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Pray for, be kind to all God's animals, Church urged

By Tessa Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:23:00 12/31/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Start the New Year with a compassionate eye for animals, animal welfare groups have appealed to members of the Catholic Church.

After all, they reason, animals were the only ones with the Holy Family when Jesus was born in a manger.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Animal Welfare Coalition (an umbrella organization of 21 groups nationwide and two groups from the United Kingdom) and the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) are calling on Catholic bishops and priests to include compassion for animals in their New Year homilies to the faithful.

The animal welfare groups stress that people should reduce their meat consumption during the holidays, not just for health reasons but also out of compassion for animals that are cruelly slaughtered for the traditional media noche (midnight meal) feast.

The beef, pork or chicken they're enjoying had their "throats slit, limbs hacked off and skin torn from their bodies while still conscious. Pigs were plunged into vats of scalding water for hair removal while still conscious and chickens were scalded alive in feather-removal tanks," says Rochelle Regodon, campaigns manager of PETA-Asia Pacific.

They should also reduce, if not totally forego, the use of ear-splitting firecrackers to avoid stressing their pets. A dog's hearing -- as well as a cat's -- is 10 times more sensitive than a human's.

Violent places on earth

PETA says slaughterhouses are among "the most violent places on Earth ... it's ironic that the celebration of the [birth] of the Son of God is a feast of slaughtered pigs, cows, chicken and animal flesh."

"In Jesus' time, animal sacrifice was largely an excuse for people to eat animal flesh, and Jesus challenged the practice at every turn. He drove the merchants selling animals for sacrifice and consumption from the temple, instituted baptism in place of animal sacrifice, saying that God 'requires mercy, not sacrifice.' He also rejected both animal flesh and sacrifice at the Last Supper -- a vegetarian Passover meal," notes Regodon.

Ramona Eliza T. Consunji, external affairs officer of the Animal Welfare Coalition, says that there are "references on the rights and welfare of animals found in the Bible. The connection between cruelty to animals and desensitized men are clearly defined in the Bible."

She cites Proverbs 12:10 which says: "A good man takes care of his animals, but wicked men are cruel to theirs."

Pray for animals

For her part, Nita Hontiveros Lichauco, president of PAWS, has this to say: "The secret to real and lasting peace is staring us in the face ... Simply let the animals into our lives. It is what the natural law dictates -- humans and animals are co-beneficiaries of this world."

How do humans let animals into their inner sanctum?

"One great way is to pray for them daily," Lichauco says.

Another is "to officially include them in church prayers, not only in October (when World Animal Day is celebrated) but also during New Year's Eve ceremonies. Then watch and see true and lasting peace expand in homes, in our lives, in our country, in the world," she says.

Consunji adds: "Preaching about love and forgiveness for one's neighbor without teaching respect for all creatures is hypocritical."

Gluttonous proportions

"Ironically, there is no other season which exploits animals more than on the very month that Jesus was born. We continue the feast as we usher in the New Year, to gluttonous proportions," says Regodon. "Wouldn't it be better if food on the table wasn't the result of cruelty and abuse?"

PETA explains that animals raised for food are subjected to violent, painful procedures such as de-horning, de-beaking, and castration, all of which are done without anesthesia.

"In order to maximize profits, factory farmers confine animals to spaces so small they can barely turn around," Regodon says. "Many never see the light of day or feel soil or grass beneath their feet. When they have reached the end of their brief growth cycles (artificially accelerated by drugs), they are trucked away to their deaths."

Free vegetarian kit

"Our intention is to raise awareness on behalf of God's creatures and to make the world a more merciful place. We want to put a stop to animal abuse and foster compassion toward all creatures by encouraging the adoption of a vegetarian diet. This is entirely in keeping with the most cherished ideals of people of faith," Regodon says.

PETA is encouraging those who want to give up meat to visit www.petaasiapacific.com for a free vegetarian starter kit which is loaded with information, tips and recipes.

"Please consider exploring veganism, the only diet that is compassionate and respectful of all God's creation. To find out more, visit www.jesusveg.com," adds Regodon.

Solving world hunger

In his book "Diet for a Small Planet," Frances Moore Lappe wrote that the feed cost of an eight-ounce steak is equivalent to a full cup of cooked cereal grains for 45 to 50 people. The 4.8 pounds of grain fed to cattle to produce one pound of beef for human beings represents a colossal waste of resources in a world still teeming with people who suffer from profound hunger and malnutrition.

According to the British group Vegfam (a famine relief charity organization which believes in vegetarianism), a 10-acre farm can support 60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, 10 people growing corn but only two producing cattle.

According to Food Revolution author John Robbins, "under even the best of circumstances ... a meat-based diet is incredibly wasteful of the resources and inputs that make food production possible. If we are serious about creating a thriving, just and sustainable way of life for all, it is imperative that we shift to a plant-based diet."

Physician and author Dean Ornish M.D., who developed the Ornish Diet, specifically formulated to reverse heart disease, recommends a vegetarian diet together with exercise, meditation, an emotional support group and no smoking.

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