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January 24, 2013

2012 in Review: Taking Animal Protection to Faith Communities Nationwide

  • Oscar-winning filmmakers Aardman Animations partnered with The HSUS on "A Pig's Tail," a short children's film on factory farming. Courtesy Aardman Animations

  • Catalyst was one of the several major faith conferences The HSUS attended in 2012. V. Strang

  • Imam Magid, President of the Islamic Society of North America, became the 14th member of The HSUS Faith Advisory Council in 2012.

  • The HSUS's Fill the Bowl Project helps faith communities contribute pet food to local families in need.

  • The HSUS Faith Outreach team: Victoria Strang (holding Corky), Christine Gutleben, and Karen Allanach. The HSUS

In 2012, The HSUS Faith Outreach program brought animal protection issues to churches and communities coast to coast. We are happy to report that faith leaders are reclaiming their history of compassion and leadership on animal welfare issues.

Dinners with deeper meaning

We co-hosted dinners with faith leaders in Atlanta, Chicago, and St. Louis. These dinners brought the work of The HSUS and its regional staff to new audiences and raised the value of animal welfare issues among faith communities.

Guests at these dinners included presidents of faith-based organizations and state-wide church councils, reporters and bloggers for faith-based media outlets, seminary professors and deans, clergy from a variety of denominations, and faith-based community organizers.

As a result, professors are incorporating animal welfare issues into college course curriculum, pastors are giving sermons on animal stewardship from the pulpit, and faith leaders are speaking out on behalf of The HSUS for animal protection issues on state legislative platforms.

The success of these gatherings was largely due to the work of members on The HSUS Faith Advisory Council. Established in 2012, the 14-member multi-faith council provides crucial support by advising The HSUS on future plans and programs, serving as HSUS ambassadors in their respective communities, and providing support for other leaders who have taken a stand for animals.

Faith leaders speak out for humane public policy

Throughout the year, religious leaders lent their voices in support of public policy that protects animals. Notably, Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Dr. Oran Smith, President of Palmetto Family Council, released an anti-cockfighting video. The video was eventually made into a 30-second advertisement in support of an anti-cockfighting bill in Alabama and received coverage on several local news channels.

The Presbyterian Church Office of Public Witness, the public policy arm of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), showed remarkable support for animals in 2012 by endorsing a federal bill to improve conditions for egg-laying hens. The bill, jointly proposed by The HSUS and the United Egg Producers, would improve living conditions for millions of hens each year.

Bringing animals into the community

Churches nationwide found new and creative ways to incorporate animals into community life using our outreach resources: Compassionate Living for Lent during early spring, St. Francis Day in a Box! during fall, as well as our new Fill the Bowl Project, during the year-end holiday season. Fill the Bowl will continue year-round 2013, providing churches with an easy way to help animals and families in need.providing churches with an easy way to help animals and families in need.

Traveling the country

We covered a lot of ground, presenting at premiere faith-based conferences and events held at some of the nation's largest churches. We spoke at Mariners Church's annual Lumen conference in Irvine, Calf.; hosted a workshop with Nebraska Rancher Kevin Fulton at the Jubilee gathering for college-aged evangelicals in Pittsburgh, Penn.; hosted a learning session for national faith leaders at the Q Ideas conference in Washington, D.C.; held a screening and presentation at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Ill.; spoke at the American Academy of Religion Annual Conference in Chicago, Ill.; and co-presented with Dr. Laura Hobgood-Oster at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

In November, Christine Gutleben, senior director for Faith Outreach, presented her paper, "The Development of Evangelical Perspecives on Animals," at the 64th Annual Evangelical Theological Society Conference in Milwaukee, Wisc.

Making food a faith issue

We've found that one of the best ways to reach faith communities on factory-farming issues is through our film, "Eating Mercifully." In 2012 the film continued to be one of The HSUS's most requested resources. We helped to organize screenings of the film at Christian colleges and churches across the country, including a showing and faculty discussion at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C.

We had the honor to team up with the Academy Award–winning Aardman Animations to produce a short children's film about factory farming, "A Pig's Tail." The animated film features the voices of actors James Arnold Taylor and Catherine Taber of the animated series, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." We launched the film in conjunction with the Center for Science and the Public Interest’s (CSPI) popular Food Day campaign.

Hot off the presses

We weren't the only ones who were aware of the the interplay between faith and animal protection. World Magazine's feature, "God's Chickens," covered The HSUS's collaboration with the Southern Baptist Convention to end cockfighting. The Center for Public Justice published a noteworthy piece examining religious involvement in animal advocacy, "Faith Communities and Dedicated Citizens Play a Key Role in Animal Protection."

We are thankful for the progress we've made in 2012 and grateful to you for continuing to support our work.

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