A Short History of Animal Advocacy in the Catholic Church, Part 3, by Elaine Hutchison, MVLCE

posted December 26, 2022

Continued from A Short History of Animal Advocacy in the Catholic Church, Part 2

Pope Francis and the Future of Catholic Animal Advocacy

Is it possible that Pope Francis would be the first pope to actively advocate on behalf of animals? After all, he was the first pope to take St. Francis’s name as his regnal name on his accession to the papacy.

Photo credit: Korea.net and Pixabay

Was his defense of animals and exhortations to treat both them and their environment well, a sign of even better things to come?

At the time of this article, that hasn’t happened. There were no subsequent comments regarding animals and the importance of protecting them in the months following the publication of the Laudato Si’. But there was one landmark comment that astonished the world. Pope Francis earned some backlash in January 2022 when he said that not having children and living with dogs and cats were selfish acts.

With all the uproar that followed, one wonders if perhaps in hindsight, the pope wished that he had phrased that comment differently.

In his most recent encyclical, the Laudate Deum released October 4, 2023, Pope Francis barely mentioned animals. While writing about protecting the environment, he wrote about the creatures that inhabit it, but nowhere did he mention the appalling daily suffering and pain of trillions of farmed animals, nor did he mention how the farmed animal industry is a pivotal factor in the accelerated growth of global warming. Because global warming was the main theme of this encyclical, the omission was glaring—it’s as if he had chosen to ignore the issue completely.

Image credit: In Defense of Animals

But why? One can think of a dozen reasons, but the why doesn’t matter as much as the deed itself. In omitting farmed animals from his pleas for protection and preservation of the earth, Pope Francis turned the spotlight away from the core cause of the condition he wants to see cured.

His omission resembled the streetlight effect—the idea of searching only for something where it is easiest to look but usually not where it will be found. We can only wish that Pope Francis will someday stand under a taller street lamp, with a much brighter light that shines over all the animals in the world, including the ones on his plate.

To create a better world for animals, we cannot depend on Pope Francis or another Vatican Council to hand down the long-awaited doctrine that pro-animal Catholics and secular animal supporters have been wishing for. Individuals must make that effort. Within the Catholic church, that effort is coming from the church members themselves.

The group Catholic Action for Animals is asking that Catholics petition their bishops to instruct priests to bring the treatment of animals into their sermons. They believe the Pope “has made it clear that by receiving the Holy Spirit in Baptism all Catholics have the right to be involved in the decision-making processes of the Church.” They’ve begun a campaign to change the Church within the Church by forming Laudauto Si’ groups, which advocate the principles of animal rights within local parishes.

Catholic Concern for Animals spreads their message by “by informing and educating on the issues of Animal Advocacy among the Catholic world population at all levels, from the Vatican as the Catholic Church’s highest institution to individual Catholics throughout the world.” This group also works with secular animal advocacy groups and individuals.

Just like the animal advocates of the early Church, it seems that today’s Catholic laypersons and animal advocates will have to rely on their own actions and campaign on behalf of the animals to effect any change in how the Church views them and treats them.

And as they have always done, the animals will once more show both the Catholic church and the world that we are all one.

“Ask now the beasts and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air they shall teach thee. Or speak to the earth and it shall teach thee, and the fishes of the earth will declare unto thee. Who knoweth not that in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12: 7-10)


Photo credit: Elaine Hutchison

Elaine Hutchison is a ghostwriter, author, Main Street Vegan Academy Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, historian, and lover of the old ways. She lives on a small farm in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains where she serves as staff to her beloved animal family. Elaine’s website, Vegan History, dedicated to the history of Veganism, vegetarianism, and animal advocacy, as well as a podcast, will be launched January 31, 2024, Vegan History day.

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