Catholic Social Teaching and Animal Rights

Catholic social teaching, especially in the era of Pope Francis, is no longer a little known aspect of Catholicism. Instead, recent media attention has focused on the striking new ways the Church is and should be focused on concern for vulnerable populations—particularly when they are threatened by consumerism and other forms of violence.

Yet one area that has yet to receive careful attention from the Pope—and from the Church's social tradition more generally—is concern for animals. Contrary to popular belief, Catholicism places strong emphasis on the value of the non-human life. Charlie Camosy described how the principles of Catholic social teaching and our everyday choices can lead to the suffering or flourishing of animals in this discussion about this recent book, For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action (2013). Christine Gutleben of the Humane Society also participated in the discussion and the Berkley Center's Tom Banchoff moderated.
What do we owe animals? Many Christians misunderstand their own tradition when answering this question. For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action by Charlie Camosy attempts to fill in this important gap. Traditional Christian ideas and principles—like nonviolence, concern for the vulnerable, stewardship for God's creation, and rejection of consumerism—have dramatic implications for how we (both as individuals and as larger communities) treat animals. Furthermore, though animal rights is generally understood to come from a liberal point of view, many conservative pro-life advocates are beginning to emphasize nonviolence toward animals. Camosy's argument in this book transcends American secular politics.

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