Harmony and Dissonance between Religion and Animal Ethics

Authored by: Christopher Foster

The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Animal Ethics

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138592728
eBook ISBN: 9780429489846
Adobe ISBN:


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One would imagine that Christian religions, whose Lord and exemplar was the embodiment of mercy, would emphasize compassion for those who are most at our mercy. However, sad experience seems to reveal a tendency towards the opposite ethic. As founder of Mormons for Animals, I have observed that nowhere is this contrast more stark than within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). One of our most famous doctrines, the one that teaches abstinence from alcohol, coffee, and tobacco, also teaches abstinence from meat except in dire situations. Yet most latter-day saints tend to be more likely to quibble over a comma than change their lives for the sake of non-humans. To make matters worse, the church is owner of a hunting reserve and the largest cattle operation in the United States. One explanation of how such discrepancies can occur is that when religions become overly concerned about check lists of what it takes to get into heaven, everything else tends to fall into the ‘optional’ category, and those who advocate for it are seen as those who go look beyond the mark (and even indirectly risk the salvation of others). The result is a terrible irony of becoming the type of people the Lord objected to most, those who focus on rules rather than love. If there is a corrective, within Mormonism or Christianity at large, it would need to come from a change in the culture, most likely induced by a change of emphasis by church leadership. Pope Francis is an example so far of how one leader can change the attitudes and priorities of millions. With the LDS focus on trust in divinely inspired authority, with the right spark it would seem that such a change is entirely possible in the future.

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