as powerful, yet impartial, and compassionate to the

so-called marginalised.


He gave us the responsibility of taking care of the rest of creation. We need to come to terms with the extent to which we have misunderstood our responsibilities as a result of a hierarchical attitude.


The implications of a discourse like this are absolutely enormous. To be created in the image of God is not something to boast about unless we take our responsibility very seriously. God is an inclusive God. He is compassionate to all of creation, and he is not hierarchical.  


With this understanding, the liberation of non-human animals has profound implications. 


Let us begin.

“It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly." 


– Pope Francis - Laudato Si

In concluding the colloquium, Professor Mouton said:

Professor Mouton (left),

Professor Horsthemke (middle),

Dr Michael Skriver (right) -

co-convenor of the colloquium.


The Faculty of Theology chose Human Dignity as one of its key items of focus. But in concentrating on human dignity, we may have neglected  the rest of creation.

We must take this discussion forward. The analogies with feminism and slavery are powerful.



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