A Sustainable Environment: Our Obligation to Protect God’s Gift

George P. Nassos

Let’s Benefit From Nature Rather Than Destroying It

Have you ever wondered what the earth was like before humans inhabited it and started to change it? The earth consisted of trees, flowers, fruits, vegetables, birds, animals, soil, water and fish. The trees produce thousands of blossoms in order to bear fruits. The blossoms will eventually fall to the ground and enrich the soil. The birds can eat the fruit and the seeds fall to the ground to produce more trees. Animals eat the plants and other smaller animals, and when they die they become food for another animal or deteriorate and fertilize the soil. Basically, God designed nature to sustain itself without producing any waste. It is a great precedent of the circular economy that we are trying to emulate.

There are two great books about this phenomena. One is “Cradle to Cradle” by Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart where they describe how everything that is taken from the earth should be returned to the earth, thus the title of the book. Another classic is “Biomimicry” by Janine Benyus where she presents biological concepts that are available to us for adoption. Basically the book is about learning from nature and how to adopt these sciences for a better environment.

What are some ways we can benefit from nature? We are already taking advantage of the sun to generate solar energy but it has really taken off only in the last two decades even though it has been available for over 60 years. The photovoltaic cell was discovered accidentally by Bell Labs around 1954, but I recall seeing solar water heating on a home in Greece 10 years later. The great impetus, however, has been primarily due to the huge decrease in the cost of solar panels such as the period from 1980 to 2012 when the cost of panels decreased 97%. Due to the current problem with supply chains, the cost may increase somewhat. In any event, we should continue taking advantage of this free fuel that will help save the environment.

Geothermal is another excellent source of energy for heating and cooling. In any geographical area of the earth, the temperature of the subsurface, say 8 to 10 feet down, is relatively constant all year long. If you are in an area where this temperature is 55°F., pipes can be inserted in the ground to this level through which air can be passed and cooled to this temperature in the summer. This cooler air can then be used in place of an air-conditioner to cool your home. In the winter, the same system can be used to provide 55°F. air for the heating furnace. The cold outside air would be preheated before passing through the furnace. This would make the heating system much more efficient rather than heating outside air at a much lower temperature.

A major cost of this system depends on the land area available for inserting the pipes below the ground. If the property is sufficiently large, the pipes can be installed horizontally at the 10 foot depth. If the property is too small, then the pipes would have to be installed vertically at a depth much below the 10 feet so the processed air can be sufficiently cooled or heated.

Another natural science that has not been used very much for producing energy is the common tidal wave. This is a shallow water wave caused by the gravitational interactions between the sun, moon and earth. In areas where there is a significant tidal range, which is the difference between high tide and low tide, there are opportunities to generate electricity. This form of renewable energy is still very new with no tidal power plants operating in the U.S. The first one was located in La Rance, France while the largest in the world is in South Korea. Some of the negatives for this technology to move forward include legal issues about the land ownership, improving the generator technology, and improving the economics. In any event, this is another example of using nature rather than degrading it.

Geothermal and tidal wave energy are two nature-sourced examples that would probably be used by developed countries. What can developing countries do to make use of nature? They can adopt some of the systems being used by Gaviotas, a small village in Colombia that was created about 50 years ago. To control the amount of water used for agricultural plants, they made use of a clay-like soil. The watering tube was inserted through a porous shell containing the clay. If there was sufficient water, it would expand the clay which would pinch close the watering tube. The village also built a watering tank for the cattle that was surrounded by a sloping cement floor. As cattle were brought to drink, their cow pies slid down the floor to a gutter. This cattle manure was subsequently converted to compost, and the released methane was captured to fuel stove burners at their hospital.

The engineers in Gaviotas also developed a children’s seesaw that would drive a water pump. Another idea was for drying hospital linens after they were washed. To dry them rapidly because of a small supply, they built a convex parabola out of clear plastic. This would concentrate the sun’s rays inside a small building which became similar to a greenhouse with a temperature of 130°F., basically creating a solar dryer. This small village can be an inspiration to many other villages in the developing countries.

With a combination of a population explosion of human mankind along with greed, we have found many ways to destroy the planet earth that was provided to us. We now must continue to develop ways that we can protect the earth while providing the needs of all living beings. Expanding our understanding and research of biomimicry may be a great way to help improve our environment.

FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TOWARD A SOCIAL ETHOS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

At the start of 2022, it seems appropriate to remind us all of the Church’s position on the sacredness of God’s creation and of our moral duties as Image of God, to care for and facilitate its flourishing. I have selected four sections from the Church’s Social Ethos document, which remind us not only that any form of abuse of Gods creation is a sin but also, that we are to extend our love and compassion to God’s other animals, for they too will be in the restored Kingdom of God. Bold type is used for emphasis. The full document is presented on the main menu.

§75 The Church understands that this world, as God’s creation, is a sacred mystery whose depths reach down into the eternal counsels of its maker; and this in and of itself precludes any of the arrogance of mastery on the part of human beings. Indeed, exploitation of the world’s resources should always be recognized as an expression of Adam’s “original sin” rather than as a proper way of receiving God’s wonderful gift in creation. Such exploitation is the result of selfishness and greed, which arise from humanity’s alienation from God, and from humanity’s consequent loss of a rightly ordered relationship with the rest of nature. Thus, as we have repeatedly stressed, every act of exploitation, pollution, and misuse of God’s creation must be recognized as sin. The Apostle Paul describes creation as “groaning in pain along with us from the beginning till now” (Romans 8:22), while “awaiting with eager longing” (Romans 8:19) “the glorious liberation by the children of God” (Romans 8:21). The effects of sin and of our alienation from God are not only personal and social, but also ecological and even cosmic. Hence, our ecological crisis must be seen not merely as an ethical dilemma; it is an ontological and theological issue that demands a radical change of mind and a new way of being. And this must entail altering our habits not only as individuals, but as a species. For instance, our often heedless consumption of natural resources and our wanton use of fossil fuels have induced increasingly catastrophic processes of climate change and global warming. Therefore, our pursuit of alternative sources of energy and our efforts to reduce our impact on the planet as much as possible are now necessary expressions of our vocation to transfigure the world.

§76 None of us exists in isolation from the whole of humanity, or from the totality of creation. We are dependent creatures, creatures ever in communion, and hence we are also morally responsible not only for ourselves or for those whom we immediately influence or affect, but for the whole of the created order—the whole city of the cosmos, so to speak. In our own time, especially, we must understand that serving our neighbor and preserving the natural environment are intimately and inseparably connected. There is a close and indissoluble bond between our care of creation and our service to the body of Christ, just as there is between the economic conditions of the poor and the ecological conditions of the planet. Scientists tell us that those most egregiously harmed by the current ecological crisis will continue to be those who have the least. This means that the issue of climate change is also an issue of social welfare and social justice. The Church calls, therefore, upon the governments of the world to seek ways of advancing the environmental sciences, through education and state subventions for research, and to be willing to fund technologies that might serve to reverse the dire effects of carbon emissions, pollution, and all forms of environmental degradation.

§77 We must also recall, moreover, that human beings are part of the intricate and delicate web of creation, and that their welfare cannot be isolated from the welfare of the whole natural world. As St. Maximus the Confessor argued, in Christ all the dimensions of humanity’s alienation from its proper nature are overcome, including its alienation from the rest of the physical cosmos; and Christ came in part to restore to material creation its original nature as God’s earthly paradise.[59] Our reconciliation with God, therefore, must necessarily express itself also in our reconciliation with nature, including our reconciliation with animals. It is no coincidence that the creation narrative of Genesis describes the making of animal life and the making of humanity as occurring on the same day (Genesis 1:24–31). Nor should it be forgotten that, according to the story of the Great Flood, Noah’s covenant with God encompasses the animals in the ark and all their descendants, in perpetuity (Genesis 9:9–11). The unique grandeur of humanity in this world, the image of God within each person, is also a unique responsibility and ministry, a priesthood in service to the whole of creation in its anxious longing for God’s glory. Humanity shares the earth with all other living things, but singularly among living creatures possesses the ability and authority to care for it (or, sadly, to destroy it). The animals that fill the world are testament to the bounty of God’s creative love, its variety and richness; and all the beasts of the natural order are enfolded in God’s love; not even a single sparrow falls without God seeing (Matthew 10:29). Moreover, animals by their very innocence remind us of the paradise that human sin has squandered, and their capacity for blameless suffering reminds us of the cosmic cataclysm induced by humanity’s alienation from God. We must recall also that all the promises of scripture regarding the age that is to come concern not merely the spiritual destiny of humanity, but the future of a redeemed cosmos, in which plant and animal life are plentifully present, renewed in a condition of cosmic harmony.

§78 Thus, in the lives of the saints, there are numerous stories about wild beasts, of the kind that would normally be horrifying or hostile to human beings, drawn to the kindness of holy men and women. In the seventh century, Abba Isaac of Nineveh defined a merciful heart as “a heart burning for the sake of the entire creation, for people, for birds, for animals . . . and for every created thing.”[60] This is a consistent theme in the witness of the saints. St. Gerasimos healed a wounded lion near the Jordan River; St. Hubertus, having received a vision of Christ while hunting deer, proclaimed an ethic of conservation for hunters; St. Columbanus befriended wolves, bears, birds, and rabbits; St. Sergius tamed a wild bear; St. Seraphim of Sarov fed the wild animals; St. Mary of Egypt may well have befriended the lion that guarded her remains; St. Innocent healed a wounded eagle; St. Melangell was known for her protection of wild rabbits and the taming of their predators; in the modern period, St. Paisios lived in harmony with snakes. And not only animals, but plants as well, must be objects of our love. St. Kosmas the Aetolian preached that “people will remain poor, because they have no love for trees”[61] and St. Amphilochios of Patmos asked, “Do you know that God gave us one more commandment that is not recorded in scripture? It is the commandment to love the trees.” The ascetic ethos and the Eucharistic spirit of the Orthodox Church perfectly coincide in this great sacramental vision of creation, which discerns the traces of God’s presence “everywhere present and filling all things” (Prayer to the Holy Spirit) even in a world still as yet languishing in bondage to sin and death. It is a vision, moreover, that perceives human beings as bound to all of creation, as well as one that encourages them to rejoice in the goodness and beauty of the whole world. This ethos and this spirit together remind us that gratitude and wonder, hope and joy, are our only appropriate—indeed, our truly creative and fruitful—attitude in the face of the ecological crisis now confronting the planet, because they alone can give us the willingness and the resolve to serve the good of creation as unremittingly as we must, out of love for it and its creator.

Ecumenical Patriarch: Science is a Priceless Gift; Lambasts Irresponsible Voices in 2021 Christmas Message to Faithful

“Brother concelebrants and blessed children,

Having once again arrived at the splendid feast of the Nativity in the flesh of our Savior Christ, who visited us from the heights, we glorify with psalms and hymns His all-heavenly name. The Incarnation of the pre-eternal Word of God is “the crowning of our salvation,” the “eternal mystery” of divine-human communion that transcends all reason. As St. Maximus the Confessor says so eloquently, “as a loving God, He truly became human assuming the essence of humankind, although the manner in which He became human will always remain ineffable; He became human in a manner that transcends humanity.”

The divine Incarnation, along with the manifestation of the truth about God also reveals the truth and ultimate destination of man, our deification by grace. St. Nicholas Cabasilas proclaims so theologically that Christ “is the first and only One to show us the true and perfect man.”

Since that time, anyone who honors God must also honor man, and whoever undermines man also dishonors God, who assumed our nature. In Christ, speaking theologically about God we speak at the same time about man. The incarnate Divine Economy definitively abolishes the image of God as tyrannical, punitive, and adversary to man. Christ is everywhere, always and in all things the denial of the denial of man and the defender of human freedom. The life of the Church, as the flesh assumed by the incarnate Son and Word of God, represents, expresses and serves this all-saving mystery of divine-humanity.

With this “other fashioning” of man and renewal of all creation in Christ as its banner, the Church today offers the good witness before every development that threatens the sacredness of the human person and the integrity of creation. It lives and preaches the truth of authentic spiritual life and the culture of love and solidarity. Offering testimony “about the hope that lies within us” (1 Pet 3.15), the Church does not in any way regard contemporary civilization as another sinful Nineveh by invoking like Jonah the divine wrath on it and its abolition, but rather the Church struggles for the culture’s transformation in Christ. In our age we need pastoral imagination, dialogue and not argumentation, participation and not abstention, specific deeds and not abstract theory, creative reception and not general rejection. All these do not function at the expense of our spirituality and liturgical life, but reveal the inviolable unity of what we call the “vertical” and “horizontal” dimensions of the Church’s presence and witness. Faithfulness to the tradition of the Church is not entrapment to the past, but employment of the experience of the past in a creative way for the present.

In this past year, too, the pandemic of the Covid-19 coronavirus has troubled humankind. We give glory to the God of mercy, who strengthened the specialists and scientists to develop effective vaccines and other medications in order to confront this crisis, and we encourage all faithful who have yet to be vaccinated to do so and everyone to adhere to the protective measures by the health authorities. Science, to the extent that operates as a minister of man, is a priceless gift by God. We must gratefully accept this gift and not be misled by irresponsible voices of ignorant and self-proclaimed as representatives of God and of the authentic faith “spiritual advisors,” who, nevertheless, lamentably invalidate themselves through the absence of love for their brethren, whose lives they expose to grave danger.

Most honorable brothers and dearly beloved children,

With unshakable conviction that the life of each of us and the journey of all humanity is directed by the God of wisdom and love, we look forward to a happy 2022, which despite external factors and developments will be for everyone a year of salvation, inasmuch as during its course as well, the movement of history is guided by Christ, who loves mankind and cares for all things, “who desires that all people will be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.” (1 Tm 2.4)
With God’s will, during the upcoming Holy and Great Week, we shall hold the service of the Blessing of the Holy Chrism in our venerable Center. We regard it as a uniquely divine gift to our Modesty that we shall be deemed worthy to preside over this festive and moving rite for the fourth time in our humble Patriarchal ministry. Glory to God for all things!

With these sentiments, respectfully worshiping the child Jesus born in Bethlehem, we orient our thought to our Christian brothers there and we pray for the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of all those residing in the Holy Land.

In this spirit, we wish to all of you, those near and afar, a blessed Twelvetide, as well as a healthy, fruitful in good deeds and filled with divine gifts new year in the Lord’s favor, to Whom belong the glory and might to the endless ages. Amen.

Christmas 2021

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU

A great man, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, died this morning. Back in the early nineties, I had the immense pleasure of accepting an invitation from Prof. Rev. Andrew Linzey to hear the Archbishop speak. A tiny man in stature yet dwarfing all of us in that auditorium in his compassion and love for humanity. Essentially his message was this – ‘they took everything from us, but they could not take away our bibles and that was our greatest weapon.’

I was not a Christian at the time, but I have often reflected that this was the first time that I became conscious of a spiritual awaking in my own life. I had been active in denouncing apartheidism and eschewed all things South African in my personal commitment to stop its spread; much the same as I do now with Chinese goods and the genocide taking place against the Uyghurs. This was the same method of separation that I had taken 15 years earlier, from the meat producing industry and its inherent cruelty to animals.

Many of you will know the Archbishop’s work for the suffering black Africans but few if any of you will know that he also linked the evil inherent in that suffering with the suffering of animals. I shall therefore reproduce part of his Foreword to Prof Linsey’s book The Global Guide to Animal Protection, to enlighten you on his thoughts on animal suffering and its inherent injustice.

Extending Justice and Compassion.

‘I have spent my life fighting discrimination and injustice, whether the victims are blacks, women, or gays and lesbians. No human being should be the target of prejudice or the object of vilification or be denied his or her basic rights. I could not have lived with myself, as a Christian and a bishop, if I had looked the other way. But the business of fighting injustice is like fighting a multiheaded hydra. As one form of injustice appears to be vanquished, another takes its place. Even if the path of progress seems interminably long, we can content ourselves with the sense that injustices to other human beings are at least on the agenda, or mostly so.

But there are other issues of justice – not only for human beings but also for the world’s other sentient creatures. The matter of the abuse and cruelty we inflict on other animals has to fight for our attention in what sometimes seems an already overfull moral agenda. It is vital, however, that these instances of injustice not be overlooked. I have seen firsthand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless of vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a high authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interest and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged.

Religious traditions do not, by and large, have a good record on animals. It has taken Christian churches some nineteen hundred years to recognize the immorality of slavery and even longer to recognize that women should not be treated as second-class citizens. Animals have invariably occupied a rather low, sometimes nonexistent place on the moral agenda of the churches. But things are now, slowly but surely, beginning to change…increasing numbers of people are gradually beginning to adopt more thoughtful and compassionate attitudes towards animals.

In many ways, it is odd that my fellow Christians have failed to see the issue of how we treat animals as a Gospel issue. After all, animals are also God’s creatures. Christians believe that the world is God’s creation. It is a kind of theological folly to suppose that God has made the entire world just for human beings, or to suppose that God is interested in only one of the millions of species that inhabit God’s good earth. Our dominion over animals is not supposed to be despotism. We are made in the Image of God, yes, but God – in whose image we are made – is holy, loving and just. We do not honor God by abusing other sentient creatures.

If it is true that we are the most exalted species in creations, it is equally true that we can be the most debased and sinful. This realization should give us pause. So much of our maltreatment of animals stems from a kind of spiritual blindness, a kind of hubris, in which we foolishly suppose that our own welfare is God’s sole concern. In fact, God’s creation is entrusted to our care and under our protection. There is something Christ-like about caring for suffering creatures, whether they are humans or animals.

Even when faced with urgent human problems we should not overlook the issue of justice to animals. In fact, as increasing amount of evidence shows that there is a link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to weaker human beings…All of us have an interest in the creation of a cruelty-free world. Churches should lead the way by making clear that all cruelty – to other animals as well as human beings – is an affront to civilized living and a sin before God…’

The world has lost a great man today. A man totally devoted to speaking the truth to power, no matter how that power is represented. The world and its inhabitants cannot afford to lose such people. My own work offers similar arguments to that above, and I am deeply saddened at his passing.

Dr. Christina Nellist.

Greening the Orthodox Parish

Each person is morally obliged to refrain from pollution and destruction of the environment. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

As Orthodox Christians we are called by Scripture, the saints and fathers, and our patriarchs speaking in one voice, to live in harmony with God’s creation. This will bring an intentionally Christian character to our lives. This also helps us extend the life of the Church into the life of the world.


The First Steps into Parish Ecological Practice
The following guidelines introduce Orthodox creation care principles and practice. These principles can be woven into sermons and parish talks so that an education takes place on the rationale for Orthodox ecological practice. This list is only a beginning. As a simple code of words, seek to “share, care, spare and repair” the materials of creation. Ecological action is a doorway for building a whole Orthodox way of life.

To sustain these goals, strive for an equally important set of spiritual principles. These include a vision of Christ in all things; thankfulness; earth stewardship; regular prayer, simplicity, cleanliness and contentment; practice of the virtues; seeking the beauty of the Lord; respect for creation; and theosis.

1. Extend Christian attitudes

We as Image are to love and care for all of God’s creation. Teach the Orthodox vision of Christ everywhere present in creation. Help parish members recall that we are continually dealing with the veiled presence of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in creation. Acknowledge God by respecting His Creation. Key themes are: renew, reuse, restore and replenish.

2. Restore the Earth.

Plant trees and wild gardens/meadows to enable the flourishing of creation.

3. Show kindness and compassion

Show kindness and compassion to all of God’s creatures. Ensure your parishioners, friends and family understand that God cares for all of His creatures.

4. Recycle all wastes
In Genesis, we are commanded by God to replenish the earth (Gen.1:28, KJV). Eliminate as many non-recyclable materials as possible. Use glass and china rather than plastic and Styrofoam cups, plates and cutlery.

5. Eliminate trash and excess
As much as possible minimize the purchase of items with excess packaging and things designed to be thrown away after use. Whenever possible, pick up rubbish and litter.

6. Buy green products
Purchase sustainable materials. Do not buy items that expose others to harmful
chemicals. Buy carefully and with an awakened conscience.

7. Serve clean foods
Avoid pesticide-laden foods – organic is best. Eat local, high welfare food and where possible, begin to increase your plant-based food. Eliminate junk food. Do not consume fish contaminated by mercury.

8. Remove incandescent light fixtures and bulbs
The excess use of electricity results in pollution and contributes to air pollution and serious harm to neighbors. As much as possible, use less polluting, lower cost lighting options.

9. Reduce energy use
When possible, use renewable sources of energy. We are to live within the limits of creation and refrain from doing harm. Refrain from the excess use of fossil fuels.

10. Respect drinking water
Drink clean water. Avoid bottled water which is often no better than tap water. To ensure clean water, purchase a water filter and serve clean water in glass pitchers. Never pour pollutants down the drain or into water-ways.

11. Minimize possessions Own less, use less, and enjoy life more. Buy what you need not what you want.

12. Study the Issues
For a larger listing of how to “green” your parish, look at the Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration website: https://www.orth-transfiguration.org

The £3 chicken: how much should we actually be paying for the nation’s favourite meat?

Fifty years ago, a medium broiler cost the equivalent of £11 today. Now it is less than a latte or a pint of beer, raising serious ethical and environmental questions

One of Simon Barton’s chicks, at his farm in Somerset.
One of Simon Barton’s chicks, at his farm in Somerset. Photograph: Jim Wileman/The Guardian

Simon Usborne The Guardian Wed 24 Nov 2021 06.00 GMT

A giant metal shed in Somerset is alive with the chirps of more than 17,000 three-day-old chicks. The yellow balls of fluff are still adjusting to their new home. When one breaks into a run, dozens more follow. They move like leaves blown around a town square.

“They’re not all named!” says Simon Barton, raising his voice above the din. Chicks climb over our boots, pecking at everything in search of food. We shuffle rather than walk lest we squash one.

Barton, a former TV engineer, quit the BBC 25 years ago to move here with his wife, Karen, a nurse. The couple took over and grew Karen’s father’s chicken farm not far from the Quantock Hills. They now produce more than a million birds a year.

The chicks arrived two days ago in a lorry from a huge hatchery. In the next six or seven weeks, they will multiply in weight 45 times to reach their target of 2.4kg (5lb 5oz). The broilers, as meat chickens are known (“layers” lay eggs), will then be trucked to a poultry processor and on to customers including Sainsbury’s.

Right now Barton has 197,000 chicks across several sheds. The one I’m in is the length of a jumbo jet. It sounds like a lot of birds. It looks like a lot. Yet in the UK we eat 17,000 chickens – the number I’m looking at in this one shed – every nine minutes. We consume more than 1bn broilers a year.

Later, sitting in his modest home office, Barton looks at the Sainsbury’s prices for whole chickens like his. “So, they do a medium bird for £3.50,” he says, running a finger over a page in his diary, where he occasionally scribbles numbers from supermarket websites. He looks up at me. “That’s the price of a latte.”

Animal welfare organisations have long criticised a complex supply chain that has grown into a stunningly efficient beast of protein production. Advances in breeding and nutrition along with basic economies of scale have slashed prices. Now the industry itself is asking questions about the fraught chickenomics of the £3 broiler.

Last month, in an intervention that made headlines, Britain’s typically shy “chicken king” called for a “reset” on pricing. It was perhaps surprising because Ranjit Singh Boparan is arguably the chief architect of the industry. As the UK’s biggest poultry supplier, his 2 Sisters Food Group processes more than 10m birds a week, including all of Barton’s broilers.

“How can it be right that a whole chicken costs less than a pint of beer?” Boparan asked in a press release under the headline “Food’s great reset”. The effects of Brexit, the pandemic and soaring costs were “decaying the food sector’s supply-chain infrastructure”, he said, warning that shoppers face a “different world” in which they pay more.

Workers inspect chickens on an assembly line in Harbin, northeast China

Labour, heat, electricity, packaging and the carbon dioxide used in processing and packing are all more expensive. The price of chicken feed, which accounts for 70% of Barton’s costs, is up 15%. A poultry plant in Yorkshire last month reported that the three tonnes of offal it normally sells each week was going in the skip because there was no one to process it. The British Poultry Council tells me Brexit cost the sector 15% of its workforce.

Yet the cost of chicken in the meat aisle and on menus has so far remained pretty steady. At the time of writing, Tesco is selling a whole bird for £2.66, flagging it as an “Aldi price match”. Then there are all the processed products, from breast fillets to dippers and Tesco’s “meaty strips” for dogs, which contain “animal derivatives” including chicken.

We have come to expect our most popular protein to be affordable. Low-income shoppers depend on it. “But we’ve run out of headroom,” says Barton, pushing his hands together to illustrate a squeeze. With the help of big loans, he has invested £1.5m in the farm in the past five years – all of it to maximise efficiencies and cling to profitability. The new shed he’s showing me, which is heated to a constant 32C (90F), cost almost £500,000 to build. “Everything’s pretty much down to the last penny now,” he adds.

Barton, who is proud of what he does, is willing to show me what it takes – and costs – to grow affordable chicken. I want to know how we got here. What are the consequences for animal welfare and the environment, words that were notably absent from Boparan’s cri de coeur? And, if not £3, then what is a fair price for a chicken?

Barton, in one of his chicken sheds.
Barton, in one of his chicken sheds. Photograph: Jim Wileman/The Guardian

In 1967, when the government started recording average chicken prices in the UK, a kilo cost 39p. In September this year, a kilo cost £2.76. Adjusting for inflation, that’s actually a huge price drop; 39p in 1967 would be £7.24 today. A medium broiler 50 years ago was about £11 in today’s prices.

We can trace the decline to a small town in Maryland. In 1948, tens of thousands of fertilised eggs from across the US arrived at a farm for a competition to find the “chicken of tomorrow”. At the time, chickens were still reared primarily as egg layers. Male birds were a byproduct to be culled as chicks or reared as tasty but scrawny and barely profitable broilers.

After the deprivations of war, the industry spied an opportunity to feed the world with bigger, better, cheaper, faster-growing chickens. After 12 weeks, the competition birds were slaughtered, weighed and judged. The winning bloodlines were interbred in what was the start of a revolution. It turned chickens into a science project, a plump commodity – and a fast-food staple.

The UK played a big part in it. In 1956, a Scottish company called Chunky Chicks secured a licence for some of the genetic stock from the Maryland contest. Chunky Chicks was then acquired by the Ross Group, which is responsible for one of the world’s most popular broilers, the Ross 308. Meanwhile, in East Anglia, a US company called Cobb created the Cobb 500. The birds had lighter bones, bigger breasts, faster growth rates and smaller appetites for expensive feed.

Cobb and Ross are now owned by, respectively, the US-headquartered food conglomerates Tyson and Aviagen (Aviagen is in turn owned by the secretive German billionaire Erich Wesjohann). They engineer and breed branded chicks with varying characteristics, selling these into the global industry of breeders and hatcheries. Cobb 700s, for example, are advertised for their “outstanding breast meat yield”. Ultimately about 90% of the world’s broilers are now Cobb or Ross birds.

Chickens were well suited to this kind of forced evolution. “The generational gap is so fast, which means these two companies can change things really quickly,” says Emily Burton, a professor of sustainable food production at Nottingham Trent University and a poultry nutritionist. While their controversial use in the UK has declined, antibiotics were also vital in making giant sheds viable for huge flocks.

As the industry grew, attracting big players and buyouts at every level of the chain, there was no stopping a meat that met few cultural or religious barriers to consumption. “But when you position yourself as the lowest-price commodity product, the only way is down,” says Burton. “The margins are too tight.” To reverse the decline, she adds: “You really have to reinvent yourself.”

Until January this year, Liam Hodgson worked at Moy Park, a rival to 2 Sisters Food Group. In a poultry version of “poacher turned gamekeeper”, he then joined the RSPCA. As corporate outreach manager, he is now responsible for promoting chicken welfare. “A lot of the other charities were sceptical of me at first,” Hodgson, 28, tells me.The chicken run: blood, sweat and deceit at a UK poultry plantRead more

The RSPCA has for decades challenged a rapacious business model. It is increasingly now working with the industry to find the next “chicken of tomorrow”. Hodgson sees opportunity in Boparan’s call for a reset. A squeezed supply chain may be the chicken king’s primary concern, but an appetite for change may also benefit animals that have endured 75 years of unnatural selection.

The cheapest broilers can now reach slaughter weight in five weeks. Such gains in crowded sheds, where birds are denied the chance to peck, perch and explore, can strain hearts and legs, and harden muscle. Chicken faeces can cause lesions and ammoniaburns on feet and legs. In the Netherlands, animal welfare groups call five-week broilers plofkip, which roughly translates as “exploded chicken”.

Abattoirs can be ugly too. Exposure of bad practice, as well as high-profile welfare campaigns, have helped lift standards. But minimum requirements are still not exactly plush. Sheds in the UK can house no more than 39kg of bird a square metre. By the time they’re ready for processing, that’s the equivalent of about 16 fat chickens on a beach towel.

In Somerset, Barton is at the forefront of a shift towards higher standards. He owns another farm, not far from the one he’s showing me, where chicks are stocked at a marginally roomier 38kg/m2, which meets standards for the Red Tractor assurance scheme. Red Tractor chickens must also have windows, and bales and logs for perching and pecking.

The chicks I’m meeting are RSPCA Assured broilers. They are stocked at 30kg/m2 and are a different breed – Hubbard JA87 – that grow for a couple more weeks (Hubbard, a multinational hatchery, is part of Aviagen). They have more to peck at and perch on, although they are still reared indoors. Assured birds also meet the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), a welfare policy launched with RSPCA backing in 2017. It challenges retailers and food companies to switch all supplies to the higher standard by 2026. Waitrose and KFC signed up in 2019. M&S announced this year that it would meet the standard by 2022. But hundreds of other big companies are lagging.

Switching requires investment. But after that, Barton tells me returns for BCC and Red Tractor birds are roughly the same, because he can charge 2 Sisters about 20p more a kilo for the higher standard. He says Red Tractor birds still make up about 95% of the market, but he and Hodgson expect that to change as the industry looks for wriggle room in which to “reset” prices – and expectation of price – and consumers demand better welfare. But this will have unintended consequences.

Poultry production is so efficient that, kilo for kilo, it has a relatively low carbon impact – roughly on a par with olive oil and almost a 10th of that of beef, according to the Carbon Brief website. But higher welfare standards require more land, more heat and more feed, which mostly comes from land-intensive soya. If we want to eat “happier” chickens, there will be an environmental cost.

Of course, we could eat fewer animals. The next “chicken of tomorrow” may yet be grown in a laboratory. The rise of flexitarianism may also help. In the meantime, while BCC may not look like a welfare revolution, the RSPCA sees it as an achievable compromise. “It’s not perfect, but it’s a positive step in the right direction,” Hodgson says. Burton, who has independently researched the sector for almost 25 years, is more effusive. “BCC is the most exciting thing that has happened in the industry since I started,” she says.

Barton’s RSPCA Assured chicks are still getting used to their shed. Suspended lines dispense feed granules into plastic yellow pans. Two shiny steel weighing platforms also hang from the ceiling for curious chicks to hop on as they please. Barton can see via an app on his phone that today each bird weighs 67g – a 14g gain in two days. “It ramps up later,” he says.

A recent RSPCA survey, which did not include prices, suggests that 85% of 18- to 34-year-olds are willing to pay more for slower-growing chicken – and 70% in older age groups. Barton says an industry of entrepreneurs is poised to adapt – to reset. He thinks 2 Sisters may soon ask him to convert all his sheds to BCC standard to meet rising demand. Apart from anything, he adds, farmers prefer more spacious sheds “because there’s more room to walk through the birds”.

Battery hens at an egg-laying poultry farm.

I ask the farmer what he thinks is a fair price for a chicken. Like everyone I speak to, he prefers not to put a figure on it. “We just want a proportion of any increase,” he says. Hodgson estimates BCC birds are 20-30% more expensive for consumers – another pound on our £3.50 Sainsbury’s medium whole chicken. If more than your average latte, £4.50 is still in pint-of-beer territory, to use Boparan’s comparison.

Of course, you can pay a lot more. A free-range or organic chicken, which is even slower growing and has spent plenty of time outside, costs from £11 in supermarkets. That’s a striking match of the 1967 average.

Barton is just about still making a profit, but knows of other farmers on the brink. Everyone fears the effects of a strain of avian flu now sweeping the country. “It’s becoming very tense,” Barton says. Ultimately, he tells me, it won’t be he who determines the value of our favourite meat – but me and you. “At the end of the day, we will produce what the consumer wants,” he says before we shuffle carefully out of the shed and lock the door.

Climate Crisis and Creation Care: Responding to the Call from Halki 111.

Today, it is reasonable to suggest that most people understand that climate change is real and that it is dangerous. Our level of consumption and misuse of the natural world has negatively changed our atmosphere, weather patterns, oceans, environments, and the lives of the creatures within those environments. As Fr John Chryssavgis (Foreword) reminds us “We are at a moment of crisis and consequence. The Greek word for crisis (krisis) indicates a sense of responsibility and accountability for the way in which we respond to the unique and universal problems that we have created and face.” Our misuse and abuse of God’s gift, threatens all forms of life, including our own. “For the church Fathers, it is clear that insofar as creation is a gift, it is a gift to all creatures in common.” (Theokritoff, Climate Crisis and Sustainable Creaturely Care: 356)

With children to grandparents demonstrating on the streets in countries across the world, there is at last an acknowledgment that we can no longer prevaricate or leave promises unfulfilled – the time has come for urgent and decisive action. Many of these people are people of faith and part of our congregations, yet sadly, there is still a gap between the teachings of faith leaders and participation at local/parish level. Yes, many will know that we should move away from ‘what we desire to what we need’ – to create a lighter footprint on the earth – yet many will not, because little time is given at parish level for them to hear the teachings of our hierarchs or to discuss how to accommodate them. Bishops in every diocese and their priests are, therefore, essential for creating real change in individual behaviour because few people read journals of theology or view Metropolitan websites.

The forensic question to ask here is why many parishes are still inactive on this critical issue? Perhaps they feel inadequate to the task – this would not be surprising, for many causes of climate change are complex. Certainly, the young are interested, and recent research informs us that they are also very anxious and fearful of the future for they are informed on the likely death of millions/billions of people/flora/faunae – as the ‘Hothouse-Earth’ scenario becomes a reality. We know from research that the younger demographic is the smallest in terms of church attendance and so perhaps this situation affords us the opportunity to bring them back to the church. As ‘Image of God’ and ‘Priests of Creation’ we are duty-bound to consider their suffering and offer them comfort and hope. To do so will require our Bishops to bless their priests to engage with this most pressing of issues – one that will worsen exponentially over time, and just as importantly, to provide their priests with the information they need to perform this vital role, at this critical time. It has long been argued that it is incumbent upon people of faith and their clergy to engage with the issue of ‘Creation Care’ – both individually and institutionally – because as the early church Fathers until today have taught us, everything is connected, and interdependent. This was a key theme at Halki 111 – we were urged not only to teach ‘Creation Care’ in our seminaries, but also, to educate ourselves, our priests and thus our congregations on the subject.

The seeds for these two substantial collections were sown at Halki 111, and from a meeting in Patmos later that year, where our focus was on living sustainable Christian lives. They also come from a personal mission to bring the voice of Orthodoxy to those who know little, if anything, about our faith; for the author is convinced that our theology holds the key to tackling the evil that abounds on this earth, taking harbour as it does, in the reckless policies of powerful vested-interests and the many corrupt individuals in power across the world.

Whilst it is right and proper for us to talk to other Orthodox, it is also vital that we create opportunities for our teachings to reach other Christians and faiths, and equally, create opportunities for us to learn from them. These two collections do just that, but more than that – they also give space to voices outside of religion who can inform us – and be informed by us – on the spiritual dimension so frequently lost or silenced in the political or scientific discourse on the subject. Thus, over forty academics and experts from fourteen countries and six continents write with authority and clarity on aspects of the climate crisis and care for the natural world, which include, though not limited to, the fields of theology; law; ethics; philosophy; science; medicine; business; animal protection, and from multiple faiths, inter-faith, and secular perspectives. Regardless of their expertise, they write in the hope that we, either as individuals or as decision-makers in government and civil society, will respond to the climate crisis far more quickly than is currently the case. Some write with extreme bravery on rarely discussed subjects such as the corruption at the heart of the illegal wildlife-trade and its links to organized crime, where the profits from this abomination are used to facilitate other abominations such as the modern slave trade, and the trafficking of drugs and arms. (Kamasanyu, Climate Crisis and Sustainable Creaturely Care:103). We are also informed of the complexities of population growth and climate change, and on how we may ‘green’ theological education via the Tsalampouni & Antonopoulou chapter, (Climate Crisis and Creation Care:329-348), and the ‘Creation Care Christian Responsibility Course’, for parishes, youth groups and individual study, (Nellist, Appendix). Others write from a scientific or legal perspective on the crisis in the Amazon; climate instability; rights to environmental protection, and medical unpreparedness. The list is long, seemingly disparate, yet interconnected, in a way oft quoted in Orthodoxy, as a communion of love and compassion. The result is a powerful collective voice that recognizes the interconnectedness of ‘all things’ in the natural world and the need for urgent action by governments, civil society – including our churches, and individuals alike.

Follow the links for further information:

Climate Crisis and Creation Care: Historical Perspectives, Ecological Integrity and Justice – Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Climate Crisis and Sustainable Creaturely Care: Integrated Theology, Governance and Justice – Cambridge Scholars Publishing

2 NEW BOOKS ON CLIMATE CRISIS AND CREATION CARE.

Available for pre-order today, two books on the greatest challenge of our time – Climate Change and Creation Care. Originally intended as one volume, the response was such that two large volumes were required to accommodate the academic/expert response.

Over 40 authors from 14 countries and 6 continents, write on diverse aspects of Climate Change. These include, though not limited to, academics and experts from the fields of theology; law; ethics; philosophy; science; medicine; business; animal protection, and from multiple faiths, inter-faith and secular perspectives. The result is a powerful collective voice that recognizes the interconnectedness of ‘all things’ in the natural world and the need for urgent action by governments and individuals alike.

Both books are published together, to be read together. They have the same Foreword by Fr John Chryssavgis, renowned theologian and advisor to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1st and the same Introduction by the editor, Dr Christina Nellist.

With COP 26 just around the corner, please circulate the information widely.

ISBN 978-1-5275-7420-5. Order from orders@cambridgescholars.com. Hardback 457pp. For a 25% discount code use PROMO25

ISBN 978-1-5275-7421-2 Order from orders@cambridgescholars.com hardback 440pp. For a 25% discount code use PROMO25

Joint statement on climate change by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch

Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Archbishop of Canterbury join together for the first time in urgent appeal for the future of the planet

For the first time, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion have jointly warned of the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on poverty, and the importance of global cooperation.

Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Justin Welby urge everyone to play their part in ‘choosing life’ for the future of the planet.  

In a joint statement, the Christian leaders have called on people to pray, in this Christian season of Creation, for world leaders ahead of COP26 this November. The statement reads: ‘We call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.’

The joint declaration strikes a clear warning – ‘Today, we are paying the price…Tomorrow could be worse’ and concludes that: ‘This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.’

The three Christian leaders spoke against injustice and inequality, saying: ‘We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure. But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them.’

The statement calls on people to:

Pray for world leaders ahead of COP26

For individuals: To make meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the planet, working together and taking responsibility for how we use our resources

For those with far-reaching responsibilities: To choose people-centred profits and lead the transition to just and sustainable economies

Read the full statement here.

ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW – “OPEN LETTER TO COP26: ASCETICISM, JUSTICE AND ENERGY” (SEPTEMBER 13TH, 2021)

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


We are honored to be with you and to participate in the G20 Interfaith Forum to urge G20 members to step up and respond effectively to the most pressing challenges of our time. We are grateful to the organizers for their kind invitation to address this Forum here today. It is the minute before midnight for humanity to go forward together towards a sustainable and resilient future that promises to heal people and our planet. For that, we need to enhance the abundance of our best ideas and through faith to succeed in the decisive race to global net zero and to a culture of solidarity.Do we all have the capacity to hold the global rise in temperature below 1.5 degrees Centigrade by the middle of this century? Will we all be able to mitigate the risks of climate change? Will we all be able to preserve the wealth of nature that nurtures current and future generations? Will we all be able to prevent the ongoing extinction of species and abate the loss of precious biodiversity? Will we all be able to stop violence amongst ourselves and against God’s creation? Will we succeed in ending wars and in eliminating social injustice and the marginalization of our fellow human beings?The answers to these questions are multifaceted.
We are gathered here today, in community, to stand firmly united in the faith that we are capable of succeeding in this essential global task. If we apply pious moderation and utilize respect and humility as spiritual guides to responsible and sustainable production and consumption, we will succeed. Only through such self-restrain, simplicity and μετάνοια, which in Greek literally means, a change of mind, not only internally, within ourselves, but also in praxis and concrete application, in a form of a modern asceticism, ἄσκησις, that is practice, the act of exercising, can we hope to heal ourselves and our world.  
The climate emergency, with all its disruption of our lives and livelihoods on this beautiful but damaged planet, is caused by the conspicuous increase of consumption in various parts of the world. We must free our lifestyles from temptations and the deadening forgetfulness of the conditions for living together justly and well in God’s given solidarity and harmony. Practicing selflessness toward others and caring for the well-being of the community restore peace of mind and soul.  
This is the way to heal our societies. This is the way to heal this beautiful planet which is God’s creation entrusted to us for faithful preservation. When God first created male and female, he honored them as prudent stewards of our natural environment. Such an important responsibility, to care for God’s earthly creation, demands that every single and collective deed is deeply contemplated and considered.
An important part of this journey is already underway. It lies in the direction of commitment to green recovery and twin green and digital transformations. It started at COP 21 in 2015, when prudence prevailed. There we assumed the obligation to work together on limiting global warming to 2 degrees and keeping it as close as possible to 1.5 degrees, as promised in the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Hopefully, the upcoming COP 26 in Glasgow, led by the UK/Italy partnership-presidency and joined by all the participating states will result in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and climate and energy adaptation plans that can move the global environment to the level necessary for the world to reach net zero. In less than 30 years, it is possible to achieve the regeneration of our planet. Imagine living free from fossil fuels. Imagine a world in which we take care of one another. If realized, the attainment of intra- and inter-generational justice and the elimination of abhorrent poverty become possibilities.
We must realize this today because, paradoxically, the Covid-19 pandemic leaves us with a historic opportunity to “build back better.” As we stated just a few days ago in our Encyclical Message on the occasion of the beginning of the new ecclesiastical year for the Eastern Orthodox Church, on September 1st, day, which is also dedicated to prayers for the protection of the natural environment: “We pray for the swift overcoming of the consequences of the ongoing health crisis and for the illumination from above of governments throughout the world, so that they do not return to or persist upon economism, to those principles of organization of the economic life, of production and consumption, of exhaustive exploitation of natural resources, principles that prevailed prior to the pandemic. Further, it is our genuine desire that the dissemination of pseudoscientific opinions concerning the purported dangers of the Covid-19 vaccines, the slander aimed toward specialists of the medical field, and the unfounded degradation of the seriousness of the disease, be terminated. Unfortunately, similar opinions are propagated in regard to climate change as well, its cause and its disastrous effects. The reality is entirely different, and must be faced with responsibility, collaboration, joint actions, and common vision.”
To seize this momentum and take real action, we must realize the seriousness of the problem: unsustainable production and consumption damages the planet and all living species. Our generation has not, until today, sufficiently contemplated the consequences of its eudemonistic drives to experience the sensations of progress and the pleasures of life for some and not for all. As a consequence, the heaviest burden was placed on the lives and livelihoods of people on the frontlines of climate change, who not only are increasingly being forced to leave their homes, but also, especially women and children, become the main targets and victims of human trafficking and exploitation.
The enormous sufferings of climate refugees to save themselves and their progeny from the perils of climate change must be immediately addressed. As our Lord Jesus Christ says in the Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40). Displaced victims of the climate emergency endure these tribulations alone and unjustly.
And yet in recent months, many nations have experienced, for the first time, the devastating effects of climate degradation. Floods in France, Belgium, Germany, and Luxembourg; burning forests in Greece, Turkey, Serbia, Australia and California; disastrous storms and prolonged droughts throughout Africa—each of these are undeniable results of harms we have inflicted upon our earth. These extreme weather events are our foreseeable destiny, if we insist upon our enmity toward the natural environment.
In this regard, it is crucial for COP 26, which is taking place from 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow, to unify and bind us together in our dedication to heal the climate and protect our planet. Success in this matter requires freeing the future from slavery to wastefulness and unfortunate habits that kill the very prerequisites for the good life for all on of us on earth.
In every Orthodox Liturgy, we ceaselessly pray: “For favorable weather, for an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times.” Every time we pray, we are reminding ourselves what needs to be done. We are longing for the moment in which governments globally will shape policies and create plans to safeguard the lives of people and communities threatened and affected by the consequences of the great ecological crisis. New policies must venture beyond the usual, by producing only what is needed in sustainable and non-wasteful ways. In the Orthodox Christian tradition, monastics have modeled sustainable living for generations. Now we are faced with the opportunity to follow their example to live in dignity and joy of a newly found common cause. It is not coincidental that a recently published book, entitled The Monk who became CEO – 1000 Years Athonian Management (Thessaloniki, 2017) became best-seller, by “revealing” the secret of success of the ascetic management implemented by the monastic community of Mount Athos and how it can present a prototype for new strategy and different value orientation in the philosophy of a modern company.

New technologies
In this spirit of modern asceticism, we call the major economies of the world to provide leadership in all these transitions to a green economy. Green economy refers to the well-being resulting from non-wasteful production and from responsible consumption. Green is the color symbolizing the life that God has given to all. Thus, innovative technologies for green transformations can, should, and must be technologies for life.
These technologies must drive the healing of our planet. By enhancing waste elimination, the depollution of water, air and soil, and nurturing our forests and oceans, we are making the major turn towards an ecological economy for the well contemplated communal and global thriving prosperity of all.
Through our contemplations, we can see a world in which coal, oil and gas are left in the bosom of our planet, while we are powering our mobility, production of electricity, heating, cooling, construction, and all our activities on green and clean energy. Such contemplations are not mere day dreamings. There are already well-devised technology solutions for the pressing energy problem. These need to be supported not only by pioneering governments, business enterprises and investments, but they should also be empowered by everyone engaged in the movement for de-investing from fossil fuels and the modes of production/consumption that waste our future. We must now share these new technologies justly and equally throughout the world and invest in them from the South to the North in order to be responsible, accountable global citizens.


Education and Youth
To foster human talents, cultivate the faith of inventiveness, and encourage spirited engagement, it is vital to promote quality education for all, male and female, without discrimination.
Throughout the whole of our lifetimes, we must learn anew and acquire the skills needed to achieve all transformational agendas, from the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development to the UN Agenda for Humanity. Education for such new realities is essential to the dream and the reality of transforming our world to the one world of well-being, sustainability, resilience, responsibility, and justice for all.   
We need to assure that intergenerational gaps do not widen and that the green and digital transformations leave no one behind. Our youth took to the streets, the public squares, and every corner of the earth to ignite collective action aiming for the highest of climate-neutral targets. Bonded and networked by inspiration passed to us from our engaged youth, we are obliged to raise this demand of young men and women to reach global net zero. Our faith and ingenuity, our common devotion and inventiveness, must be brought forth for us all to achieve in community these tall objectives. We need to join in the efforts of young people to accelerate our progress along transformational paths with full involvement of all those left furthest behind. We urge G20 nations to first recognize and then pursue the demands of our young men and women for a sustainable and resilient future.
Thus we must open our hearts and minds to the ambitions voiced by young generations. They are driving present efforts from the expedited achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to reversing harmful climate changes and enhancing general conditions of life. Our younger generation, the largest ever in the history of humankind, will certainly make valuable recommendations at the Youth for Climate Summit to be held from 28 to 30 September in Milan. With truthfulness and sincerity, we plead that the ministers in Milan at the preparatory meeting for COP 26 embrace the visions and proposals of the youth as envoys of the future.

Conclusion
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Unprecedented determination and human energy are required to free us all from enslavement to wasteful living. By devoting the power of our faith and the ingenuity of our minds to the contemplation of solutions, we can escape this bondage. As we are able to heal in community, so we are able as well to mend in community the wrong ways by accepting the goal of the protection of dignity and human rights of all people.  
Therefore, we urge the leaders of the world’s largest economies to be the first to work together and coordinate their actions in support of a sustainable environment and of the common effort for global healing of the climate and for founding a just global society.
Here and now, individual and communal actions, brave and wise steps taken by women and men, by young and old, will empower us to make significant common decisions. We are inspired by a vision of a world united in well-being, sustainability, resilience, responsibility, justice and peace for all. Truly, our shared commitments can heal humanity and its home, its οἶκος, our planet Planet.




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Forthcoming Conference in France – Pt 2 – What Salvation for Animals ?

Samedi 9 octobre 2021, 9h- 17h30 Centre Sèvres, Paris

Scientific research into the sensitivity and intelligence of animals and actions to promote animal welfare raise many questions and emotions. What place should animals have in our Western societies? While the philosophical and legal debate is well under way, religions seem to be far removed from these concerns. Three days of colloquium scheduled for Saturday 29 May, Saturday 9 October and Saturday 27 November 2021 will seek to advance Christian theological reflection concerning the animal question.

Morning

8.45: Welcome/registration

9:15 – 9:30: Presentation of the conference

9:30 – 10:30 am :

Animal subjectivity in the light of neuroscience and ethology

P. Eric Charmetant SJ

Professor of philosophy (Centre Sèvres – Jesuit Faculties of Paris)

10:30 am – 11:30 am

The animal unconscious. Towards a psychology of depths

Florence Burgat

Philosopher, research director at INRAE, assigned to the Husserl Archives (ENS-CNRS-PSL)

11:30-11:45 break

11.45 a.m. – 12.45 p.m.

“We will all go to heaven… all the sheep and all the bandits… and even the dogs and even the sharks. Does the Bible confirm Michel Polnareff’s words?

Didier Luciani

Professor Emeritus (Faculty of Theology and RSCS Institute, Catholic University of Louvain)

12h45-1400

Break – lunch

Afternoon

14:00-14:45

Saving the Animal: Nonhumans in Catholic Theology, Past and Future.

Dr Carmody Grey

Assistant Professor of Catholic Theology, Department of Theology and Religion, (University of Durham, UK)

14:45- 15:30

Animal Salvation in Modern Protestant Theology (*)

David Clough

Professor of Theological Ethics (University of Chester, UK)

15:30- 15:45 -Pause

15:45 -16:30

Man, animals and their possible salvation in an orthodox approach

Pietro Chiaranz

Librarian (Ca’ Foscari University, Venice), Doctor of Theology (Antonianum, Rome) and specialist in Orthodox theology of creation

16h30 – 17h15 Animals: what salvation, what resurrection?

Round table with Jean Gaillard (NDTP) and the afternoon speakers

17.15 – 17.30 Conclusion/synthesis colloquium 2 -Benoît Calmels

(* ) Simultaneous translation available in in person and remote sessions

Traditionally, Christian theology has made little room for animals, often reduced to their usefulness to human beings. Although Christian figures have testified to other relationships with animals, their voices have been little heard. For the past 50 years, animal rights activists, ethologists, philosophers, and even some theologians have taken a different view of animals. This conference will present the state of this research.

The morning will be devoted to research on animal subjectivity and even its unconscious, from a perspective linking ethology and philosophy. Then, we will see how biblical studies allow or not a new view of animals, based on texts that are often unknown.

In the afternoon, European Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox theologians will review research in animal theology over the past 50 years to develop a different conception of the place of animals in God’s plan and the economy of salvation.

Why should we care and rescue animals from harm in human disasters such as the present withdrawal from Afghanistan?

This is a topical question that requires comment from theologians. I focus on the disaster in Afghanistan and the criticism of Pen Farthing. I speak from personal experience of having lived and worked in the region with wonderful people who deal with the daily cruelty to women and children.
To give context, corruption in this region is endemic and cascades from the top down. There is no ‘society’ as we know it, in the world of the poor. Their lives are cheap and women have little if any freedom, as we understand it. The treatment of animals – also the innocents in these situations – is very similar to that found in many other countries. They are not generally treated with care or compassion. Dogs are categorized as unclean. Unfortunately, we in the West also have this idea, especially in religious quarters as many priests will not let dogs into church or church grounds. Cats are tolerated more than dogs who are in the main, kept chained as guard dogs or fighting dogs, whilst strays have stones hurled at them by children/adults if they come close or used as target practise by the local police. That said, there is a small percentage who do care and some of these are criticised in the same way that animal protectionists are in our societies. This then is the brutal backdrop that envelopes this commentary on the question of why we ought to care and rescue animals in situations like Afghanistan.
I can state with authority that there are both Christian and other sacred texts to support the proposition of caring and rescuing animals in such situations. As a Christian, one of our deepest beliefs is that we are made in the Image of God. We believe that our God is good, loving and compassionate. As such this defines, or should define, our beliefs and actions. St Basil states that as God has left nothing, including the little sea urchin, outside of His providence, it naturally follows that we too should be good, loving and compassionate to all of His creatures. Whilst we cannot fully achieve that Image we are, nonetheless, to strive towards achieving a good likeness of it. We know this can be achieved in good part in this earthly realm because the Saints are our exemplars. Many had good and compassionate relationships with animals, be that in the deserts of Egypt or the forests of Sarov in more modern times.
We also find support in our Scriptures such as Isaias 11:6 and Psalm 35:6 (36) where men and animals will be saved. It is however, in the New Testament that we have our most important text for this discussion. In Luke 14:5 (in the original Greek) Christ, in his teachings on the Sabbath, states that we must be above the law in virtue even if that means at times, disagreeing with those in authority who have lost their spiritual acuity. This teaching clearly indicates his expectations of care and compassionate action when the situation arises:
“Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well [pit], will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day? And they could not reply to this.”
Christ adds the human to His previous teachings in Matthew and Luke and in so doing, evidences his expectation of an equality of care, compassion and most importantly for this discussion, of immediate action to save animals and humans – regardless of the religious teachings or social norms of the day. Christ’s audience not only understood the parable but also the wider context. I use it here to the same effect. Which of you if you see a stray or injured animal will not immediately try to help in some way? Here one could expand the discussion by including the parable of the Good Samaritan, which challenges us to ask who qualifies as our neighbour? All that God actualizes as created beings fall into the category of His neighbour – the ‘other’. Thus, as Image, all created beings should become our neighbours; those of whom we are called/taught to care, nurture and rescue from harm in order for them to flourish and achieve their God-determined telos. This is part of our role as ‘priest of creation’, a phrase so frequently used by Orthodox Christians yet rarely achieved in practice.
That one man, among the many thousands of men and women who fought in Afghanistan, stayed to care for the animals and train the good ordinary people of Afghanistan – many of whom are women – in order to better the lives of both people and animals in that country, is extraordinary. That he tried to save both humans and animals and failed is surely worthy of our respect rather than our condemnation. He stands as a type of ‘kenotic saviour’- something that can be achieved by ordinary people if they are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the good of others – no matter who that other may be. That he is criticized should not surprise us. Why? The fathers are clear – we are in the main, selfish, arrogant creatures who are way short of where we ought to be in terms of caring for others and way short of where we ought to be spiritually, if we are to love as God loves us.
Not everyone can do as this man has done. God has perhaps given them other skills or other burdens but let those of us who have a faith remember some basic truths. We as Image, are to be good, kind and compassionate to all and when we can – when God creates the conditions for us to act for the benefit of others – and this may well entail some form of sacrifice-of-self in order to do so, then we are to act immediately in love for all, rather than criticizing those who try to help others – no matter who that other may be.
Dr Christina

IPCC: Climate change widespread, rapid, and intensifying – Birdlife Cyprus article

In July, during an intense heatwave, Cyprus suffered a deadly forest fire that was the worst to hit the island in decades, killing four people and burning an area of around 55 sq km. Cyprus was not alone in suffering from extreme weather events this summer. In fact, the summer of 2021 was one of the most catastrophic seasons of extreme weather events in memory, with wildfires raging in the Mediterranean, the US West Coast, in Canada and in Russia, devastating floods in Western Europe, Africa, India and China, and severe heatwaves and crippling drought affecting countries across the globe.

Against this backdrop, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published on August 9th the first in a series of documents that will be released in the coming months as part of the IPCC’s sixth Assessment Report. This report, which is the result of a collaboration of 234 scientific authors and has been signed off by 195 countries, brings together the cutting edge of climate science, sets out how humans are affecting the planet, and explores scenarios of what may lie in the future.

According to the IPCC, many of the changes observed in the current climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, while some of the changes already set in motion, such as sea level rise, are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years. Crucially, the scientific evidence presented in the report attributes extreme weather events on human activity and human-caused climate change with more confidence than ever before. It makes for an exceptionally worrying read.

Within the next 20 years, the planet is expected to reach or exceed the 1.5°C warming limit set by the the 2015 Paris Agreement, regardless of how radically greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. The findings of this latest report are clear: if humanity is to avoid the worst of the consequences of a warming world, governments across the world must take drastic action. This latest IPCC report is a wake-up call that brings the issue of climate change back to the top of the agenda for governments preoccupied by the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic concerns.

In Cyprus, we can expect that the changing climate will continue to make extreme weather events more frequent, with hotter and drier weather, reduced rainfall, disastrous forest fires, and flooding especially in coastal areas. Climate change is an extremely urgent issue, as the latest IPCC report shows, and it should be made a priority across all government policies. Stricter policies and measures must urgently be put in place to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Crucially, these need to take an ecosystem approach and operate synergistically with policies for the protection of biodiversity. Such nature-based solutions, like the restoration of wetlands, sustainable agricultural solutions and protection of forests, provide multiple benefits for people, biodiversity and the climate.

AIA Replies to the UK Government’s Response to Peter Egan’s Petition to Include Lab Animals in the Animal Welfare Act

This is a new post from the AIA which we belong to and are heavily engaged with as part of our mission to educate Christians and the general public on animal suffering issues, particularly those that are deeply flawed such as the animal testing model.

The UK Government has responded to Peter Egan’s petition – “Change the law to include laboratory animals in the Animal Welfare Act”.

AIA Director Dr Andre Menache has responded to the Government’s comments. (These are shown below in bold type).

Government Response:

The Government believes animal use for research remains important and The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) provides specific protection for these animals..

There is an explicit exclusion under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA), to provide for the legitimate conduct of procedures on ‘protected animals’ for scientific or educational purposes that may cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm. The use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving our understanding of how biological systems work both in health and disease. Such use is crucial for the development of new medicines and cutting-edge medical technologies for both humans and animals, and for the protection of our environment.

The 1986 Act effectively enshrines animal suffering by means of legal definitions, whereby an animal experiment becomes a ‘regulated procedure’ licensed to potentially cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm to a ‘protected animal’, which encompasses all living vertebrates other than humans, under the responsibility of humans.

Thus, identical acts of deliberate animal cruelty potentially punishable by custodial sentencing under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 are essentially immune from prosecution under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) is the specific piece of legislation which provides protection for these animals:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/consolidated-version-of-aspa-1986

No animals may be used under ASPA if there is a validated non-animal alternative that would achieve the scientific outcomes sought. The protections for animals under ASPA include the need for three levels of licence for such procedures to occur, welfare standards which need to be met, and activities including inspection which assure compliance with ASPA. The Home Office is the department responsible for regulating the use of animals under ASPA. If any activity is found to be in breach of what is permitted under ASPA, then the AWA will apply.

The above statement represents a catch-22 situation : “No animals may be used under ASPA if there is a validated non-animal alternative that would achieve the scientific outcomes sought.”

If the scientific outcome sought is to study the effect of a chemical on a rat, then it is difficult to envisage how a non-animal alternative could replace the rat experiment. However, the use of rats is justified on the unscientific premise that animal models somehow are able to predict human outcome.

Validated non-animal alternatives do exist but are ignored by industry with impunity. Take the example of the human cell based method to replace the rabbit pyrogen test, developed by NIBSC researchers in 1988 (1). This non animal method (the Monocyte Activation Test) was validated in 2006 and yet is still ignored by certain sectors of industry (2). Please could you indicate the legal mechanism within the context of the ASPA that would oblige industry to use an existing validated non-animal method, including the imposition of fines and penalties. If you cannot find this information, it is probably due to the fact that it does not exist.  

Details of how these regulations are administered and operationalised are set out in the Guidance on the operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) available at:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/guidance-on-the-operation-of-the-animals-scientific-procedures-act-1986.

Details of the code of practice for housing and accommodation of animals regulated under ASPA approved by Parliament which form a core pillar of compliance assurance activities under ASPA are available at:
Code of practice for the housing and care of animals bred, supplied or used for scientific purposes – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Animal testing is required by all global medicines regulators, including the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), to protect human health and safety.

The regulatory requirement that all medicines be tested on animals to protect human health and safety is based on outdated laws, dating back to 1946 at the time of the Doctors’ Trial at Nuremberg. Science has moved forward since then by 75 years but the laws have not yet caught up with the science (3). To continue to ignore current science is tantamount to medical negligence (4). 

Without the testing of potential medicines on animals the development, registration and marketing of new, safe, and effective medicines would not be possible. The animal species for animal testing of potential medicines are specifically chosen to give as much human relevant information as possible and to avoid species specific reactions which would not predict human effects. Many products which would not be safe or effective in humans are detected through animal testing thus avoiding harm to humans. Potential medicines fail in development for many reasons but the fact that medicines are stopped in development for reasons other than unsatisfactory animal testing does not mean that the testing is not essential.

Extraordinary claims (those above) require extraordinary evidence. Yet you have not provided a single peer reviewed scientific reference to support your claims. In contrast, there is a vast body of evidence-based science to demonstrate that no animal species can predict human response with respect to drug development or human diseases (5, 6, 7, 8).

The Government has a policy to limit the number of animals used in science through replacement, reduction, and refinement of research design – the ‘3Rs’. Applicants for licences must demonstrate that they have considered using non-animal alternatives as far as possible. Meanwhile the Government actively supports and funds the development and dissemination of  techniques that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs).  This is achieved primarily through funding for the National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs), which works nationally and internationally to drive the uptake of 3Rs technologies and ensure that advances in the 3Rs are reflected in animal research policy, practice and regulations.  NC3Rs has committed £100 million. This includes almost £27 million in contracts through its CRACK IT Challenges scheme to UK and EU-based institutions, mainly focusing on new approaches for the safety assessment of pharmaceuticals and chemicals that reduce the use of animals. 

From the 22 completed CRACK IT Challenges, 12 new products and services have been delivered for industrial and academic end-users. These include miniature wireless devices for recording neural activity in mice; novel human-relevant microphysiological systems and organ on-a-chip platforms for kidney, cardiac and neuronal toxicity assessment; and AI/ in silico modelling platforms for infection, welfare monitoring and toxicology studies. The MHRA work closely with the NC3Rs, bringing together stakeholders in academia, industry, government and animal welfare organisations to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas, and the translation of research findings into practice that benefits animals and science.

The 3Rs concept was indeed innovative when it was proposed in 1959. Today, the 3Rs concept is out of step with current science and technology

The NC3Rs was launched in 2004 with an annual budget of £696k from the Department of Trade and Industry, the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)) and the Home Office (hence taxpayer money). Since then the budget has grown considerably, totalling five million pounds in research grants in 2017.

The stated mission of the NC3Rs is to “drive scientific and technological developments that replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs); ensure animal experiments are as robust and reproducible as possible; and provide the best welfare for laboratory animals”.

According to official Home Office statistics, a total of 2,778,692 animals were used in scientific procedures in 2004 (the year the NC3Rs was launched). This figure has risen by almost one million animals to reach 3,721,744 in 2017. Clearly, the NC3Rs mission to “replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research” has been a huge disappointment.

Equally alarming is the fact that in 2017, the annual report of the NC3Rs acknowledged the “ongoing reproducibility crisis and concerns about the reliability of animal research”.

The fact that 85% of animal study results cannot be reproduced by other research teams (and sometimes even by the same research team) is a huge embarrassment to the animal research community (9). Could it get any worse ? Yes, because even if the methodology used to conduct the animal experiments was carried out to the letter, the results obtained would still not be predictive of human outcome, due to species differences between animals and humans (10).

Fortunately for the researchers, the public is unaware of this state of affairs, otherwise taxpayer funding and support for animal experiments would dry up very quickly.

It should be noted that the emphasis at the NC3Rs is not the replacement of animals as can be seen in their 2012 report, in which grants for replacement accounted for 33% of total funding. 

In other words, two-thirds of their budget is allocated to reduction and refinement of animal experiments, rather than actual replacement. Following are some examples of the research projects funded by the NC3Rs in the fields of reduction and refinement:

  • Researchers at Newcastle University were awarded £247,800 to study the assessment of pain using facial expressions in laboratory mice, rats, rabbits and macaques. The same University received £484,656 to assess pain in macaque monkeys used in neuroscience experiments and again (£380,748) to study the welfare of mice used in cancer research.
  • Researchers at Imperial College, London, received £270,784 to study bacterial infections in mice.
  • A researcher at Aston University received £152,048 to develop a less painful model of epilepsy in rats.
  • The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was awarded £317,995 to study malaria in mice. Researchers at the University of Sheffield received £353,324 to study the relationship between nerve activity and blood flow in the brain of zebra fish.

We do not need three Rs, the only R required for human medical advancement is that of full replacement of a broken system by one that is relevant and predictive for human medicine. The sooner this message is understood and acted upon by society and government, the better for all concerned – human and animal.

To conclude the Government has no plans to amend the Animal Welfare Act (2006). We consider enabling the properly regulated use of animals in science is essential to improving the health and lives of humans and animals and to the safety and sustainability of our environment. Underpinning this is a strong commitment to a rigorous regulatory framework that fully implements the 3Rs and the continued development of non-animal alternatives.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The debate surrounding animal experiments will not go away until it is dealt with in a responsible and transparent manner. The main reason that animal researchers have managed to pursue their careers for so long is because of a lack of any scientific audit of their work. The general public and most members of parliament do not have the science background necessary to challenge the validity of the claims made by animal researchers. When faced with the mantra that animal research is a “necessary evil” the public has no choice but to accept the promises of future cures for human diseases.

One way forward is EDM 175, which calls on the UK Government to mandate a rigorous public scientific hearing, judged by independent experts from the relevant science fields, to stop the funding of the now proven failed practice of animal experimentation and increase funding for state-of-the-art human-based research, such as human-on-a-chip and gene-based medicine, to prioritise treatments and cures for human patients and stop the suffering of laboratory dogs and other animals (11).

Click this link to view the response online:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/591775?reveal_response=yes

The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.

The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee: https://petition.parliament.uk/help#petitions-committee

Thanks,
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

References for AIA Response:

  1. https://www.nibsc.org/science_and_research/biotherapeutics/cellular_immunology/pyrogenic_pro-inflammatory_activities.aspx
  2. https://www.altex.org/index.php/altex/article/view/2234
  3. https://bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6939-13-16
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26364776/
  5. https://peh-med.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1747-5341-4-2
  6. https://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g3387
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14988196/
  8. https://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/full/10.2217/pme.11.89
  9. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73503-4
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23372426/
  11. https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/58611/public-scientific-hearing-on-animal-experiments

Ecological repentance (‘metanoia’) from our ecological sins

His Eminence Archbishop Serafim of Zimbabwe
The Patriarchate of Alexandria

English translation of Sermon given on 5 July 2021

In today’s gospel (Matthew 4, 18-23) we read that four of the most important disciples of Christ, they follow him at his call. They abandon everything without hesitation and doubt. They sacrifice everything to become Disciples of Christ.

    In the global crisis we live in, with pandemics and the ecological disasters of our planet, perhaps we should add to today’s Gospel reading the verse of Matthew 4, 17 which the Apostle Matthew very wisely included as an introduction to this day’s Gospel reading. This verse is very important for many reasons. First, it emphasizes the beginning of the preaching of Jesus Christ. And second the first thing that he emphasized is “Repentance (metanoia)” and the Kingdom of Heaven. “From then on, Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the kingdom of heaven is near”. 

    The preaching of repentance (metanoia) leads to a new way of life and a new way of thinking. It is also the first thing that St. John the Forerunner emphasized, who by the Providence of God prepared the way for Jesus Christ. The preaching of repentance is also emphasized by the Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, which is considered the Birthday of the Church (“Repent” Acts 2,38). 

    The life of the first Christian community that lived in repentance is a living example for modern society, to protect the victims of climate change from our ecological sins. “No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had…. There were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4, 32-34). 

    The preaching of repentance is emphasized again on the day of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, (“repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name” (Luke 24, 47). 

    The scientific community of the United Nations in its study of Climate Change emphasizes that human actions are the main cause and humans are responsible for the pollution of the atmosphere and the ecological disasters that threaten the survival of humanity and the destruction of our planet. The only way to change things and  protect Humanity, and ensure hope for the future is to repent of our ecological sins and start living a new way of life with a new way of thinking, in the example of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. 

    We must protect our fellow human beings and the whole Creation of God, as it is a gift for all future generations. St. John the Baptist calls us to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3, 8), with our well-intended decision to share what we have with those who have nothing,  “ he who has two tunics, give one to him who does not have, and he who has food to do the same” (Luke 2,11).
    
    The Book of Genesis, in describing the Creation of the world and the flood of Noah, clearly states that the causes of destruction of our planet come from human corruption;  that is, from all the injustices we commit against our fellow human beings (Genesis 6, 10-13).

    Our Church, in order to carry out its work successfully today, needs people with the same virtues and the same self-sacrifice as the Apostles. But this is only one dimension of the work of our Church towards salvation. The second dimension that should characterize the life of our Church is its character of the global universality of its Gospel message, as we observe today through our Missionary ministry developing across the Universe.

    The second dimension of the salvation ministry of our Church is its continuous effort to convey the Gospel message of repentance and salvation to all people, to all ethnicities, to black and white people, to young and old, to all races on earth, and to help and protect orphans and widows, the persecuted and those oppressed, the poor, the sick, refugees and migrants and the elderly, the disabled and all those innocent children suffering from autism and the spectrum of other conditions that they bear no responsibility over.

    Our lives are common, and we can make our lives beautiful if we leave space in our hearts for the Great figure of Jesus Christ to reign, with our unconditional love and charity and kindness in every direction. Only if we let Christ guide us in our lives do we have hope to live in a better world that will lead us to the eternal Paradise.

    Therefore, at the beginning of the public sermons and preaching of Jesus Christ and at the call of his first Disciples and Apostles, repentance and the Kingdom of Heaven are emphasized, with a living example in our daily life, the ministry of the holy Apostles.

    That is why in today’s apostolic reading (Romans 2, 10-16), the Apostle Paul teaches “glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works toward what is good.” Those who do not live in repentance (metanoia), as did happen with Zacchaeus who showed his repentance by changing his life, by restoring social justice for his injustices, sharing his possessions with those whom he wronged (Luke 19, 1-10).

    The Apostle Paul tells us in today’s Apostolic passage that all people will be judged worthy of the Kingdom of heaven according to three criteria: The Jews, whether they obey the Law of Moses;  the Christians, if they obey the commandments of Jesus Christ, meaning if we protect the sick and the wronged and the whole Creation of God, especially our Planet, from ecological catastrophes and disasters; and all other humans, according to their conscience, in the sense that they can judge good from evil and unjust from just.

    Ultimately, ecological repentance from our ecological sins, leads to a new way of life, to live without polluting our planet and without doing wrong to our fellow human beings with our social injustices. This is the only way to protect humanity and the survival of the Planet, as a gift from God for all generations, even those who have not yet been born, because if we continue to live the way we currently do, they will inherit a living hell on Earth.


Why invertebrates should be included in animal welfare protections

NEW SCIENTIST Magazine issue 3345 , published 31 July 2021

FRANKLIN the cuttlefish considered the juicy prawn meat morsel in front of her. As mouth-watering as it looked, she resisted temptation and waited for her favourite meal to become available – live shrimp. Her self-control is impressive and comparable to what we see in chimpanzees and crows.

Self-control is a vital cognitive skill that underpins decision-making and future planning. In humans, these abilities are linked to sentience because they are thought to involve conscious experience. Imagining future choices is accompanied by an awareness of the projection of self in time – what will my future self want, and how different will it be from what I want now? Some animals possess similar cognitive abilities, but cannot report their experiences, and so whether they are sentient is an ongoing debate.

This topic has recently taken the spotlight in the UK with a new bill currently making its way through parliament that will recognise certain animals as sentient, including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. This will give them greater protections in law, particularly in the context of reducing pain and suffering.

This is a good step forward. However, as it stands, invertebrates like Franklin aren’t being included.

Invertebrates show plenty of behavioural signs of sentience. But because their neurological architecture greatly differs from that of vertebrates, it is often wrongly assumed that they don’t possess the appropriate hardware to experience emotions.

Despite the differences, there are many brain structures across both groups that perform similar functions. Invertebrates such as cephalopods (octopus, cuttlefish, squid) and decapods (crayfish, crabs, lobsters, prawns) possess brain receptors and structures that can process negative emotions, such as the vertical lobe in cephalopods – responsible for learning and memory. They also possess nerve cords that transfer information about the location of an injury from the peripheral nerves to the central brain.

Consequently, groups including Crustacean Compassion, the RSPCA and the Conservative Animal Welfare Group (CAWG) are urging for the inclusion of cephalopods and decapods in the UK’s Animal Sentience Bill. They also argue that the intelligence observed in cephalopods, particularly octopuses, should grant them protection.

It is important to remember animal protections aren’t just about intelligence, as sentience doesn’t necessarily require it – an animal doesn’t need to be able to plan for the future to be capable of suffering. For example, there is no evidence that crabs plan for the future, but, when injured, they attend to their wounds in a self-protective manner, such as hiding declawed arms behind healthy claws to protect their wound. They also appear to shudder when wounds are touched.

Cephalopods also behave in a way that is indicative of being able to experience emotions. For example, cuttlefish learn to avoid the claws of their crab prey after being pinched and instead attack them from behind. Octopuses with injured arms curl their adjacent arms around the wound and after being injured they avoid chambers where an injury was inflicted, preferring to seek refuge in chambers that provide access to a local anaesthetic for pain relief.

Countries such as Norway, Sweden and Austria have already afforded invertebrates legislative protection, and this has resulted in much improved animal welfare standards, such as in the storage and slaughter of decapods within the food industry.

Others now need to catch up. While there are neurological differences, invertebrates are likely to experience pain and show signs of sentience. Animal protection laws should reflect that

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25133452-200-why-invertebrates-should-be-included-in-animal-welfare-protections/#ixzz72OwyP8GE

Animal Experimentation – Open letter.

Many believe the case for testing pharmaceutical drugs on animals is proven – this is not the case – far from it – there is a 92-96% failure rate. Those of you who have read my book know that Chapter Nine has a large portion devoted to unveiling the truth on this appalling situation.

The Animal Interfaith Alliance (14 faith groups including our own) has taken the following step to widen understanding on this important issue that not only produces unfathomable suffering to millions of innocent animals but also harms the human population in multiple ways.

AIA writes Open Letter to AstraZeneca and Glaxosmithkline urging the use of Non Animal Testing Methods

Animal Interfaith Alliance

On 2 July 2021 the Animal Interfaith Alliance wrote an open letter to the Chief Executive of AstraZeneca urging the use of non animal testing methods instead of relying on outdated animal models. They sent the same letter to the Chief Executive of Glaxosmithkline. The letter is reproduced here:

OPEN LETTER

Dear Pascal Soriot, 

We, the Animal Interfaith Alliance, a group of 17 faith-based animal advocacy organisations (listed below), write to you in your capacity as CEO of AstraZeneca to ask you to engage in a genuine dialogue concerning some of the corporate practices of your company.

We appeal first and foremost to your corporate social responsibility, generally defined as the self-regulation of a business model that helps a company be socially and morally accountable to itself, its stakeholders and the public.  

The specific issue we wish to raise is the use of animals used to develop and test new pharmaceutical products intended for human use. We fully realise that the use of animals is currently a legal requirement, based on national and international regulations. These regulatory requirements can be traced back to the Doctors’ Trial at Nuremberg at the end of the Second World War, 1946 (1).

Science has moved forward since then by 75 years, but the laws have not yet caught up with the science. The result of this legal inertia is a continued reliance on outdated and unreliable animal testing, which can be summed up in the following paragraph:

“In 2004, the FDA estimated that 92 percent of drugs that pass preclinical tests, including “pivotal” animal tests, fail to proceed to the market. More recent analysis suggests that, despite efforts to improve the predictability of animal testing, the failure rate has actually increased and is now closer to 96 percent. The main causes of failure are lack of effectiveness and safety problems that were not predicted by animal tests” (2).

Not only is the continued use of animals responsible for an enormous amount of avoidable animal suffering but it is also responsible for a significant incidence of human adverse drug reactions (3). This is not surprising in view of our current knowledge of inter and even intra-species differences, based on genomics, complexity theory and evolutionary biology (4).

The following paragraph makes the connection between animal testing and shareholder expectations:

“Pharmaceutical firms seek to fulfil their responsibilities to stakeholders by developing drugs that treat diseases. We evaluate the social and financial costs of developing new drugs relative to the realized benefits and find the industry falls short of its potential. This is primarily due to legislation-mandated reliance on animal test results in early stages of the drug development process, leading to a mere 10 percent success rate for new drugs entering human clinical trials. We cite hundreds of biomedical studies from journals including Nature, Science, and the Journal of the American Medical Association to show animal modelling is ineffective, misleading to scientists, unable to prevent the development of dangerous drugs, and prone to prevent the development of useful drugs.” (5).

The pharmaceutical industry is best placed to make the paradigm change needed to replace outdated and unreliable animal tests with human relevant test methods, including human 3D cell culture, organs on chips, pharmacogenomics, and similar 21st century technologies that were previously unavailable.

Only the pharmaceutical industry has the resources to scientifically validate human based test methods and steer them through the regulatory framework.

The development, manufacture and mass marketing of the COVID-19 vaccine was achieved in just 10 months instead of the normal 10 to 15 years. The pharmaceutical industry has already had 75 years in which to replace animal tests. Now is the time to invest some of the profits made from the COVID-19 vaccine and to improve Big Pharma reputations by using the non-animal tests that are currently available, whilst establishing a group of committed scientists dedicated to the creation of new non-animal methodologies. We are sure you will agree that this would represent a win-win situation for your company, for human health and for animal welfare.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Gardner

CE Animal Interfaith Alliance


References:

  1. https://bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6939-13-16
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4594046/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9555760/ 
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29783296/
  5. https://philpapers.org/rec/KRAHSA-3

Animal Interfaith Alliance – Member Organisations:

Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals

Bhagvatinandji Education and Health Trust

Catholic Concern for Animals

Christian Vegetarians and Vegans UK

Christian Vegetarian Association US

Dharma Voices for Animals UK

Institute of Jainology

International Ahimsa Organisation

Animals in Islam

Jewish Vegetarian Society UK

Mahavir Trust

Oshwal Association of the UK

Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals

Quaker Concern for Animals

Romeera Foundation

Sadhu Vaswani Centre

Young Jains

Ecological Metanoia from our ecological sins, by His Eminence Metropolitan of Zimbabwe Serafim Kykotis

This is an important statement on ecological metanoia by His Eminence Met. Serafim. The English text is coming soon:

Οικολογική μετάνοια από τις οικολογικές μας αμαρτίες

 

Του Σεβ. Μητροπ.  Ζιμπάμπουε Σεραφείμ

Στη σημερινή Ευαγγελική Περικοπή (Ματθαίου 4, 18 – 23) βλέπουμε πως τέσσερις από τους σημαντικότερους Μαθητές του Χριστού, στην κλήση τους να τον ακολουθήσουν, εγκαταλείπουν τα πάντα χωρίς δισταγμό κι αμφιβολία. Θυσιάζουν τα πάντα για να γίνουν Μαθητές του Χριστού.

Μέσα στη παγκόσμια κρίση που ζούμε με Πανδημίες και οικολογικές καταστροφές του Πλανήτη μας, ίσως πρέπει να προσθέσουμε στην σημερινή ευαγγελική περικοπή και το χωρίο Ματθαίου 4,17 που πολύ σοφά ο Απόστολος Ματθαίος το έχει ως εισαγωγή στην σημερινή ευαγγελική περικοπή, που φαίνεται πριν πολλά χρόνια, αυτοί που καθιέρωσαν το Τυπικό των περικοπών το απέκοψαν. Το χωρίο αυτό είναι πολύ σημαντικό για πολλούς λόγους, πρώτον, τονίζεται ότι αρχίζει η έναρξη του δημόσιου κηρύγματος του  ο Ιησούς και δεύτερο, το πρώτο πράγμα που τονίζεται είναι η «Μετάνοια» και η Βασιλεία των Ουρανών από τότε ήρξατο ο Ιησούς κηρύσσειν και λέγειν, μετανοείτε ήγγικε γαρ η Βασιλεία των ουρανών»). Το κήρυγμα της Μετανοίας, ως νέος τρόπος ζωής και νέος τρόπος σκέψεως, είναι και  το πρώτο πράγμα που τόνιζε κι  ο άγιος Ιωάννης ο Πρόδρομος, που με τη Πρόνοια του Θεού προετοίμασε την οδό του Ιησού Χριστού. Το κήρυγμα της Μετανοίας το τονίζει κι ο Απόστολος Πέτρος την Ημέρα της Πεντηκοστής, που θεωρείται η Γενέθλιος Ημέρα της Εκκλησίας («μετανοήσατε» Πράξεις 2,38). Η ζωή της πρώτης χριστιανικής κοινότητας που άρχισε να ζει εν μετανοία αποτελεί το ζωντανό παράδειγμα και για την σύγχρονη κοινωνία για να προστατευθούν τα θύματα των προβλημάτων της κλιματικής αλλαγής από τις οικολογικές μας αμαρτίες («κανείς δεν έλεγε ότι κάτι από τα υπάρχοντα του είναι δικό του, αλλά ήσαν εις αυτούς κοινά…. και δεν υπήρχε κανένας φτωχός μεταξύ τους» Πράξεις Αποστόλων 4,32 – 34). Το κήρυγμα της Μετανοίας  τονίζεται ξανά την ημέρα της Αναλήψεως του Ιησού εις τους ουρανούς («κηρυχθήναι επί τω ονόματι Αυτού μετάνοιαν» Λουκά 24,47). Η επιστημονική Κοινότητα του Ο.Η.Ε. για τα προβλήματα της Κλιματικής Αλλαγής τονίζει τον ανθρώπινο παράγοντα ως τον κύριο υπεύθυνο για την μόλυνση της ατμόσφαιρας και τις οικολογικές καταστροφές που απειλούν την επιβίωση της Ανθρωπότητας και τη καταστροφή του Πλανήτη μας. Ο μόνος τρόπος να αλλάξουν τα πράγματα για να προστατευθεί η Ανθρωπότητα και η ελπίδα για το μέλλον του Πλανήτη μας είναι να μετανοήσουμε από τις οικολογικές μας αμαρτίες και να αρχίσουμε να ζούμε ένα νέο τρόπο ζωής με ένα νέο τρόπο σκέψεως, όπως τους Αποστόλους του Ιησού Χριστού. Να προστατεύουμε τους συνανθρώπους μας και την όλη Δημιουργία του Θεού ως δώρο για όλες τις γενεές. Ο άγιος Ιωάννης ο Πρόδρομος μας καλεί «να ποιήσουμε καρπό άξιο της μετανοίας», (Ματθαίου 3,8) ,με την καλοδιάθετη απόφαση μας να μοιραζόμαστε αυτά που έχουμε με αυτούς που δεν έχουν τίποτα («εκείνος που έχει δύο χιτώνες να δώσει εις εκείνο που δεν έχει και εκείνος που έχει τρόφιμα να κάνει το ίδιο» (Λουκά 2,11).

Στο βιβλίο της Γένεσης που περιγράφεται η Δημιουργία του κόσμου και ο κατακλυσμός του Νώε, τονίζεται με σαφήνεια ότι τα αίτια της καταστροφής του Πλανήτη μας προέρχονται από τη διαφθορά των ανθρώπων, δηλαδή από τις κάθε είδους αδικίες που διαπράττουμε προς τους συνανθρώπους μας (Γένεση 6,10-13).

Η Εκκλησία μας για να συνεχίσει σήμερα το έργον της με επιτυχία χρειάζεται ανθρώπους με τις ίδιες αρετές και με την ίδια αυτοθυσία όπως τους Αποστόλους μας. Αυτό όμως είναι μόνο η μία διάσταση της επιτυχίας της Εκκλησίας μας στο σωτηριολογικό της έργον. Η δεύτερη πραγματικότητα που πρέπει να χαρακτηρίζει τη ζωή της Εκκλησίας μας είναι η διάσταση της οικουμενικότητας και παγκοσμιότητας του χαρακτήρα του Ευαγγελικού της  έργου, όπως σήμερα βλέπουμε να αναπτύσσεται η Ιεραποστολική μας διακονία εις τα πέρατα της Οικουμένης.

Η δεύτερη λοιπόν διάσταση του σωτηριολογικού έργου της Εκκλησίας μας είναι η συνεχής προσπάθεια της να μεταφέρει το Ευαγγελικό μήνυμα της Μετανοίας και σωτηρίας προς όλους τους ανθρώπους, προς όλες τις Εθνότητες, σε μαύρους και λευκούς, σε μικρούς και μεγάλους, σε όλες τις φυλές της γης και να βοηθούμε και να προστατεύουμε τα ορφανά και τις χήρες, τους καταδιωγμένους και τους αδικημένους, τους φτωχούς, τους ασθενείς, τους πρόσφυγες και τους μετανάστες, τους ασθενείς και τους ηλικιωμένους,  τους ανάπηρους  κι όλα εκείνα τα αθώα παιδάκια που πάσχουν από το φάσμα του αυτισμού ή άλλα συμπτώματα που δεν φέρουν καμία ευθύνη.

Ο βίος μας είναι κοινός και μπορούμε να κάνουμε τη ζωή μας όμορφη αν αφήσουμε χώρο στην καρδιά μας να βασιλέψει η Μεγάλη μορφή του Χριστού  με την άδολη αγάπη μας και τη φιλανθρωπία μας και τη καλοσύνη μας προς κάθε κατεύθυνση. Μόνον αν αφήσουμε στη ζωή μας να μας καθοδηγεί ο Χριστός έχουμε ελπίδες για να ζήσουμε σε ένα καλύτερο κόσμο που θα μας οδηγήσει και στην αιωνιότητα του Παραδείσου.

Στην έναρξη λοιπόν του δημόσιου κηρύγματος του Ιησού και στη κλήση των πρώτων του Μαθητών και Αποστόλων, τονίζεται η Μετάνοια και η Βασιλεία των Ουρανών, με ζωντανό παράδειγμα και της δικής μας καθημερινής ζωής, τη διακονία των αγίων Αποστόλων.

Γι’ αυτό στη σημερινή αποστολική περικοπή (Ρωμαίους 2, 10 – 16) , ο Απόστολος Παύλος τονίζει ότι «είναι δόξα και τιμή για τον κάθε άνθρωπο που κάνει το καλό» . Όσοι δεν ζουν εν μετανοία, όπως συνέβη με το Ζακχαίο που έδειξε την μετάνοια του με την αλλαγή της ζωής του,  με   την αποκατάσταση της κοινωνικής δικαιοσύνης για τις κοινωνικές του αδικίες, μοιράζοντας τα υπάρχοντα του με αυτούς που αδίκησε  Λουκά 19, 1- 10).

Ο Απόστολος Παύλος μας λέει στην σημερινή Αποστολική περικοπή, ότι όλοι οι άνθρωποι του Πλανήτη μας , θα  κριθούν αν είναι άξιοι για τη  Βασιλεία των ουρανών με τρία κριτήρια .  Οι Εβραίοι αν είναι υπάκουοι στον Μωσαϊκό Νόμο, οι Χριστιανοί, στις εντολές του Χριστού, αν προστατεύουμε τους πάσχοντες και τους αδικημένους και την όλη Δημιουργία του Θεού, ιδιαίτερα το Πλανήτη μας,    από οικολογικές καταστροφές, κι   όλοι οι άλλοι με κριτήριο τη συνείδηση τους, με την έννοια ότι μπορούν να κρίνουν το καλό   από το κακό και το άδικο από το δίκαιο.

Τελικά, η οικολογική μας μετάνοια από τις οικολογικές μας αμαρτίες, ως ένας νέος τρόπος ζωής, να ζούμε χωρίς να μολύνουμε το Πλανήτη μας και να αδικούμε τον συνάνθρωπο μας με τις κοινωνικές μας   αδικίες , είναι μονόδρομος για τη προστασία της Ανθρωπότητας  και την επιβίωση του Πλανήτη μας , ως δώρο Θεού για όλες τις γενεές, και μάλιστα γι’ αυτές που ακόμη δεν έχουν γεννηθεί, που αν συνεχίζουμε να ζούμε με τον τρόπο που ζούμε, πάμε να τους κληρονομήσουμε μια ζωντανή κόλαση και στη Γη.   

Interesting article about bio-fabrics as alternatives to leather.

It’s this season’s must-have Hermès bag. And it’s made from fungus

The luxury label is the latest to adopt pioneering technology as designers shift to bio-fabrics. Is this the end of leather?

The autumn/winter 2021 Hermès Victoria bag in leather lookalike Sylvania.
The autumn/winter 2021 Hermès Victoria bag in leather lookalike Sylvania. Photograph: Hermès

Alice Fisher Sat 12 Jun 2021 15.00 BST

It’s fair to say that Hermès knows handbags. The luxury fashion house’s Birkin and Kelly bags are among the most expensive ever sold; demand outstrips supply by so much that you can’t even join a waiting list. Acquiring one is a matter of luck and contacts. So when Hermès announced this season’s handbag would be made from a leather look bio-textile, it marked a new era in designer accessories.

The autumn/winter 2021 Hermès Victoria (prices start from about £3,500 for its previous leather version) will be made from Sylvania, a leathery fabric created from fungus, before being crafted in France into a perfect Hermès handbag.

Mushrooms, pineapples, grapes, cactus and apples are just some of the organisms on the receiving end of billions of dollars of research and development funding to create leather and plastic replacements. Many of the first generation of vegan alternatives used plastic – which also has devastating environmental consequences and can take hundreds of years to decompose. The new materials are made using biotechnology.

The growth of bio-textile lookalikes for leather is driven by the fashion industry’s efforts to improve sustainability, though they’re also used in the car and furniture industries. Fashion creates a high level of pollution – from overproduction of clothing and synthetic fibres, and also from animal leather production.

“Cattle ranching is already the largest driver of deforestation in the Amazon,” says Carry Somers, co-founder of Fashion Revolution, the world’s largest fashion activism organisation. “We urgently need to fix our relationship with fashion to halt unsustainable agricultural practices. We need to look towards circular economy alternatives, including the use of agricultural residues to create bio-leathers.”

Although conventional leather makes use of animal byproducts, production also involves toxic chemicals.

“Even in fully modernised tanneries it’s nearly impossible to reclaim pollutants generated by the tanning process,” says Adrián López Velarde, co-founder of Desserto, a Mexican company that makes leather-look material from cactus. “As a rule of thumb, tanning one tonne of hide results in 20-80 cubic metres of polluted waste water, not to mention the offal effluence from preparation, and pesticides to stop mould growth during transportation.”

There’s also been an attitude shift among consumers. Customer concern about supply chains and methods of production was growing before the pandemic, but has accelerated in the past 18 months.

“There’s a huge drive for transparency,” says Carmen Hijosa, founder of Ananas Anam, a company that makes a leather-style textile from pineapple. “It’s especially important to young people, but we’re all becoming more empathic, we understand that we have to respect nature and be kind to each other.”

Trainers made from Nike’s new Happy Pineapple range made from Pinatex pineapple leather
Trainers made from Nike’s new Happy Pineapple range made from Pinatex pineapple leather Photograph: nike

This change in priorities is the motivation for many of the companies developing so-called bio-leathers. The people behind these new materials come from diverse backgrounds – fashion and art, science and business – and they bring fresh perspective to the world of textiles.

Dan Widmaier, chief executive of the bio-textile company Bolt Threads, says: “This is personal for me. Bolt is based in northern California. I, and our employees, have been massively impacted by climate change and fires. The truth is, the challenges are so great right now, that the demand for innovative solutions far outstrips the supply.”

Bio-textiles are made either from agricultural byproducts or specially grown crops. Mycelium, the root structure of fungus, has become a favourite in the luxury industry.

Hermès worked with the Californian company MycoWorks to make Sylvania, which uses a technology called Fine Mycelium. This produces a strong cellular material that can be processed to give a luxury leather effect. “It’s more than a new material – it’s a manufacturing breakthrough that gives designers new levels of customisation and creative control,” says MycoWorks co-founder Sophia Wang. “Our materials are essentially made to order and there’s complete transparency into what is being made and how. We control each sheet’s size, strength, flexibility, thickness. This customisation creates a range of design possibilities, minimises waste and ensures consistent quality.”

Because these companies have been formed with sustainability in their DNA, good agricultural practice is front and centre. Desserto says its organic cactus plantations in Zacatecas, Mexico, use 164,650% less water compared with animal leather and 190% compared with polyurethane.

An outfit by Stella McCartney made from Mylo. Model wears basque-style top and faux leather trousers
An outfit by Stella McCartney made from Mylo. Photograph: Stella McCartney/Bolt Threads

Bolt Threads developed and produces Mylo, a mycelium faux leather used by designers including Stella McCartney. Widmaier is proud of his product and says: “Mylo’s processing and finishing chemistries are evaluated and selected using green chemistry principles and are free of substances such as chromium and DMFa, two of the most noxious chemicals used in animal and synthetic leather respectively.”

For advocates of the circular economy, bio-textiles using byproducts are of particular interest. Piñatex, made by UK-based Ananas Anam from pineapple leaves, is one of the best established. Hijosa, the company’s founder, had been a consultant for the leather goods business before setting up her company in the 1990s. She dreamt up the idea of a leather lookalike made from pineapple leaf fibres – byproducts from local farms – while working in the Philippines.

Piñatex is said to be made of 95% renewable resources – the fibres are coated in a bio-based polyurethane, rather than a petrochemical-based coating – while selling the leaves gives Filipino farmers another revenue stream.

“I just thought – you’ve got extraordinary natural resources here, great skills. Wouldn’t this be a better business than making animal leather bags with fittings imported from Hong Kong?” Hijosa says.

While mycelium-based bio-textiles are typically created to precise requirements, materials such as Piñatex can be produced on a bigger scale, allowing them to be used for mainstream as well as high-end designs.

Mira Nameth is founder of a London-based bio-textile start-up called Biophilica, which makes Treekind, a faux leather created from green waste gathered from London parks including Hyde Park and the garden at Fulham Palace. “Treekind can be made to scale,” says Nameth. “The beauty is that it’s ‘species agnostic’, so we can source the basic material from gardens, parks, forests, municipalities and the agriculture industry – they all work well, which makes it work locally [but also] on a global scale. Shipping adds significant greenhouse gas emissions to the footprint of materials and products. We can support localised supply chains and greatly reduce negative environmental impacts.”

The boom in bio replacements for leather feels like a perfect match between industry and consumer demand on one hand, and technical innovation and creativity on the other. As Nameth says: “We are in a new era of combining plants with science and design – just like scientists and designers previously have for plastics and leather. It is a thrilling journey and the results will benefit humans, animals and the environment as a whole.” It’s a journey that has to be taken. Though Hermès is unlikely to swap cows for mushrooms altogether in the near future – even the Victoria bag has a calfskin handle – the environmental impact of our current level of consumption is going to force us to change.

“The market for tanned hide last year was $45bn,” says Widmaier. “We envisage a future where consumers and brands can opt for an animal-free material like Mylo without having to compromise ethically or aesthetically. But as disposable incomes rise around the globe, so will the demand for meat and leather goods. This demand cannot be met using the land and water it takes to raise cattle. We need smarter, more sustainable alternatives.”

Drying of pineapple fibres in the Philippines to make Pinatex.
Drying of pineapple fibres in the Philippines to make Piñatex. Photograph: PIñatex

‘Bio-leathers’

V-Textile
Byproducts of the Italian wine industry are used to create this material by Milanese company Vegea, which was founded by architect Gianpiero Tessitore in 2016. Last year Vegea collaborated with French sportswear brand Le Coq Sportif to make trainers. Each was marked with the vintage of the grape used to produce the material.

Fleather
Engineer Ankit Agarwal discovered that the majority of the 8.4m tonnes of waste from flower offerings used in religious festivals in his home city of Kanpur were being dumped into the Ganges. He developed “flowercycling technology” in 2017 to recycle as much as he could. He now uses the plant matter to make numerous products – including fleather.

Desserto
Nopal cactus is the basis for this material made by Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez in Mexico. The two founders of parent company Adriano Di Marti worked in the fashion, furniture and car industries before launching Desserto in 2019 in response to the problem of plastic pollution. They chose the cactus because it needs little water and grows in land that can’t sustain other crops.

Mylo
Kering – the parent company of fashion brands Gucci, Stella McCartney, Adidas and Lululemon – announced investment in this mycelium textile, produced by California-based Bolt Threads, last year. Bolt Threads was founded in 2009 by a biochemist, a biophysicist and a bioengineer.

Piñatex
One of the best established leather look bio-materials, Piñatex was created by Carmen Hijosa. She learned to weave and took a PhD at the Royal College of Art in order to develop this pineapple material, which has been used by Nike, H&M, Paul Smith and Hugo Boss.

AppleSkin
Hannes Parth founded Frumat in 2008. The company is based in the south Tyrol, the largest apple growing region in Europe, and Parth turned to the local crop to make his product. AppleSkin was first used in stationery but has now been developed as a leathery material. It has been used to make trainers by Tommy Hilfiger and handbags for Luxtra.

Drug firms giving MPs ‘hidden’ funding, research shows

This article is from the Guardian’s Denis Campbell Health policy editor Fri 25 Jun 2021 12.10 BST.

In my capacity as Editor and someone who has researched and written on the dangers for humans (and the extreme cruelty and death of millions of animals each year), of using the existing animal testing model, (which has a failure rate of between 90 – 97%), this research shows that big pharma has influence at Westminster. This ought to worry each one of us.

Pharmaceutical industry has “hidden web of policy influence” over dozens of all-party parliamentary groups

The findings raise questions about the independence of APPGs.
The findings raise questions about the independence of APPGs. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Drug companies are giving groups of MPs and peers that campaign on health issues hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in “hidden” funding that could hand them “undue influence”, research has found.

The pharmaceutical industry has built up a “hidden web of policy influence” over dozens of all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs) at Westminster by making hundreds of “non-transparent” payments to them, as part of the industry’s wider effort to lobby those in power, researchers claim.

The findings raise questions about the independence of APPGs, the voluntary special interest cross-party groups of members of both houses of parliament that seek to influence ministers and government departments through reports, inquiries and meetings at Westminster.Advertisement

Fifty-eight APPGs focusing on different aspects of health received 468 payments totalling just under £2.2m in direct and indirect funding from pharmaceutical firms between 2012 and 2018, academics from the University of Bath found. APPGs receive no money from parliament to support their activities, which often involve ministers being questioned and being sent reports.

“In the context of health-related APPGs, payments from the pharmaceutical industry represent institutional conflicts of interest as they create circumstances where the primary interest, policymaking in the interests of public health, is at risk of being unduly influenced by he secondary interest, the pharmaceutical industry’s goal of maximising profits”, the authors conclude, in a paper published on Thursday evening in the medical journal PLOS One.

Drug companies can use their close relationship with APPGs to contribute to their inquiries, argue for policies that favour their commercial interests and have that reflected in reports, all without the public knowing about those links, according to Emily Rickard and Dr Piotr Ozieranski, from Bath University’s department of social and policy sciences.

They uncovered the long history of funding by examining parliament’s register of APPGs and drug company payment disclosure reports. Both sources contain information about big pharma’s funding of APPGs, and also its financing of health charities, which often act as the secretariat for APPGs. But the details given were often vague, incomplete and hard to understand, the authors said.

Their research found:

  • 16 health-related APPGs received 168 payments from 35 drug firms worth £1.2m in 2012-18 – one-sixth of their total funding
  • Two APPGs, on health and cancer, accepted more than £600,000 in that time
  • 50 health-focused APPGs received almost another £1m in 304 payments from patient organisations or health charities, which themselves take sums of money from big pharma

“We are not attacking any APPG or alleging any impropriety. However, there is a dilemma. The APPGs are a key part of policymaking and it is clear that corporate money is entering the APPG bloodstream”, Rickard and Ozieranski told the Guardian.

“Something must be done to mitigate against potential influence which normal citizens or NGOs won’t be able to exert.”

The revelations led to calls for greater openness about where APPG funding comes from.

“APPGs have an important role to play in holding the government to account and shaping policy by bringing together voices from across the political spectrum and from a range of stakeholders”, said Dr John Chisholm, the chair of the British Medical Association’s medical ethics committee.

“However, it is vitally important that there is full transparency around who is behind these groups and what is driving their calls for change. This is especially important for the development of health policy, which must be underpinned by the principle of improving the health of the population, and not risk being swayed by other conflicting interests.”

Justin Madders, a shadow health minister, said: “It is hugely concerning if big pharma and other vested interests are using the cover of these groups, which were set up with the best of intentions, to circumvent the normal rules on probity and transparency.

“There is a need for clearer rules on funding and conflicts of interest to ensure important health issues are not used as a vehicle to push private interests.”

But Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, a Labour peer and the treasurer of the all-party parliamentary health group, countered that APPGs’ lack of funding from parliament left them reliant on external organisations.

“APPGs need a lot of support to be run effectively. There is no funding available so its inevitable that outside organisations are asked to fund”, he said.

“In these circumstances it is an imperative on the parliamentarians who serve as honorary officers to make sure that financial sponsors do not improperly influence the outcome of APPG work.

“That is certainly the case with the APPG on health, where the sponsors come nowhere near our decisions on programmes.”

Elliot Dunster of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said: “APPGs facilitate discussions between MPs, peers and stakeholders in an open and transparent way. A number of these groups are supported by charities, trade associations and companies to carry out research, reports and meetings.

“There is strict parliamentary guidance on APPGs and a complete register – there is no hidden funding from pharmaceutical companies for MPs.”

 This article was amended on 26 June 2021 to add a statement from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry that was provided after publication.