A Calling for Compassion

By on September 22, 2008 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Our Animals & Religion program recently launched All Creatures Great and Small, a campaign to remind people of faith about our personal and collective responsibilities to all of God’s creatures.

The principles of compassion and mercy and other-centeredness are interwoven in the teachings of all of the world’s great religions, and here at The HSUS, we are attempting to remind people of these principles and the importance of living them each day.

All animals deserve humane treatment, including animals raised for food. Making ethical food choices is a practical way for people of faith to align their principles with their actions. Religious tradition is filled with examples of ritualizing this act through fasting and feasting—from Kosher to Communion, Ramadan to Halal—so the idea of exhibiting greater attentiveness to food choices and rituals builds on rich religious traditions.

Chicken and chicks

© iStockphoto

The All Creatures Great and Small campaign calls on people for the month of October to pledge to either switch to cage-free eggs or egg substitutes as an act of compassion for farm animals. October includes the celebration of the end of Ramadan, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, and Yom Kippur, holy days that draw our attention to food, animals and compassion. On the campaign website you can take the pledge, pass it along to friends, and also find extensive resources, from short films on food and faith to a booklet series on animals and religion.

Last month, to announce the new campaign, I was joined on a teleconference call with members of the media and religious leaders from various faiths. During the call, Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Md. offered these inspiring words:

“Many times each day, our tradition asks us to consider carefully what goes into the food we eat. The laws of keeping kosher are one way in which we do this; another is the series of blessings said over our food, to develop our sense of gratitude and interdependence. But ethical laws too—from the treatment of the animals, to the environmental impact of the process, to the wages of the farm workers (think Postville, Iowa)—play a major role, as well. We should stop to consider what went into our food. We should use our moral willpower to steer clear of the worst, and our economic consumer power to help encourage the best.”

Imam Hagmagid Ali, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, also commented, “The Quran bids us to treat animals with respect and not to abuse them. It teaches us that animals are communities in their own right, that animals speak and praise God in their own way, and that God provides for their sustenance just as he does for our own. These principles are reinforced by the words ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), to the effect that ‘Whoever is kind to the Creatures of God is kind to himself.’"

And, following the call, the renowned author, speaker and pastor, Brian McLaren, expressed his support, "In the beginning, our sacred texts tell us, God created this beautiful creation, including land, sea, and sky teeming with creatures that have been entrusted into human care. Whether through destruction of habitat or inhumane treatment of farm animals, we’re failing to uphold that trust. The HSUS seeks to mobilize and motivate compassionate people to show greater respect for the dignity of our fellow creatures in this sacred creation… helping humanity be more humane. This is a mission worth supporting!"

Religious leaders of all denominations and faiths are endorsing the campaign, speaking out and saying yes, this is an issue for the faithful to grapple with, and do something about. And we’re just getting started. We have events at the Washington National Cathedral next weekend and San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral on Oct. 5, and will be premiering our new short film, "Eating Mercifully," that we hope our supporters will show in communities throughout the nation. We just shared the film with 175 religion newswriters this weekend during their annual conference. The HSUS hosted a luncheon for attendees at the National Press Club and I spoke along with the producer and director of the film.


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