“CATHOLICS OUGHT TO TREAT BADGERS WITH KINDNESS
Some in Gloucestershire say the first gunshots have been fired. Few can be sure, although the licences have now been issued. The poor farmers, desperate to eradicate the scourge of bovine TB (bTB), are being pressured into paying for a cull of badgers which will be inefficient at best, even, according to most independent scientists, counterproductive.
Why do we do it? We left the wildlife alone in the 1970s, when bTB was brought down to manageable levels, as is happening in Northern Ireland. Our European neighbours, who refuse to accept our vaccinated cattle, happily vaccinate their own (I have this on anecdotal evidence, often the most reliable), and our local Wildlife Trusts are halfway through a programme of vaccinating badgers. So why? It is demonstrably safer to control cattle movements, as happens in other countries. Instead, we face the start of a possible 25-year programme of futility in which more than 100,000, mainly healthy, badgers will be killed.
IS THIS A CATHOLIC ISSUE?
Is this a Catholic issue? I should say so! Where is the ‘showing animals kindness’ injunction of the Catechism (para 2614)? And by animals I include the cattle whose welfare is being compromised by this pointless and expensive exercise. How does it follow Pope Francis’ impassioned plea in his inaugural address that we must protect ‘all creation’, even ‘respecting… each of God’s creatures’? As the species created in God’s image it is our responsibility to exercise our dominion in a God-like servant way, not like the pagan rulers ‘lording it’ and ‘making their authority felt’. It is just about humanely possible to control bTB, but not in this way.
WHAT WE CAN DO TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Stay with me on the subject of livestock (aka food animals); you’ll see where this is heading. The IF campaign against global hunger… has missed the boat. It has failed the opportunity of a lifetime – certainly that of a starving infant’s – to really hit home, and where it hurts. And that is on the plate, the fork, between the teeth. For it is by the production of meat and dairy products at levels to satisfy the demand in countries such as ours that the world’s resources of land and water are being depleted at unsustainable rates. I’m sorry, but that’s true. The campaign’s ‘Guide to IF’ suggests that there would be enough food for everyone ‘if we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and grow crops to feed people, not fuel cars’. Easy to say, because few of our cars as yet use biofuels. But had it said, ‘and grow crops to feed people not lifestock’, that would have been more to the point, but would risk alienating supporters. Who likes to realise that taking world hunger seriously could mean eating less, or no, meat?
THE BISHOP’S EXAMPLE
One notable person who has done something about it is Cafod’s chairman, Auxilliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster. While not turning down a meat-meal proffered by an hospitable parish, he no longer buys or consumes meat for himself. This view is supported by the UN Food and Agriculture report from 2006, ‘Lifestock’s long shadow, environmental issues and options’. Another brilliant and readable report is from Friends of the Earth and Compassion in World Farming, called ‘Eating the Planet? How we can feed the world without thrashing it.’ Decreasing consumption of animal products in the developed world would allow for huge potential to feed the planet, allowing the spread of organic agriculture rather than increased use of industrialised systems. A potential solution to world hunger, IF…”
– This article by Deborah Jones was published in “The Catholic Herald”, issue June 21 2013. For subscriptions, please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).