Articles From The Writings of Vasu Murti

Voices Calling for Justice

Since its founding, the United States has been both a haven for the oppressed yearning to breathe free, as well as a nation with a progressive concept of "human rights." The phrase "all men are created equal" once referred only to white, male property owners. Since the abolition of human slavery, it now includes women and minorities. Why should equality, rights and justice end with humans? Religion has traditionally been a tool of oppression, but there have been voices calling for justice towards animals:
 
The earliest Christians were vegetarians as well as pacifists. Clemens Prudentius, the first Christian hymn writer, in one of his hymns exhorted his fellow Christians not to pollute their hands and hearts by the slaughter of innocent cows and sheep, and pointed to the variety of nourishing and pleasant foods obtainable without blood-shedding. Secular scholar Keith Akers concludes: "But many others, both orthodox and heterodox, testified to the vegetarian origins of Christianity. Both Athanasius and his opponent Arius were strict vegetarians. Many early church fathers were vegetarian, including Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Heironymus, Boniface, and John Chrysostom... Vegetarianism is at the heart of Christianity."
 
St. Richard of Wyche, a vegetarian, was moved by the sight of animals taken to slaughter: "Poor innocent little creatures. If you were reasoning beings and could speak, you would curse us. For we are the cause of your death, and what have you done to deserve it?" St. Francis of Assisi taught: "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men." St. Filippo Neri spent his life protecting and rescuing living creatures. A vegetarian, he could not bear to pass a butcher's shop. "Ah, he exclaimed, "If everyone were like me, no one would kill animals!"
 
“Thanks be to God!” wrote John Wesley, founder of Methodism, to the Bishop of London in 1747. “Since the time I gave up the use of flesh-meats and wine, I have been delivered from all physical ills.” Wesley was a vegetarian for spiritual reasons as well. Wesley based his vegetarianism on the biblical prophecies concerning the Kingdom of Peace, where “on the new earth, no creature will kill, or hurt, or give pain to any other.” Wesley taught that animals “shall receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings.” Wesley further taught that animals will attain heaven: in the “general deliverance” from the evils of this world, animals would be given “vigor, strength and swiftness... to a far higher degree than they ever enjoyed.” Wesley urged parents to educate their children about compassion towards animals: “I am persuaded you are not insensible of the pain given to every Christian, every humane heart, by those savage diversions, bull-baiting, cock-fighting, horse-racing, and hunting.”
 
The Quakers have a long history of advocating kindness towards animals. In 1795, the Society of Friends (Quakers) in London passed a resolution condemning sport hunting: "...let our leisure be employed in serving our neighbor, and not in distressing, for our amusement, the creatures of God.” John Woolman (1720-1772) was a Quaker preacher and abolitionist who traveled throughout the American colonies attacking slavery and cruelty to animals. Woolman wrote that he was “early convinced in my mind that true religion consisted in an inward life, wherein the heart doth love and reverence God the Creator and learn to exercise true justice and goodness, not only toward all men, but also toward the brute creatures... Where the love of God is verily perfected... a tenderness toward all creatures made subject to us will be experienced, and a care felt in us that we do not lessen that sweetness of life in the animal creation which the great Creator intends for them.” 
 
Joshua Evans (1731-1798), a Quaker, said reverence for life was the moral basis of his vegetarianism: “I considered that life was sweet in all living creatures, and taking it away became a very tender point with me... I believe my dear Master has been pleased to try my faith and obedience by teaching me that I ought no longer to partake of anything that had life." The “Quaker poet” and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), wrote: “The sooner we recognize the fact that the mercy of the Almighty extends to every creature endowed with life, the better it will be for us as men and Christians.”
 
The founder and first secretary of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the Reverend Arthur Broome, an Anglican priest, endured poverty and jail for the cause of animals. The RSPCA was originally founded as a Christian Society “entirely based on the Christian Faith, and on Christian Principles,” sponsoring sermons on humane education in churches in London. Its first Prospectus spoke of the need to extend Christian charity and benevolence to the animals, and was signed by many leading 19th century Christians including William Wilberforce, Richard Martin, G.A. Hatch, J. Bonner, and Dr. Heslop.
 
General William Booth (1829-1912), founder of the Salvation Army, practiced and advocated vegetarianism. Booth never officially condemned flesh eating as cruelty to animals nor as gluttony, but taught that abstinence from luxury is helpful to the cause of Christian charity. “It is a great delusion to suppose that flesh of any kind is essential to health,” he insisted. 
 
Although Seventh Day Adventists are known to promote vegetarianism, nonsmoking, and nondrinking for health and nutrition, church founder Ellen White taught kindness to animals is a Christian duty. She urged the faithful to: “Think of the cruelty that meat eating involves, and its effect on those who inflict and those who behold it. How it destroys the tenderness with which we should regard these creatures of God!” 
 
"To stand for Christ is to stand against the evil of cruelty inflicted on those who are weak, vulnerable, unprotected, undefended, morally innocent, and in that class we must unambiguously include animals. There is something profoundly Christ-like about the innocent suffering of animals. Look around you and see the faces of Christ in the billions of innocent animals suffering in factory farms, in laboratories, in abattoirs, in circuses and in animals hunted for sport."
 
--Reverend Andrew Linzey, contemporary Anglican priest, and author of several books on animal rights and Christianity 

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