ASWA attended the Lambeth Conference with a fringe meeting on Wednesday 30th July. We believe this is the first time an animal welfare organization has ever been present at the conference.
Actress Jenny Seagrove (Judge John Deed’s girlfriend in the popular TV series) kindly opened the meeting for us and spoke of the present day being “the dark age for animals”. Factory farmed animals now knew nothing but misery from birth to death, wild creatures were being wiped out as never before. She said that she hoped that the Church might take more of a lead in showing concern and compassion for animal welfare issues.
Recently appointed ASWA President, The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Dominic Walker spoke at the meeting alongside Joyce D’Silva from Compassion in World Farming. He also criticized factory farming: “We often rear animals like ‘goods’ or ‘commodities’ in inhumane factory conditions instead of treating them like sentient beings. God gave us dominion, not domination over creation, but we fail in our stewardship by regarding animal creation as being simply for our benefit rather than being good in itself.”
“One of the marks of Christianity must be how we care for the weak and powerless – and that includes animals”
The Bishop also mentioned the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who has held a number of Symposia about the environment including one in 1995 in the Arctic which ended with a pilgrimage to Patmos. His All Holiness Bartholomew is the world leader of the Eastern Orthodox and is known by them as the ‘green’ Patriarch. He is a remarkable man in gathering scientists and theologians together each year for a conference. What is amazing is how he is ignored in the West.
Bartholomew held a series of symposia and drew up what has come to be called ‘The Patmos Principles’. Bishop Dominic quoted this important quote from the document:
‘We need to develop a sense of sin when we offend against the earth and the natural world. God gave us this planet to share with animals, and it does us no harm to remember that they were here before us. To exploit them is a sin because we are failing in our stewardship and compassion, and we are also failing to see the bigger picture where all creation proclaims the wonder of God’.
Fringe events at Lambeth are apparently always a bit of a lottery and many are very poorly attended. We had no idea how many would attend the event and had offered a champagne reception to try and entice the Bishops in! The Champagne was kindly donated by an ASWA supporter. In the end, we had a very respectable turnout with 10 Bishops as well as members of the press and other delegates from the conference. The ASWA team included Chairman, Rt Revd Richard Llewellin, Secretary, Samantha Chandler, Mrs Audrey Eyton, Committee members Sarah Dunning and Rita Donovan and Revd David Sox.
We must hope that the event will bear some fruit.