Sunday, 15 March 2009


It is generally believed that ‘animal rights’ is a modern concept and largely irreconcilable with the development of Christian ethics.

However, the term was adopted by a considerable number of outspoken clergy before the arrival of the modern animal rights movement. Interestingly, in the nineteenth century both Abraham Lincoln and The Times newspaper were at ease with the concession, for the latter declared on October 18th, 1860: “England is the first, perhaps even now the only nation, in which the rights of animals are recognised – and we mean nothing more by the term than the right of animals to immunity from unnecessary suffering and wrong.”

The gurus of contemporary animal rights and liberation theory have invariably acknowledged an earlier and all but forgotten systematic treatise by Henry Salt which was published in 1892: Animals’ rights considered in relation to social progress. However, Salt and the Humanitarian League which he largely led for 28 years were not without influence in their day.

Animals’ rights advocacy, in turn, became an unpopular but not unknown subject of theological attention among clergy and its espousal extended to senior prelates which (perhaps paradoxically by today’s standards) transcended any tacit obligation to embrace vegetarianism, or even anti-vivisection values on absolutist terms.

Perhaps the current weight of inference and ideology has discouraged clerical association with ‘animal rights’ causes. Here, at least, is a far from complete representation of historical concerns which may contribute to ethical consideration in a slightly more receptive era.

John M. Gilheany
Author, Familiar Strangers: The Church and the Vegetarian movement in Britain (1809-2009)

Click here to order

UPDATE: August 18th 2011

A selection of earlier animal rights affirmations from Christian priests and ministers is available on the comprehensive Animal Rights History archive which includes contributions from: John Hildrop (1742), Richard Jago (1753), Humphrey Primatt (1776), Anon rector (1787), Herman Daggett (1792), William Gilpin (1796), Thomas Young (1798), Legh Richmond (1801), William Bingley (1803), Thomas Moore (1810), James Plumptre (1816), Anon clergyman (1824), Richard Watson (1826), William Hamilton Drummond (1838), Caesar Otway (1840), William Henry Channing (1848), James Drummond (1870) and T.B. Thater (1871)

Further insights are presented in the CreatureQuotes anthology of humane values which includes animal rights recognition from clergymen such as Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott, Rev Dr. Frederick H. Hedge, Rev. H. Bernard Carpenter (2004), Father Thomas Berry (2006), Kim Fabricius (2008) and Rev. Dr. Marc A. Wessels

Late Nineteenth century

"There are a great many people who seem to think that man's duties begin and end with man; and that if they tell the truth habitually, forebear from injuring their neighbours, and eschew theft, dishonesty, and the like, nothing else is required of them by God in their relation towards other creatures. But not only every human being, but every living being has its rights; and justice in the highest form should be applied to it in all our actions. I say that a lame or infirm horse has a right to claim that it should not be worked; and just as one man should be protected from ill-treatment by another, so, on the same principle, ought all animals to be protected from ill-treatment."

The Rev. Algernon Godfrey Kingsford
From a sermon written for the Anglican vicar of Atcham, nr Shrewsbury by his wife, Anna, in 1873.

Dr. Anna Kingsford (1846-1888) became a leading figure in the Victorian Anti-Vivisection, Women's Rights and Theosophical movements.

From The Vegetarian News (March 1929)

“It did not occur to me by any natural process of thought that the innocent and harmless creatures around had the same right to live and enjoy their grant of life even as I had myself.

“…a valued friend and relative clearly and incisively showed me ‘how much Christianity in its accredited teaching seemed to lack consistent professors of a religion which claimed to be one of justice and compassion, and that this aspect of the teachers and the members of the Christian Church was an offence and stumbling-block to him. My mind was soon made up.’

“Human nature must renounce its supposed rights to universal slaughter, and conquer its selfishness before the golden age of Happiness, and Joy, and Health can come.”

Rev H.J. Williams
Rector of Kinross and founder of the original Order of the Golden Age in 1882

From ‘My Experiences’ – a series in The Vegetarian - May 21st , 1898 edition

“Certain teachings have gone forth from the ‘Society of Jesus,’ which for its callousness and brutality I forbear to put on your pages, only referring to the book ‘Moral Philosophy,’ pp. 249, 250 (text book of Stoneyhurst College), by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (Longmans), I beg, as a true and loyal Catholic, not only for myself but for other humane Catholics who abhor cruelty to animals and indifference to their sufferings, and have been therefore scandalized by this teaching, to express publicly our entire abhorrence of it, whether it come from the author of this manual or from any other authority inside or outside of the Church; because it is, to speak mildly as possible, mean and low and heartless, most impure, defiling the mind, utterly false and misleading, dangerous to public morals, most degrading and corrupting to the young, to whom it is given as part of their education, and moreover incompatible with reverence to God…

“Father Rickaby’s teaching – that animals have no rights, nor we any duties to them – may be the teaching of Jesuits, but it has never been, is not, and never can be the teaching of the Catholic Church of Christ, nor of true science.”

Rev. Gideon J. Ouseley
Letter to The Vegetarian, November 2nd, 1895 edition

(See also: Dean Inge excerpt from Christian Ethics and Modern Problems, 1930)

“In the English law animals have legal rights corresponding to a reality embraced by every sound mind. They have rights therefore—animal rights. And they have duties too—animal duties.”

Rev. Wilfrid Lescher
"Why I Oppose Vivisection, No. XIV,"
Animals' Friend (September 1896 edition)

With acknowledgement to Animal Rights History

‘Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.’ – Deut. xxx.4

“This is something more than a moral precept; it breathes the spirit of chivalry. It reads like the product of a far later age than that in which it was framed. For, that animals have rights, is a modern idea – an idea which even in our own day is recognised only partially and imperfectly.

“…why should we invoke, as a justification of our behaviour to animals, a principle on which we should be ashamed to act in relation to human beings?”

Rev. Prebendary Moss,
Head Master of Shrewsbury School

‘The Gospel of Humanity’ – The Herald of the Golden Age, March 1900

NB A selection of digitized volumes of The Herald of the Golden Age is available at the Internet Archive

Early Twentieth century

“Without doubt, our duty to the lower animals, on which depends the problems of carnivorism, vivisection, sport, and others, is the question of our generation as slavery was the question of two generations ago. Every man and woman in whom conscience is awake, and a sense of duty is consciously followed, must face this question, and decide on which side he will range him or herself.

It is not a question of palate, of custom, of expediency but of right.”

Rev. J. Tyssul Davies, B.A.
‘The Rising Tide of Conviction’ – The Herald of the Golden Age, March 1903

“SIR,—As the subject of animals' rights is much to the front in these days, and as moral questions of this sort have an interest for instructors of the rising generation, may I ask if you could do me the kindness to publish an address of the Rev. H. B. Gray, D.D., Warden of Bradfield College?”

Rev. J. Stratton
From a letter to the Journal of Education (June 1903 edition)

With Acknowledgement to Animal Rights History

“Much of the indifference, apathy, and even cruelty which we see has its origin in the false education given the young concerning the rights of animals, and their duty towards them.”

Rev. John Todd Ferrier
'A Plea for Humaneness’ – The Herald of the Golden Age, July 1903

(Reprinted in a collected edition of Ferrier articles by the Order of the Golden Age and subsequently by the Order of the Cross - currently available as On Behalf of the Creatures from the remaining society).

“…the judgement of the Christian Church 200 years ago was that animals had no rights which mankind were bound to respect. That man might treat cruelly animals over which he had control at his pleasure, and that he had the right to put them to death, not only for need but for his pleasure or amusement as well.

…the general feeling of to-day is that they must be kindly and tenderly treated.”

Rev. James Clark
Bible Christian Church of Salford

From: Scriptural phase of Vegetarianism
Vegetarian Society tract, 1903

"The rights of animals rest on exactly the same foundation as the rights of man - justice and mercy."

The Reverend Lionel Smithett Lewis
Testimonial to the Royal Commission on Vivisection, 1906

Cited in A Century of Vivisection and Anti-Vivisection, E. Westacott, C.W. Daniel, 1949, p.265

“The day is coming when the dogma which binds the churches in fetters will be dispensed with, and the spirit of true brotherhood will take its place. As the world realises more fully the Divine sonship of the race, that all life is one, and that God is the Father of all, there will come also the realisation of its responsibility. With the realisation of kinship with all creatures, including those in the lower order of creation, there will come a sense of duty to them, and that we must show our nobility by exercising our right of merciful justice, and not by our power to oppress the poor merciful beasts.”

Rev. O. A. Broadley
A Vegetarian Church’ – An Address delivered at the Bible Christian Church, Cross Lane, Salford, on October 14th 1906

(From a transcript in The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review of November 1906)

“Are we to eat just what we like, what we choose, without regard to the pain and suffering, to the rights of the creatures in our power, to the naturalness or unnaturalness of the food they supply, or, again, to the possible physical, mental, and moral injury their flesh may do to those who eat of it?
…The animal has its rights, and can claim from us these two – Justice and Mercy.”

Rev. A.M. Mitchell, M.A.,
Vicar of Burton Wood, Lancashire

‘The Church and Food Reform’ – The Herald of the Golden Age, April 1910
(See: Order of the Golden Age Bibliography of leaflets/pamphlets/booklets)

“…our own right to live rests upon just the same ground as the right of our sentient fellow creatures, and whatever consideration impairs the validity of the one impairs the validity of the other. We consider we have a right to live because we do live, and because our life is sweet to us. For we reason that, since we do live, and since we enjoy our existence, the Infinite which gave us our life must intend us to live, and must intend us to live as long as it gives us life. We are perfectly sure that no finite fellow-creature has a right to deprive us of our existence which infinite power and grace have bestowed. But just the same considerations apply in the case of the animals. They are as truly alive and as truly enjoy their lives as we do.”

Rev. Francis Wood
Suffering and Wrong: the message of the new religion, G. Bell & Sons, 1916

From an abridged version in The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review of July 1941

“The man who refrains from flogging horses or kicking dogs out of motives of mercy, though far superior to that truly degraded being, the cruel person, is, nevertheless, not the highest type of humanitarian. This is the Just man, who acknowledges that animals have rights – a proof that animals have rights is furnished by the fact that they are to some extent protected by law from the wanton cruelty of man. But even if animals had no rights, the moral obligation resting on all decent-minded persons, let alone those who profess and call themselves Christians, to treat animals justly, would remain.
“…let us remember that the tiniest thing that lives may surely claim a right to enjoy its brief existence.”

Rev. F.S. Ross
‘Justice and Mercy’ – sermon preached at St. Saviour’s, Colgate, Horsham and based on Ezek. xviii.5: “Man be just – do right.”

From a transcript in The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, June 1917

“It is difficult, nay impossible, to understand how ‘the spiritual’ can eat flesh-meat with an approving conscience, unless animals are known to be slaughtered swiftly and painlessly. How many religious people care to know the truth, take the trouble to know?

If it be said ‘I show my spirituality by rising above such things…’ the retort courteous and convincing clearly is: ‘ I will show you my spirituality by my scrupulous regard for everything which concerns sub-human life; by my championship of animal rights; by my unceasing hostility to brutality and torture to the defenceless.”

Rev. A.M. Mitchell, M.A.
‘Looking Animal-wards’ – The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, September 1919

“Our opponents…suggest that, in our zeal for the rights of animals we are disposed to forget the rights of men, and are prepared to pursue a policy which would eventuate in the overrunning of the earth by the former to the detriment of the latter. Neither of these charges is true. We recognise that the rights of animals, as those of men, are conditioned by the rights of their fellow-beings; that, in this world, all living things should accept such limitations, in respect of their lives and liberties, as are requisite in the interest of all other living things. All that we claim on behalf of the animals is, that they shall be dealt with on the same principles of justice which we apply in the case of men, and shall not be subject to greater limitations than strict justice requires.”

Rev. Francis Wood
‘Vegetarianism in Relation to the Treatment of Animals’

The C.P. Newcombe Memorial Prize – Essay, 1919
(Published as a pamphlet by the Vegetarian Society in 1920)

“There are several strong reasons for abjuring flesh-foods, but all which assume man as the centre of the universe, or his claims as paramount, are doomed to sterility and contempt. The one great unimpeachable reason, the rights of animals, is a reason which ignores self and self-interest, and is based on the fundamental fact which we have often heard uttered, but have only partially understood. It runs thus: “Be ye sure that the Lord He is God; it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.”

The Hon. And Rev. Edward Lyttleton, M.A., D.D., D.C.L.
‘Divine and human law’,
The Vegetarian News (December 1922)

“For some time many men and women have been endeavouring to let their sympathies reach beyond the limit of what is human and reach to any creature that can suffer or enjoy. Animals have rights. We see the recognition of this in the existence of Societies for the protection of animals, and the enforcement of laws against cruelty.

“…Vegetarianism stands for the extension of sympathy and understanding to the animal creation, and Vegetarianism marks a step forward in the moral progress of the world as definite as those steps which men took when they formed themselves into clans, tribes and nations.”

Rev. Victor A. Callow
Bible Christian Minister

Vegetarianism and Moral Obligation

From The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, March 1925

“…we can hardly suppose that the other animals, if they are able to think, admit our superiority. If they were capable of formulating a religion, they might differ considerably as to the shape of the beneficent Creator, but they would nearly all agree that the Devil must be very like a big white man. For we have always treated our poor relations in fur and feathers as if they had no rights at all. We have not only enslaved them, and killed and eaten them, but we have made it one of our chief pleasures to take away their lives, and not infrequently we have tortured them.”

The Rev. Dr. William Ralph Inge
Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral between 1911-34

Lay Thoughts of a Dean, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926, p.198

“There are various tests of civilisation: one fair test is the place of the animal world in the scale of civil rights. To affirm that the animal workers in society have no rights is an admission of barbarism, because it is followed by acts and customs of barbaric cruelty.”

Rev Walter Walsh, D.D.
‘The Measure of a Man’ – Chairman’s Address at the Arnold Hills Memorial Lecture of the London Vegetarian Society on March 26th, 1928

From The Vegetarian News, April 1928

“None can truthfully allege that I ignore the rights and just claims of Man upon his fellow-man, but I stand also for the rights and claims of Beast as man’s partner in the world’s work.

“The destroyer and eater of his sub-human brother or sister must submit to hear that his flesh-eating habit is a complete denial of the doctrine of Animal Rights, a palpable injustice to members of the great family of the sentient races and a sinful breach of Heaven’s Law of Mercy.”

Rev. Walter Walsh, D.D.
‘The Common Good, or the Animal Co-worker with Man’ – a Sermon delivered at the 21st anniversary service of the Bristol Vegetarian Society at Oakfield Road Church, Clifton, on May 4th 1930.

From a transcript which appeared in The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review of June 1930

“It is certain that, as religion becomes purer, more and more people will come to abhor the cruelty involved in the rearing and killing of animals for human food, to regard the custom indeed as a kind of cannibalism, since the animals they consume are actually their ancestral kinsmen. They will also realise the resulting degradation to human character and society. Conventional religion has many debts and omissions to its discredit, but I know of none more flagrant and unworthy than its almost universal disregard for animal rights; the rights of animals to justice and mercy. It is said that God is love. Mankind will ascend to the highest life of religion when they act as though Love were God.”

Rev. Walter Walsh, D.D.
Excerpt from Twenty Dialogues on Universal Religion between Seeker and Finder, Williams and Norgate, 1930

From a review by Rev. Francis Wood in The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, July 1930)

“As an example of the teaching officially given in the Roman Catholic Church, it is probably fair to quote from the ‘Moral Philosophy’ of Joseph Rickaby, S.J., ‘Brute beasts, not having understanding and therefore not being persons, cannot have any rights…We have then no duties of charity, nor duties of any kind, to the lower animals, as neither to sticks and stones.’

“The horror which this passage will arouse in almost all readers is the measure of the gulf which separates the old Ethics from the new.”

William Ralph Inge, K.C.V.O.
Christian Ethics and Modern Problems, Hodder & Stoughton, 1930, pp 278-79

“Their life appears just as precious to them as is ours to us.”

…the gift of life carries with it the gift of the right of life, in the sense at least of an equal right to life with all other creatures of the divine power and grace.”

Rev. Francis Wood
The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, July 1931

“As you and your children grow in genuine humanitarianism the savage notion that beasts and birds have no rights will disappear. It cannot survive the light of reason and of righteousness.”

Rev. S. Parkes Cadman, D.D.

Excerpt from ‘Man’s Debt to the Animal World’ – a wireless talk over the American National Broadcasting System

Transcript published in The Vegetarian News, September 1933

“The discoveries which are still rightly associated with the name of Charles Darwin have proved, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the so-called lower animals are literally our distant cousins. They have as good a right on this planet as we have; they were not made for our benefit, as we used to suppose. This discovery has certainly altered our way of regarding them; it has made us aware of moral obligations which were formally unrecognised. The only question is how far the recognition of these obligations ought to take us.”

Dean William Ralph Inge
Outspoken Essays, (Second series), Longmans, Green, 1933, p.56

“Killing for food is but a small part of the many miseries inflicted on animals, but it is by far the most universal, for nearly every man, woman and child takes part in it. It begets a strange and terrible notion that animals were made to be killed and eaten, and that we have a perfect right to exploit them as we wish and to do whatever we like with them. It is thus the root of countless other cruelties, which can never be effectually eradicated until flesh-eating becomes a thing of the past.”

Rev. E.F. Udny, M.A.

‘Killing for Food – a Crime!’
The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, June 1934

“…as soon as our author passes from theory to practice, from the statement of this principle of the rights of animals to its application to our conduct towards them, his attitude and ideas become less satisfactory.

“That is to say, after admitting, only a few sentences previously, that animals ‘have as good a right on this planet as we have,’ he now renders the admission quite nugatory by maintaining, in effect, that when it is a question of the satisfaction of man’s carnivorous cravings, the rights of animals must go by the board. What astonishing inconsistency! What an amazing volte-face!”

Rev Francis Wood
A Reply to Dean Inge’s defence of Flesheating, C.W. Daniel Co., 1934, pp10-11

"I know that St. Paul asked contemptuously, “Doth God take care of oxen?” I am sorry that he said so. But a greater than St. Paul told us that no sparrow falls to the ground without God. We men, the tyrants and bullies of our planet, have yet much to learn about our duties to our poor relations, who have as good a right to life and happiness as we have.”

Rev. Dr. William Ralph Inge,

Reprinted in the London Vegetarian Society journal The Vegetarian News, September 1935, from an article in the Evening Standard

“These two principles of mercy and sacrifice are in perpetual conflict. Shall I suffer or shall I let another suffer for me? I believe that I have no moral right to ask another to do for me what I am not prepared to do for myself. If I do not think it right to kill animals for food neither is it right for me to condemn another man to a trade which I consider demoralising.

…By what right do we sacrifice these animals?”

Rev. Victor A. Callow

Sermon at the annual service of the Vegetarian Society at their AGM of 1935

From a transcript which appeared in The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review of November 1935

Mid - Twentieth century

“If we consult our English dictionary we shall see that the animals have some of the things for which the word ‘rights’ stands. One definition of the word ‘rights’ is: ‘that which is in accordance with the will of God’ and it is evident that the animals have rights in that sense.”

Rev. Aloysius Roche
These Animals of Ours
Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1939, p18

“This book is an endeavour to deal with a question which has been sadly neglected by theologians – the question of the Christian attitude to the creatures. Most scholars deny that they have any rights, and few people recognise that we have a duty towards them.

It is largely because the creatures are popularly believed to be soulless that they are treated so callously, for if it were admitted that they had souls it would become obvious that they had rights. But this is just what both Catholic and Anglican theologians deny.
The idea that man is the only being who has an immortal soul is an unwarranted assumption which has only gained credence because it suits our vanity and our convenience to think that we are the lords of the earth and can do just as we please with the ‘lower animals.’”

Rev. V.A. Holmes-Gore, M.A.
These we have not Loved – The C.W. Daniel Company, Ltd., 1942, Preface, pp26, 30

“There is a close connection in our minds between the notions of civilisation and gentleness. The ideal civilised man is a gentleman, kind and courteous, unselfish and a respecter of others’ rights and feelings – the antithesis of the savage, to whom might is right and no one’s feelings matter but his own.

“Wherever the presence and love and transcendent reality of God have been vividly apprehended, there has resulted an attitude of reverence towards the mystery of life as an expression of divine love, an attitude of brotherhood and fellow-feeling with all that can feel – in due order and proportion, of course, beginning with God’s rational creatures, but not stopping short of His other sentient creatures.”

Rev. Basil Wrighton, M.A.,
‘The True Civilisation’ – The Ark, December 1950
(reprinted in Reason, Religion and the Animals – Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, 1987)

“The widening of human rights beyond successive limits is exceedingly slow and reluctant, and many thousands of years had to elapse before the recognition of even so rudimentary and precarious a ius gentium as obtains today.

“…are we to say that the dog who bites his tormentor, or the cat who protects her kittens from our interference, is defending no shadow of a right and is owed no particle of consideration by us?

“If cruelty is sinful, it is a sin against justice, not against temperance. Whether people advert to any explicit ‘rights’ or not, what actually makes them treat animals decently is the innate sense of justice or fairness, not the truly Tartuffian reflection that the brutes form a useful ‘pathological phantom’ for rehearsing one’s benevolence to men”

Rev. Basil Wrighton, M.A.,
‘Justice and the Animals’ – The Ark, January 1952
(reprinted in Reason, Religion and the Animals – Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, 1987)

“To sum up: what ‘rights’ have I tried to vindicate for the animals? Only such as would save them from cruel abuses. What human rights would I curtail? Only the assumed right, on the score of rationality, to behave like brutes – or rather, demons. What novel principles have I introduced? Only such as decent people already act on without reflection. I insist only that natural affinity and God’s justice entitle these fellow-creatures to be treated by us as more than ‘things’ if less than ‘persons’; to be spared from pain and terror as far as rests with us; not to be killed without some sort of necessity; and, when they must be killed, to receive as swift and painless a death as our ‘anxious care’ can devise.”

Rev. Basil Wrighton, M.A.,

“Our minds are in compartments and to preserve our comfort we see to it that the contents of different compartments do not get mixed. May I remind you that ‘holiness’ carries the meaning of ‘wholeness’, so that he who aspires must needs see about breaking down these compartments. I hold that because of our kinship we have a clear ethical duty to protect animals from cruelty and sudden death, and not to eat them.

…anyone who accepts the idea of the One Life must accord to the animals the rights of younger brothers.”

Rev. C.V. Pink, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P.,
(Liberal Catholic Church)
From a transcript of a lecture headed ‘A Christian Ethic’ and with reference to An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
World Forum, Spring 1953

“In the early days of the last century a group of Christians in Salford resolved that their Christian witness must be extended to include the rights of all God’s creatures in the kingdom of His love, and they made humane diet an essential part of their religious loyalty. We must teach men that this is not sentimentality or faddiness, but a necessary recognition and acceptance of the bond of life, which alone can ensure the full achievement of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

Rev. Philip Whiteman
Last Bible Christian Minister (later Unitarian)
The Vegetarian, July/August 1955

“We have insisted that animals, not being moral persons, have no personal rights as against their masters. Yet they have rights, ‘ratione Creatoris,’ that is, they cannot be maltreated without infringement of the rights of their Creator, and ‘ratione ordinis creatae,’ that is, without dislocating God’s order in nature. To the question: ‘Have animals rights of any kind as against their masters or owners?’ the Holy Office, whose answers are of course authoritative, replied: ‘Yes.’ ”

Dom Ambrose Agius O.S.B.
Cruelty to Animals
Catholic Truth Society tract, 1958

“…when man arrogates to himself the capacity to use animals in his service, irrespective of their own natural rights (and this, incidentally, has been a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church for long enough and is, in my judgement, basically irreconcilable with Christian teaching) it is to be condemned by the Christian.

“…I believe we shall be on the right track which leads finally to the end of violence and the achievement of a just social order which will leave none of God’s creatures out of that Kingdom which it is our Father’s good pleasure to give to us.”

The Revd. Lord Donald Soper
Tower Hill, 12.30, Epworth Press, 1963, p93

“He was a socialist, a pacifist and a penal reformer. He was vegetarian and teetotal and, an upholder of the rights of animals, he opposed both vivisection and cruel sports. While drawn to mysticism, he was actually an agnostic and, although this rationalism of his would hardly appeal to me, who am a Church of England clergyman, I nevertheless find, having myself abstained from flesh, fish and fowl for nearly seventeen years, his Creed of Kinship quite admirable.”

Rev. Thomas Hyslop, M.A.,
Rector of Salford and Little Rollright

From ‘Thoughts on Henry Salt’ in The British Vegetarian, July/August 1965 edition

“The irresistible conclusion, then, is that there is little hope of abolishing the manifold cruelties to animals which disgrace our society, until men give up the habit of eating flesh. While they think it is necessary, a matter of life or death to themselves, to prey on animals, the very suggestion that animals have rights and feelings similar to their own sets the instinct of self-preservation in motion, and a defensive reaction is set up which effectively pushes the rights out of sight and masks any cruelty that may be involved.”

Rev. Basil Wrighton, M.A.,
‘The Golden Age Must Return: a Catholic’s Views on Vegetarianism’ – The British Vegetarian, November 1965
(reprinted in Reason, Religion and the Animals – Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, 1987)

Late Twentieth century

“It is indeed within the consciousness of a solemn trust, held under the sovereignty of the Most High God the Creator, that man is required to look around at other orders of creation, all of which exist, by divine decree, along side of him. These orders have their rights, difficult though it may be to define precisely what they are. It is, of course, because of this difficulty that it is easier to talk in general terms; to recognise an over-all responsibility; to see our stewardship as a trust held under God – it is easier to do this rather than to see in practice what this means.”

Archdeacon Edward Carpenter, Ph.D,
(later Dean of Westminster Abbey)
From ‘Man’s relationship with the animal creation’ – a sermon delivered at the Abbey following publication of the ‘Brambell Report’ on factory farming.

Transcript published in The British Vegetarian, July-August 1966

“We must act, and act quickly, to see that the rights of animals to a happy life is recognised…

A religion, in fact, which fails to recognise these rights cannot be thought of as true religion.”

Rev. R.C.R. Adkins, M.A.
Religion and the Rights of Animals

The British Vegetarian, November/December 1967

“We can by-pass the question of ‘rights’ as a legal irrelevancy, since there can hardly be a juridical relation between beings of different species. But we cannot blind ourselves to the affinity of nature between man and the higher animals which share his sensitive qualities. Such an affinity, such a community of pleasures and pains, entails claims and obligations which are just as real whether or not you call them ‘rights’ and ‘duties’. We cannot refuse all consideration for the feelings of other beings just because they cannot speak and reason like ourselves.”

Rev. Basil Wrighton, M.A.,
‘Away with Dogmatic Slumber’ – The Ark, June 1968

(reprinted in Reason, Religion and the Animals – Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, 1987)

“(animals) …have very positive rights because they are God’s creatures. If we have to speak with absolute accuracy we must say that God has the right to have all his creatures treated with proper respect.”

Cardinal Heenan

Foreword to God’s Animals by Ambrose Agius,
(Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, 1970)

“We speak of human rights. I think we should also speak of animal rights and natural rights, but there must be some radical re-orientation in current attitudes and thinking before these rights are recognised and respected.”

Launcelot Fleming, MS, DD, DCL, KCVO,
Bishop of Norwich

The Living World, Vol.1, no.2
(Journal of Crusade Against All Cruelty to Animals, 1970)

“…the time has come when we must act responsibly towards the rights of animals and cease to accept the view that man has authority for exercising an absolute dominion”.

Canon Eric Turnbull
Worcester Evening News, June 26th 1972

“We have to ask whether the ethical sphere, as we have become accustomed to understand it, is for man alone. We have to ask what rational ground we have for continuing to interpret the welfare of animals in terms of our own, or whether we can actually be imaginative enough to recognise certain rights of other species.”

Andrew Linzey
Animal Rights – A Christian Assessment of Man’s Treatment of Animals
SCM Press Ltd., 1976, p7

“The rights of animals are protected. The animals must have their day of rest as men must have it (Exodus 20.10; 23.12). If a nest is harried, the mother bird must never be killed, but must always be let go (Deuteronomy 22. 6, 7). When the ox is drawing the heavy sled that threshes the grain, he must never be muzzled. He must, as it were, be allowed to have a share in the fruit of his labours (Deuteronomy 25.4).”

The Revd Professor William Barclay
Man and the Beasts’ – Life and Work, January 1976
(Church of Scotland magazine)

“Animals, as part of God’s creation, have rights which must be respected. It behoves us always to be sensitive to their needs and to the reality of their pain.”

Dr. Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury
Presidential message to the Annual General Meeting of the R.S.P.C.A.
RSPCA Today, July 1977

“Animals obviously do not have human rights, for their life has a different purpose and function. They would have no use for our social and political rights. But what of those other “rights” (there is no other word for it) which their Creator must have given them (not against himself but against us) when he placed them on this earth – rights which follow from the physical nature they share with us humans, from the needs and appetites we have in common and our common capacity for pleasure and pain?”

Rev. Basil Wrighton
(unpublished) Letter to a columnist in The Universe dated 19th July, 1982
Reprinted in The Ark, No. 136, August 1982

“Has perhaps the time come to work for a charter for the defence and protection of the animal world? There are many problems to be faced. I need hardly tell you of the wide range of problems – vivisection, often under cruel conditions, cruel experiments for scientific or even cosmetic purposes and some practises concerning performing animals.”

Bishop Agnellus Andrew
Bishop urges animal rights code’ – The Universe, October 12, 1984

“…the higher creation – man – has been appointed God’s trustee for the lower. We are to act towards them as God Himself would act, as He does act towards us. That means that the use of them which He allows us must not do violence to their sensitive nature, nor may they be deprived of their rightful share of living space, light and air and natural diet, in order to give man a disproportionate share of these things.
“(Church proclamations) have lapsed into dead letters through not being consistently enforced and through not being based on a recognition of animals’ rights.”

Rev. Basil Wrighton, M.A.,
‘Creation and Ecology’ – The Ark, October 1984
(reprinted in Reason, Religion and the Animals – Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, 1987)

"What is the point of speaking of human rights, in say warfare, since they are so typically disregarded?

". . . we need to speak of human and animal rights precisely because they are so 'typically' overridden, and precisely because without doing so we would have no adequate means of raising the question of injustice to either humans or animals. The fact that we regularly infringe rights provides us with no philosophical or theological ground for refusing to admit their existence."

The Rev. Prof. Andrew Linzey
Christianity and the Rights of Animals
SPCK, 1987, pp86-87

“And what does it mean by saying that animals do not have rights? It means historically – whether you like it or not – it means that animals can be treated as things, as resources, as means to human ends, as laboratory tools, as units of production; this is what this debate is really all about.

“…If we, on our side, press the language of rights, it’s because we believe the heart of this debate is not about feeling; not about taste; not about philanthropy but about justice. It’s about what we objectively owe animals, as creatures of God and in particular what we owe the Creator of all.”

Rev. Prof. Andrew Linzey
From a debate at the Royal Institute of Great Britain: ‘Does the Animal Kingdom need a Bill of Rights?’- Arena, BBC2, 1989

“…in the very long course of human history a symbiosis has developed between animals and human kind which can perhaps be called by the Biblical term of covenant. Human beings cannot live on the world as if animals did not exist, nor can they hand over the world to animals. But their relationship cannot be simply an ‘I-it’ relationship.

“Animal rights are involved with, and to a great degree dependent on, human rights, which is not to say that an animal has only rights which a particular human may choose to give it.”

Fr. Adrian Edwards, C.S. Sp
Letter in New Blackfriars, January 1990

“The phrase ‘animal rights’ has a biblical ring about it, though it is only comparatively recently that those rights have received much public recognition. The RSPCA is justified in saying that its work is based on Christian principles.

“What is essential from the Christian standpoint is what Karl Barth described as ‘animal protection, care and friendship.’ ”

Rev. Kenneth G. Greet
The Methodist Recorder, June 7, 1990

“Through the altruism of dedicated animal rightists – most of whom give no thought to the possibility of any future reward – we see an authentic goodness which puts religious goodness to shame; and the animals have the gospel preached to them by deeds more strong than words.”

Pastor James Thompson – “the Animals’ Padre”
Cast Out of the Ark – The Churches’ Abuse & Rejection of God’s Animal Kingdom
Ty Coch Publishing, 1994

"One could argue that the rights which animals have in their relationship with humans are not correlative to any duties they have towards humans, but are in some sense a correlative of the human duties towards animals.

For those who have a predominantly anthropocentric world view, and assign a value to animals only in terms of their functional use for humans, it might indeed seem nonsensical to propose conditions of animal welfare which go much beyond the limits of cost-efficiency for humans. However, if one assigns a value to animals which is distinct from their usefulness to humans, e.g. a value based on the love of God for all his creation, then the duties one assumes towards animals might go well beyond the limits of cost-efficiency."

Revd T.L Jones
Letter in the Church Times, 12 May 1995

“Under the guise of rejecting animal rights, what is rejected is any serious competing claim to human moral supremacy. One of the reasons people speak of animal rights is precisely because they mean to challenge the right of humans to their massively cruel use of animals in virtually every quarter of life, whether it be for food, science or sport.”

Rev. Prof. Andrew Linzey

(In response to an attack on animal rights ideology by the Archbishop of York which appeared in The Times dated 11 February 1995, whilst protests escalated against live exports. Andrew Linzey’s defense of animal rights was published as ‘Animals and the Churches: A case of Theological Neglect’ – the guest editorial in Reviews in Religion and Theology, No.3, August 1995 and reprinted in Animal Gospel, Hodder and Stoughton, 1998, chapter 5).