Book : Why Animal Suffering Matters

Why Animal Suffering Matters,  by Rev Andrew Linzey, director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics,  seems an appropriate book to be reading on the eve of the feast of St Francis of Assisi this weekend.

Animals lovers can be dismissed as a sentimental lot. Concern for animals is often assumed to be emotionally driven, with no rational basis. And many Christians,  of all denominations,  seem no more interested in animal welfare than the general population.

But Rev Linzey has long argued that Christians, especially, have a duty to show Christ-like compassion to animals as oppressed and suffering beings. In this new book, he makes a very compelling philosophical  argument for the case for extending moral solicitude to all sentient beings.
In his first chapter, Linzey quotes from a sermon given by Cardinal Newman when he was vicar of St Mary's University Church Oxford,  on Good Friday 1842, in which he reflects on the suffering of animals and the suffering of Christ on the Cross. We are right to be 'moved' and 'sickened' , Newman says, because that kind of suffering - whether of human or animals - of the innocent, unprotected and vulnerable is morally unconscionable.

Our exploitation of animals rests on a range of assumed differences that are supposed to justify their inferior treatment, Linzey says. He goes on to contend that these very differences are the grounds for discriminating in favour of animals.

The considerations  he points out include the inability of animals to give or withhold their consent, their inability to verbalise or express their interests, their inability to comprehend, their moral innocence and not least of all, their relative defenselessness  and vulnerability.

Linzey goes on to examine how these rational arguments can be applied to three issues: hunting with dogs, fur farming and commercial sealing.

Far from being sentimental, he demonstrates that a real concern for animals can be part of a radical expression of Christian faith.

As one reviewer put it, "this  book is required reading for not only those interested in the plight of animals but also for those who reflect upon how a moral life should be lived".

Why Animal Suffering Matters by Andrew Linzey, Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-537977-8  can be bought through  the  ICN Amazon bookshop on our home page.

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