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February 14, 2008

Religious Leaders React to Abuse of Cows at Calif. Meat Packing Co.

The Humane Society of the United States

February 14, 2008

Religious leaders recently responded to the events uncovered at the Hallmark Meat Packing Company in Chino, Calif., where HSUS investigators discovered horrific abuse of non-ambulatory, "downed" dairy cows being dragged to slaughter.

Their collective, spiritual voice calls for a more compassionate and merciful food system. 


The scandal of the dairy horror videoed by the Humane Society is shocking. I am afraid that it is only the tip of the iceberg and that other abuses of animals are recurrently taking place behind closed doors. The regulatory regimes recurrently are ignored, I am afraid and I think new vehicles are needed to protect animals in food systems to be treated more humanely.

Companies beyond the dairy business need to take notice, to review their practices and to ensure that the animals in their care are treated humanely. Citizens need to be demanding that the entire food and dairy system be reviewed with an examination of the guarantees that need to be in place to protect animals from treatment evidenced by this shocking example, more than lip service or verbal assurances are needed.

Brother David Andrews, CSC
Coordinator for Justice and Peace
Congregation of Holy Cross


Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the cruelty perpetuated by the Hallmark Meat Packing Company. A few thoughts came to mind as I watched your horrific video.

The famous English poet John Donne once penned this short and profound poem:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Physicists call it Chaos Theory, Economists and Mathematicians call it Game Theory, Computer Scientists call it Cybernetics, Psychologists call it Family Systems. Call it what you will, the fact remains, we are all of us in this thing called Life together, human beings, animals, the flora. It is a causal chain, a web of interaction and influence, that creates the ebb and flow of existence, and if we humans continue to assume that being at the top of this causal chain somehow exempts us from our spiritual, ethical, and moral responsibilities to everything else on the planet, we will have finally forfeited the deep and awesome responsibility God gave us to exercise dominion over his Creation.

In the Christian tradition we pay much heed to the idea that we are all a part of the mystical Body of Christ, and as one member of the body suffers, so all the members are harried. I extend this logically out to also mean that any suffering in the world on any level has an effect on me, no matter how small, and I take the mystical body of Christ to include all of creation since "even the stones would cry out" if we were to fall silent.

The animals we abuse, torture, and kill (and the forests we cut down and the streams and oceans we pollute) in order to satiate our addiction to meat all represent a chorus of suffering too loud for us to hear. It has become the din of a groaning and suffering Creation (as Paul's Letter to the Romans puts it) that we have grown inured to. And that, mark you, is our own death knell. In the End, most of us won't be judged for the blatant cruelty we exacted as we will for the monstrous indifference we showed.

May God grant us just enough mercy to quicken our consciences but not so much as to deaden our senses. We wonder with a sort of mind-numbing horror how the genocides in African and Europe can happen. Well hell, we just managed to work our way up the food chain.

"Send not to know / for whom the bell tolls, / It tolls for thee."

So grateful to all of you who work so tirelessly for those who, for millennia, have worked so tirelessly for us.

Rev. Michael Bruner, Presbyterian minister
Professor of English & Religion
Azusa Pacific University, California


I was disheartened to see such cruel treatment of these animals. I support the United Methodist Social Principles that call for the humane treatment of animals and the painless slaughtering of meat animals, fish and fowl.

Kenneth R. Fell, pastor, Memorial United Methodist Church, Poolesville, Maryland 


Watching your video on the incredibly cruel treatment of beef cattle breaks the heart, breaks the spirit and breaks any resistance to working for change. It is truly outrageous how the whole factory farming industry (of all meat animals) is wreaking intense—almost seemingly purposeful—cruelty beyond most people's ability to even comprehend!
 
Truly this is NOT how God intended humankind to treat the other creatures with whom we share this planet—and on whom we depend for so much, even beyond food! God obviously loved these beings enough to create them for his/her pleasure from the very beginning. If we want to talk about "sin" in this world, this wanton cruelty nears the very top of the list! Repentance and forsaking such sin is the stuff of which forgiveness and new beginnings is all about!

Rev. Dale Kelley
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Alaska


People of all faiths can join voices to celebrate the USDA's recent stand for human decency. By shutting down the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company, the USDA sends a clear message: we have responsibilities for the animals in our care, even those raised for meat. As a minister, I'm all too aware that current procedures in slaughterhouses and factory farms are out of step with society's desire that animals be treated humanely, for their sake and for ours.

To believe that humans have stewardship over other animals is to believe that we have special responsibilities to ensure their well-being—responsibilities that come with the role of steward. To believe in creationism or evolution is to believe that animals and humans come from the same source and are literally kin—that is to say, family. To believe that meat-eating is an archaic practice that should be left in the past, or to believe that meat-eating is natural and should be treated as such, is to take a moral stance against the mechanized, systemic abuse of animals in modern animal agriculture. 

Whether we believe that God has a plan for humanity, or that spirituality has more to do with actions than beliefs, or that we are on our own to make way in this universe, we must grow to understand the special responsibility these beliefs place on us: to build a more decent society.
       
What a wonder: a government agency taking a meaningful moral stance that people of all faiths can celebrate. When it comes to aligning the agricultural industry with our values as a society, may it be so today, and tomorrow and tomorrow.

The Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh
Minister
Tapestry, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation
Mission Viejo, California


The horrific treatment of animals at the Hallmark Meat Packing in Chico, California revealed by the HSUS undercover investigation is an important example of the many abuses that over ten billion farmed animals face annually in the US before they are slaughtered. This mistreatment of animals is certainly contrary to religious values which includes compassion. The Psalmist indicated that “God's mercies are over all of His creatures” (Psalms 145:9). The book of Proverbs (12:10) indicates that “the righteous individual considers the life of his animal.” There are many biblical laws based on compassion to animals.

Making matters even worse is that animal-based agriculture contributes significantly to global warming and other environmental threats and the consumption of meat and other animal products has been linked to heart disease, several types of cancer and other chronic, degenerative diseases. At a time when the world is heading toward an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming, according to a 2007 UN FAO report, animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (18 percent, in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars, trucks, planes and other forms of transportation worldwide combined (13.5 percent).

Religious practitioners should seriously consider a switch toward plant-based diets, because the production and consumption of animal products violate basic religious teachings on treating animals with compassion, preserving human health, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources and helping hungry people.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
President of Jewish Vegetarians of North America and Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians. Professor Schwartz is also the associate producer of the widely acclaimed documentary, "A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World," which addresses factory-farming and global warming issues. 


I was sickened and saddened by the abuse that I witnessed in the HSUS undercover video. As I watched, I was reminded that religious traditions around the world have taught for millennia the special responsibility that humans have toward the animals that provide them labor, food, clothing, or companionship. From religious laws requiring rest and feeding for laboring animals, to those that called for special blessing or ritual when animals were to be killed for food, to those that called their followers to refrain from killing animals for food, religions have taught respect and care for all the creatures that share creation with us. 

It was no accident that many of the reformers like William Wilberforce who were fighting in the 19th century to abolish slavery or to call for protection of children were also leaders in the movement for humane treatment of animals—and that many of them were persons of faith who saw in the mistreatment of animals a failure to live in creation as we were intended to live: as stewards of a priceless gift. Those reformers had learned from their religious traditions that failure to treat animals with concern and respect is a sign of our failure to respect the Creator's own self and the marvelous gift of creation, and that in that failure, we become less human, and we break the covenant that binds us to creation in a special role. Seeing this video reminds me that it is time once again for persons of faith to cry out against a grave injustice, to remind one another of our special responsibility as stewards of creation, and to reclaim the view of all creation as a gift to be cherished and nurtured with loving care.

Vicar Keith Fry
Luther Place Memorial Church
Washington, D.C.


I am writing to also protest the cruel treatment of animals as displayed on the recent video clip of the horrible treatment of cattle at the slaughter house that was seen on nationwide television. As a Franciscan friar and follower of St. Francis of Assisi whose great love for all of creation was well known, I support any and all efforts to bring these people to justice under the law for their cruel punishment of God's creatures. Thanks for all you do to protect God's animals. It's their world also. God Bless. Keep up your good work. You have my utmost support.

In the Lord of All Creation,

Friar Matthias Crehan, O.F.M.
Catholic Chaplain for the V.A. Medical Center
Phoenix, Arizona

 

Updated Feb. 21, 2008

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