The Humane Society of the United States’ Faith Outreach program partners with people of faith to fight animal cruelty and highlight the long and rich tradition of compassion for animals within the world’s major religions. This week, as part of this important program, we welcomed 100 faith leaders and family farmers from 42 states to Washington, D.C., for a Faith Summit on Creation Care. Participants discussed and reflected upon the biblical view of responsible dominion and stewardship of animals, and examined strategies for expanding humane outreach to faith communities around the country.
The faith leaders and farmers also spent an afternoon on Capitol Hill with our Humane Society Legislative Fund team, meeting with their members of Congress to weigh in on animal protection issues, at the very start of the 116th Congress.
Our Agriculture Advisory Council — family farmers from around the United States who work to foster better animal welfare and environmental stewardship, also joined the event. There is a strong connection between our faith and farmer outreach programs, a connection that hangs on the axis of faith, farming and stewardship, and we see a strong relationship to humane values there too.
Summit participants represented many faiths, denominations, and institutions. Attendees included leaders from the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Southern Baptist Convention, Massachusetts Bible Society, the Catholic Conference, Interfaith Power and Light, the National Council of Churches, academic leaders from Duke, Wake Forest and Wheaton Universities, and from local churches across the country.
The gathering featured an impressive lineup of speakers on topics across the animal protection and creation care spectrum. Joshua Putnam, president of Palmetto Family Council, spoke on a campaign in which they partnered with the HSUS to address the rampant animal fighting problems in the southeast. Pastor Sam Chamelin, founder of the rural farm church ministry, The Keep and Till, spoke about faith and farming, and Pastor Emmanuel Roldan of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Waco, Texas, shared a message on the biblical calling and motivation behind creation care.
The event concluded with the Wendell Berry Faith & Farming Celebration Dinner honoring the beloved Christian farmer and writer who has inspired a generation of Americans to reconnect through faith with the land and farming. The dinner featured remarks from HSLF president Sara Amundson, who grew up in farm country as the daughter of a minister, words from Carrie Balkcom, executive director of American Grassfed Association, and a keynote address from Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia. Salatin delivered a memorable speech on the ways in which humankind could strengthen its reverence and regard for the land, and for farming, and save itself.
For many of our supporters, humane values are deeply aligned with faith. Two of our CEOs were clerical leaders before they joined the HSUS, and religionists played critical roles in the humane movement’s formation in the United States and elsewhere. When we established our Faith Outreach Department 10 years ago, we did so with the aim of reaching out to bring together people and institutions of all faiths to advocate for the unity and well-being of all creation. We remain excited about the prospects of mobilizing more allies in this sector, to take the cause of animal protection to new heights of popularity and influence in the years to come.