Theologian and Fordham University ethics professor Dr. Charles Camosy, PhD, is used to people feeling uncomfortable with his stance on animal welfare.
Even some of his own family and close friends have told him, “Charlie, I just can’t read your stuff on animals because I know that it will force me to change.”
Their discomfort, however, hasn’t stopped Camosy from being a strong voice for the voiceless. His book For Love of Animals calls on all people — and on Christians in particular — to rethink their beliefs about eating meat.
Being “kind” to animals, he insists, demands that we do more than stop eating them. We must also stop “hiring out” the factory-farm jobs of abusing and killing them to the poorest among us. As Mary Eberstadt of the Ethics and Policy Center writes so movingly in For the Love of Animals’ foreword:
“If I was unwilling to kill these creatures with my own bare hands… then by what right…could I possibly delegate the brutal act of killing to others — especially to those poorer… and more desperate others who man America’s squealing slaughterhouses and shovel out its reeking chicken factories?”
According to the Pew Research Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 78.4 percent of Americans identified as Christian in 2007. So Christians would have accounted for most of the public outcry that followed that year’s animal-abuse arrest of NFL superstar quarterback Michael Vick.
They were furious with Vick for funding a dogfighting ring and drowning or hanging the animals that didn’t perform well. But how many of those who demanded justice for the abused dogs, he asks, would feel the same about getting justice for factory-farmed pigs?
“He [Vick] caused dogs to suffer and die for money and for pleasure. We eat factory-farmed animals for money and for pleasure. If we condemn Michael Vick, we likely condemn ourselves as well.”
Where can Christians who truly want justice for animals start? At home, Charles suggests:
“Christians should refuse to serve factory farmed meat in their homes–even to guests who are expecting it. This would be a powerful witness to a Western world that is addicted to artificially cheap meat.”
He holds church leaders to the same standard: “Pastors of churches and Bishops of dioceses should make sure that the institutions under their pastoral care refuse to serve factory farmed meat.”
At the heart of For the Love of Animals is the idea that as humans, we think our superiority over all other species entitles us to treat them as we wish.
But Camosy has a very different take. When God gave humankind “dominion” over animals, he suggests, the gift came with strings attached. None of them were given to us to exploit.
All of them were given to us to protect.