National Religious Coalition on Creation Care (USA)


The climate change problem we face today is unlike any previous challenge confronted by society because it is largely irreversible “for 1,000 years after emissions stop” with “profound impacts on global climate, ecosystems and human societies for the next ten millennia and beyond.”

The shocking truth is that decisions we make now could, in the words of climate economist Ross Garnaut, “haunt humanity until the end of time.”

Nuclear war, while also irreversible, is only a possibility. Human-induced climate change is underway now, and its impacts are greater and more extensive than scientific models predicted. We will significantly alter the future of civilization as we know it and may eventually cause its collapse if we continue down this path.

As people of faith, we believe that our planet – which nurtures and sustains life – is a gift, and that we have a responsibility to cultivate a world in which all beings can thrive, physically and spiritually. We are committed to safeguarding the Earth entrusted to our care. Protecting God’s Creation is a spiritual and moral imperative, not an ideological or narrow partisan issue. We recognize that the National Council of Churches, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, National Association of Evangelicals, and the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops have al “Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization… [We] need to devise a long-term global strategy to provide energy security and …commitments to meet the problem of climate change.” – Pope Francis, Statement to oil company executives, June 19, 2018

Human civilization emerged during an extensive period of stable climactic conditions. Climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the logging of forests could rapidly destabilize civilization as billions of people worldwide find themselves in an increasingly desperate struggle for survival. The multiple, simultaneous consequences of climate change could break down human societies and push them toward civil unrest, anarchy, tyranny, and war, including nuclear war. This is why more than one Secretary General of the United Nations has called the world’s present course “suicidal,” and why the Pentagon has classified climate change as a threat to national security.

Scientists have been warning for decades, with increasing certainty and alarm, about the dire consequences of continuing to burn coal, gas, and oil and release methane. Nevertheless, the United States, responsible for 26% of cumulative fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions despite being less than 5% of the world’s population, has failed to take these warnings seriously. Leadership in the United States has proposed inadequate solutions, has denied scientific and economic consensus and continues to promote fossil fuel extraction. Mainstream media has betrayed its role as the fourth estate by confusing the public. For instance, Fox News has made misleading statements about climate change 72% of the time, and CNN 30% of the time.

Global Temperatures Are On A Steep Rise The National Academy of Sciences 2005 Report to Congress “The crisis facing God’s earth is clear. Human activities are leading to a warming of the planet. Christians must take action now to reduce global warming pollution….” – Official statement, The United Methodist Church, 2012

Decades of delay on climate action have made small corrective measures and incremental approaches useless. Those who are invested in maintaining the status quo, or who put forth proposals that are clearly incompatible with what climate science demands, are condemning innocent young people – including their own children and generations to come – to a future of unimaginable suffering: the mass death of human populations and the extinction of species.

Further delay in addressing climate change is a radical evil that as people of faith we vigorously oppose.

We support the bold direction of the Green New Deal, or other similar science-based proposals, as an opportunity for this country to commit to stabilizing the climate while creating “unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States.” This specifically includes low-income communities, communities of color, and those that have historically been marginalized or underserved. The Green New Deal is the first resolution that addresses the climate crisis with the urgency, focus, and comprehensiveness that the situation requires. Our nation mobilized every part of society during World War II and the Great Depression. Like the Greatest Generation, we must rise to the occasion and commit to doing what science says it takes to avoid irreversible catastrophic climate chaos and make a rapid and just transition to a clean energy economy. Today, renewable- energy-with-storage technology is out-bidding all other energy options. Broadly and quickly implemented, this could provide an unequalled and sustainable economic boom.

We believe that the primary strategies that will accomplish these goals include: carbon pricing; governmental intervention; divestment from fossil-fuel based industries and investment in sustainable alternatives; carbon sequestration by terminating logging in our national forests; extensive reforestation and native grass replanting; alternative energy incentives; methane leakage restrictions; increased renewable and battery research; and greenhouse gas targeted regulations. We strongly support bipartisan legislation that puts a price on carbon in a way that will reduce emissions quickly, accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and protect low-to-middle income communities from financial harm. While the means are open for debate, the end of preserving a stable climate is not. “Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing all of God’s creation.” – Official Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2009 “We now face the unprecedented challenge of climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions, and the need for urgent action has never been clearer. – Reform Judaism Statement on Climate Change and Energy, 2009

We are committed to responding to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. The harsh and often deadly impacts of climate change increasingly weigh upon the human spirit. Therefore, we call upon elected officials, faith communities, and the public-at-large to combat climate change at the scale and pace this emergency requires. We demand that policy-makers work together to reach the science-based climate goals of the IPCC to cut greenhouse gas emissions to at least 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. We also urge policy-makers to work together to ensure a just transition that protects the safety, health, and dignity of low-income and historically under-served communities. We look forward to the spiritual, health, and economic benefits of living more simply, gently, and lovingly on God’s good Earth. “We believe climate change to be a profoundly pro-life issue….” Florida Christians for Climate Action ————————————————————

Notes: 1. Susan Solomon, Gian-Kasper Plattner, Reto Knutti, Pierre Friedlingstein, (2009) Irreversible Climate Change Due to Carbon Dioxide Emissions,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (6) 1704-1709, at 1704; DOI:10.1073/pnas.0812721106; and Peter U. Clark et al, (2016). Consequences of Twenty-First-Century Policy for Multi-Millennial Climate and Sea-Level Change. Nature Climate Change. 6.10.1038/nclimate2923

2. 597 (last lines of the review)

3. Dana Nuccitelli, “95% consensus of expert economists: cut carbon pollution,” The Guardian, January 4, 2016,

4. “Science or Spin? Assessing the Accuracy of Cable News Coverage of Climate Science (2014), Union of Concerned Scientists,

5. Global Warming Is Steadily Advancing

v v This NASA map shows Earth’s average global temperature from 2013 to 2017, as compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980. Yellows, oranges, and reds show regions warmer than the baseline

Checklist for Churches – How Green is your Church?

I have taken and edited this from the The Green Christian website. Whilst it is not Orthodox as such, it is in spirit because the forthcoming Halki 111 Summit in May/June is linked to this theme.

As reinventing the wheel is a waste of our time and resources, we should always consider using the work of others to aid our work. You will find other useful resource at the end of the post.

Eco-Check-up for Churches How green is your Church? It’s not difficult for your congregation, building and church office to become more eco-friendly. You’re probably already doing more than you think. The questions below give you an idea of what is involved in an environmental check-up.

Whether you worship in a cathedral or a small chapel use these questions to find ways to make your church more eco-friendly.

1. How regularly during the year are environmental concerns included in worship? • never • occasionally • only at special services e.g. harvest • frequently

2. Does your church include creation/environmental issues in its teaching, studying or preaching programme? yes no

3. Has your church involved young people in auditing and improving the environmental management of the premises? yes no

4. Has your church invited a speaker on environmental issues? yes no

5. Have you insulated the church buildings wherever possible? yes no

6. Do you choose appropriate size rooms wherever possible? yes no

7. Do you timetable meetings to minimise heating use? yes no

8. Have you fitted energy-saving light bulbs? yes no

9. Do you encourage building users to switch off unnecessary lights and not leave items on stand-by (e.g. photocopier)? yes no

10. Have you checked water outlets – and fixed drips and leaks? yes no

11. Have you installed water-saving devices (e.g. dual flush toilets and low spray flow or auto turn-off taps)? yes no

12. Have you checked the environmental policy of your bank to see if you are satisfied with it? yes no

13. Do you use environmentally-friendly cleaning materials and paint? yes no

14. Do you purchase Fair Trade products (e.g. tea and coffee)? yes no

15. Do you use local suppliers where possible (so supporting the local economy)? yes no

16. Do you use crockery rather than disposable cups and plates? yes no

17. Does your church have collection facilities for recycling items which can be used by church members, building users or local community (e.g. cans, spectacles, stamps, printer cartridges, clothes, shoes, foil)? yes no

18. Do you purchase recycled paper and envelopes (to close the loop)? yes no

19. Is your churchyard management wild-life friendly (e.g. minimal use of weedkillers and pesticides, leaving some areas unmown, valuing old trees, hedges walls and stones)? yes no

20. Does your churchyard have other features to benefit wildlife (e.g. bird feeding station, bird nest boxes, bat boxes, piles of leaves and rotting logs for insects and hedgehogs)? yes no

21. Is there a place outside for prayer/contemplation/outdoor worship? yes no

22. Does your church magazine publish green tips? yes no

23. Does your church encourage walking, cycling and car sharing to church? yes no

24. Does someone read the meters regularly to assess the church’s energy use? yes no

25. Has anyone calculated the carbon footprint of your buildings? yes no

26. Is the congregation encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint in their everyday lives? yes no

27. Does your church support overseas development/climate adaptation initiatives? yes no

28. Has your church drawn on links that members have with environmental bodies? yes no

29. Has your church supported or initiated environmental community schemes (e.g. cleanups, involvement in a transition town group)? yes no

The Next Steps.

Pass this leaflet on to your minister, and/or to your Church council. Ask them to celebrate what your Church is already doing well and to consider what further steps you can take to make your Church more eco-friendly.

Especially useful is the Green Christian ecocell programme. For modules to use in group work, bible reflections and measuring tools. Visit: Hold a LOAF meal to get people thinking about food issues: LOAF stands for Locally produced, Organically grown, Animal friendly, Fairly traded. Visit: Produce an environmental policy for your church. Set up a Green Group. Organise a green library

The Green Christian website has plenty of other ideas to help you: • Regular Church magazine articles for you to use and adapt for your own church. • Ideas for Church seasons such as Lent and Harvest. • Point your minister to ‘Green Pointers for Preachers’. • Monthly prayer diary with points for prayer and meditation. Keep in touch: • Contact Judith Allinson and sign up for our twice monthly e-news:

Other Christian organisations which focus on the care of Earth include: A Rocha focusing on educating and equipping the church to care for God’s Earth while demonstrating practical involvement in nature conservation: Visit: Operation Noah – focusing exclusively on climate change. Visit: Shrinking the Footprint – ideas on how Churches can reduce their carbon footprint. Visit: Cafod —

How to become an Eco Church or Eco-congregation Eco Church is a scheme managed in England and Wales by A Rocha UK to help Churches demonstrate care for God’s Earth. In Ireland and Scotland the scheme is still called Eco-congregation. It’s about incorporating the biblical ethic of environmental stewardship into the spiritual values, practical action and community involvement of Church congregations. Participating Churches first conduct an Eco Check-Up and then formulate an action plan to address the areas identified for improvement. There is a wealth of downloadable resources available to help Churches achieve the goals set out in their action plan. Visit: or Visit: or Visit: The successful completion of the action plan earns Churches the prestigious Eco Church or Eco-congregation Award. Living for a future

Wherever we are in life, it’s easier to reach the destination if we travel together. If you would like to travel with us, join Green Christian. Join Green Christian Send £30 cheque or £25 Standing Order (low income £12), £40 joint/family/corporate, or a donation for church membership (recommended amount £40) to: Green Christian Membership, Flat 1, 31 St James Terrace, Buxton, Derbyshire SK17 6HS. Cheques payable to Green Christian. T: 0345 459 8460 E: 10 Kiln Gardens, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire RG27 8RG. Company No. 2445198, Charity No. 328744

Burger King’s plant-based Whopper gets glowing review – from a meat lobbyist.

This is an interesting article because it gives us a glimpse into what is happening in the food industry and the recognition by the meat industry of the environmental damage caused by the animal based diet. Article from The Guardian Newspaper Mon 8 Apr 2019

Impossible Whopper’s realistic taste is a ‘wake-up call’ to livestock farmers, Eric Bohl of the Missouri Farm Bureau said

‘If farmers and ranchers think we can mock and dismiss these products as a passing fad, we’re kidding ourselves,” Eric Bohl of the Missouri Farm Bureau said.
 ‘This is not just another disgusting tofu burger that only a dedicated hippie could convince himself to eat,’ Eric Bohl of the Missouri Farm Bureau said. Photograph: Michael Thomas/Getty Images

A glowing review of Burger King’s new plant-based Whopper comes from an unlikely source: a senior meat industry lobbyist who admitted the surprisingly realistic taste of modern fake meats is a “wake-up call” to livestock farmers.

Burger King launches plant-based Whopper: ‘Nobody can tell the difference’

In a review of the Impossible Whopper, which is being trialled in 59 restaurants in the St Louis area, Eric Bohl, director of public affairs at the Missouri Farm Bureau, wrote: “If farmers and ranchers think we can mock and dismiss these products as a passing fad, we’re kidding ourselves.

“This is not just another disgusting tofu burger that only a dedicated hippie could convince himself to eat.”

Bohl went to a Burger King to compare a traditional Whopper with the vegetarian alternative made by Impossible Foods, a California company that makes plant-based substitutes. Its burger is designed to “bleed” like a conventional burger and uses genetically modified yeast to produce heme, a protein that mimics the flavor of meat.

Admitting the differences in taste between the two burgers was “pretty minor”, Bohl said the advance of fake meats provides a looming and existential threat to the industry he represents.

“If I didn’t know what I was eating, I would have no idea it was not beef,” he wrote. “Farmers and ranchers need to take notice and get ready to compete. I’ve tasted it with my own mouth, and this fake meat is ready for prime time.”

In a follow-up post, Bohl called the new wave of cowless burgers “a wake-up call”. “This is an intense challenge to our industry and we must continue to fight,” he added.

In August, Missouri became the first state to ban products made from tofu, soy or other alternatives branding themselves as “meat”, following an outcry from livestock and poultry producers. The move was seen as part of the growing politicization of meat, as some conservatives claim that efforts to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture could lead to the banning of hamburgers.

Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, both backed by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates, are at the forefront of a push into meaty territory which aims to mimic the appearance and taste of flesh rather than making the sort of health-based vegetarian fare typically scorned by committed carnivores.

In its mission statement, Impossible Foods says: “We’re making meat using plants, so that we never have to use animals again,” citing the environmental toll of meat production, via excessive land and water use, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your impact upon the planet, Oxford University research found last year, due to the habitat cleared for livestock and the resulting planet-warming emissions./////////////////////////////////////

We at Pan Orthodox Concern for Animals have been informing our readers of the significant negative environmental impact of an animal based diet since our charity began.

Religious orders urge Church to divest from fossil fuels

This is an article from The Tablet, the International Catholic Weekly by Bernadette Kehoe and Liz Dodd. Can anyone give us an update on the Eastern Orthodox position?

Members of religious congregations in the UK have called on the Church in England and Wales to divest from fossil fuels such as coal and oil, following the example of the Irish bishops’ conference and its dioceses.

The call came as representatives of religious orders met at Mount Street Jesuit Centre in central London last week for a conference on fossil fuels, clean energy and climate change, hosted by the Jesuits and co-sponsored by the Conference of Religious. The Irish bishops’ conference divested from fossil fuels last August, and all 26 dioceses in Ireland and 60 orders are on a path to complete divestment from fossil fuels.

Dr Lorna Gol, co-ordinator of the Laudato Si’ Project at the Irish aid agency Trocaire and the vice-chair of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, told the conference that “radical and urgent change” was needed to keep the rise of average global temperatures below the threshold of 1.5 degrees set by the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The key message of today is the urgency of the crisis and the important role the Church and orders can play through the use of their resources and deciding when to remove their investments from fossil fuels and divert to renewables,” she said. She called on the Church in the UK to follow Ireland’s example and divest in favour of clean energy.

Questioned over the lack of commitments by dioceses in England and Wales, Edward de Quay of the Bishops’ Conference Environmental Advisory Group said : “We are aware of the work going on in dioceses to encourage divestment from fossil fuels and we hope these conversations are constructive.”

“We are pleased that investment in renewable energy through the Church marketplace and Inter-diocesan Fuel Management groups has been so successful, with 20 dioceses now buying green energy together.”

Fr Martin Poulsom, a Salesian of Don Bosco, a trustee of Operation Noah and senior lecturer at Roehampton University, said religious congregations could be “signs of hope for the world””. “[They] can play an important prophetic role today, showing that they care for our common home, not just by the lives that their members lead, but also by where they invest their money,” he said.

Religious at the conference told The Tablet that they intended to lobby their own orders to divest from fossil fuels.

Fr Tom O’Brien of the Augustinians of the Assumption said: ”We’ve got an AGM shortly and I’m going to make sure we encourage our investment company not to invest in fossil fuels.” Sr Anne Hogan of the Sisters of St Gildas agreed:” Today was very inspiring. We need to take a serious look at our investments as a congregation.”

‘THE FACE OF GOD’ Orthodox film on Climate Change Preview and Website link.

You all know that our charity has a good working relationship with Fr Chryssavgis and Fred Krueger in the US. I have today received this preview of the Orthodox Film ‘The Face of God’ which is to receive world release in September 2019. Please see the information below which includes the website for more information and video clips. We are asked to share to all, Orthodox and non-Orthodox friends, for this message concerns us all.
THE FACE OF GOD is a major new documentary film about God and nature, faith and climate change, and the experience of Orthodox communities around the world facing and experiencing changes in their lives now. Featuring interviews with His Eminence Archbishop Demetrius of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and with George E. Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou, and many others, the film covers the whole spectrum of responses in the Orthodox Church to the story of our times in the face of a changing climate.
This film is about beauty, ecology, theology, sanctity, our relationship to the natural world, love, asceticism, and always it is about the radiant living icon of the face of God in creation.
The Face of God film is produced by the Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration, a pan-Orthodox organization endorsed by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, under the spiritual direction of Fr. John Chryssavgis, Fr Chistopher Bender, Fred Kruger, and other sitting board members of the OFT. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America”All levels of church life must care for creation.” The film will showcase our most important Church voices, highest ranking hierarchs, scientists, politicians, lay leaders, theologians, and communities around the world, and it will gather the witness of the whole Church on the defining issue of our time. Filled with beautiful and truthful footage and captivating interviews, inspiring patristic and matristic wisdom, The Face of God will be a testimony to the world concerning our relationship to creation; it will be challenging, hopeful, helpful, and when released, it will be accompanied by an educational campaign.
This is a unique project in modern Orthodox history, and our times need just such a bold venture. We are making this film with love, prayer, personal sacrifice, and with integrity.

SUPPORT THE WORK OF THE FILM Here is how you can support our efforts right now:Please make a tax-deductible donation! Every dollar gets this film further into the world.TAX-DEDUCTABLE DONATION TO THE FACE OF GOD FILM

You may also: Visit The Face of God film website – http://faceofgodfilm.comFollow us on Instagram – the Film through your networks, parishes, friends, and family

CATECHETICAL HOMILY At the Opening of Holy and Great Lent (2019)

By God’s mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church
May the Grace and Peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you
Together with our Prayer, Blessing and Forgiveness

* * *

With the grace of God, the giver of all gifts, we have once again arrived at Holy and Great Lent, the arena of ascetical struggle, in order to purify ourselves with the Lord’s assistance through prayer, fasting and humility, as well as to prepare ourselves for a spiritual experience of the venerable Passion and the celebration of the splendid Resurrection of Christ the Savior.
In a world of manifold confusion, the ascetic experience of Orthodoxy constitutes an invaluable spiritual asset, an inexhaustible source of divine knowledge and human wisdom. The blessed phenomenon of ascesis, whose spirit pervades our entire way of life – for “asceticism is Christianity in its entirety” – is not the privilege of the few or chosen, but an “ecclesial event,” a communal good, a shared blessing and the common vocation for all faithful without exception. The ascetical struggles, of course, are not an end in themselves; the principle that “ascesis exists for the sake of ascesis” is not valid. The purpose of ascesis is the transcendence of one’s own will and the “mind of the flesh,” the transferal of the center of life from individual desire and the “right,” toward love that “does not seek its own,” in accordance with the scriptural passage: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of the other.” (1 Cor. 10.24)
Such is the spirit that prevails throughout the long historical journey of Orthodoxy. In the New Miterikon, we encounter an excellent description of this ethos to renounce “our own” in the name of love: “Some hermits from Scetis once approached Amma Sarah, who offered them a container with basic provisions. The elders set aside the good food and consumed the bad. The righteous Sarah said to them: ‘You are truly monks from Scetis’”[1] This sensitivity and sacrificial use of freedom is foreign to the spirit of our age, which identifies freedom with individual assertions and claims for rights. Contemporary “autonomous” man would never have consumed the bad food, but only the good, convinced that in this way he expresses – while authentically and responsibly employing – individual freedom.
This is where the supreme value of the Orthodox concept of human freedom lies. It is a freedom that does not demand but shares, does not insist but sacrifices. The Orthodox believer knows that autonomy and self-sufficiency do not liberate humanity from the shackles of the ego, of self-realization and self-justification. The freedom “for which Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5.1) mobilizes our creative capacity and is fulfills as rejection of self-enclosure, as unconditional love and communion of life.
The Orthodox ascetical ethos does not know division and dualism; it does not reject life, but rather transforms it. The dualistic vision and denial of the world is not a Christian concept. Genuine asceticism is luminous and charitable. It is a characteristic of Orthodox self-conscience that the period of fasting is permeated by the joy of the Cross and the Resurrection. Moreover, the ascetic struggle of Orthodox Christians – much like our spirituality and liturgical life in general – communicates the fragrance and radiance of the Resurrection. The Cross is found at the heart of Orthodox piety, but it is not the final point of reference in the life of the Church. Instead, the essence of Orthodox spiritual life is the ineffable joy of the Resurrection, toward which the Cross constitutes the way. Accordingly, during the period of Great Lent, the quintessence of experience for Orthodox Christians is always the yearning for the “common resurrection.”
Pray, then, precious brothers and sisters in the Lord, that we may be deemed worthy, with the grace and support from above, through the intercessions of the Theotokos, as first among the saints, and of all the saints, that we may run the race of Holy and Great Lent in a way that is fitting and joyous before Christ, joyfully exercising, in obedience to the rule of church tradition, the “common struggle” of fasting that extinguishes the passions, constantly praying, helping the suffering and needful, forgiving one another and “giving thanks for all things” (Thess. 5.18), in order that we might venerate with a devout heart the “Holy, Saving and Awesome Passion” as well as the life-giving Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory, power and thanksgiving to the endless ages. Amen.

Holy and Great Lent 2019
+ BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople
Fervent supplicant for all before God

To be read in churches on Cheesefare Sunday, March 10, 2019, immediately after the reading of the Holy Gospel.

[1] P.V. Paschos (ed.), New Miterikon (Athens: Akritas Publications, 1990), 31

Book Review: Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering: Ancient Voices in Modern Theology.

Dr Christina Nellist has written the first book on Eastern Orthodox theology on the subject of animal suffering and human soteriology and I am delighted to recommend it to you.

Currently the modern Eastern Orthodox Church is undergoing much public debate on the subject of the environment and how Orthodox teachings shed light on today’s environmental issues. As Christina points out, the huge subject of animal suffering is largely ignored in the debate, despite there being many biblical and patristic texts supporting the compassionate treatment of animals. Christina’s book expertly addresses this issue and fills this gap.

Dr Nellist is uniquely qualified to do this, as she is an Eastern Orthodox theologian who specialises in animal suffering and human soteriology and is a visiting Early Career Fellow in the Department of Theology, Religion & Philosophy at the University of Winchester. She is the founder of the charity Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals and has worked on stray dog control with the chief veterinary officers of Chile and the Seychelles.

The book has many similarities to Dr Deborah Jones’ book ‘The School of Compassion’, which addresses the issue of the treatment of animals in the Catholic tradition and I would recommend both books as providing considerable enlightenment on what the Bible and the patristic and canonical texts actually do say about our relationship with animals.

After providing a brief introduction to animal suffering in the first chapter, Dr Nellist goes on to explore the ancient voices of the old and new testaments and then those of the saints. After that, she presents her practical research which includes a Cyprus Case Study and interviews with modern-day leaders of the Orthodox Church, to understand how the Orthodox Church is perceived in relation to its engagement with the issue of animal suffering. The results are not good for the Orthodox Church.

A brief overview:

According to Christina, the patristic tradition is noted for its frequent references to ‘the Creation’ and ‘all things’ and it teaches that there is sin in the misuse of creation. Rather than holding the view that the Creation was made for man’s use, it teaches that God cares for his whole creation and in making humans in his image, expects them to do the same. She argues that dominion is understood as stewardship rather than domination. The creation is not man’s to use and abuse, but to care for and live in harmony with.

In Genesis, the perfect creation is described in Eden, where humans, non-humans and the whole garden live in peace and harmony. It is this prelapsarian age that we must strive to return to, not the world after the Fall and the time of Noah, where God had to give concessions to men with hardened hearts. We should be striving for the Peaceable Kingdom aspired to by the later prophets. It is notable that the diet God provides in Eden is a vegan one.

It is noted by St Irenaeus that only humans sinned while the rest of creation continued in their perfect state, submitting to the will of God, whilst man went astray. All creatures know God and praise Him in all they do. The saints are exemplars of how to aspire to live as Image of God in their holy lives which often included living with and rescuing animals. They condemned the cruelties to animals they saw around them, both for the soteriological effect it had on humans but also for the sake of the creatures themselves.

Cruelty to animals exists on a huge scale today and according to Aiden Hart, the designer of the icon on the front cover, it ‘not only causes physical suffering to the victims but also introduces a tragic dissonance to this cosmic hymn. Such behavior is therefore a sin not only against the animals, for it is also a failure of us humans to be conductors of the Eucharistic choir’. Aiden Hart’s icon on the front cover depicts ‘Christ Breaking the Bonds of Animal Suffering’. The full icon depicts Christ in the midst of Creation, with saints Irenaeus and Isaac standing at his side and is more fully explained in the book.

Dr Nellist is successfully getting animal welfare onto the agenda of the Orthodox Church. In her book she has demonstrated three things:

1. That there are gaps between Eastern Orthodox literature and academic debate on the subject of animal welfare, and also between the posited theory and the practice of the Eastern Orthodox Church at both senior and parish levels. This was revealed by her research, described in the book. 2. The development of an Eastern Orthodox theology for animals. 3. That animal abuse has soteriological implications for humanity.

One cannot do such a wonderful work justice in a short review such as this. However, I will summarize by saying that this is an excellent book with well reasoned arguments and should be adopted by the Eastern Orthodox Church as ‘the’ guide to reintroducing early Church teachings on care for the Creation into modern day teaching and practice. It is also highly relevant to Catholic and indeed all Christian communities who share a common history with the Eastern Orthodox Church. I thoroughly recommend this book.

Cambridge Scholars Publishing – ISBN 978-1-5275-1602-1

Barbara Gardner is editor of Catholic Concern for Animal’s journal The Ark.

FUEL TO THE FIRE: How Geoengineering Threatens to Entrench Fossil Fuels and Accelerate the Climate Crisis

This report is by the Center for International Environmental Law, c. 2019. it is well researched (465 reports/references) and highly technical in places and why we have only posted the Executive Summary and its Conclusions. Click on the first sentence for the full report.

On 2019-02-14 00:24, Vanya Walker-Leigh wrote:CIEL has issued a new report: 

Fuel to the Fire: How Geoengineering Threatens to Entrench Fossil Fuels and Accelerate the Climate Crisis (Feb 2019)


Fuel to the Fire: How Geoengineering Threatens to Entrench Fossil Fuels and Accelerate the Climate Crisis investigates the early, ongoing, and often surprising role of the fossil fuel industry in developing, patenting, and promoting key geoengineering technologies. It examines how the most heavily promoted strategies for carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation modification depend on the continued production and combustion of carbon-intensive fuels for their viability. It analyzes how the hypothetical promise of future geoengineering is already being used by major fossil fuel producers to justify the continued production and use of oil, gas, and coal for decades to come. It exposes the stark contrast between the emerging narrative that geoengineering is a morally necessary adjunct to dramatic climate action, and the commercial arguments of key proponents that geoengineering is simply a way of avoiding or reducing the need for true systemic change, even as converging science and technologies demonstrate that shift is both urgently needed and increasingly feasible. Finally, it highlights the growing incoherence of advocating for reliance on speculative and risky geoengineering technologies in the face of mounting evidence that addressing the climate crisis is less about technology than about political will.

Executive Summary

The present report investigates the early, ongoing, and often surprising role of the fossil fuel industry in developing, patenting, and promoting key geoengineering technologies. It examines how the most heavily promoted strategies for carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation modification depend on the continued production and combustion of carbon-intensive fuels for their viability. It analyzes how the hypothetical promise of future geoengineering is already being used by major fossil fuel producers to justify the continued production and use of oil, gas, and coal for decades to come. It exposes the stark contrast between the emerging narrative that geoengineering is a morally necessary adjunct to dramatic climate action, and the commercial arguments of key proponents that geoengineering is simply a way of avoiding or reducing the need for true systemic change, even as converging science and technologies demonstrate that shift is both urgently needed and increasingly feasible. Finally, it highlights the growing incoherence of advocating for reliance on speculative and risky geoengineering technologies in the face of mounting evidence that addressing the climate crisis is less about technology than about political will.

Key Findings and Messages

The urgency of the climate crisis is being used to promote geoengineering. • Models are increasingly including large-scale carbon dioxide removal to account for overshooting (or surpassing 1.5 degrees of warming). • Proponents are seeking increased funding and incentives for research and development of carbon dioxide removal technologies. • A growing set of actors are considering or pursuing research into solar radiation modification, including outdoor experiments.

Geoengineering relies heavily on carbon capture and storage. • Carbon capture and storage (CCS) are separately or jointly required for several forms of carbon dioxide removal. • Most large-scale CCS projects use captured carbon for enhanced oil recovery or enhanced coal bed methane. • Proponents of carbon capture and storage estimate that its use for EOR could spur consumption of 40% more coal and up to 923 million additional barrels of oil in the US alone by 2040.

Most direct air capture is only viable if it produces oil or liquid fuels. • Most current or anticipated commercial applications of direct air capture are for the production of liquid (transport) fuels or enhanced oil recovery, both of which produce significant CO2 emissions. • Leading proponents of direct air capture explicitly market the process as a way to preserve existing energy and transportation systems. • Direct air capture requires large energy inputs, resulting in either associated emissions or the diversion of renewable resources that would otherwise displace fossil fuels.

Carbon mineralization could promote wide dispersal of hazardous combustion wastes. • Achieving large CO2 reductions from mineralization would demand new mining at an unprecedented and infeasible scale. • Coal combustion waste and other industrial wastes have been proposed as alternate feedstocks for mineralization. • The atmospheric impact of using coal combustion waste would be minimal, and the process would promote coal by monetizing the industry’s largest hazardous waste stream.

Reliance on bioenergy with CCS could raise emissions, threaten food security, and justify business as usual. • Carbon dioxide removal often relies heavily on bioenergy with CCS (BECCS), despite warnings that its potential is overstated. • BECCS presents the same use and storage problems as fossil CCS and direct air capture. • Emissions due to land clearance for BECCS could exceed any reduction in atmospheric CO2. • Deploying BECCS at the scale suggested in many models would threaten food security and access to land for millions of people. • Major oil companies rely on massive deployment of BECCS and carbon dioxide removal to justify continued heavy use of oil and gas for the next century.

Solar radiation modification is a dangerous distraction—and is simply dangerous. • Techniques to modify earth’s albedo were among the earliest forms of weather modification and geoengineering research. • Fossil fuel companies have researched environmental modification for decades as a potential profit stream. • Global sulfur dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion show solar radiation modification can affect the climate, with profound risks. • Solar radiation modification could cause acid rain and ozone depletion, disrupt storm and rainfall patterns across large regions, and reduce the growth of crops and CO2-absorbing plants. • The most widely touted solar radiation modification technologies would use sulfate aerosols, which are clearly linked to ozone depletion and acid rain.

Fossil fuel interests have raised the profile of solar radiation modification. • Fossil fuel interests played a significant but largely unrecognized role in shaping the research and public debates on solar radiation modification. • Despite its risks, solar radiation modification has been promoted as a means to delay or minimize other forms of climate action and allow business-as-usual reliance on fossil fuels. • Despite international moratoria, open-air solar radiation modification experiments are being actively explored. • Proponents of solar radiation modification recognize that such tests could open the door to wider-scale deployment of geoengineering.

Geoengineering is creating new tools for climate denial—and they are being used. • Climate denialists have long advocated geoengineering as an excuse for climate inaction. • Recent years have seen a resurgence in geoengineering interest among opponents of climate action. • Contrary to claims by geoengineering proponents, the use of geoengineering by climate denialists is neither uncommon nor coincidental.

We must and can stay below 1.5°C without relying on geoengineering. • Clear and achievable pathways exist for keeping the world below 1.5°C. • All pathways that avoid overshooting 1.5°C of warming require an early, rapid phase-out of fossil fuels. • This transition is ambitious, but achievable by accelerating the deployment of existing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. • Low-risk, win-win approaches exist to reduce CO2 emissions from the land and natural resource sectors while advancing other sustainable development goals. • Geoengineering deployments pose a high risk of delaying the necessary transition, while creating new threats that compound and exacerbate climate impacts


Humanity has a limited and rapidly closing window to avoid truly catastrophic climate change. To keep warming below 1.5 degrees, the world must reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by around 2050. By entrenching fossil fuel interests and promoting continued reliance on fossil infrastructure, geoengineering distracts from more viable solutions and threatens to exacerbate the climate crisis, while exposing large parts of the world to new and significant risks. The managed decline of fossil fuels is both a necessary and achievable solution to the climate crisis.

Climate policy should: •

Focus at the national and global level on the rapid, managed decline of fossil fuels and the accelerated transition to a new energy economy in a timeframe that will keep the world below 1.5 degrees of warming. • Ensure that all public infrastructure investments align with the Paris Agreement and the 1.5-degree goal. • Avoid policies that promote or subsidize the construction of new fossil infrastructure or extend the economic life of existing fossil infrastructure, including through subsidies for carbon capture and storage, direct air capture, or BECCS. • Prohibit open-air experiments of solar radiation modification techniques.

Part 8:  Conclusions

After a century of early warnings and decades of relative inaction, the global community now faces an ultimatum: Act immediately to reduce global CO2 emissions 45% by 2030 and to net zero by around 2050, or commit humanity and the earth to catastrophic levels of climate change. The window of opportunity is narrow and closing rapidly. Making the necessary reductions will demand an immediate and dramatic transition of our economy away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner, safer forms of energy. Faced with the stark realities of climate change and a continued lack of ambition from major governments, a growing number of proponents argue that assuming the world can make the needed changes is naïve and dangerous, and that, accordingly, humanity must consider other options. This report suggests a different conclusion: that the only feasible way to keep the world below 1.5 degrees is to rapidly transform our fossil economy.

Drawing on the history, present landscape, and future prospects for geoengineering, this analysis demonstrates the numerous and dangerous ways in which geoengineering threatens to further entrench the fossil infrastructure that drives climate change and to commit present and future generations to the compounded risks of both climate change and large-scale geoengineering.

Carbon Dioxide Removal is the Carbon (Fossil Fuel) Industry in another form to a profound degree, the viability of strategies for carbon dioxide removal depends on the widespread, economical deployment of carbon capture and storage—and thus on the continued production of burnable fuels through enhanced oil recovery, enhanced coal bed methane, or fossil fuel substitutes produced from biofuels or direct air capture. This dependence on and promotion of CCS would extend the lifetimes of existing coal and gas infrastructure and promote the construction of new fossil infrastructure, which would continue producing and burning fossil fuels for decades to come.

Direct air capture requires enormous energy inputs, consuming renewable energy that could otherwise be used to displace fossil-fueled power. Moreover, DAC is intended for use in the further production of liquid fuels or, like CCS, in enhanced oil recovery, creating powerful incentives to slow the transition away from internal combustion engines. BECCS poses enormous risks to human rights, is fundamentally reliant on CCS, and may not be feasible or even emissions-negative at scale. Meanwhile, enhanced weathering will only be viable—if at all—if it benefits coal-burning utilities and similar industries seeking to dispose of massive, toxic stockpiles of coal combustion waste and industrial slag. Moreover, even as CDR technologies promote new oil and gas production, the prospect of future negative emissions enables major oil, gas, and coal producers to project the continued use of their products for decades to come, discouraging needed investments in cleaner, more viable alternatives.

Solar Radiation Management is a Dangerous Distraction—and Simply Dangerous.

Since at least the 1960s, human interference with the earth’s radiation balance has been seen as a potential driver of future profits for fossil fuel producers and users. Since the beginning of the modern climate debate, these same companies have looked to geoengineering as a promising alternative to emissions reductions. For at least three decades, the fossil fuel industry has argued that the prospect of solar radiation management and other forms of geoengineering justifies delaying or minimizing other actions to address climate change. That perspective has been repeatedly echoed by other geoengineering proponents as well, who envision a future in which the world continues burning fossil fuels and actively controls the earth’s radiation balance for decades or centuries to mask the resulting climate impacts. Even the least speculative of these technologies pose profound and widely recognized risks to the climate, agriculture, and the environment—the consideration of which is routinely discounted or deferred by many advocates of SRM. Whether open-air experiments could reduce the risks associated with particular technologies is uncertain. That such testing would provide a rationale for wider deployment of the technologies involved is likely. That geoengineering is more likely to compound the climate crisis than to alleviate it is clear.

Geoengineering Does Not Solve the Problem at the Heart of the Climate Crisis: Reliance on Fossil Fuels.

The evidence outlined in this report points to a simple but essential truth: Almost all geoengineering proposals serve to entrench and benefit fossil fuel interests rather than solve the climate crisis. By promoting the development of new fossil fuels and costly fossil infrastructure, by diverting resources away from proven mitigation strategies to costly boondoggles, and by sustaining the myth that meaningful climate action can be safely delayed or narrowly constrained, geoengineering threatens to undermine real solutions at the time when they are most urgently needed. As this report demonstrates, the distraction of geoengineering is not simply dangerous; it is unnecessary. While most proposed approaches to CDR and SRM remain speculative, the technologies we need to reduce emissions, transform our economy, and confront the climate crisis are available, proven, and scalable.

Confronting the challenge of climate change is not a matter of future technology, but present political will and economic investment. Elected officials, bureaucrats, activists, and the public are being forced to reckon with geoengineering, in part because of the severity of the crisis and in part because fossil fuel interests have helped usher geoengineering into the public debate. The global community now has to decide whether it will take the hard steps to rapidly and equitably transition its economies away from fossil fuels and into more sustainable systems, or whether it will bet on unproven, questionably effective, and dangerous technologies that serve the interests of the industry at the root of the climate crisis.

Orthodox blessing service for animals: When Faith meets Fur

We recently published a post on blessings for animals in the Orthodox Church in Russia. This article by Fr Alex Chetsas, concerns blessings for animals in the Orthodox Church in American. Of particular interest is how these blessings have not only blessed the people of this particular parish but also provided a bridge between the Church, other Christians and groups not normally associated with Christianity. There is a wealth of opportunity for ministry here. My book is written to offer information to the Church and ask for its engagement in animal suffering related issues but also for Animal Advocates to facilitate their understanding that Christian teachings on this theme can be complementary to their own views. I shall repost contemporary prayers for animals, shelters and those who work in them.


I’ll never forget the look on her face: “Father, what’s this about blessing pets this weekend? Will they be in the church?” “No, not this time,” I replied with my best deadpan. “I don’t think we have enough pews.” My parishioner and I both smiled, she a bit nervously, and on we moved toward our first “St. Modestos Blessing of the Animals Event” at my little Florida parish. It turned out to be the start of something wonderful in our community, and I’ve kept the concept close to my heart-and in my ministry “playbook”-ever since. The idea for the event came simply enough. A few years ago a clergy friend of mine gave me an animal blessing prayer from St. Modestas, Archbishop of Jerusalem (feast day Dec. 16). He mentioned that he’d been blessing pets during Epiphany house blessings. This sounded smart: people love their pets, and this would be a low-key, personal way to connect with parishioners while visiting homes. At the same time, 1 was on the lookout for a Christmas outreach event, something a little outside the norm that would invite people to take another look at our parish. I’d been hearing for years about Catholic churches blessing animals. After doing a little research, I learned that this was also a long-standing Orthodox practice, connected to more than a few saints of our Orthodox faith. The idea developed into a parish-wide concept, and it seemed a great opportunity to engage in this ancient Christian tradition in a broad, modern setting. The event is held outside the church, so there is no confusion about liturgical boundaries or respect for the church building itself. I started testing the waters with parishioners whom I knew had pets; the response was overall very positive. We picked a December date that was close to St. Modestos’s feast but not too close to Christmas-near enough to ride the positive, cheerful coattails of the season, but not so dose as to overwhelm our busy parishioners. Into the bulletin, Web site and local papers the announcement went. We enlisted our JOY group to sponsor the event. The children would enjoy a lunch beforehand, learn about St. Modestos and the respect he had for all that God made, and make sure all of the pets and people were well-satisfied with plenty of tasty treats. My wife, Brandy, animal-lover and PR machine that she is, got on the phone with everyone from the governor’s office to the city animal shelter, to neighboring churches and synagogues, to every free online and traditional newspaper in fifty miles, spreading the word with a sense of hospitality, friendship and community outreach. I talked to our parishioners not only about St. Modestos but also about the real meaning of Christmas, the coming of the Lord, the Light that shines in the darkness, the Healer of all creation. And I challenged them to recall the simplicity of that unforgettable night so long ago-the brilliant-star beaming, over the cave, which nature itself offered up to the Lord for shelter. I described how the ox and the donkey (Isaiah 1:3) looked upon their newborn Master in the chilly darkness, warming Him with their breath. We talked about our unique relationship with God and what it means to be made in His image and likeness. But I also reminded them that everything God made is good and how all of Creation rejoices at His coming. That He comes to make everything new. This truly good news is cause for celebration, worthy of thanksgiving and a blessing. On the big day, two major outreach aspects of the event fell nicely into place. First, our new friends from the county animal shelter joined us as promised. They brought not only irresistible puppies and kittens to adopt, but also handmade Christmas ornaments for sale. So they offered great information and education while raising some needed funds for their outstanding, ongoing work. Second, as we hoped, members of the general public joined us as well. This gave our parish an opportunity to be a witness of our faith in a latent, non-threatening manner. The visitors observed glimpses of our theological and liturgical life, and we got a chance to welcome them, engage them and hopefully show them the hospitality of Abraham.

And then there were the blessings themselves. A parish council member counted, and told me later that 55 “clients” had been blessed. Among them were 41 dogs, 6 cats, 2 birds, 2 rabbits, a turtle, a goat-yes, a goat-and 2 stuffed animals (why not?). The dogs ranged from the tiniest Chihuahua to the greatest Dane I’d ever seen. I had the drool on my hands, shoes and service book to prove it. This was hands-on ministry. It made me feel like building an ark. Each encounter represented a fantastic moment of bonding with parishioners and people I’d never met before. Getting down at eye level with their pets and blessing them somehow connected us. This bond was inexplicable but real. Some pets had ailments, and I heard about these, too, from our parishioners and new friends. They knew that what was important to them was important to me-and most importantly, to our Church.

A young lady who was with us from the county shelter even pulled me aside for twenty minutes about halfway through the blessing. She told me she had a friend who was depressed and thinking about hurting herself. This young lady was worried and deeply nervous about what might happen to her friend. We talked, exchanged numbers and followed up on her concerns. God put us together on this day-somehow-and some good came of this unlikely encounter. It’s amazing what happens when we put ourselves out there.

As for my little JOY helpers, it was really inspiring and satisfying to see our children hard at work. Fresh from their fun session about St. Modestos they were ready for action. They served the adults hot cocoa and cookies. They constantly ran to and from the parish hall refilling water bowls, gathering more doggy treats and looking for makeshift toys for anxious critters to play with. They were in charge of a unique ministry: they were caring for something; they were having fun at Church; they were taking good care of what God made. Their excitement was contagious.

At the end of the afternoon, as we were cleaning up, there was an unexpected and final blessing of the day. In the eleventh hour, an SUV roared up and screeched to a halt in front of the church. A couple I’d never met emerged, explaining that their beloved Golden Retriever was dying of cancer. He’d had several surgeries, but things weren’t looking good. They told me that they weren’t members of our community, but they had read about the event in the paper and really wanted me to bless their dog. Maybe it would help. Maybe it would put them at ease. They felt they had to do something. We tried to let them know that even though they weren’t “members” of our community, they now belonged to our parish family. After they’d left, more than a few of us were moved. We had all made new friends, and hopefully we had offered something to one another through this unique circumstance.

I share these experiences because they’ve been instructional and revealing to me. I saw my parishioners in a new light, and I was gifted with a host of opportunities to develop new relationships. I saw our children get excited about a hands-on ministry and watched some of my shyest parishioners evangelize without even knowing it. And then there was the greatest and most awesome blessing of the whole day-the holy water of the Agiasmos service enveloping us, refreshing us, renewing us and reminding us that what God made is good. This was my planned “big message of the day,” but I never really had to say the words. No sermon-to the relief of all-was necessary. For lack of a better expression, it was “acted out” by God’s people. Since that inaugural event in Florida five years ago, I’ve seen this ministry grow and mature. At my current parish in Weston, MA, we now invite a host of animal “helping” agencies, offer microchip clinics and even feature a “doggie buffet,” compliments of a local pet supplier. OCF college students, who are part of a mentoring program within our parish run the event They engage our HOPE and JOY families for support.

To grow the community outreach aspect, we’ve also begun to invite law enforcement: Cappy and Mighty Mouse, two equine members of the Middlesex Sheriff’s Mounted Unit, are now regular participants and major attractions. Mouse, a miniature horse, is a big draw. And this is not only a thrill for our parish children, but it also tightens the vital, indispensable bonds between our parish and the general community. We’ve even brought on a parishioner who is a professional photographer to capture that perfect
Christmas shot of each pet. He accepts a small offering for each print and gives all proceeds to his local animal shelter.

What could you expect if you started a similar ministry in your parish? At the end of a pet blessing day, your priest may end up with fur on his robes. Your parish council members may shake their fist as they “patrol” the church lawn for early Christmas gifts. Some of your fellow parishioners may decide that “Fr. John has finally gone off the deep end,” and your parking lot will need a serious hose down. But that’s okay. It’s worth it. What God made is good, and it’s our duty to proclaim this truth-and act on it with creativity, conviction and great love.

Going Deeper
St. Modestos of Jerusalem (Dec. 16)
St. Modestos was born in 292 in Palestine. When he was less than a year old, his parents were put to death for practicing Christianity, and he was brought into the imperial household and raised as a pagan. As a teenager, though, an awakening occurred. He learned of his parents’ martyrdom, and that he had actually been baptized before their execution. A Christian
goldsmith began to teach and mentor him, but the man’s jealous sons eventually sold St. Modestos into slavery in Egypt. He remained there seven years before gaining his freedom (he converted his master’s family to Christianity) and returned to Jerusalem. After a pilgrimage to Mr. Sinai, he made his way to a monastery,where he was ordained a priest. He quickly
became known for his devotion to the faith, holiness and loving nature. After years of dedicated service, he was selected as Patriarch of Jerusalem. It was during these latter years of his life that his long-time devotio to God’s creation intensified and blossomed. He had a particular affection for animals-he saw animals as sublime and mysterious gifts from God. Often he
would bless livestock, praying for their health and productivity and giving thanks for all Creation.

St. Seraphim of Sarov (Jan. 2): Shared his bread with birds and wild animals; was often visited by a bear that obeyed his words
St. Blaise/Vlassios of Sebaste (Feb. 11):
Blessed and healed sick animals by laying his hands on them
St. Mark the Ascetic (Mar. 5): Healed a hyena cub and taught it to leave the sheep of the poor in peace
St. Mary of Egypt (April 1 and 5th Sunday of Lent): After her death, a lion guarded her body in the desert and helped St. Zosimas bury her
St. Elijah(July 20): Nourished by ravens,which brought him bread and meat in the morning and evening

“BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS” PRAYER o Lord Jesus Christ our God, compassionate and all-good, Who fashioned in wisdom both the invisible and the visible creation; Who pour your mercies upon everything that has been made by You; Who, in Your loving providence, provide for all Your creatures, from the first to the last; hear my prayer and drive away and banish every injury and illness from all these cattle (or pets, sheep, horses or other animals), which are being used for the livelihood of your servants), [name(s)]. Yes,Lord, look down from Your holy dwelling place and bless all these animals, as you blessed the flocks of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of all Your faithful servants. Multiply them, grant them health, strength and productivity; render them robust and successful in the various services which they render so that their owners, having derived abundant benefits from them, may engage in all good works which are pleasing to You, and may glorify on earth Your Holy Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Why we should give moral consideration to individuals rather than species

This article from, supports Natalia Doran’s paper given at our session on Animal Suffering at the recent IOTA conference in Romania entitled: ‘Dominion, Stewardship, Priesthood – The theological models of how humans relate to animals.’

It is often believed that species should be considered and preserved because they have some sort of value in themselves, a value unrelated to what’s in the best interests of the individuals who are members of the species. It may be reasoned that species preservation should be supported because defending species means defending all the members of the species. But if we were to give moral consideration to the interests of animals, then we would reject the rights of species as a whole and give respect only to individual sentient beings.

A species is an abstract entity that cannot have experiences and therefore cannot be wronged in the way that sentient individuals can. Only individual beings can have positive and negative experiences, and therefore they are the ones we should respect, as explained in the argument from relevance. Attempting to preserve a species wouldn’t be bad if doing so didn’t harm anyone. A problem arises only when respect for a species entails disrespecting sentient individuals. This problem can be observed in common ecological interventions that aim to preserve a species with a particular set of traits at the expense of sentient individuals who do not exhibit the desired traits.

For example, the white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) is considered a threatened species in Southern Europe. Their interbreeding with ruddy ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis), a common species of duck that is not native to Europe, results in hybrid ducks. The white-headed trait has become less prevalent in the new hybrid duck. Ecological interventions have been undertaken to preserve white-headed ducks by killing ruddy and hybrid ducks.

The prevalence of the ruddy duck poses no threat to ecosystems because the ecological function of both ruddy and white-headed ducks is identical. The aim of this measure has been to promote biodiversity itself regardless of the negative impact the intervention has on the lives of the sentient individuals who are affected by it. It may seem at first that this measure actually reduces biodiversity by killing all the ruddy ducks in the region, but the aim is to preserve the existence in the world of endangered white-headed ducks. Ruddy ducks are plentiful elsewhere, particularly in their native habitats in North and South America.

Another example of killing one species in a particular area in order to preserve a threatened species is that of grey squirrels who are killed in the UK in order to conserve red squirrels. Due to their greater adaptability and higher survival rates, the grey squirrels (who were introduced by humans there) may have contributed to the disappearance of the less hardy red squirrels in some areas. If what we care about is the wellbeing of sentient individuals, and because sentient beings are harmed by being killed, then killing sentient individuals in order to increase the number of members of a different species is not acceptable. A scenario in which there are few or no white-headed ducks or red squirrels cannot be said to be morally worse than a scenario in which they are just as common as ruddy ducks and grey squirrels. A species does not have a wellbeing, so preserving a species at the expense of sentient individuals belonging to another species is not a moral choice according to a non-speciesist view.

Speciesist views

Other defenses of species preservation include that if species disappear then empirical knowledge will be lost, that future generations will not be able to have contact with these species, and that the beauty of biodiversity will no longer be available to be experienced. These are all weak defenses. If biodiversity is intrinsically valuable, then it must be valuable independently of its benefits to humans or other beings, and these are all reasons that relate to human benefits of species preservation. That makes these defenses anthropocentric.

At first, there may seem to be nothing wrong with these reasons. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with appreciating the beauty of nature, in wanting to expand the scientific knowledge that biodiversity provides us with, and in wanting to preserve these things for future human generations. That is, unless doing so is harmful to nonhuman animals; then it is not acceptable. If we accept an anthropocentric view we will likely consider it acceptable to preserve biodiversity at any cost to nonhuman animals, believing that human interests (aesthetic, scientific, cultural, etc.) should take precedence over nonhuman animal interests. This is a speciesist view and should be rejected since there are no sound reasons to justify this discrimination against nonhuman animals.

Another problem with this view is the moral arbitrariness of decisions to preserve certain species. A common assumption is that the value of a species is inversely proportional to its population size, which would mean that members of endangered or rare species should have special consideration relative to members of those species with greater population sizes. But the sympathies of a significant portion of the public, including many environmentalists, go in a different direction. In practice it is often assumed that we should try to preserve the existence of some species while disregarding others, even if they are endangered. Defenders of the conservation of (some) species often value different species differently. Often some species are considered more valuable than others simply because humans like them more, and not because they exhibit some morally relevant characteristic. The reasons humans prefer some species over others are diverse: their members are big (e.g. elephants), or beautiful (e.g. giraffes), or are very similar to humans (e.g. chimpanzees). Accordingly, the preservation of animals that do not interest humans much, such as some small invertebrates like insects and spiders, are not seriously taken into account. Exceptions are sometimes made for invertebrates that are particularly appealing to humans, such as butterflies.

However, size, beauty, and similarity to humans are equally irrelevant in moral terms. All of these beings are sentient and therefore can be affected by what happens to them in morally significant ways: they can be harmed or benefited, regardless of their physical appearance or similarity to human beings. If there are any sound reasons to preserve species they will have to be reasons related to the wellbeing of individuals.

Species are not individuals

Some arguments have been made for respect for species on different grounds. Some theorists have argued that species are not mere aggregates of individuals but, rather, are life processes in themselves.1 According to this argument, species must be preserved, just like all other living things or processes, independently of the interests of their members. There are strong reasons to dispute this position. One is that it is very questionable to view species as a life process. In order for an entity to be alive it needs to exemplify, at least in principle, some biological phenomena such as growth, reproduction, response to stimuli, etc.; it needs to perform some vital functions. Individual organisms have the capacity to carry out such functions. However, species, as a whole, do not. So, unless we are thinking in purely metaphorical terms, species cannot be claimed to be life processes. Most importantly, even if it were true that species were life processes, we still must question the moral relevance of simply being alive as a criterion.

Ecocentrists’ defense of species conservation

According to the environmentalist view called ecocentrism, the valuable elements of nature reside in ecosystems as wholes. We may think this means that proponents of ecocentrism believe species should be respected because they consider species to be holistic entities with intrinsic value. However, the leading figures of ecocentrism endorse a different position.2 They claim that species must be conserved because they have an indirect value for the preservation of that which is really valuable in their opinion, that is, ecosystems. This means that for ecocentrists, the value of a species will be relative to how they contribute to the stability of ecosystems, and the conservation of any individual must be favored or not in accordance with two different factors: population density and ecological function. Many problems arise from this position because it implies that species that perform certain ecological functions in the ecosystem should be given moral precedence over those that do not. But caring about animal wellbeing means we should care about those individuals who can have positive and negative experiences (sentient individuals), not just animals who serve their environment in a particular way. The ecocentrist view may not only imply that a particular individual should not be “conserved”, but also that their elimination is desirable if allowing this individual to live negatively affects the aims that ecocentrists want to further. This explains why ecocentrists can defend the killing of animals for the sake of re-creating particular ecosystems.

Accepting the ecocentrist view would lead us to support scenarios in which sentient individuals are killed in order to preserve a particular endangered nonsentient species (such as a plant species) or other features of an ecosystem.3

Certain typical ecological interventions that occur in the wild reflect ecocentric views. Some interventions aim to bring the population levels of certain species down by killing the animals that don’t “fit in” to the ecosystem,4 or by introducing other animals that reduce prey populations through predation and other related harms.5 Despite the suffering and death of sentient individuals associated with these interventions, the interventions are typically regarded by ecocentrists as something good, because they promote the stability of the current ecosystem, or of a desired type of ecosystem. This type of intervention should be rejected for the following reasons:

(a) sentient individuals have morally relevant interests in being alive and in not being harmed;

(b) the interests in being alive and in not being harmed do not vary according to the population density or ecological function of a species;

(c) the same position would imply that the eradication of human species for the sake of Baobab Trees would be acceptable. After all, the human species is overpopulated and has no beneficial ecological function, but is actually harmful to the aims environmentalists intend to further.

It can be assumed that most people would be appalled by the last point. This shows that the ecocentrist view that respect should be granted to species based on their ecological function and impact is dubious. In addition, it shows why such views are ultimately subordinated to anthropocentrism (humans and often their preferred domesticated animals are somehow exempted from the requirement to be ecologically useful) and why ecocentrists have a biased consideration not only of individuals, but also of the species they intend to preserve.

Further readings

Callicott, J. B. (1993) “On the intrinsic value of nonhuman species”, in Armstrong, S. & Botzler, R. (eds.) Environmental ethics: Divergence and convergence, New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 66-70.

Czech, B.; Devers, P. K. & Krausman, P. R. (2001) “The relationship of gender to species conservation attitudes”, Wildlife Society Bulletin, 29, pp. 187-194.

Eckersley, R. (1992) Environmentalism and political theory: Toward an ecocentric approach, Albany: State University of New York.

Gunnthorsdottir, A. (2001) “Physical attractiveness of an animal species as a decision factor for its preservation”, Anthrozoös, 14, pp. 204-215.

Kellert, S. R. (1985) “Social and perceptual factors in endangered species management”, Journal of Wildlife Management, 49, pp. 528-536.

Maftei, M. (2014) “What anti-speciesism isn’t”,, Jun. 26 [accessed on 1 July 2014].

Rolston, H., III (1986) Philosophy gone wild: Essays in environmental ethics, Buffalo: Prometheus.

Rolston, H., III (1987) Environmental ethics: Duties to and values in the natural world, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Rolston, H., III (1999) “Respect for life: Counting what Singer finds of no account”, in Jamieson, D. (ed.) Singer and his critics, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 247-268.

Rossow, L. M. (1981) “Why do species matter?”, Environmental Ethics, 3, pp. 101-102.

Vinding, M. (2014) A Copernican revolution in ethics, Los Gatos: Smashwords [pp. 25-26, accessed on 1 July 2014].

Warren, M. A. (2000) Moral status: Obligations to persons and other livings things, Oxford: Oxford University Press.


1 Johnson, L. E. (1995) “Species: On their nature and moral standing”, Journal of Natural History, 29, pp. 843-849.

2 Callicott, J. B. (1980) “Animal liberation: A triangular affair”, Environmental Ethics, 2, pp. 311-338.

3 Some supporters of these position may be found in Johnson, L. (1991) A morally deep world: An essay on moral significance and environmental ethics, New York: Cambridge University Press; Rolston, H., III (1985) “Duties to endangered species”, BioScience, 35, pp. 718-726.

4 Shelton, J.-A. (2004) “Killing animals that don’t fit in: Moral dimensions of habitat restoration”, Between the Species, 13 (4) [accessed on 3 March 2013].

5 Horta, O. (2010) “The ethics of the ecology of fear against the nonspeciesist paradigm: A shift in the aims of intervention in nature”, Between the Species, 13 (10), pp. 163-187 [accessed on 13 March 2013].

Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

This article is from the Guardian newspaper’s Environment editor Damian Carrington @dpcarrington.

Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

Scientist Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years to find 98% of ground insects had vanished.

El Yunque national forest in Sierra de Luquillo, Puerto Rico
 El Yunque national forest in Sierra de Luquillo, Puerto Rico. Photograph: Stuart Westmorland/Corbis/Getty Images

“We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.”

His return to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years was to reveal an appalling discovery. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. On the ground, 98% had gone. Up in the leafy canopy, 80% had vanished. The most likely culprit by far is global warming.

“It was just astonishing,” Lister said. “Before, both the sticky ground plates and canopy plates would be covered with insects. You’d be there for hours picking them off the plates at night. But now the plates would come down after 12 hours in the tropical forest with a couple of lonely insects trapped or none at all.”

“It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest,” he said. “We began to realise this is terrible – a very, very disturbing result.”

The El Yunque national forest
 The El Yunque national forest. Photograph: Alisha Bube/Getty Images

Earth’s bugs outweigh humans 17 times over and are such a fundamental foundation of the food chain that scientists say a crash in insect numbers risks “ecological Armageddon”. When Lister’s study was published in October, one expert called the findings “hyper-alarming”.

Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds

 Read more

The Puerto Rico work is one of just a handful of studies assessing this vital issue, but those that do exist are deeply worrying. Flying insect numbers in Germany’s natural reserves have plunged 75% in just 25 years. The virtual disappearance of birds in an Australian eucalyptus forest was blamed on a lack of insects caused by drought and heat. Lister and his colleague Andrés García also found that insect numbers in a dry forest in Mexico had fallen 80% since the 1980s.

“We are essentially destroying the very life support systems that allow us to sustain our existence on the planet, along with all the other life on the planet,” Lister said. “It is just horrifying to watch us decimate the natural world like this.”

It was not insects that drew Lister to the Luquillo rainforest for the first time in the mid-1970s. “I was interested in competition among the anoles lizards,” he said. “They’re the most diverse group of vertebrates in the world and even by that time had become a paradigm for ecology and evolutionary studies.”

La Mina river cascades over rocks in El Yunque national forest
 La Mina river in El Yunque national forest. Photograph: Raul Touzon/NG/Getty Images

The forest immediately captivated Lister, a lecturer at Rensselaer Polytechnic University in the US. “It was and still is the most beautiful forest I have ever been in. It’s almost enchanted. There’s the lush verdant forest and cascading waterfalls, and along the roadsides there are carpets of multicoloured flowers. It’s a phantasmagoric landscape.”

It was important to measure insect numbers, as these are the lizards’ main food, but at the time he thought nothing more of it. Returning to the national park decades later, however, the difference was startling.

“One of the things I noticed in the forest was a lack of butterflies,” he said. “They used to be all along the roadside, especially after the rain stopped, hundreds upon hundreds of them. But we couldn’t see one butterfly.”

Since Lister’s first visits to Luquillo, other scientists had predicted that tropical insects, having evolved in a very stable climate, would be much more sensitive to climate warming. “If you go a little bit past the thermal optimum for tropical insects, their fitness just plummets,” he said.

As the data came in, the predictions were confirmed in startling fashion. “The number of hot spells, temperatures above 29C, have increased tremendously,” he said. “It went from zero in the 1970s up to something like 44% of the days.” Factors important elsewhere in the world, such as destruction of habitat and pesticide use, could not explain the plummeting insect populations in Luquillo, which has long been a protected area.

Data on other animals that feed on bugs backed up the findings. “The frogs and birds had also declined simultaneously by about 50% to 65%,” Lister said. The population of one dazzling green bird that eats almost nothing but insects, the Puerto Rican tody, dropped by 90%.

A Puerto Rican tody
 A Puerto Rican tody. Photograph: W arissen/Getty Images

Lister calls these impacts a “bottom-up trophic cascade”, in which the knock-on effects of the insect collapse surge up through the food chain.

“I don’t think most people have a systems view of the natural world,” he said. “But it’s all connected and when the invertebrates are declining the entire food web is going to suffer and degrade. It is a system-wide effect.”

To understand the global scale of an insect collapse that has so far only been glimpsed, Lister says, there is an urgent need for much more research in many more habitats. “More data, that is my mantra,” he said.

The problem is that there were very few studies of insect numbers in past decades to serve as a baseline, but Lister is undeterred: “There’s no time like the present to start asking what’s going on.”




Metropolitan of Diokleia

What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humankind, for the birds, for the animals, for the demons, for all that exists.

                                                                                    St Isaac the Syrian (7th century)

A place for animals in our worship?

As I sit writing at my table, I have before me a Russian icon of the martyrs St Florus and St Laurus. At the top of the icon is the Archangel Michael, and on either side of him the two saints. Then below them there is a concourse of horses, old and young: some have riders, others are riderless but with saddle and bridle, and others are running freely. I am not sure what is the connection between horses and these two stonemasons from Constantinople who suffered martyrdom in the early 4th century. But there the horses are, prominently depicted in the icon, and their presence gives me continuing pleasure.

            Beside my bed I have another icon that shows the leading Russian saint of the 19th century, Seraphim of Sarov. He is seated on a log outside his wooden cabin in the forest, with his prayer-rope in one of his hands, and with the other hand he is offering a piece of bread to a huge brown bear. Great was the surprise and alarm of visitors to the saint’s hermitage when they came upon him in the company of his four-footed friend Misha.

            Now, for members of the Orthodox Church an icon is not to be regarded in isolation, simply as a picture on a religious subject, a decorative item designed to give aesthetic pleasure. Much more significant is the fact that an icon exists within a distinct and specific context. It is part of an act of prayer and worship, and divorced from that context of prayer and worship it ceases to be authentically an icon. The art of the icon is par excellence a liturgical art.[1] If, then, Orthodox icons depict not only humans but animals, does this not imply that the animals have an accepted place in our liturgical celebration and our dialogue with God? We do not forget that, when Jesus withdrew to pray for forty days in the wilderness, he had the animals as his companions: ‘He was with the wild beasts’ (Mark 1:13).

            What the icon shows us – that the animals share in our prayer and worship – is confirmed by the prayer books used in the Orthodox Church.[2] It is true that, when we look at the main act of worship, the Service of the Eucharist, we are at first sight disappointed; for in its two chief forms – the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and that of St Basil the Great – there are no direct references to the animal creation. Yet, when we pray at the beginning of the Liturgy ‘for the peace of the whole world’, this surely includes animals. As one commentator puts it, ‘We pray for the peace of the universe, not only for mankind, but for every creature, for animals and plants, for the stars and all of nature.’[3]

            Turning, however, to the daily office, we find not only implicit but explicit allusions to the animals. A notable example comes at the beginning of Vespers. On the Orthodox understanding of time, as in Judaism, the new day commences not at midnight or at dawn but at sunset; and so Vespers is the opening service in the twenty-four hour cycle of prayer. How, then, do we begin the new day? Throughout the year, except in the week after Easter Sunday, Vespers always starts in the same way: with the reading or singing of Psalm 103 (104). This is a hymn of praise to the Creator for all the wonders of his creation; and in this cosmic doxology we have much to say about the animals:

‘You make springs gush forth in the valleys they flow between the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. Beside them the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.’

The psalm continues by speaking of cattle, storks, wild goats, badgers and young lions, and it concludes this catalogue of living creatures with a reference to Leviathan, who must surely be a whale:

‘Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable,living things both small and great. There go the ships, and there is the great sea monster which you formed to sport in it.’

            In this way, embarking upon the new day, we offer the world back to God in thanksgiving. We bless him for the sun and moon, for the clouds and wind, for the earth and the water; and not least we bless him for the living creatures, in all their diversity and abundance. with which he has peopled the globe. We rejoice in their beauty and their playfulness, whereby they enrich our lives:

‘How marvellous are your works, O Lord! In wisdom have you made them all.’

As we stand before God in prayer, the companionship of the animals fills our hearts with warmth and hope.

            Nor is it only in the service of Vespers that the animals have their assured place. In the Orthodox book of blessings and intercessions known in Greek as the Evchologion, and in Slavonic as the Trebnik or Book of Needs, there are prayers for the good health of sheep, goats and cattle, of horses, donkeys and mules, and even of bees and silkworms; and also, on the negative side, there are prayers for protection from poisonous snakes and noxious insects. Up to the present day, the great majority of Eastern Christians dwell in an agricultural rather than an urban environment; and so it it only natural that their prayer – rooted in the concerns of this world as well as being otherworldly – should reflect the needs of a farming community. In daily prayer as in daily life, humans and animals belong to a single community.

            As a typical example of a prayer for living creatures, let us take these phrases from a blessing on bees:

‘In ancient times you granted to the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey (Exod. 3:8), and you were well-pleased to nourish your Baptist John with wild honey in the wilderness (Matt. 3:4). Now also, providing in your good pleasure for our sustenance, do you bless the beehives in this apiary. Greatly increase the multiplication of the bees within them, preserving them by your grace and granting us an abundance of rich honey.’[4]

A prayer for silkworms includes the words:

‘All-good King, show us even now your lovingkindness; and as you blessed the well of Jacob (John 4:6), and the pool of Siloam (John 9:7), and the cup of your holy apostles (Matt. 26:27), so bless also these silkworms; and as you multiplied the stars in heaven and the sand beside the sea-shore, so multiply these silkworms, granting them health and strength: and may they feed without coming to any harm…so that they may produce shrouds of pure silk, to your glory and praise.’ [5]

            Yet not all these prayers for animals are as genial as this, for there are also exorcisms directed against the creatures that, in this fallen world, inflict harm on humans and their produce:

‘I adjure you, O creatures of many forms: worms, caterpillars, beetles and cockroaches, mice, grasshoppers and locusts, and insects of various kinds, flies and moles and ants, gadflies and wasps, and centipedes and millipedes, … injure not the vineyard, field, garden, trees or vegetables of the servant of God [name], but be gone into the wild hills and into the barren trees that God has given you for sustenance.’[6]

It will be noted here that the exorcism does not actually pray for the destruction of these baneful creatures, but only that they should depart to their proper home and cease to molest us. Even rats, hornets and spiders have their appointed place in God’s dispensation![7]

            Here, by way of contrast, is a prayer by St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (1748-1809) expressing tenderness and compassion for the animals:

‘Lord Jesus Christ, moved by your tender mercy, take pity on the suffering animals… For if a righteous man takes pity on the souls of his cattle (Prov. 12: 10. LXX), how should you not take pity on them, for you created them and you provide for them? In your compassion you did not forget the animals in the ark (Gen. 9: 19-20)… Through the good health and the plentiful number of oxen and other four-footed beasts, the earth is cultivated and its fruits increase; and your servants, who call upon your name, enjoy in full abundance the produce of their farming.’[8]

          Many other examples of such prayers for the animals could be quoted, but these are enough to show that Orthodox intercessions are not exclusively anthropocentric, but encompass the entire created order. We humans are bound to God and to one another in a cosmic covenant that also includes all the other living creatures on the face of the earth: ‘I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground’ (Hos. 2:18; cf. Gen. 9:15).[9] We humans are not saved from the world but with the world; and that means, with the animals. Moreover, this cosmic covenant is not something that we humans have devised, but it has its source in the divine realm. It is conferred upon us as a gift by God.

          A striking illustration of this covenant bond is to be seen in the custom that once prevailed in the Russian countryside; perhaps it still continues today. Returning from the Easter midnight service with their newly-kindled Holy Fire, the farmers used to go into the stables with the lighted candle or lantern, and they greeted the horses and cattle with the Paschal salutation ‘Christ is Risen!’ The victory of the risen Saviour over the forces of death and darkness has meaning not for us humans alone but for the animals as well. For them also Christ has died and risen again. ‘Now all things are filled with light’ (hymn at the Easter matins).

Do animals have souls?

St Nicodemus, in the prayer quoted above, cites the words of Proverbs 12:10: ‘The righteous man shows pity for the souls of his cattle.’[10]Does this mean that animals have souls?[11]The answer depends upon what precisely we mean by the soul. The word psyche in the ancient world had a wider application than that which is customarily given in the present day to our word ‘soul’. Aristotle, for example, distinguishes three levels of soul: the vegetable, the animal, and the human.[12]According to this Aristotelian scheme, the vegetable or nutritive soul has the capacity for growth, but not for movement or sensation. The animal soul has the capacity for movement and sensation, but not for conscious thought or reason. Only the human soul is endowed with self-knowledge and the power of logical thinking. For Aristotle, then, psyche means in an inclusive fashion all expressions of life-force and vital energy, whereas in contemporary usage we limit the term ‘soul’ to the third level, the human or rational soul. If we today were to speak of potatoes or tomatoes as possessing souls, we should doubtless be considered facetious. But Aristotle was not trying to make a joke.

          Employing the term ‘soul’ in a restricted sense, as denoting specifically the self-reflective rational soul, most thinkers in the West – and, on the whole, in the Christian East as well – have denied that animals are ensouled. Descartes held that they are simply intricate machines or automata. On such a view, there is a clear demarcation between human beings and the animal world. Humans alone, it is said, are created in God’s image, and they alone possess immortality, in contrast to ‘the beasts that perish’ (Ps.48 [49]: 12, 20). In modern Greek the horse is called alogon, ‘lacking logos or reason’. Animals, so it is maintained, cannot form abstract concepts, and so they are unable to construct logical arguments; they lack personal freedom and the faculty of moral choice, for they cannot discern between good and evil, but act solely from instinct.

          Yet are we in fact justified in making such an emphatic division between ourselves and the other animals? (I say ‘other’, because we humans are also animals; we have the same origin as those whom we call ‘beasts’.) Many of the characteristics that we tend to regard as distinctively human are also to be found, to a varying extent, in the animals as well. This certainly was the view of early Christian writers. ‘The instinct (physis) that exists in hunting dogs and war horses’, observes Origen (c. 185- c. 254), ‘comes near, if I may say so, to reason itself.’[13]We may think of the behaviour of a monkey, confronted by a cage with a complicated latch, and with a banana inside. Seeking to open the cage, twisting the latch first in one direction and then in another, the monkey is evidently engaged in something closely similar to the process of thinking that a human being would employ in a similar situation. Animals as well as humans try to solve problems.

          Origen has in view domesticated animals, but Theophilus of Antioch (late 2nd century) goes further, noting how the instinct in all animals, wild as well as domestic, leads them to mate and to care for their offspring: this indicates that they possess ‘understanding’.[14] Other Patristic authors point out that animals share with humans not only a certain degree of reason and understanding, but also memory and a wide range of emotions and affections. They display feelings of joy and grief, asserts St Basil of Caesarea (c. 330-79), and they recognize those whom they have met previously.[15] St John Climacus (c. 570- c. 649) adds that they express love for each other, for ‘they often bewail the loss of their companions’.[16] Indeed, some animals are faithfully monogamous, in a way that all too many humans conspicuously are not.

          It is often argued that animals lack the power to articulate speech. Yet, as we can see from dolphins, they have other subtle ways of communicating with one another. Ants and bees are capable of social co-operation on an elaborate scale. Animals may not use tools; yet they do not simply exist within the world, but actively adapt the environment to their own needs. Birds build nests, beavers construct dams.

          Nor is this all. If we are to accept the testimony of Scripture, it would seem that animals can sometimes display visionary awareness, perceiving things to which we humans are blind. In the story of Balaam’s ass (Num. 22: 21-33), the donkey sees the angel of the Lord, blocking the pathway with a drawn sword, whereas Balaam himself is unaware of the angel’s presence. As investigators of the paranormal have often discovered, animals react to unseen ‘presences’ in places reputed to be haunted. May it not be claimed that animals possess, at least in a rudimentary form, psychic insight and a capacity for spiritual intuition?

          Instead of making a sharp separation between animals and human beings, would it not be wiser to keep in view the kinship that links us together? Nemesius of Emesa (late 4th century) is surely correct to insist upon the unity of all living things. Sharing as they do the same life-force, plants, animals and humankind belong to the single integrated structure of creation.[17] We and the animals are interdependent, ‘members one of another’ (Eph. 4:25). The world is variegated yet everywhere interconnected. As my history master at school used to say, ‘It all ties up, you see; it all ties up.’

          Can we in fact be sure that animals do not enjoy immortality? At any rate there is good reason to believe that animals will exist in the future Age, after the Second Coming of Christ and the general resurrection of the dead. As Isaiah affirms, ‘The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion together, and a little child shall lead them’ (Isa. 11:6). When Martin Luther, distressed by the death of his pet dog, was asked whether there would be animals in heaven, he relpied: ‘There will be little dogs with golden hair, shining like precious stones.’[18]

          It is not clear, however, whether these animals in the Age to come will be the same animals as we have known in this present life. Yet that is at least a possibility; we do not have good grounds for asserting that it could not conceivably be so. Let us leave the question open. Friendship and mutual love contain within themselves an element of eternity. For us to say to another human person, with all our heart. ‘I love you’, is to say by implication, ‘You will never die.’ If this is true of our love for our fellow humans, may it not be true of our love for animals? Although we are not to love animals in the same way as we love our fellow humans, yet those of us who have experienced the deeply therapeutic effect of a companion animal will certainly recognize that our reciprocal relationship contains within itself intimations of immortality.

          Even if animals are not ensouled, yet they are undoubtedly sentient. They are responsive and vulnerable. As Andrew Linzey rightly says, ‘Animals are not machines or commodities but beings with their own God-given life (nephesh), individuality and personality… Animals are more like gifts than something owned, giving us more than we expect and thus obliging us to return their gifts. Far from decrying these relationships as “sentimental”, “unbalanced”, or “obsessive” (as frequently happens today), churches could point us to their underlying theological significance – as living examples of divine grace.’[19]

          ‘Cruelty is atheism’, said Humphrey Primatt (18th century). ‘… Cruelty is the worst of heresies.’[20] Indeed, not only should we refrain from cruelty to animals, but in a positive way we should seek to do them good, enhancing their pleasure and their unselfconscious happiness. In the words of Starets Zosima in Dostoevsky’s master-work The Brothers Karamazov: ‘Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and an untroubled joy. Do not trouble it, do not torment them, do not go against God’s purpose. Man, do not exalt yourself above the animals; they are sinless, and you, you with all your grandeur, defile the earth through your appearance upon it, and leave traces of your defilement behind you – alas, this is true of almost every one of us!’[21]

          Unfortunately it has to be said that, while there can be found within Orthodoxy a rich theology of the animal creation, there exists a sad gap between theory and practice. It cannot be claimed that, in traditional Orthodox countries such as Greece, Cyprus or Romania, animals are better treated than in the non-Orthodox West; indeed, the contrary is regrettably true. We Orthodox need to kneel down before the animals and to ask their forgiveness for the evils that we inflict upon them. I have concentrated here upon the positive elements in the Orthodox teaching about animals; but we should not ignore the many ways in which we fall short of our pastoral responsibility towards the living creatures, domestic and wild, that God has given us to be our companions.

Dominion or domination?

‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?’ says Jesus. ‘Yet mot one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will’ (Matt. 10:29). ‘Not one of them’: God’s care for his creation, his love for all the things that he has made, is not merely an abstract and generalized love. He cares for each particular creature, for every individual sparrow. But Jesus then goes on to say, ‘You are of more value than many sparrows’ (Matt. 10:31). Every living thing has its unique value in God’s sight, but at the same time we dwell in a hierarchical universe, and some living things have a greater value than others.

          The significance of this hierarchy is expressed in a more specific way in God’s creative utterance in the opening chapter of Genesis: ‘Then God said, “Let us make the human being in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” ‘ (Gen. 1:26). Humans, then, are entrusted by the Creator with authority over the animals. Yet this God-given ‘dominion’ does not signify an arbitrary and tyrannical domination. We must not overlook the explicit reason that is given for this dominion: it is because we are fashioned in the image and likeness of God. That is to say, in the exercise of our dominion over the animals, we are to show the same gentleness and loving compassion that God himself shows towards the whole of his creation. Our dominion is to be God-reflective and Christlike.

          How far does this dominion extend? Certainly it includes  the right to use domestic animals for our service: to employ horses and oxen for ploughing, to keep cows for their milk, to breed sheep for their wool. Yet there are definite limits to what we can legitimately do. We should not adopt a narrowly instrumentalist attitude towards the animals. We are to respect their characteristic ‘life-style’, allowing them to be themselves. This is scarcely what happens with battery hens! We are not to inflict upon them excessive burdens that cause them exhaustion and suffering. We are to ensure that they are kept warm, clean, healthy and properly fed. Only so will our dominion be according to the image of divine compassion.

          Does our dominion over the animals entitle us to kill and eat them? In the Orthodox Church, as in other Christian communities, there are many who on serious grounds of conscience refrain from eating animals. But the Orthodox Church as such is not in principle vegetarian. The normal teaching is that animals may indeed be killed and used for food, so long as this killing is done humanely and not wantonly. It is true that in traditional Orthodox monasteries meat is not eaten in the refectory; fish, however, is allowed. It is also true that in Lent and at certain other seasons of the year all Orthodox Christians, whether monastics or those in the ‘world’, are required to abstain from animal products. But this is not because the eating of animal products is in itself sinful, but because such fasting has disciplinary value, assisting us in our prayer and our spiritual growth. In the Gospels it is stated that Christ ate fish: ‘They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate before them’ (Luke 24:41-42). Since he observed the Passover, presumably he also ate meat.

Beasts and Saints

In the lives of Eastern Christian Saints – as among the saints of the West, especially in the Celtic tradition – there are numerous stories, often well authenticated, of close fellowship between the animals and holy men and women. Such accounts are not to be dismissed as sentimental fairy tales, for they have a definite theological significance. The mutual understanding between animals and humans recalls the situation before the Fall, when the two lived at peace in Paradise; and it points forward to the transfiguration of the cosmos at the end time. In the words of St Isaac the Syrian (7th century), ‘The humble person approaches the wild animals, and the moment they catch sight of him their ferocity is tamed. They come up and cling to him as to their master, wagging their tails and licking his hands and feet. For they smell on him the same smell that came from Adam before the transgression.’[22]

          Not that mutual understanding between holy men and wild animals has always been complete! There is, for example, a story in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers about an unsociable lion: ‘There was a certain old man, a solitary, who lived near the river Jordan; and going into a cave because of the heat, he found there a lion. The lion began to gnash his teeth and to roar. The old man said to him, “What is annoying you? There is plenty of room here for both of us. And if you don’t like it, get up and go away.” But the lion, not taking it well, left and went outside.’[23]

          Many of the 20th-century stories about humans and animals come from the Holy Mountain of Athos, the chief centre of Orthodox monasticism. I recall one such story, told to me many years ago. The monks in a small hermitage, as they prayed in the early morning, were much disturbed by the croaking of frogs in the cistern outside their chapel. The spiritual father of the community went out and addressed them: ‘Frogs! We’ve just finished the Midnight Office and are about to start Matins. Would you mind keeping quiet until we’ve finished!’ To which the frogs replied, ‘We’ve just finished Matins and are about to begin the First Hour. Would you mind keeping quiet until we’ve finished!’

          Compassion for animals is vividly expressed in the writings of a recent Athonite Saint, the Russian monk Silouan (1866-1938). ‘The Lord’, he says, ‘bestows such rich grace on his chosen ones that they embrace the whole earth, the whole world within their love. … One day I saw a dead snake on my path which had been chopped into pieces, and each piece writhed convulsively, and I was filled with pity for every living creature, every suffering thing in creation, and I wept bitterly before God.’[24]

          Such is in truth the compassionate love that we are called to express towards the animals. All too often they are innocent sufferers, and we should view this undeserved suffering with compunction and sympathy. What harm have they done to us, that we should inflict pain and distress upon them? As living beings, sensitive and easily hurt, they are to be viewed as a ‘Thou’, not an ‘It’, to use Martin Buber’s terminology: not as objects to be exploited and manipulated but as subjects, capable of joy and sorrow, of happiness and affliction. They are to be approached with gentleness and tenderness; and, more than that, with respect and reverence, for they are precious in God’s sight. As William Blake affirmed, ‘Every things that lives is holy.’[25]

[1] See Philip Sherrard, The Sacred in Life and Art (Ipswich: Golgonooza, 1990), pp. 71-74.

[2] Relatively little has been written on the theology of animals from an Orthodox viewpoint. Extensive material on saints and animals in both ancient and modern times can be found in the two books by Joanne Stefanatos, Animals and Man: A State of Blessedness (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life, 1992), and Animals Sanctified: A Spiritual Journey (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life, 2001). On the non-Orthodox side, compare the classic anthology by Helen Waddell, Beasts and Saints (London: Constable, 1934). There is not much from Eastern Christian sources in the two collections (in other respects, rich and representative) edited by Andrew Linzey, Animal Rites: Liturgies of Animal Care (London: SCM, 1999), and (with Paul Barry Clarke), Animal Rights: A Historical Anthology (New York: Columbia U. P., 2004).

[3] A Monk of the Eastern Church [Lev Gillet], Serve the Lord with Gladness: Basic Reflections on the Eucharist and the Priesthood (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990), p.16.

[4] The Great Book of Needs (South Canaan, PA: St Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1999), vol. 4, pp. 382-3 (translation adapted).

[5] Evchologion to Mega, ed. N. P. Papadopoulos (Athens: Saliveros, no date), p. 511.

[6] Exorcism of the Holy Martyr Tryphon, in The Great Book of Needs, vol. 3, p.53 (translation adapted).

[7] But, at a later point in this same exorcism, it is said that, if these creatures fail to obey the command to depart to their own place, ‘May he [God] kill you with pigs… and birds also will be sent by my prayers to devour you’ (The Great Book of Needs, vol. 3, p.54).

[8] Prayer of St Modestos, in Mikron Evchologion i Agiasmatarion (Athens: Apostoliki Diakonia, 1984), p. 297.

[9] See Robert Murray, The Cosmic Covenant: Biblical Themes of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (London: Sheed & Ward, 1992).

[10] I follow here the text of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament used at Orthodox church services.

[11] See Kallistos Ware, ‘The Soul in Greek Christianity’, in M. James C. Crabbe (ed.), From Soul to Self (London/New York: Routledge, 1999), especially pp.62-65. For other passages in the Septuagint that mention the ‘souls’ of animals, see for example Genesis 1:21 and 24, and Leviticus 17:14.

[12] See Ware, ‘The Soul in Greek Christianity’, pp.55-56.

[13] On First Principles 3:1:3.

[14] To Antolycus 1:6.

[15] Hexaemeron 8:1 (PG 29: 165AB).

[16] The Ladder of Divine Ascent 26 (PG 88: 1028A).

[17] On the Nature of Man 1 (ed. Morani, 2:13-14; 3: 3-25).

[18] William Hazlitt (ed.), The Table Talk of Martin Luther (London: H. G. Bohn, 1857), p. 322.

[19] Animal Rites, p. 58.

[20] Quoted in Linzey, Animal Rites, p.151.

[21] Fyordor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, tr. Richard Pervear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Vintage Classics, 1991), p. 319 (translation adapted).

[22] Homily 82, in Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh, tr. A. J. Wensinck (Amsterdam: Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, 1923), p. 386 (translation adapted).

[23] Helen Waddell, Beasts and Saints, p. 24 (translation adapted).

[24] Archimandrite Sofrony (Sakharov), Saint Silouan the Athonite (Tolleshunt Knights: Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 1991), pp. 267, 469. But Silouan also warned against showing excessive affection towards animals (pp. 95-96).

[25] ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, in Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), Poetry and Prose of William Blake (London: Nonesuch Press, 1948), p. 193.


DOMINION, STEWARDSHIP, PRIESTHOOD – THE THEOLOGICAL MODELS OF HOW HUMANS RELATE TO ANIMALS. A paper given by Natalia Doran at the animal theology session of the recent IOTA conference.

In terms of the relationship between humans and animals, three models can be discerned in Christian theology: dominion, stewardship and priesthood. The aim of this essay is to critique the unlikely target of the stewardship model, but in order to put the discussion in context, a few words are needed about the other two as well.

The dominion model is based on the verses in the book of Genesis that give Man, or the Human, dominion over the fish in the sea, the fowl in the air, and the land-living animals. It is never interpreted, at least not by theologians, in such a way as to justify wanton cruelty or greed, but the concept does exist, and the interpretation falls, broadly speaking, into two categories: hard and soft dominion, as it were.

Hard dominion presupposes:
– a hierarchy of creation, (Neoplatonic, or Dionysian, hierarchy of mineral-plant-animal-human-angelic), with humans very much at the top the material creation,
– an absolute metaphysical divide between humans and animals, 
– an instrumental approach to animals (the assumption that animals were created for the sake of humans and can therefore be used for human needs), 
– and, consequently, an absolute priority of human interests over those of animals. 
This approach can be instantiated by Roger Scruton in the Protestant tradition, and Tristram Engelhardt in the Orthodox one.

Soft dominion can maintain all the above presuppositions, but stands the themes on their heads. It can allow for the hierarchy of material creation with Man at the top, but reminds us that, in the Christian tradition, the higher serves the lower, the logic being “whoever is greatest among you will be your servant”. This is the basis of Andew Linzey’s generosity theory. Professor Lynzey argues that human morality works on the principle of the ethical priority of the weak (women and children get on the life-boats first), and if we consider ourselves to be somehow “better” or “higher” that the animals, we should prioritize their interests. In the Orthodox tradition the same idea is contained in a “desert story” about the great Russian mystic St Sergius of Radonezh. St Sergius had a bear for a companion, whom he fed. One day, when food in the monastery was scarce, St Sergius was seen still feeding the bear. People told him, “Whoever heard of taking monks’ food and giving it to the bear?” To which he replied, “Whoever heard of a bear fasting?” The idea being that if we consider ourselves to be somehow better than the bear, we ought to be able to sublimate our hunger, for example into an ascetic practice, whereas the bear would just go hungry.

Soft dominion blends, more or less, into the concept of stewardship, teaching that we should love and care for God’s creation. Stewardship is the model of choice in a large part of modern Christian discourse. Many Christian organisations that champion animal welfare routinely use this word.

A note of caution is sounded, however, by no less of an authority – for the Orthodox, in any case, than Bishop John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon. While acknowledging that stewardship is certainly preferable to the kind of interpretation of dominion that leads to the exploitation of nature, he nonetheless points out two main limitations, or disadvantages of the stewardship model. The first one is what Bishop John calls a “managerial” approach, treating nature as an object to be managed. The second one is a “conservatist” attitude (once again, Bishop John’s term), attempting to preserve nature in a given state, an “unrealistic, and in some cases even undesirable” project. These reservations are worth a closer look, because they are not just theoretical concerns on the part of an eminent theologian, but real problems in conservation that lead to early and violent deaths for numerous animals.

The “managerial” character of the stewardship model can result in a conservation paradigm that rather arrogantly assumes that nature cannot manage itself, and needs humans to manage it, a kind of “white man’s burden”, but in relation to nature. In practice it often means killing, or “culling” individual animals who are deemed to be too numerous for the ecosystem, in the name of helping the ecosystem. The killing is said to be humane, because the animals die quickly.

One typical example of this type of conservation in action is the killing of animals in London Royal Parks. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, Regents Park, St James’ Park, etc., are some of the most iconic urban open spaces in the entire world. Londoners and tourists go there to relax, to reconnect with nature, and to meet the animals, from the more unusual deer and parakeets to the more common pigeons, geese and squirrels – actually, the latter are the most popular animals with the tourists. However, as a Freedom of Information request by the animal protection organisation Animal Aid revealed, the very animals whom visitors photograph and admire are killed in exceptionally high numbers. (1) In an official statement from the Royal Parks authorities the killing is justified by appealing to the need for balancing out and managing the ecosystem. The justification sounds plausible, but is nonetheless ethically problematic, because it rests on at least three questionable assumptions. 

1 – The first questionable assumption is that ecosystems, or species, or biotic communities, are more important than individual animals, and that individual animal lives can therefore be sacrificed for their sakes. This assumption does not take due notice of animal sentience. The reason animals are accorded special moral consideration at all is because they are sentient. But the characteristic of sentience is predicated not of species or ecosystems, but of individual animals. It is not the ecosystem that feels fear or pain, but an individual animal. In this sense ecosystems are secondary: they have moral value inasmuch as individuals flourish in them, they are a means to an end. And if we then destroy individuals, for the sake of whom the ecosystems exist, in order to preserve the ecosystem, we are putting the ethical cart before the horse.

2 – The second questionable assumption is that there is no difference between our positive moral obligations, what we should do, the “do”s, and negative moral obligations, what we should avoid doing, the “don’t”s. Animals kill each other, they suffer from environmental factors, they outcompete each other. We cannot carefully balance out the ecosystem to stop all that, and it is irrational to even try. But it is realistic for us to aspire not to harm – either the ecosystem as a whole, or individual animals. So when we kill hundreds upon hundreds of animals in the name of “helping the ecosystem” it is morally counter-productive: we are taking on a positive moral obligation to balance out and manage, which is not realistic and not even strictly speaking ours to take on, while violating a negative moral obligation not to harm, which is both realistic and ours to follow.

3 – The third questionable assumption is that the killing is “humane” if the death is quick and painless. In terms of environmental science, “death is not a welfare issue”. This attitude leaves unanswered the argument from foreclosed life opportunities for the individual animals. If there is goodness in the animal’s life to do be had, and it does not come about, it is, precisely theologically speaking, a serviceable definition of evil.

Going back to Bishop John’s reservations about the stewardship model, it is its “managerial” character, one could argue, that results in these ethical problems. His second reservation, the “conservatism” one, is even more serious.

The first problem is a practical one: the desire to go back to, and maintain, some kind of ideal past “golden age” state of nature sets Man on a collision course with Nature itself. Nature does not stand still, it changes all the time. It is surprisingly resilient, and can even deal with the ecological mess we create, although not always in the way we would like it to or expect it to. This Man versus Nature conflict in conservation is exemplified by the current irrational dislike for alien species. The mantra is very much “native good, alien bad”. It is irrational, because it is purely a question of fashion. In the 19th century the fashion was the opposite, it was fashionable to collect animals from all parts of the world and try to establish them on other continents. It was called acclimatization. Now the pendulum of fashion has swung in the opposite direction and, at least as far as traditional conservation is concerned, alien species are public enemy number one, regardless of their actual ecological impact. This attitude costs millions of animals their lives, and costs millions in money for the tax-payer, who is forced to pay for eradication programmes that target the species that are simply the most successful and can adapt to our economic activities and even our ecological mess.

In terms of theory, and precisely theology, the “conservatist” character of the stewardship model is also highly problematic. The idea that we fell from a state of perfection to which we now have to return is not an Orthodox one (St Maximus the Confessor explains this at length, for example). We fell from a state of potentiality, if anything, and “restoring a past golden age” either for ourselves or for the Creation that we were put in charge of cannot be part of the Christian agenda.

This theological lack of clarity seems to be symptomatic of the stewardship model as a whole. It is certainly better to look after God’s Creation than to exploit it, but the idea of stewardship is, for all that, theologically almost vacuous. It has a lot of intellectual safety in it, but its practical outworking, even the benign (non-culling) kind, has nothing specifically Christian about it: we can be taking care of God’s Creation, or serving Mother Earth, or following any kind of secular agenda; our actions would be the same. And it remains obvious that even if we do manage to stop all abuse and exploitation of animals, they will still kill each other and die of disease, “nature red in tooth and claw” has not been abolished. In a world created by a loving God.

This dilemma can only be answered by the third theological model of how humans relate to animals, i.e. the priesthood one. Unlike the intellectually safe area of stewardship, this model is highly speculative. But the need for priesthood in relation to nature has been articulated, most famously by Bishop John (Zizioulas). What brings this essay to its conclusion is an attempt to sketch a picture of what that model might look like, an attempt based on the writings of modern theologians: Bishop John (Zizioulas), Panayotis Nellas and Bishop Anthony of Sourozh, as well as traditional giants of classical Christian metaphysics: St Maximus the Confessor, Dionysius the Areopagite and the Cappadocian fathers.

One way of introducing the priesthood model would use the Dionysian/Neoplatonic hierarchy of Creation that was mentioned at the beginning: mineral-vegetable-animal-human. If we consider every tier of this hierarchy, we notice that humans consist of the same chemical elements as the rocks, have nutrition and growth like plants, have feelings and movement like animals, as well as their own specific features. This enables theologians to speak of Man as a microcosm, we have in us everything that is found in the rest of the material Creation. Furthermore, we have the cognitive capacity for abstract thinking, which allows us to conceive of Creation as a whole and refer it to God in the act of Eucharist, and then receive it back from God as transfigured life that, through us, can pass back to the rest of the material Creation. Here the word priest is used in its primary meaning of mediator with the Divine.

Another way of expressing the same idea would make use of St Maximus’ famous concept of logoi. In his system of thought, there are logoi of individuals, of species, of genera, and they all find their unity in the one Logos of Christ. These logoi are not just empty universals, they are, as one theologian put it, “invitations to relation”, something that connects us organically with the rest of Creation: we are material objects, we are living beings, we are sentient creatures. This gives Man the capacity to recapitulate the World and to provide a link between the material and the immaterial in the grand Cosmic Liturgy. According to St Maximus, this is our destiny.

The above statement is a very lofty one indeed. But it is worth noting that many Fathers, from the very beginning of the formulation of classical theology, have seen Man as the bridge between the material and the Divine. Which suggests that the priesthood model, although very challenging in terms of academic theology, is the only one that can do justice to the subject of who we are and how we relate to animals.

1 – The Freedom of Information process also revealed that no scientific assessment of the parks’ carrying capacity has been undertaken and that non-lethal methods of population control, though mentioned in policy statements, are not employed.



This is a revised version of my article in the latest edition of the International Journal of Orthodox Theology and part of my book Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering: Ancient Voices in Modern Theology. It formed the basis of my recent presentation at the IOTA conference in Romania in January 2019.


The Living Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church

Some might argue that the topics covered in this article are outside the sphere of Eastern Orthodox theological or ethical discourse. This is not the case. We have both early and contemporary teachings, which give us the authority to engage with these important subjects.

“Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” (Lk 14:5) 1

“Now, among the ‘all things’ our world must be embraced. It too, therefore, was made by His Word, as Scripture tells us in the book of Genesis.” (St. Irenaeus) 2

“And do not wonder that the whole world was ransomed; for it was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God, who died on its behalf.” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem) 3

“God has foreseen all, He has neglected nothing. His eye, which never sleeps, watches over all. He is present everywhere and gives to each being the means of preservation. If God has not left the sea urchin outside His providence, is He without care for you?” (St. Basil) 4

An example of contemporary authority is in H. A. H. Bartholomew’s address to Eastern Orthodox Scholars:

“Orthodoxy is a faith at once rooted in the past, yet at the same time, a Church looking toward the future. It is characterized by a profound sense of continuity with the times and teachings of the Apostolic Church and the Church of the Fathers; but it is also a Church that draws from its rich heritage in order to respond to modern challenges and dilemmas. It is precisely this dual nature that permits Orthodoxy to speak boldly about critical contemporary issues-precisely because it is a “living tradition”.” 5

This article enacts this “living tradition” by examining the challenging contemporary issues of animal suffering in relation to climate change, dietary choices and animal-based food production. The issue of dietary choice is one issue among many that are important for billions of humans across the globe, not only because of the animal suffering involved, but also because of the link between our choice of an animal based diet and the significant impact it has upon our environment and human health. An exhaustive investigation of the interconnection of these subjects is not possible here, as it would require its own monograph. I have tried instead to balance the need for facts and realism rather than platitudes, whilst limiting the material used and being mindful of the need to be compassionate to the reader. This discussion specifically examines the practical implications and animal suffering involved in our choice of food, together with the soteriological implications.

An Inconvenient Truth – Sacrifice and Spiritual Revolution

The continuing challenge before us all is how we are to apply both early and contemporary Orthodox teachings on compassionate care for “all things” in the creation and extending our understanding of community, justice, mercy and rights, to the animals within the intensive farming system. Stylios (1989) suggests that we are to lead a “life of justice” 6 which is interpreted by Harakas as “the avoidance of immoral profiteering, injustice and exploitation”. This aligns with Met. Kallistos’s teaching on “evil profits” and the “immoral use of animals” in the intensive farming industry. 7 Harakas also states that justice is the “right ordering” of human nature 8 where the inherent value of creation demands a responsible approach, “its proper treatment.” 9 In this sense, Harakas shares similar views to Bonhoeffer (1971)10 who states that duties flow from rights, which he accorded to the natural world. H. A. H.  Bartholomew and Met. John Zizioulas express a similar view when they counsel us to extend our understanding of community, to be a voice to the rest of creation whose rights are violated 11 and to extend our love to the non-human world. 12 H. A. H. Bartholomew advocates extending justice “beyond one’s fellow human beings to the entire creation”:

“One of the more fundamental problems that constitute the basis of the ecological crisis is the lack of justice prevailing in our world…The liturgical and patristic tradition…considers as just, that person who is compassionate and gives freely, using love as his or her sole criterion. Justice extends even beyond one’s fellow human beings to the entire creation. The burning of forests, the criminal exploitation of natural resources…all of these constitute expressions of transgressing the virtue of justice.” 13 

Eastern Orthodox theologians have repeatedly called for humanity to change its ethos from one based upon a theory of continual consumption, to one with a Eucharistic and aesthetic ethos of love, virtue, sacrifice, abstinence and purification of sin. In essence, they remind us of patristic teachings to restrict and control our desires. H. A. H. Bartholomew confirms Orthodox teaching on the damaging and continuing mind-set of domination rather than loving dominion:

“Unfortunately, humanity has lost the liturgical relationship between the Creator God and the creation; instead of priests and stewards, human beings have been reduced to tyrants and abusers of nature.” 14

“All too often they are innocent sufferers, and we should view this undeserved suffering with compunction and sympathy.” 15

“As living beings, sensitive and easily hurt, they are to be viewed as a ‘Thou’, not an ‘It’, to use Martin Buber’s terminology: not as objects to be exploited and manipulated but as subjects, capable of joy and sorrow, of happiness and affliction.” 16

H. E. H. Bartholomew’s use of the word ‘nature’ indicates that his teaching incorporates animals and corroborates the argument that the abuse and exploitation of animals has negative consequences not only for the abused animals in the form of physical pain, suffering and psychological fear but also negative soteriological implications for humankind. I submit that in addition to those who perpetrate acts of cruelty and exploitation, those who know of such acts but are indifferent to them and those who know but shy away from trying in some way to alleviate the abuse, are in a sense giving tacit approval to that process and are accessories after the fact. He states that for Orthodox Christians this ascetic ethos “is not negation, but a reasonable and tempered use of the world.” He also draws our attention to the inconvenient truth of the missing dimension and need for sacrifice:

“This need for an ascetic spirit can be summed up in a single key word: sacrifice. This is the missing dimension of our environmental ethos and ecological action.” 17

He clarifies this point with teachings on self-limitation in consumption and interprets self-restraint in terms of love, humility, self-control, simplicity and social justice, all of which are essential teachings for our choice of diet and the products we choose to purchase. Crucially, he acknowledges the fundamental problem of inaction and the difficulties in effecting change:

“We are all painfully aware of the fundamental obstacle that confronts us in our work for the environment. It is precisely this: how to move from the theory to action, from word to deeds.” 18

“For this spiritual revolution to occur, we must experience radical metanoia, a conversion of attitudes, habits and practices, for ways that we have misused or abused God’s Word, God’s gifts, and God’s creation.” 19

These are profound teachings and reminiscent of the warnings from the prophets of old. This spiritual revolution is also required for a conversion in the way we view animals and thus the way we treat them. Many of his teachings urge us to reflect the asceticism of the early Fathers and the urgent need for changes in human behaviour. In our greed and lust for ever increasing profit, we “violently and cunningly subordinate and exploit creation.” This not only destroys creation but also “undermines the foundations and conditions necessary for the survival of future generations.” This aligns with Met. Kallistos’ comment on “evil profit” in chapter six of my book and St. Irenaeus’s teaching that we must not use our freedom as a “cloak of maliciousness”. It also hints at the environmental crisis, a modern example of the cosmic disharmony the Fathers frequently highlighted, where various forms of injustice pollute the land; where natural disasters and starvation are the result of the evil that people have done and that this evil pollutes the earth and angers God. Arguably little appears to have changed, for we are beginning to experience the devastating results of our continued abuse and misuse of creation in general and animals in particular. Our inability to move from theory to practice indicates that our weaknesses make it difficult for us to attain the Christian ideals. What is different however, is the lack of time we have to make significant changes to our behaviour.

Dietary Choices and Environmental Degradation

Keselopoulos (2001) addresses some of the human and environmental problems associated with the animal-based diet and food industry. He explains that famines in Africa, caused by drought and desertification, are due to the monoculture of commodities to supply food for the animals of the North. The result is:

“The cynical phenomenon of reserves of dried milk being sent to dying children in Africa, while their own land, instead of producing traditional foodstuffs for local use, is made barren by the monoculture of animal foodstuffs destined to feed Europe’s cattle.” 20

This is a crucial point. Our misuse of the land and water in order to meet our ever-increasing desire for animal-based food products has created an imbalance in the natural world, which results in harm to both humans and animals. One forensic question arising here is, is it a sin to continue to use this system and its products once we become aware of its devastating effects? Keselopoulos speaks to the point by explicitly linking our use of animals as food with the practice of aestheticism, compassion and pity for the natural world:

“Thus, aestheticism prophetically throws into high relief the prerequisite of compassion and pity for both nature and the beauty of the world. This is what can impede the downward spiral into barbarism that murders the animal kingdom by genetically mutating animals raised for beef or dairy products into freaks of nature and makes the land infertile.” 21

Keselopoulos not only illustrates the tension between economic interests and animal suffering, particularly in the animal-based food production industries, but also that fasting limits the number of deaths. In so doing, he affirms the teachings of H. A. H. Bartholomew and others on greed and evil profits; St. Gregory’s teachings on use not misuse and of the need for sacrifice. I condense his comments:

“If the motives for all these human activities is insatiable greed and the desire for easy profits, then fasting, as a voluntary self-restriction of human needs, can enable man to free himself, at least to a certain degree, from his desires. He can again discover his pristine character, which is to turn toward God, his neighbour and creation, with a genuinely loving disposition. Abstinence from meat, observed by monks all year long limits the amount of death we provoke in our relationship to the world. Abstinence from certain food simultaneously aims at protecting, even for a short period of time animals that in great numbers are so cruelly devoured by man. The spirit of fasting that we are obliged to preserve today throughout our culture requires that we change course in our relationship to nature from a predatory thirst for blood to that state of gratitude, which is the distinctive mark of the Eucharist.” 22

I concur with his analysis, which aligns with the latest scientific research. 23  Met. John Zizioulas provides a similar argument:

“Restraint in the consumption of natural resources is a realistic attitude and ways must be found to put a limit to the immense waste of natural materials.” 24

If this argument is apposite for wastage of ‘resources’, then it is equally apposite for the wastage of animal life. I interpret his use of ‘resource’ as referring to the inanimate creation but as there is, once again, room for confusion on its meaning, I remind the reader of the need for greater mindfulness in our choice of language. Despite Met. John’s belief that it would be unrealistic to expect our societies to follow an asceticism that echoes the lives of the saints, many of whom were vegetarian, millions of people choose this non-violent diet. They understand that whilst they as individuals may not be able to change the abusive practices of the animal food industries, they have the freedom to choose the alternative non-violent diet advocated by God and do so out of compassion and mercy for the animals and the environment. Met. Anthony of Sourozh indicates that the vegan/vegetarian diet is one to emulate and the tragedy of not doing so:

“It is frightening to imagine that Man, who was called to lead every being along the road to transfiguration, to the fullness of life, came to the point that he could no longer ascend to God, and was compelled to obtain his food by the killing of those, which he should have led to perfection. This is where the tragic circle closes. We find ourselves inside this circle. All of us are still incapable of living only for eternal life and according to the word of God, although the saints have in a large measure returned to God’s original conception of Man. The saints show us that we can through prayer and spiritual endeavour gradually free ourselves from the need to feed on the flesh of animals, and, becoming more and more assimilated to God, require less and less of it.” 25

This is important recognition from Met. Anthony. He links the eating of animals with a loss of human freedom and our inability to transfigure our fallen lives and ascend to God. Keselopoulos argues that vegan/vegetarianism breaks this circle. The fact that many ascetics were and are vegan/vegetarian ought to remind us of God’s original dietary choice and thus the most appropriate dietary path to follow. It is important to remember that whilst God gave us the dispensation to eat meat, He does not command or force us to do so; we retain the freedom to return to God’s choice. Perhaps if Met. Anthony had known more about the cruelty involved in animal food production he may also have chosen to become vegan/vegetarian. Met. Kallistos recognizes this possibility:

“Methods such as factory farming are rather new and I feel that if more people knew what happened they may well give up eating meat…People who live in towns like me eat the products but don’t know too much about the background and I think if I knew more about the background I might feel I might have to become a vegetarian.” 26

It is interesting to note that he also acknowledges that it is easy to find information available on the web, in reports and research and makes the obvious point. So perhaps it is more that people do not want to know, rather than not being able to access the information. Here we see a trace of Kahneman and St. Paul; we know what to do but choose not to act in the right ways. If we as individuals or as leaders of our Church advocated the non-violent diet of vegan/vegetarianism, this would not only reduce the number of animals who suffer but also reduce the many environmental problems associated with animal food production. Our increasing desire to consume animal products has resulted in the breeding of such vast numbers of animals that severe negative impacts have arisen for our environments. Knight (2013) provides us with the following important scientific information:

In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (Steinfeld et al,) calculated that when measured as carbon dioxide (CO2), 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gases (GHGs) –totalling 7.5 billion tons annually, result from the production of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, horses, pigs and poultry. These emissions result from land-clearing for feed crop production and grazing, from the animals themselves, and from the transportation and processing of animal products. In contrast, all forms of transportation combined were estimated to produce around 13.5 percent of global GHGs. The GHGs produced by animal production are composed of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and ammonia. Steinfeld and colleagues calculated that the livestock sector is responsible for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions-that is, those attributable to human activity-which mostly arise from deforestation caused by the encroachment of feed crops and pastures. Animal production occupies some 30 percent of the Earth’s land surface and is increasingly driving deforestation, particularly in Latin America. [Circa] seventy percent of previously forested Amazonian land has now been converted to pastures, with feed crops covering a large part of the remainder.

Animals kept for production emit 37 percent of anthropogenic methane, which has been calculated as exerting seventy-two times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2, over a twenty year time frame, mostly from gastrointestinal fermentation by ruminants (particularly, cows and sheep). They also emit 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide with 296 times the GWP of CO2, the great majority of which is released from manure. They also emit 64 percent of anthropogenic ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain and ecosystem acidification.

In 2009 Goodland and Anhang calculated that at least 22 billion tons of CO2 emissions attributable to animal production were not counted and at least 3 billion tons were misallocated by Steinfeld and colleagues. Uncounted sources included livestock respiration, deforestation and methane underestimates. They concluded that animal production actually accounts for at least 51 percent of worldwide GHGs and probably significantly more. Although the precise figures remain under study, it is nevertheless clear that the GHGs resulting from animal production are one of the largest contributors to modern climate change. 27

Although the precise figures remain under study, it is nevertheless clear that the impact of the animal-based diet on global warming continues to be underestimated and underreported. It is true that this situation is changing, but one wonders how many people have actually read the recent IPCC and other reports, which give us updates on these figures and the extent of ice-melt in Antarctica, etc.

Whilst Orthodox does not have a legalistic system, I believe we would fail in our duty to the laity and indeed our role as ‘Priest of Creation’ if we do not do more than is currently the case. Using the argument of self-interest as a motivating factor, we can see how abstinence from an animal-based diet could have immediate beneficial impact on climate change, our water sources, health and thus our future survival. We do not need to wait for world/government agreements in order to effect real and immediate change.

This partially addresses the human and environmental aspect of this theme but what about the animals, what do we know of their suffering in these industries? If we as individuals or as leaders of our Church are to engage with the theological and ethical implications of animal suffering, we need to acquaint ourselves with the available knowledge not only on the environmental impact of an animal-based diet but also on the suffering involved in the systems used. There is a tremendous amount of research in this area and here I condense some of that research whilst referencing others:

  • In order to meet the requirements of industrial production and high-density housing, animals are routinely branded with hot irons, de-horned, de-beaked, de-tailed and castrated without any sedation or painkillers…piglets have tails cut off and males are castrated by crushing or pulling off their testicles without analgesics, even though these procedures cause “considerable pain” (Broom and Fraser 1997). The same happens to lambs…The price for the mutilation is high for individual animals. Piglets show signs of pain for up to a week afterwards (including trembling, lethargy, vomiting and leg shaking). In lambs, stress hormone levels take a huge leap and they show signs of significant pain for four hours or more. Dairy calves who are dehorned show pain for six or more hours afterwards (Turner 2006). Birds too are mutilated without analgesics; beaks are trimmed and at times inside toes are also cut. After debeaking the animals will experience acute pain for circa two days and chronic pain lasts for up to six weeks (Duncan 2001). As stock numbers are vast, illness and injuries are likely to go undetected and result from high density, lack of space, lack of mental stimulation and physical exhaustion; physical and mental health problems quickly arise (Broom & Fraser 2007). Veal calves are often kept in tiny enclosures and tied down by their necks and quickly succumb to “abnormal behaviour and ill health” (Turner 2006; European Commission 1995). Intensive egg production weakens bones and leads to lameness, osteoporosis and painful fractures as all calcium and minerals are used for eggs causing “both acute and chronic pain”…it can also lead to internal haemorrhages, starvation and ultimately death which will be painful and “lingering” (Webster 2004:184). Cows suffer from mastitis and lameness (Stokka et al, 1997) and kept pregnant to keep milk yields high, (Vernelli 2005; Turner 2006).28

There is no other reason for these practices other than the desire for increased profit; the “evil profit” that Met. Kallistos describes. One question arising here is whether the required “spiritual revolution” should apply to the animals within such industries? If the answer is no, we ought to examine why we have chosen to exclude trillions of animals from receiving compassion, mercy and justice. If we conclude that they are merely for that use, then I believe we are in danger of continuing the mind-set of domination, which in turn, indicates that only human suffering is relevant to God. I submit that this mind-set is against the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church and akin to the type of heresies the early church Fathers fought so hard to overcome.

Having given a small indication of the suffering endured during the rearing of animals, we should also consider their death. Most people no doubt believe that the killing of animals is ‘humane’ and undertaken close to home. Research provides evidence that even in countries with strict animal welfare laws, many millions are likely to suffer in the process of transportation and slaughter. Live animals are routinely transported by road, rail, sea or air across continents. All animal welfare charities agree that long distance transport causes enormous suffering through overcrowding, exhaustion, dehydration, pain and stress. For example, in the EU, up to 35 million chickens are dead by the time they reach the slaughterhouse. Australia exports around four million live sheep every year, mostly to the Middle East. These animals can travel up to fifty hours by road before they start the three weeks journey by sea and a further journey by road in the importing country. It is estimated that tens of thousands of sheep die before reaching their destination. Despite the Australian government’s implementation of an export supply-chain assurance scheme, investigations by animal welfare groups have documented terrible suffering at slaughter after export. Canada transports farm animals thousands of miles within its borders and to America. Animals can experience exceptionally harsh conditions as the climate changes from freezing cold to the scorching sun. The trucks used are often without air conditioning. In India, cattle travel vast areas as only two states are legally allowed to slaughter cows. Animals are often brutally treated and overcrowded during transport, resulting in severe injuries and fatalities. Thousands of animals travel from South America and reared for beef production in Asia and Africa. These journeys often involve the animals spending weeks at sea and result in inhumane slaughter. This is in addition to the problems of transportation, when delays, errors or accidents occur and thousands of animals die in tragic circumstances.

The spread of diseases is another worrying factor. Diseases such as bluetongue virus, foot and mouth disease, avian influenza and swine fever can be directly attributable to the live transportation of farm animals. Moving livestock long distances to markets and slaughterhouses can spread infectious diseases between animals around a country. Animals can travel from country to country with few medical checks, which can result in the spread of disease. In 2007, some cattle imported from continental Europe arrived with bluetongue virus because they had not been tested before their journeys began. The suffering often does not end when the journey is over. Duncan informs us that:

“Of all the things we do to our animals on the farm the things we do to them in the 24 hours before they are slaughtered reduce their welfare the most.” 29

In many countries animals are brutally loaded, unloaded and moved using electric goads, sticks, ropes, chains and sharp objects. Standards of slaughter vary. Some animals are inadequately stunned or not stunned at all before slaughter:

“Birds such as broiler chickens and turkeys are pulled and dragged by their feet and shoved into crates with great haste (up to thousands per hour). Dislocations and broken bones are common, as are internal injuries and death. Due to problems with stunning, birds face greater risk of missing the stunning machine and of entering the scalding tank alive and conscious.” 30

“Bleeding techniques can be poor, which means the pigs may regain consciousness whilst hanging upside down from the slaughter line shackles with a puncture wound in their chest. These animals will desperately try to right themselves, unable to comprehend what is happening to them. (Grandin 2003). ” 31

“Fish placed on ice take up to 15 minutes to lose consciousness, eventually dying through suffocation, and means that fish may be conscious when their gills are cut off.” 32

Gross informs us that pigs are not the only animals to regain consciousness during the slaughter process. When we become aware of the harmful realities of consuming animal food products, we understand why Met. Kallistos describes his experience of intensive farming as unchristian and the financial gains as “evil profit.” One question that begs asking here is where is the compassion, justice, mercy and inclusion into our community called for by the Ecumenical Patriarch, for the animals used in these systems?

Having outlined in my book, an Eastern Orthodox theory of love and compassion to all creatures, we must again ask if we are to apply it to animals in the food production industry. Again, if the answer is no, we ought to examine why we have chosen to exclude trillions of animals from inclusion in our spiritual revolution. If the answer is yes, we have the challenge of how we are to apply teachings on extending our community, justice and rights to the animals within these systems. This will not be easy, for those who use such practices or consume its products need to accept that changes are necessary.

In the context of this part of the discussion, there appear to be only two solutions: a) the animal food production industries stop reproducing vast numbers of animals. b) Consumers reduce or refrain from animal-based food products, thus reducing the demand, the number of animals reared, the environmental damage they cause and the overall suffering incurred. The first seems unlikely since the industry meets the demands of the consumer and makes huge profits in the process. The solution therefore, appears to lie with the consumer. This is where the leaders of our Church can play a significant role. If individuals were encouraged to refrain or reduce their consumption of animal-based food products this would be both an effective and immediate way of decreasing the demand, the animal suffering involved and the damage to the environment and human health. Basing the argument upon the likelihood that people will choose self-interest over altruism, Christians may be more accepting of this teaching if they knew of the health problems associated with an animal-based diet. Whilst this information is usually available via the health professions and the media there is also an important role for the Church. Patristic teachings evidence the destruction of God’s creation because of human passions and one frequent example is the self-centred love of gluttony. St. Gregory offers guidance:

“Use, do not misuse…Do not indulge in a frenzy of pleasures. Don’t make yourself a destroyer of absolutely all living things, whether they be four footed and large or four-footed and small, birds, fish, exotic or common, a good bargain or expensive. The sweat of the hunter ought not to fill your stomach like a bottomless well that many men digging cannot fill.” 33

A question arising here is if gluttony is a sin, is the killing of animals to feed this gluttony also a sin? St. Gregory’s use of negative language to describe the process: pillages, eradicates, artful hedonists, may indicate that this is so. Whilst St. John Chrysostom does not identify the food in the following, he does acknowledge the link between food and ill health:

“Don’t you daily observe thousands of disorders stemming from laden tables and immoderate eating?” 34

Russell (1980) informs us that:

“The control of the appetite was never over; it is instructive that it is gluttony as much as sexuality which was their continuous field of battle.” 35

Many people are ignorant of the detrimental health effects of consuming animal products. This, in part, is due to the vast sums of money used to market animal products as healthy, yet when we examine the research into diet and ill health we see a direct correlation between adopting the animal-based diets in developing countries with an increase in Western health problems, which includes obesity. In the UK, obesity has more than trebled in the last 25 years with nearly a third of adults and a fourth of children diagnosed as obese. Health experts believe that obesity is linked to a wide range of health problems, including some cancers ; diabetes; heart disease; high blood pressure; arthritis; infertility; indigestion; gallstones; stress, anxiety, depression; snoring and sleep apnoea.

Consuming animal-based food products is the norm for many cultures and despite numerous health warnings associated with animal food products, vast numbers of people continue to eat themselves into ill-health. Again, we see the importance of Kahneman’s work. Attitudes to diet will not be easy to change without education. Certainly, such education should be ongoing in schools and colleges; however this is another area where the leaders of the Church can play a significant role.

Moving to the soteriological implications of our actions H. A. H. Bartholomew offers some clarity. He begins with listing environmental calamities such as nuclear explosions, radioactive waste, toxic rain and polluting oil-spills then unusually, he adds a form of animal abuse to the list:

“We may also think of the force-feeding of animals so that they will provide more food for us. All this constitutes an insolent overthrow of natural order.” 36

This is a rare and essential teaching for the animal-based food production aspect of animal suffering. His acknowledgement of the violence and inhumane production processes involved is clear recognition that force-feeding animals is an example of the exploitation of ‘nature’. His language reminds us of St Gregory’s negative language in his teaching on “Use; do not misuse!” He also acknowledges the ill effects of the insolent overthrowing of the natural order to human health:

“Indeed, it is becoming generally accepted that the disruption of the natural order has negative effects on the health and well-being of human beings, such as the contemporary plagues of humanity, cancer, the syndrome of post virus fatigue, heart diseases, anxieties and a multitude of other diseases.” 37

His acknowledgement of the link between exploitative food production practices and harm to animal and human health is also critically important, for it highlights the interconnectedness of the created world. The question arising here is whether he has identified these processes as sins? A related and equally challenging moral and ethical question is whether it is right to kill innocent animals in medical research to treat disorders that have arisen from this form of human self-indulgence? H. A. H. Bartholomew’s teaching on humanity’s exploitation of nature in “greedy and unnatural ways” may help us to answer that question. I argue that these practices indicate not only the desire for evil profit but also continuing human arrogance and the sinful misuse of our freedom.

The teaching on the overthrowing of the natural order is equally applicable to another aspect of animal suffering, i.e. their loss of freedom. Animals kept in pens or cages are restricted in both their movements and natural behaviours. Examples would include gestation and veal crates; ‘battery’ and crush-cages; small cages or enclosures for animals with fur, or wild animals kept for human curiosity and entertainment. Keeping animals in these conditions causes physiological and psychological distress and ill-health. It seems reasonable therefore to include his specific example of force-feeding animals and my additions to it, as further examples of sins against animals. H. A. H. Bartholomew also speaks to the point on the negative soteriological implications for those who by their inaction and/or use of the products are part of the problem:

“We all share the responsibility for such tragedies, since we tolerate those immediately responsible for them and accept a portion of the fruit that results from such an abuse of nature.” 38

In applying his teaching to our theme, I can state that whilst we may not be killing or rearing the animals in inhumane ways, by our demand for animal-based food products, fur clothing or entertainment, we are part of the reason why such practices and processes exist. Essentially, we create the demand and the market. A helpful analogy here is the receiving of stolen goods. The challenge of moving from theory to practice remains.

A Role For The Church.

Eastern Orthodoxy teaches on the need for a spiritual revolution and on the extension of justice, rights, mercy, compassion, nonviolence and inclusion of nature into our community. We are also to be a ‘voice for the voiceless’, which indicates that we ought to act in ways that reduce animal suffering. What then are we as Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Church to say when we learn of the animal suffering involved in both the rearing and death of animals within these systems? Limouris speaks to the point when linking our Christian duty to identify injustices, which brings us back to personal sacrifice:

“Christian men and women must also have the courage to spell out the injustices, which they see, even though this might require them to make personal sacrifices. These sacrifices will include costly involvement and action.” 39

“We must repent for the abuses which we have imposed upon the natural world…We must work and lobby in every way possible…For ourselves, this means a recommitment to the simple life which is content with necessities and…a new affirmation of self-discipline, a renewal of the spirit of asceticism.” 40

“Words, however – even changed attitudes – will no longer suffice. Wherever we find ourselves, as Christians we need to act in order to restore the integrity of creation. A creative, cooperative, active and determined plan of action is required for implementation.” 41

If it is our individual Christian duty to identify injustices and act to prevent them, it seems reasonable to conclude that it ought to be the responsibility of the leaders of the Church. What then are the possibilities for us as individuals and leaders of our Church? Changing the attitudes of those who run these industrial processes will be difficult if not impossible without intervention from outside. This is one area where the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church could play a significant role just as they have done in their engagement with environmental issues. Examples here are H. A. H. Bartholomew’s Religion and Science environmental symposiums; his visit to the World Economic Forum at Davos and his recent coordinated action with Pope Francis where each convened business, scientific, and academic leaders in Rome and Athens respectively, to hasten the transition from fossil fuels to safe renewable energy. It is also possible therefore, to have this type of coordinated action for discussions on the environmental impact of an animal-based diet.

In my book we learn that some in authority are beginning to define cruelty, abuse and exploitation of animals within the animal-based food industries as a sin and an abuse of human freedom. We also have the following teaching from Abbot Khalil:

“Christians need to avoid eating meat wherever possible out of mercy for the animals and care for creation.” 42

I have been a vegan/vegetarian for 50 years and never before tried to ‘convert’ others to this diet. Times have changed. All of us ought to speak out to address the very real and imminent catastrophe of increasing climate change. In my work, I have repeatedly argued that abstinence from animal-based food products is a crucial element of effectively reducing animal suffering, environmental degradation and global warming. In defining the sin of exploitation and abuse in contemporary animal-based food production practices, the leaders of our Church would also be reaffirming Christ’s teaching in Luke 14:5 and the early Church tradition that we should act to prevent the suffering of God’s non-human beings. I argue that it will also be effective in moving our spiritual journey towards the likeness of an all-loving and compassionate God.

I am encouraged that those with authority urge us to be a voice for the voiceless and I am encouraged that the Eastern Orthodox environmental debate urges actions rather than words. This process has begun via Eastern Orthodox discussions on environmental issues and I respectfully submit that these discussions must now extend into the areas of animal suffering that arise from the same mind-set of domination over the natural world. I am also encouraged by teachings on the negative soteriological implications for those who inflict abuse, those who are indifferent to it and those who know, are concerned, but do not act to reduce the suffering. I repeat H. A. H. Bartholomew’s important teaching on the need for action:

“We are all painfully aware of the fundamental obstacle that confronts us in our work for the environment. It is precisely this: how to move from the theory to action, from word to deeds.” 43

Part of this process requires us to be mindful of our language. If we continually refer to animals as ‘the environment’, ‘nature’ or ‘resources’, it is unlikely that the majority of the laity will ever view them as part of our community, worthy of justice, rights and mercy and, unlikely to consider them as worthy of our love and compassion. Let us instead, begin to refer to them as animals or better still cows, sheep, chickens, etc., so that we facilitate the process of seeing them as individual beings loved by God, rather than as units of production or disposable life.

Sherrard’s description of our collective psychosis- our continuing walk to the abyss, indicates that we as individuals have not sufficiently understood Eastern Orthodox teachings and the leaders of our Church and our academics must address this failure. Part of this process will be to ensure that our priests and laity understand the Eastern Orthodox teachings related to animal suffering. For this to occur we need our leaders to engage with the subject. It has, apparently, been difficult for Christian Church leaders to advocate a vegan/vegetarian diet. This form of diet is almost the equivalent of a permanent strict fast, which requires daily sacrifice. Some have argued that we should promote the Orthodox fast and I agree that if everyone accepted this, it would certainly help. But we have little time. The scientists give us approximately 12 years to ‘turn the ship around’. We must be realistic. The question therefore is how realistic is it to expect others to adopt the complicated Orthodox fasting system? That said, there is nonetheless a significant role for the Orthodox Church. The concept of sacrifice is alien to many in contemporary societies but this is precisely where the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church have their role. Eastern Orthodoxy has the ascetic tradition and thus the authority to promote a diet that requires daily sacrifice, unlike other Christian faiths, secular ethicists or environmentalists. In order to facilitate this possibility, I end my discussion on the animal-based diet by presenting some practical proposals:

1) Orthodox leaders could urge Orthodox Christians and those outside our faith, to give up animal-based diets entirely or, as a first step, abstain from foods produced in intensive farming practices. In so doing, the impact on animal suffering, human health and environmental damage would be enormous.

2) If our Patriarchs and Bishops were to declare their intention not to consume or provide animal-based food products at their meetings, this would send a strong message and focus the minds of both clergy and laity.

3) Our leaders could affirm the sin of inflicting harm upon God’s animal creation in order to achieve ever-increasing profits.

An essential part of changing the view of animals as ‘disposable lives’ will require the education of our priests on the many problems associated with the animal food production industries. Seminary modules can be adapted from the module framework, outlined in Appendix B of my book. Such training would enable our priests to teach a coherent message that will result in the reduction of animal suffering, improvements in our health and the environment and in advancing our spiritual journeys. I have been invited to speak at the forthcoming Summit in Istanbul, where I am to ‘inspire’ the leaders of our seminaries and academies to include a module on environmental and animal care. I ask for your prayers in this important work.

As a way of further facilitating the above, the Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals charity, is working in an ecumenical context, to produce an ethical framework to guide the policy and practice of Churches and other Christian institutions, about farmed animal welfare. This initiative aims to develop resources and work with institutions to support the development and implementation of policy in this area. The endorsement of Eastern Orthodox Church involvement in such initiatives sends a clear message to the laity and manufacturers that it is time to change their practices.

Finally, to be clear, I do not state that all those working within this industry are cruel or evil people, though there are many recorded instances of people exhibiting such tendencies. What I do say, is that the system itself is a form of legalized violence to animals which is contributing to climate change, human ill-health and animal suffering, thus repeating the cosmic disharmony discussed by the early church Fathers. I submit that it is incompatible with early and contemporary teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church and ought therefore, to be rejected.

Ref:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             1. Luke 14:5.                                                                                                                     2. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.2:5; 4.18.6.                                                                3. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Homilies, 13:2; see also 13:35 & 15:3. Note Cyril of Jerusalem’s point on stewardship, Catechetical Homilies, Homily 15:26; also, Mt 5:16.                                4.Basil,Hexaemeron 7:5.                                                                                                 5.  H. A. H. Bartholomew.      6. Harakas, ‘Ecological Reflections on Contemporary Orthodox Thought in Greece.” Epiphany Journal 10 (3): 57.                              7. Met. Kallistos interview Ch. 6, in, Nellist. C. Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering: Ancient Voices in Modern Theology, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018. 8. Summarized by Clement of Alexandria,as the ‘Harmony of the parts of the soul’, Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, 4.26; also, Harakas, ‘The Integrity of Creation’, 76. 9. Harakas, ‘The Integrity of Creation: Ethical Issues” in, Justice Peace and the Integrity of Creation: Insights from Orthodoxy, edited by L. Gennadios, 70-82. Geneva: WCC, 1990:77. 10. Bonhoeffer, Ethics. Ed. E. Bethge. Translated by N, Horton Smith. London & NY: SCM Press, 1978:176. 11. Bartholomew, “Caretaker of the Environment.” 30th June, 2004.  12. Bartholomew, Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today: His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Auckland: Doubleday. 2008:107; also, Chryssavgis, Speaking the Truth, 297; Met. John, ‘Man as Priest of Creation.’ 13. Bartholomew, “Justice: Environmental and Human” composed as “Foreword” to proceedings of the fourth summer seminar at Halki in June (1997) in, Chryssavgis, Speaking the Truth, 173; also, “Environmental Rights” in, Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 260. 14. Bartholomew “The Orthodox Church and the Environment,” in Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 2009:364                                                                                                    

15. Met. Kallistos (Ware) ‘Orthodox Christianity: Compassion for Animals’, paper given at IOTA conference, Iasi, Romania, 2019. Also in The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Animal Ethics, ed by A. Linzey and C. Linzey, Routledge, 2018.                                                                                                         

16. Ibid.                                                        

17. Bartholomew, “Sacrifice: The Missing Dimension” in Cosmic Grace, 2008:275.

18. Ibid.

19. Bartholomew, “Address before the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly,” in Speaking the Truth, 2011:283.

20. Keselopoulos, Man and the Environment: A Study of St. Symeon the New Theologian, trans. E. Theokritoff. Crestwood, NY: SVSP, 2001: 93.

21. Keselopoulos “The Prophetic Charisma in Pastoral Theology: Asceticism, Fasting and the Ecological Crisis” in Toward Ecology of Transfiguration: Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature and Creation, eds. Chryssavgis J., and B. V. Foltz, NY: Fordham University Press, 2013:361.

22. Keselopoulos in Chryssavgis & Foltz, p 361-2

23. See the latest IPCC, WMO, NASA reports and the latest edition of The Lancet.

24. Zizioulas,  ‘Comments on Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’’. Available at:

25. Met. Anthony (Bloom) Encounter, 135.

26. Met. Kallistos, Ch. 6 in, Nellist, C. Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering: Ancient Voices in Modern Theology. 2018.

27. Knight A, “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change” in, The Global Guide to Animal Protection, ed. A. Linzey, pp. 254-256. Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2013; also in Nellist op. cit., pp. 250-1.

28. Broom and Fraser Farm Animal Behaviour and Welfare. (NY: CABI Publishing, 1997; Turner Stop, Look, Listen: Recognising the Sentience of Farm Animals, (A Report for Compassion in World Farming. 2006; Duncan ‘Animal Welfare Issues in the Poultry Industry: Is There a Lesson to Be Learned’, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2001; Webster, “Welfare Implications of Avian Osteoporosis.” Poultry Science 83 (2004),  pp. 184-92; G. Stokka, J.Smith and J. Dunham, Lameness in Dairy Cattle, (Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, 1997). Available at:; T. Vernelli, The Dark Side of Dairy-A Report on the UK Dairy Industry, 2005. Available at:; European Commission, 1995, 2001, 2012; Aaltola, Animal Suffering: Philosophy and Culture (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, 2012:34-45. Aaltola provides many other reports and scientific studies, which outline numerous examples of suffering.

29. Duncan, 2001:216.

30. Duncan, 2001:211. See also Gregory and Wilkins, “Broken Bones in Domestic Fowl: Handling and Processing Damage in End-of-Lay Battery Hens.”; Weeks & Nicol, “Poultry Handling and Transport”; Webster, “Welfare Implications of Avian Osteoporosis.”

31. Grandin, T. ‘The welfare of pigs during transport and slaughter’ Pig News and Information, 24:3, 83-90. Those who follow Judaism and Islam still slaughter animals in the biblical tradition. A recent undercover investigation highlights the inhumane actions and immense suffering of animals:; also,

32. Lymbery, ‘In Too Deep: The Welfare of Intensively Farmed Fish’ available at:

33. St. Gregory of Nyssa, On Love for the Poor, 57.

34. St. John Chrysostom, On Repentance and Almsgiving, 10.5, 130.

35. Russell, The Lives of the Desert Fathers, Oxford. Mowbray & Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1981:37.

36. “Message by H. A. H. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew upon the Day of Prayer for the Protection of Creation,” 1st September 2001, in Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 56.

37. Ibid.

38. The acceptance of stolen goods makes the point. “Message by H. A. H. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew upon the Day of Prayer for the Protection of Creation” 1st September, 2001 in, Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 57.

39. Limouris Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation: Insights from Orthodoxy, 1990:24, no 30.

40. Ibid, 12, no 37.

41. Ibid, 12, no 38.

42. Abba Khalil, private conversation, 15th April 2018. Used with permission.

43. Bartholomew, “Sacrifice: The Missing Dimension,” in Cosmic Grace, p. 275.

Dr. Christina Nellist, Visiting Fellow & Researcher at Winchester University, Editor of Pan Orthodox Concern For Animals. Email:

Tips on how to change from an animal to a plant based diet.

As scientists are urging us to change from animal to plant based diets and knowing what this involves, I have edited this article by Natalia Lima in the hope that you may find the tips useful.

So you’ve made the decision to go veg. You maybe on a mission to diminish animal cruelty, help the planet and get healthier than ever. This mission, however, won’t always be easy. While the treasures of better health and a clean conscience await you at the end, the first steps might be challenging at times since you’ve been eating meat for so long. But do not fret! We asked longtime vegetarians and vegans to guide your way. They’ve already made the switch. They’ve been there and done that, and now they are giving out advice.

Dr. Neal Barnard, Founder and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:

Focus on four food groups—vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes—that are the most powerful for health. What really counts is what works for you, whether it’s a bean-based chili or leafy green salad for lunch. Give it 21 days. When you see the numbers dropping on the scale, when people remark about how great you look, and when you feel your health getting better and better day by day, you’ll really want to keep going. And there is an extra benefit: A wonderful rebound of energy.
Keep the focus on the short term—that is, three weeks—so there is never any pressure or long-term commitment. Once you’ve experienced the power of healthful foods, you’ll never want to let it go.

Stephen Neabore, M.D., Physician at Barnard Medical Center

Learn a new recipe! Try to eat as much fiber as you can since it is found only in plants and will leave you feeling full.” (Dr. Barnard recommends aiming for 35 to 40 grams of fiber a day. His research shows those who follow a high-fiber vegetarian diet weigh 10 pounds less, on average, than omnivores.)
Decreasing medication requirements—or even stopping them all together—is extremely rewarding.

Elaine Hendrix, Actress “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” and Animal Activist

I find people move towards this diet for various reasons: health, animals, environment, experiment, all/other… So maybe that’s my answer, to be clear about why you’re adopting a vegetarian diet and regularly remind yourself of that reason. The more important the reason and more personal it is, the stronger it will take hold—and it will likely shift.
For me, I became a vegetarian in 1995 because my boyfriend and I were really into Kundalini Yoga and eating vegetarian was part of that. Then I became an animal activist and my reason became about saving lives. Now that I’m vegan I can’t do anything without thinking of animals first. It’s become not just a lifestyle, but my whole life. It’s been an evolutionary process, one baby step at a time.

Sticking with vegetarianism: plan ahead, get support (don’t go at it alone) and don’t worry about being perfect.

Mike Wolf, Investigations Manager at Compassion Over Killing

I went vegan 10 years ago. I’ve worked undercover inside factory farms, and now I manage Investigations for Compassion Over Killing. It’s hard to think of the vast number of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses as individuals. But I’ve been there, I’ve looked into the eyes of those individuals, and I’ve seen the suffering and despair behind their eyes. Know that you’ve taken that pain away from countless animals by not eating them because every vegan meal directly translates to less animal suffering. It’s never been easier or tastier to be vegan—and it’s also never been more impactful—because the number of animals being slaughtered every year is going down—thanks to you.

K.D. Traegner, Founder of Your Daily Vegan and Care2 contributor

For transitioning or going vegan: always be prepared! Keeping vegan snacks with you wherever you go will ensure that you will never be caught without something vegan to eat. Place snacks in the car, in your desk, in a locker, or in a bag so that you never go hungry! Find a few vegan options that you really like and buy them in bulk so you’re never without something to keep you going until your next meal.

Speaking of meals, don’t start out trying to make all of your food from scratch. Most of us live very busy lives, and cooking a meal that takes more than an hour to make after a long work day isn’t always possible. Don’t set yourself up to fail. If your regular meal routine included burgers and fries, find vegan burgers and fries. If your children love fish sticks, offer them Gardein’s Fishless Fillets instead. Yes, these analogues are processed foods and so they should be eaten in the same manner as any processed food—in moderation. But they can help you transition into a healthy vegan diet designed around whole food, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Plus, they taste good too.
For staying vegan: Try as many new foods as possible, and as often as possible. Pick a vegetable or vegan recipe to try and make it a weekly event with friends or family. Involving friends and family can be a fun way to try new products and swap recipes. Remembering the reason that you decided to live vegan can also help you stay on course. For myself, I am vegan for the animals and remembering them makes it easy to not be tempted by non-vegan food or products. With so many vegan alternatives in available, I don’t miss the non-vegan versions.

Ryan Strandjord, Vice President at The Herbivorous Butcher

There are a ton of great resources that exist today either on Facebook or through various websites that people can check out to learn more about recipes and what foods to eat. Naturally we recommend they check out what we’re doing [a meatless meat shop] because our model is setup to help people transition to a more plant-based diet by providing direct replacements for the meats they currently eat. There are other companies too (Field Roast, Gardein, etc.) that also make some decent products that people can check out.
Finding others who are already vegan/vegetarian is a great resource as well. Depending on where people live there are often Meetup groups that they can attend to learn more about what kinds of foods to make and to get suggestions from others about how they can adapt their diets.

Matt Frazier, Vegan Ultra Marathoner and Founder and Author of “No Meat Athlete”

It’s tempting to try to make a massive change, all at once, but most often that leads to failure. Far better is to take gradual steps: commit to just removing four-legged animals from your diet for 10 days, working in fully vegetarian or vegan meals only when you feel like it. If that goes well — and you’ll probably be surprised at how easy it is and how great you feel — then cut out two-legged animals, then fish, and finally all animal products, if you wish.
Setting a 10-day goal for each phase, rather than going all-in, lets you learn over time how to plan and prepare meatless meals, as well as how to deal with restaurants or other social situations. It also prevents sudden realizations like ‘I can never eat a cheeseburger again.’ Instead, you can tell yourself that you’ve only got to make it to the end of your 10-day challenge, at which point you can decide whether or not to keep going. And hopefully when that time comes, you’ll be able to make a better decision than you would have when you were craving the cheeseburger!

Katie Arth, Media Assistant Manager at PETA

The most important thing is to make it easy. When you first start eating a plant based diet, there’s no need to change everything. If you really love burritos, you don’t have to give up burritos and go gluten free, you can have your burritos without cheese and sour cream. If you can make these small changes to begin with and then you start seeing how you feel and look better, it gets easier.

Claire Crowley, Marine Scientist

Explore foods that you wouldn’t normally think to eat and expand your horizons. Find some hearty go-to recipes for days you don’t want to be creative and remember you don’t just have to eat salad! However, don’t get stuck on eating pasta and bread. Sure, it’s vegetarian, but it is heavy and you won’t feel great if that’s your staple.

Corina Angelova, Wellness Consultant and Author of “Slim-Down Healthy Sandwiches Under 400 Calories That Keep You Full and Help You Lose Weight”

I’ve been vegetarian for 10+ years. Firstly it’s not about giving up something but about gaining a new way to eat and often a way to cleanse your body. (That helps a lot with sticking to it). It gives color to your plate, makes you creative with your food and, if done right, makes you healthier and more energetic.

Tracy Lewin, Artist

Watching movies like Food Inc. and Cowspiracy help. If you are serious about making the change, watch those. The way animals are treated is HORRIFIC and as an animal lover I can’t support that. So anytime I have thought of giving in, I think of that and don’t do it.

Anthony D’Amico, Nonprofit Treasurer

Research many many meals! Plan them out ahead of time. Cook them in large quantities. Freeze them for near future meals. Check out Also, switch to almond or soy milk. Maybe get some vitamins and enjoy feeling like you have never felt in your entire life! Full of energy, never tiring, always happy!!

Natalia Lima,Writer (and yours truly)

When I first made the switch to a vegan diet the cravings were strong. I had been an avid meat eater all my life and after watching Food, Inc. (and crying for two hours because of the animal cruelty) I decided to quit all meat products cold turkey. What helped me get through that initial phase (which lasted about two months) was to always keep a snack close by. Hummus with crackers, toasted sunflower seeds, peanuts or cashews or even a cereal bar. That way, when I got home starving, I would have a snack and then I would have the energy to make a meal with vegetables, which was brand new to me. After those cravings faded, I grew disgusted with meat, by the way. My body started recognizing it as ‘bad’ and things got so much easier.
In the beginning it’s so important to get informed. Don’t become a pizza and fries vegetarian. Do your homework by reading books like The Kind Diet and Breaking The Food Seduction, which will teach you about what vegetables and legumes have what vitamins. If you’re diligent about that you’ll feel amazing in just a couple short weeks.
Finally, don’t pay attention to the haters. Whether it is your family, friends or strangers who are suddenly concerned about your protein intake, saying it’s an unhealthy way to live or how they could never do it, be confident in the fact that you did your homework and that you are doing the right thing. Once you stick to it they’ll go from making fun of you and calling it your ‘weird phase’ to respecting it and even asking you for advice on how to do it, you’ll see.