December 17, 2009
Rejoicing for Animals: Year in Review
From rock tour to scholarly panels, animals were embraced by faith communities in 2009
Faith can move mountains. And it can help animals too. In 2009, people of faith across the country embraced The Humane Society of the United States.
We toured with a rock band and brought the good work of The HSUS, through music and video, to Christian colleges and clubs across the country. We delved into our moral and ethical responsibilities towards animals in prestigious faculty panels on animal welfare; we forged partnerships with faith-based organizations that understand that mercy and compassion for animals is part of our call to stewardship. We continued to see widespread success of Eating Mercifully, and helped hundreds of churches turn up the wattage on their St. Francis Day celebrations.
Rock and Roll Inspires Animal Advocates
The All Creatures tour started in Vienna, Va. on Sept. 30 and ended in Montecito, Calif. on Oct. 28. Over 30 days, I traveled with The Myriad to 25 cities. Despite the diversity of venues and schools we visited, the level of interest in animal protection issues remained consistent every time we got off the bus.
In music halls, funky venues, student unions, and university auditoriums, we met people who wanted to help animals; people heartbroken over industrialized farming, the slaughter of Canada's baby seals, and massive dog breeding operations that produce purebred puppies while millions of dogs (including purebred animals) languish in shelters. Young or old, Republican or Democrat, musician and audience, the consensus was clear: as stewards, we've exploited our relationship with animals, and we ought to reconsider our responsibilities to them. (Read more about the tour.)
Awareness on the Rise in Faith Communities
I spoke at many places of worship this year. Each time, I was heartened by parishioners who eagerly sought ways to combat institutional forms of animal cruelty.
After presenting with Sr. Helena Burns at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, I heard from attendees who had followed up with me after researching the pet, clothing and grocery stores in their neighborhood.
"I really do want to become involved with the end of animal torture in any way I can."
One woman wrote, "I will continue to do research because I really do want to become involved with the end of animal torture in any way I can."
A little bit of awareness can inspire tremendous action for animals among a community committed to compassion.
Media Spotlight on Animals and Religion
It was a hallmark year for animals and religion stories in the media. The articles addressed a variety of issues from pets in the pews to responsible stewardship.
A few of my favorites include:
- "Animal Welfare," published by American Catholic Weekly, March
- "Church Service Put Paws in the Pews," in USA Today, March
- "Not One Sparrow," published by Christianity Today, July
- "All Creatures Great and Small," published by Evangelical Environmental Network (EEM), October
- "At This Church, Parishioners Wear Collars, Too," on National Public Radio, November
The media focus on animal welfare and how it relates to religion signals an important shift in consciousness: Animal welfare is becoming a matter of faith, and consumer choices involving animals are being considered a moral issue.
Animals a Part of Faith Communities, Services and Policy
Since we formed the Faith Outreach program nearly three years ago, churches have increasingly worked to integrate animals into the life of faith.
Faith communities are inviting pets to worship services, providing free veterinary care to poor communities, asking for pet food during food drives, including more humane food products in their potluck dinners, and passing resolutions that encourage a more focused approach to animal welfare
Faith communities are inviting pets to worship services, providing free veterinary care to poor communities, asking for pet food during food drives, including more humane food products in their potluck dinners, and passing resolutions that encourage a more focused approach to animal welfare.
These significant developments are rooted in a rich, ancient religious tradition of compassion for animals, and they point towards tremendous future change. As faith communities across the nation continue to accept animals as part of their moral universe, the industries and practices that perpetrate animal cruelty will not be able to go on. I look forward to being a part of this change.