Our Faith Outreach program at The HSUS partners with people of faith to fight animal cruelty, spread kindness, and highlight the rich history of compassion for animals in all the world’s major religious traditions. From the Dalai Lama to the Episcopal Bishop of Washington to Dada Vaswani, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many remarkable people of faith who share my deep conviction that it’s our human responsibility to be merciful toward all of God’s creatures.
Reaching into the past, to those people whose faith drove them to protect animals from cruelty, can be just as inspiring. Some of the most notable names that come to mind are 19th-century reformer William Wilberforce, evangelical author and social activist Hannah More, and 20th-century writer C.S. Lewis. That is why I am pleased to announce that we are releasing this week a 12-part video series, Living Legacy: Faith Voices on Animal Welfare, to honor these three pioneers.
Wilberforce was an English Parliamentarian best known for his heroic efforts to end slavery. He was passionately committed to animal welfare and instrumental in establishing the RSPCA, the world’s first animal welfare charity. More, an evangelical and writer, wrote stories that combined biblical themes with popular entertainment – stories that included kindness to animals. Lewis was an academic, a force of nature, and the author of dozens of popular books, including the beloved Narnia series. For him, pain, including animal pain, was understood best from a biblical perspective, and the videos reveal that he became an anti-vivisectionist because he believed that God makes every living creature for a purpose.
In the videos, these striking historic personalities are discussed by three influential voices: Eric Metaxas, author of Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English at Liberty University and author of Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More, and Dr. Jerry Root, associate professor at Wheaton College, director of the Wheaton Evangelism Initiative and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, and a C.S. Lewis Scholar.
The Faith Outreach program at The HSUS has now been active for nearly eight years, and during that time we have engaged thousands of faith leaders and community members from all major religions in our work. Our multi-faith council, the HSUS Faith Advisory Council, was created in 2012 and includes leading scholars and representatives from a range of religious denominations, faiths and backgrounds. We’ve now just formed an HSUS Dharmic Leadership Council comprising leaders within the Hindu and Jain traditions, and they are deeply committed to the principle of Ahimsa, or dynamic non-violence towards animals. And we have a thriving Faith Outreach Volunteer Program comprised of advocates who host film screenings and pet-food drives, and create safe havens for wildlife at places of worship throughout the country.
We hope these videos will give animal lovers a historical perspective into the long relationship between faith and animal welfare, and the widespread support that exists for animal protection among people of faith . You can view them by clicking here or on the embedded video playlist below.