ASWA works to promote animal welfare, on the basis that care for all God’s creatures is a non-negotiable part of Christian discipleship. The “dominion” spoken about in the first creation narrative is not a right to exploit other living creatures, but a duty to care from them as befits people made in the image of a loving God. Throughout the Bible, there is a recurring theme that when people are given power by God, it is in the expectation that they will use it to benefit rather than oppress the weak. Furthermore, it is inconceivable that a compassionate creator would make animals capable of thought and feeling, of knowing comfort and pain, and then be indifferent to the quality of life which they enjoyed. When we see images of animal cruelty on television or the newspapers, we ask what kind of person could have inflicted it. Similarly, what kind of God would deem it acceptable?
So, for all of these reasons, it is the mission of ASWA to encourage Christians to make compassionate and responsible choices where animals are concerned. The new ‘Animal Friendly Church’ scheme is an exciting development in this work. In a similar way to the initiatives encouraging communities to become Fair Trade churches, this project recognises parishes and chaplaincies which operate as ‘Animal Friendly Churches’. It also gives an annual prize for an example of outstanding achievement or dedication in this area.
As with Fair Trade, a huge difference can be made by people choosing to take comparatively small steps: for example a commitment to use exclusively free range eggs or getting the Sunday school to do a project and build a ‘bug hotel’. It isn’t so long ago that people who argued that Fair Trade was for eccentrics who drank strange coffee; Christians thankfully changed that culture in the church and in wider society. The importance of economic justice and our ability to play a part is recognised and many lives have changed as a result. This is a chance for Christians to achieve the same feat with animal welfare.
ASWA awards ‘Animal Friendly Church’ Certificates to churches which practice and promote compassionate attitude towards God’s creatures. Applicants will also be automatically entered into our annual ‘ASWA Animal Friendly Church of the Year Award’. The winner will receive a hamper full of ethical and useful goodies for your Church and a plaque to display on your wall.
Two previous winners are featured below. Entries are now being accepted for 2019, please apply using the forms below.
ASWA Chair – Revd Dr Helen Hall
St Mary the Virgin, Ticehurst and St Mary-at-Latton, Harlow