"The resemblances between many animals and humans, not
least in their dependency of food and air, have given to animals
a special status in all religions." This is the first sentence
from the entry on animals in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions
(1997). Yet species of wild animals are being driven to extinction
at accelerating rates. Farm animals are being increasingly manipulated
through factory farms and genetic engineering to enhance production.
What do the religions of the world tell us of the purpose of nonhuman
animals in the natural order and humans' moral responsibility
to them? This issue presents excerpts from a few chapters in a
forthcoming book, entitled A Communion of Subjects: Animals in
Religion and Ethics. This issue also features some paper presentations
and describes the activities of the Animals and Religion Consultation
of the American Academy of Religion.
Animals and Religion, by Paul Waldau and Kimberley Patton.
Waldau and Patton describe a new book entitled A Communion
of Subjects: Animals in Religion and Ethics as a series of
voices that invites us to meet the challenge of asking and answering
how the two important topics of "religion" and "animals"
are joined. This book arises from an event that took place in
May 1999 at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, where scholars from
all over the world converged to discuss the different ways in
which religious traditions and their believers have engaged nonhuman
lives in and around our human communities. This volume of edited
essays reflects the many ideas discussed at the conference. The
title has been taken from the insight of Thomas Berry that the
world "is not a collection of objects, but a communion of
Hierarchy, Kinship, and Responsibility: The Jewish Relationship
to the Animal World, by Roberta Kalechofsky. She discusses
how Judaism with respect to animals is rich in laws governing
the relationships between humans and animals. The Encyclopedia
Judaica provides a good summary of these laws, beginning with
the observation that "moral and legal rules concerning the
treatment of animals are based on the principle that animals are
part of God's creation toward which man bears responsibility.
Laws make it clear not only that cruelty to animals is forbidden
but also that compassion and mercy to them are demanded of many
by God." She states that Judaism accepts a hierarchical scheme
to creation, but hierarchy and dominion do not exclude feelings
of loving kinship.
The Case of the Animals versus Man: Towards an Ecology of
Being, by Zayn Kassam. Dr. Kassam summarizes the text of The
Case of the Animals versus Man that she and her college students
read in her Islamic philosophy course. The animals seek to improve
their situation, and the text has a surprising conclusion.
The Tradition of Animal Protection in Jaina Religion,
by Christopher Key Chapple. Prof. Chapple surveys various aspects
of the relationship between humans and animals in the Jaina religious
tradition. He describes two reasons why the Jaina theory of karma
does not allow the killing of a suffering animal. Jainism sees
animals as potential or former human beings, paying for past sins
yet capable of self-redemption. According to Jainism, the best
life pays attention to animals in a way that gives them the freedom
to pursue their own path, to fulfill their self-made destinies,
and perhaps enter themselves into the path of virtue.
The Subjective Lives of Animals, by Marc Bekoff. In this
brief essay, Dr. Bekoff describes "minding" animals
to mean two things. First, it refers to caring for other animal
beings, respecting them for who they are, wondering what and how
they feel and why. Second, it refers to the fact that many animals
have very active and thoughtful minds. He states that the study
of animal emotions is an important endeavor because it will allow
us to achieve an understanding and appreciation of the lives of
many of the animals with whom we share this planet and will help
us come to terms with how we treat our animal kin.
All Animals Matter: Marc Bekoff's Contribution to Constructive
Christian Theology, by Jay McDaniel. Dr. McDaniel's essay
explores the implications of Prof. Marc Bekoff's writings for
spiritually-interest seekers. The essay is divided into six sections:
(1) Minding Animals, (2) Bekoff's Spiritual Outlook, (3) The Threefold
Nature of Religious Life, (4) A Theology of Animal Minds, (5)
An Ethic of Animal Protection, and (6) A Spirituality of Animal
Ecumenical Ethics for Earth Community, by Dieter Hessel.
Dr. Hessel discusses the basic norms of eco-justice ethics and
summarizes and defines them as solidarity, sustainability, sufficiency,
and participation. Solidarity means strong, vibrant community
concerned with individual and collective well-being and motivates
acts of community-building. Sustainability means relating to the
natural world so that its ecological health and beauty may be
maintained and gives high priority to ecosystemic integrity, pollution
prevention, and caring use of the natural world. Sufficiency affirms
the moral imperative of social equity and insists that all human
participants must be able to obtain sufficient sustenance. Participation
highlights a dimension of right relationships and underscores
the importance of democratic social organization and inclusive
Animals Re-enter the Christian (and Interfaith) Sanctuary:
Blessings of Animals in the U.S., by Laura Hobgood-Oster.
Dr. Hobgood-Oster researches the ritual of the blessings of animals
in the U.S. and raises the question: Does the ritual moment in
blessing animals simply re-impose the animal as an object of the
human gaze? She writes that blessings of the animals include those
who are most often excluded, and asks, after the blessing, are
they excluded as fully as they were before the blessing? She concludes
that research into blessings of the animals is just beginning
and that new theories and new ideas about why these blessings
are reaching more people and animals each year will emerge as
Animals, Religion and the Environment: The Bible's Teachings
on Protecting Animals and Nature, by Lewis Regenstein. Mr.
Regenstein presents a thorough account of biblical scriptures
that are filled with admonitions, commandments, and stories promoting
conservation, respect of nature and the environment, and kindness
to animals. He states that many of our modern day practices, such
as factory farming, blatantly violate most or all of these biblical
laws, causing massive damage to people, animals, the environment,
essential natural resources and the air we breathe. Only by obeying
the commandment to "replenish the earth" can we hope
to save it.
Resources for Animals and Religion, by Richard Clugston
and Heather Tallent.