New research encourages Christians to rethink their consumption of animals

Guest blog by Professor David Clough

On 18th November, a key report will be launched arguing that Christians should reconsider their consumption of animals. ‘The Christian Ethics of Farmed Animal Welfare: A Policy Framework for Churches and Christian Organizations’ is the result of a collaboration between academic researchers in Christian ethics and farmed animal welfare science and a wide range of institutional partners, including the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales, the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the United Reformed Church, and Compassion in World Farming.

The report argues that Christians have strong faith-based reasons for being concerned about the flourishing of farmed animals as creatures of God. It evaluates the different systems used in the UK to farm animals according to how far they enable the flourishing of farmed animals. It presents a set of recommendations aimed at encouraging churches and other Christian organizations to ensure their policy and practice is aligned with a Christian concern for animals.

Professor David Clough, Principal Investigator on the project, sees the launch of the framework as a significant opportunity: “Very many Christians care about animals, but fewer connect their faith with the animals they eat. We’re hoping this new Policy Framework will help encourage churches and other Christian organizations to make changes to their policy and practice.”

The Policy Framework will be launched at an online event at 1 pm on Wednesday 18th November. To register to join the launch and get advance access to the Policy Framework from Monday 16th November, visit: https://www1.chester.ac.uk/cefaw-launch.

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Author: Ruth Jarman | Date: 4 November, 2020 | Category: LOAF News | Comments: 1


Comments on "New research encourages Christians to rethink their consumption of animals"

Iain Climie:

November 15, 2020

Hi Folks, There are many valid concerns about livestock farming and something fundamentally uncomfortable to many people about keeping intelligent animals (especially mammals), pretending to be nice to them and then one day, WHACK. Few people would be happy after a trip to an abbatoir but there is a danger that naïve idealism can do more harm than good. Any vegan can point out what happens eventually to most animals kept for wool, dairy, leather, eggs although livestock manure can be a blind spot here while many animals are massacred to produce superficially guilt-free foods. Shotguns, poisons, snares, insecticides and herbicides can all take a horrific toll while wasting woodpigeons and condoning rabbit diseases are difficult to forgive. Some reduction in conventional livestock numbers may be acceptable but the Shetland culls in 1998 (which was stopped) and 2007 (which wasn’t) show not to achieve it. Even if large scale synthetic food in less space became a reality it would be unlikely to help the world’s poor while other human activities can also cause massive harm e.g. flattening rainforests for dafter reasons than cattle feed e.g. coca, Coltan and biofuels. I’ve put a copy of a recent E-Mail to Oxford University below; it does go on a bit but shows how badly good intentions could misfire. Iain Climie I was interested in some recent published comments from Dr. Michael Clark (who is tied in with LEAP I believe) and I hope that you don't mind this approach out of the blue. There are risks that food production alone could cause havoc even if other human emissions were neutral, although I fear the massive amounts of methane and carbon dioxide now escaping from once-frozen deposits, coupled with the albedo changes as ice sheets melt plus fires and dying vegetation could create havoc even if food supplies were somehow greenhouse gas neutral. A couple of warnings from myself (admittedly just a letter to the Observer - https://www.theguardian.com/news/2005/dec/11/letters.theobserver ) and Fred Pearce in New Scientist (https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23923-huge-methane-belch-in-arctic-could-cost-60-trillion/ ) are now looking alarmingly prophetic. Conventional livestock are a major concern though as noted by the UNFAO's Livestock's Long Shadow (2006) although it drew a surprisingly upbeat conclusion while Poore & Nemecek's paper in Science (2018) was more pessimistic although noting the huge difference (a factor of 40+ if I recall) between best and worst case environmental impacts for the same product. Still, I wrote to Joseph Poore with some concerns, though e.g. that he hadn't considered methane-reducing feed additives (see for example https://www.newscientist.com/letter/mg23631521-200-11-moderate-meat-eating-or-suppress-methane/ and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4582174.stm ) some of which improve growth, while there are numerous less obvious sources of animal protein. I've only ever heard one intelligent defence of Myxomatosis in the UK, RHD / RVHD's new strain has now spread to hares and wasting woodpigeons makes little sense; I accept that the hypothetical "Multiple McLocust" will not be a marketing dream although the massive crop losses in Kenya, Somalia and other countries nearby this year suggest this shouldn't be discounted. Joseph felt I had made some fair points, particularly on food security against financial and political threats as well as physical ones, and that I should get something published. It is only on the Climate Coalition website (US) but may be of interest; the link is https://climatecoalition.org/future-food-security-must-focus-on-supplies/ . I accept that my views that getting supplies right is more important than "eat this not that" will strike many as heretical but the narrowly avoided cull of 20,000 sheep in Shetland in 1998 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/181184.stm) which would have been wasted followed by an actual cull of 5000 sheep which were wasted in 2007 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/north_east/7140001.stm) show the risks of doing the wrong thing for the right reason. I actually work in engineering risk assessment but this has been a research interest for 30 + years. The blind optimism in many quarters about food security is as misguided as Boeing's foul-ups on the 737 Max 8 where they used a single sensor as an input to a safety critical system (MCAS, Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which incorporated an anti-stall function). This failed plausibly but wrong and effectively flew two aircraft into the ground killing 346 people; the lack of backup (3 sensors would have made sense, I'm sure you can work out why) had disastrous consequences. Inadequate back up against food supply disruption is a far worse concern. though especially as there is no defined responsibility for food security, free markets handle gluts ineptly (although Mao's 1958-62 famine based on planned dogma was even worse - see Frank Dikotter's book), land usage is driven by short-termism and rainforests are often flattened for even dafter purposes than cattle feed e.g. coca, coltan, biofuels and assorted other cash crops & minerals even though E. O. Wilson famously flagged (in The Diversity of Life) how they could sensibly be exploited in situ. Climate change could even take an unexpected if improbable turn (see the global temperature falls after the 1815 Tambora eruption) while grassy stunt virus threatened the global rice crop in the 1970s. It was stopped by gene-splicing but imagine something wiped out the world's wheat crops. I believe a variant of black stem rust was causing some concern a few years back while Xylella fastidiosa could wreck a range of crops. After I'd flagged Knepp (rewilding with some food production in Sussex) to someone else, they suggested I contact a prominent member of the US Soil Restoration movement (Gabe Brown in North Dakota - see his own website and also https://www.ecowatch.com/how-did-farmer-brown-bring-his-dying-land-back-from-the-brink-2609288934.html). I asked him if he used the feed additives noted above. He didn't discount them but asked if they were necessary given the methanotrophs built up by his methods (organic, mixed cover crops, sensibly fed and integrated livestock) and the huge levels of carbon capture in the soils on his farm. Cue an embarrassed search of Wikipedia and the realisation that a burly, ageing, devoutly Christian American farmer knew a lot more about soil science than I did - ouch! It also raises the question of whether enough attention is being paid to whether greenhouse gas absorptions are being adequately measured, along with by-products. Manure is a case in point; replacing that with chemical fertilisers is not necessarily helpful, although I understand that Samarium may improve the efficiency of the Haaber process. Even if large scale synthetic food were soon a reality, thus avoiding some problems with conventional methods, one recent estimate (from Prof. Gordon Marshall of the Leverhulme Institute) is that eleven (!) fully used planets would be needed for everyone to have well-off US lifestyles and the jobs to afford them given the way food, goods and services are produced at present. This presumably ignores the need to rehome climate change refugees and reserve any space for large wildlife; "Make more money, buy more stuff" has much to answer for as I once wrote in a letter to New Scientist. See also my grumpy letter in the Guardian on 26th October 2020 pointing out the time and effort spent bickering about climate change when there were "win-win" options (e.g. less waste) regardless of the nature, extent, cause and even direction of future changes. I'd be interested in your views on all this; I hope it isn't too much of a statement of the obvious although remember that overall levels of all gasses, their knock-on effects and even locations (high-level emissions from flights are harder to remove) need to be somehow mitigated. I suspect Solar Radiation Management or similar will become necessary despite the risks. I've also attached a presentation and supporting notes I gave at work earlier this year and would point to the final words in my Climate Coalition article on responsibility. Obviously an eruption of the Yellowstone volcano or a huge asteroid impact is un-survivable for practically all of us but Soylent Green (a film released in 1973) predicted a hellish overheated future in 2022 and did mention the heating caused by the greenhouse effect. We REALLY don't want that as a future food supply (Plot Spoiler) - recycling can be taken too far! Please circulate this Email to any interested parties though.


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