Our ‘Review’ of last year’s work was so well received that we thought we would do another for this year.
Throughout the year we continued to work on highlighting various Animal Protection issues on our Facebook and Twitter group/pages – (6) Facebook ; (2) Dr. Christina Nellist, B.ED, P.HD, FOCAE, (@orthodoxanimals) / X (twitter.com); Facebook . Please do look at them as we often put live petitions from various groups on specific issues, such as the ongoing work to prevent the Importation of Hunting Trophies, Saving the Asian Elephant, or the work to replace the discredited animal testing model with alternatives that are available for ‘Big Pharma’ to use.
We also put articles/papers related to animals on our website see panorthodoxconcernforanimals.org.
Pan Orthodox Concern for Animals organised a special session on Creation Care Christian Responsibility at the 2nd International Orthodox Theological Association in Volos, Greece. This consisted of Fr Bassam Nassif as Chair; Dr Christina Nellist who spoke on ‘Creation Care: Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia’s Teachings on Orthodoxy, Animals and Nature’; Fr Simon Nellist who spoke on ‘The Mission Fields of Compassionate Activism’;
Dr David K Goodin who spoke on: ‘“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”: John Chrysostom and the Anaphora of Creation in the Hallelujah Psalms’; Dr Nikolaos Asproulis (absent for photo) who spoke on ‘Animals, animality and the human being: An Addendum (or correction?) to Christian Anthropology’; Fr. Filotheos-Fotios Maroudas who spoke on ‘The Dominion as a Fraternal Responsibility to Animals rather than a Supremacy’; Ms Elizabeth Rotoff, who spoke on ‘An Eastern Orthodox Perspective On A Whole Food Plant-Based Diet’ and George Nassos who spoke on ‘Moving Towards the Image of God: The Urgent Need for Parish Engagement in Responsible Creation Care’. The session was well attended by both clergy and laity from around the world. We thank our panel members for their presentations.
We were delighted to hear from Fr Antony Vrame at SVS that Animal Blessing Services are increasingly common in Orthodox Parishes across America. Hopefully, the UK and other regions will soon catch them up!
Fr. Simon and Dr. Christina attended the presenting of a one million plus signed petition, organised by the Save The Asian Elephant group https://stae.org/ to our Prime Minister asking for support for: a) Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end Pajan and ensure the proper treatment of captive elephants. These magnificent creatures should either be released into the forests or kept in genuine sanctuaries.
b) Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Former Prime Minister David Cameron to urgently fulfil their Government’s Manifesto commitment to “support the Indian Government in its efforts to protect the Asian elephant.”
c) The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) to press its members including Virgin Holidays, to remove elephant attractions from their itinerary in India and the rest of Asia. Only visits to genuine sanctuaries and wildlife reserves where tourists observe elephants at a respectful distance (and do not ride them) should be permitted.
Dr Christina organised a session on ‘Creation Care Christian Responsibility’ at the European Academy of Religion Conference at St Andrews University in Scotland, to be held in late June.
Fr Simon and Rev Rob organised and conducted an Animal Blessing Service in Kent on World Pet Day.
Our President was interviewed by Paula Sparks of The Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law (ALAW) and was the first podcast by a theologian for their group. https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/talking-christian-orthodoxy-animals-and-law/id1578444621?i=1000615102578 or
They discussed among other topics how Trinitarian theology and Justinian Law could provide a platform for better defining ‘person’ in UK and International Law in the 21st century. Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law
She also attended as an observer, the Suprasl Orthodox Youth Environmental Leadership Program. This was an online educational program focused on providing basic knowledge and understanding on the theology and spiritual teaching of the Orthodox Church on ecological matters, teaching about modern environmental challenges, and raising the capacity of Orthodox youth to respond in a practical way to those challenges. Suprasl is a world fellowship of Orthodox youth founded in 2022 following an international meeting of Orthodox youth at the Monastery of the Annunciation in Suprasl, Poland. Its aim is to provide opportunities for Orthodox youth from around the world to meet in prayer and fellowship, to encourage each other in their faith and love for Jesus Christ.
The Animal Interfaith Alliance, of which POCA is a member, was represented on a zoom panel for the Charter for Compassion’s Golden Rule Day, on Wednesday 5th April, to discuss “The Golden Rule and Compassion for All Animals” – The Golden Rule and Compassion for All Animals for Golden Rule Day 2023 – YouTube
Dr Christina’s article ‘Wizards, Prophets, and the Archbishops and Bishops of the Christian Church,’ was published by Fordham’s Public Orthodoxy online platform. Wizards, Prophets, and the Archbishops and Bishops of the Christian Church – Public Orthodoxy
As you will remember, by this time it was clear that Fr Simon was seriously ill. He died on 29th May. His burial took place on 13th June.
In early June we were approached by the Non-Human Rights Project in the USA, who had been litigating in California on behalf of three elephants confined at Fresno Chaffee Zoo, to write another Amicus Curia brief on their behalf. This was undertaken and again, other Orthodox theologians and ethicists co-signed the letter. We are happy to report that the NHRP were successful in achieving permission to proceed with the case.
On June 15th we highlighted an investigation into groups of people across the world showing Monkey Torture videos on social media. It is interactive and people can write in on how the monkey babies can be tortured and killed! It is not on the Dark Web but available for you and our children to see. I noted on our website that this is why we do our work and that morning had shed the same tears of sadness for these fallen, darkened souls who enjoy and inflict such horrors, as I do for the poor innocent creatures who suffer unspeakable horrors and suffering at their hands. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew rightly teaches that ecological evils have their root both in a “destruction of religious piety within the human heart” and a too narrow definition of sin in the individual’s sense of guilt or wrongdoing. Calls for Christians to widen our concept of sin to include the abuse and exploitation of animals and the wider creation, and of the need for transfigured lives, clearly have relevance for animal suffering and our work. This is why we continue to encourage our church and others, to include animal suffering and protection into their education programmes, both at seminary and parish level.
Representatives of Pan Orthodox Concern for Animals charity chaired and spoke at a session on ‘Creation Care Christian Responsibility’ at the European Academy of Religion Conference at St Andrews University in Scotland. Fr Simon was to present a paper on ‘Creation Care as Mission,’ but due to his repose, another Orthodox presenter at the conference took his place.
The session was full of excellent and varied presentations from three Orthodox theologians and philosophers and one Catholic theologian. Dr Olga took the place of Fr Simon, and we are grateful to her, both for her willingness to engage with us and for her valuable contribution.
Eastern Orthodox theologian Dr. Olga Sevastyanova opened the ‘Creation Care Christian Responsibility’ session with her excellent paper entitled ‘The Breath of God in Creation.’ Her paper explored the three scriptural Hebrew terms נֶפֶשׁ (nephesh), נְשָׁמָה (neshama) and ר֣וּחַ (ruah) rendered into English as soul, breath, or spirit. Dr Olga demonstrate that in the Scriptures, there is no clear distinction between God’s immortal breath /spirit (neshama/ruah) and the breath/spirit (neshama/ruah) within creatures. The whole of creation participates in the life of God by the very fact of its living. It is always God who animates the creatures, both physically and spiritually. She brought attention to the fact that the breath of life (nishmat hayyim), breathed into the human nostrils at Creation according to Genesis 2:7, does not constitute the difference between humans and other creatures. Both animals and humans are animated by God’s breath. She explained that this raises the question about the place of animals within Orthodox Theology. She also explored two questions: Where does the sharp theological distinction between the animal world and the human come from? For what reasons did Orthodox theology displace animals from participation in God? Her paper interrogated these questions using the theology of St. Gregory of Nyssa.
Eastern Orthodox philosopher Natalia Doran (above) then gave her presentation entitled ‘Animal theology in the writings of St John of Damascus.’ Natalia explained that as someone who wrote the nearest to a summa theologica that the Christian East possesses, St John of Damascus can be relied upon to provide a sophisticated and consistent conceptual framework within which a variety of issues, including issues to do with animals. She explained that the terms that are of particular interest are ‘nature’ and ‘hypostasis.’ While it is generally accepted that there will be some type of animal life in the ‘Age to Come’, it is by no means certain that it will be the same animals whom we know and love here, in this space and time continuum. However, following the logic of the ontological priority of the hypostasis that St John adheres to in his exposition of the Orthodox faith, she argued that, since creation is fundamentally particular, it will be animal individuals (hypostases, or persons) who will share eternity with such of us who are worthy of it.
The third member of our team was the Catholic theologian and founder of the Animal Interfaith Alliance (AIA), Barbara Gardner, who gave her presentation on ‘The Golden Rule and Compassion for All Beings.’She explained that the Animal Interfaith Alliance, is a unique alliance of faith-based animal advocacy organisations which represents the major faiths and focuses on what we have in common and on what unites us, rather than what differentiates us. We recognise that the Golden Rule, “to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself” is common amongst all faiths and traditions, dating back millennia. We also recognise that all faiths and traditions have included animals in their definition of “others” in the Golden Rule. She reminded us that sadly, many of the followers of those faiths and traditions today, and for hundreds of years in the past, have forgotten that the rule applies to all sentient beings – beings who can feel pain and suffer, and who can experience pleasure and happiness. In our ever more human-centric world, animals have become excluded from our circle of compassion. They have become reduced to mere commodities for our use, with little or no regard for their complex emotional, social, and spiritual lives. She went on to explain that the AIA aims to educate people on the original teachings of their faiths and to reinstate the fundamental principle that we must extend our circle of compassion to include all conscious, sentient beings, and that we must extend to them also, the golden rule and treat them as we would wish to be treated ourselves. All member groups believe in a lifestyle which does not harm others. Animals are sentient beings who have the right to live freely and not made to suffer by humans and exist for their own sakes and not for ours. We believe that we are part of an interconnected web, which includes the Earth and all its inhabitants, both plant and animals. By abusing part of that web, we damage the rest of it, including the environment and ourselves.
Finally, Eastern Orthodox theologian and Chair of the session, Dr Christina Nellist gave an outline of the ‘Creation Care Christian Responsibility Course.’ She explained that this course, originally written for an Orthodox audience, is easily adapted for use by other Christian denominations. It is for use in Christian parishes, youth groups, seminary institutions or for individual study. It may also provide a useful framework for homilies. The course, consisting of eight lessons, establishes that concern and compassion for animals is not a modern phenomenon, but one found both in the Bible and in the earliest teachings of the Christian Church. It provides an anamnesis of a lesser-known Christian tradition, where all animals are loved and protected by God and that their suffering is against God’s will. It reminds us that in our role as Image, we should strive to reflect the Archetype in our lives. At times, it also highlights the soteriological implications of our abuse and exploitation of God’s non-human animal beings and the wider creation. It reminds us that by causing harm to animals or by our indifference to it, human salvation is in jeopardy. It is written to facilitate Christian Church engagement with the subjects of animal suffering and care for the environment/creation.
In July we received this word of encouragement from someone across the globe, who like so many others, know of our work and appreciate what we do. It said:
‘Hello, Dr. Nellist! I am an American college student and a catechumen in the Orthodox Church. I am also a vegan and was delighted to find out about the POCAC! I wanted to thank you for the work you have done in this field; it is my hope that Orthodox Christians will lead the charge toward a more compassionate treatment of animals. May the Lord bless you in your endeavors,…’
May the Lord continue to bring us people willing to help us in our work on His behalf.
In early July, Dr Nellist taught sessions at the Volos Academy of Theology’s Summer School on ‘The Interdependence of Animal and Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development,’ and ‘The Creation Care Christian Responsibility Course’ and its uses for the audience, which consisted of Orthodox Priests from Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Georgia.
She also participated in a workshop on this subject, with her colleagues Dr Chris Durante, and anthropologist, Francis Kostarelos.
As you know POCA is against testing on animals, not only because of the extreme suffering and death of millions of God’s creatures but because it is bad science. It was not difficult therefore, for us to attend and promote the online book launch of Rat Trap: The Capture of Medicine by Animal Research – and how to Break Free by Dr. Pandora Pound, Research Director at Safer Medicines Trust in the UK. We have in the past promoted scientific articles on this subject such as this Sage Article: ‘The Use of Human Tissues for Research: What Investigators Need to Know.’https://journals.sagepub.com/…/10…/02611929221107933… and others will be forthcoming, so that our readers can be better informed on the subject.
Our President Dr Christina was invited by the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics to attend their Summer School on ‘Animals and the Media’ at Oxford.
We at last received the edited Met. Kallistos videos from our dear supporter James Hyndman. These were made in late 2019 to specifically raise funds for POCA. We intended to write a series of short children’s books, which would include a supporting video. This project is something we wish to proceed with when time allows. If you would like to help with this project by participation or through funding, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading ‘Met Kallistos books’.
Our President attended the Faith in Europe ‘Concern of Young Christians in Europe: Key Perspectives’ zoom conference.
We also received great news that the Bill to protect the Asian Elephant had received Royal Assent by King Charles 111. This was Duncan’s response:
“Save The Asian Elephants and the millions who have supported our campaign hope the passing into law of the landmark Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill will prove a momentous day for animals everywhere. The measures, resolutely implemented and enforced, will help protect endangered and vulnerable species across the world from extreme exploitation, harm, and death in tourism. They will also save many lives of humans too, turned upon by maddened elephants and other creatures provoked by torture. Save The Asian Elephants is hugely appreciative of all who have supported our campaign for these changes, of our government, our Parliament across party divides, the charity sector, and the public. All must now set our hand to starting the transition from brutal and dangerous practices to ethical sanctuaries and wildlife reserves.
Britain can take pride in this world-first law, and we must encourage the world to follow suit whilst time remains for so many beleaguered species, our brothers, and sisters in nature.”
Duncan McNair – CEO, Save The Asian Elephants
In early October, Dr Christina flew to Lebanon to instruct students and staff at Balamand University on the work of Met. Kallistos, and his lifelong care for all of God’s creatures. The following week she lectured at the Middle East Council of Churches Symposium on ‘Ecumenical Perspective on Climate Change,’ where she was the Orthodox representative. POCA’S Icon of ‘Christ Breaking the Bonds of Animal Suffering’ is shown on the slide in the below picture and was part of Dr Christina’s session, which was broadcast live across the region and well attended both by senior academics and students from across the Middle East.
Hosea 4:1-3 was the only Biblical quote she gave in her presentation, because it is relevant for our era, and sadly more so now with the abominations inflicted in Israel on the 7th October and the resulting war:
‘There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God in the land.
There is only lying, cursing and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.’
We are excited at our inclusion in this book entitled ‘Meditations on Creation in an Era of Extinction’ by Prof. Kate Rigby, who is Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Environmental Humanities, University of Cologne, where she directs the research hub Multidisciplinary Environmental Studies in the Humanities (MESH), and are humbled at her kind words relating to our work. https://orbisbooks.com/products/9781626985506…
Practicing an ancient form of theological reflection, Kate Rigby returns to the biblical narrative of the six days of creation in the horizon of accelerating climate chaos, biodiversity loss, ecological unravelling, and environmental injustice, and shares inspiring stories of faith-based initiatives to respond to the entangled cries of the earth, our fellow creatures, and the poor. Meditations on Creation in an Era of Extinction is acclaimed by Mary Evelyn Tucker of the Forum on Religion and Ecology as “a brilliant weaving of Christian theology, personal reflection, and environmental action” that is “destined to become a classic.” In her reflections on the sixth day of creation, Rigby highlights the work of Orthodox theologian,
Dr. Christina Nellist, and of the organisation she co-founded with Met. Kallistos of Diokleia – Pan Orthodox Concern for Animals Charity, as an outstanding example of Christian advocacy for fellow animals, nourished by the legacy of the Eastern church fathers, several of whom made a major contribution to the hexamoral tradition that Rigby revivifies in this book.
On 12th November, Prof Martin Henig and Dr Nellist conduct/attend the Animals in War Memorial Service, which was as beautiful and thought-provoking as ever.
On the 30th Dr Christina gave a talk on ‘Orthodox Prayers for Animals’ at the Interfaith Celebration for Animals Ceremony.
We were contacted by Fr Jacob Siemens, editor of the on-line Orthodox Exchange Magazine, who requested an article. ‘Animals on the Orthodox Agenda’ was sent to them in early December – see the magazine here https://www.orthodoxexchange.net/magazine
As you know Dr Christina is also on the Board of the Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration in America. This is the appeal for the poor of Zimbabwe that was posted recently:
Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This letter invites funds for Christmas food relief for the extraordinarily poor Orthodox Christians of Zimbabwe. The number of Zimbabweans in extreme poverty has reached 8.3 million as the pandemic in that country has delivered an economic shock to the country. These are most likely among the poorest people on earth.
No other Orthodox organization provides help to the situation in Zimbabwe. The United Nations World Food program calls their predicament a “Full-Blown Humanitarian Crisis.” Global climate change is one of the multiple causes of the record drought in Zimbabwe. Food which farmers might normally produce is drying up in the fields.
According to a World Bank’s economic report, about half of Zimbabwe’s population fell into extreme poverty last year, with children bearing the brunt of the misery. Hunger has a ripple effect on desperately poor families. If they can buy food, they will likely forgo health care as they are unable to pay for medicines. Then they will also keep children out school to avoid education costs, such as for school fees and books. For those of you who are able to send a donation, your name and ALL of your donation will be sent directly to HE Archbishop Seraphim [Kykotis] in Zimbabwe. He will in turn distribute these funds equitably across the parishes of the archdiocese. Please send donations to: The OFT, c/o Food Relief for Zimbabwe, P.O. Box 7348, Santa Rosa, California 95407 USA
Give what you can. No donation is too small. 100% of your donation goes to the people of Zimbabwe. Your contribution for Food Relief is 100% tax deductible. Yours in service to God’s good earth, Fred Krueger see the OFT and its work at www.Orth-Transfiguration.org
In December, the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics published its Report on predator control. As a Fellow at the OCAE, our President co-signed the Report. Here is the Press Release:
“Predator control” on Scottish moors causes tremendous, unjustifiable suffering to animals, say academics. Over 120 academics worldwide have backed a report that calls for an end to snaring, trapping, and poisoning animals on Scottish moors. Animals are killed in order to artificially inflate grouse populations for shooting.
“The best available estimates indicate that as many as 260,000 animals are killed as a result of legal ‘predator control’ practices each year in Scotland” maintains the Report.
The Report is signed by numerous ethicists and philosophers, including Scottish academics from the universities of St Andrews, Edinburgh, Stirling, and Aberdeen, and the Nobel Laureate, J. M. Coetzee.
Titled “Killing to Kill,” the 71-page Report by the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics graphically details how each method of control “causes suffering, or prolongs suffering, or makes animals liable to suffering.”
Snares are condemned because they “inevitably mean that animals can struggle for hours in considerable pain and distress.” Even the supposedly most humane trap, the DOC (Department of Conservation) trap, only kills 80% of its victims quickly, while the remaining 20% are left to suffer appalling injuries, with no requirement for inspection. And poisons mean that animals suffer for days.
“This is a major moral issue” claims Centre director the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, “it simply cannot be right to cause tremendous suffering for non-essential purposes. When we began the Report, we knew hardly anything about these control measures, but we have been staggered by the degree of suffering. Few people are cognizant of the situation. It is a much neglected and overlooked area of animal cruelty.”
The Report concludes by calling for a new charter for free-living animals. “Scotland could lead the way in pioneering legislation that encompasses not only domestic animals, but also free-living ones. This legislation should begin with the recognition of sentiency and enshrine in law the value and dignity of free-living animals such that their right to live unmolested is respected.”
The Report is written by a fellow and the directors of the Centre, Dr Katie Javanaud, Dr Clair Linzey, and the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey. It was commissioned by the Scottish charity, the League Against Cruel Sports, but is an entirely independent report and at no point did the League seek to influence the Report’s findings or conclusions.
Director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland Robbie Marsland, commented: “The League Against Cruel Sports is not surprised that many people believe Scotland’s “grouse moors” are an animal ethics free zone. Polling shows that 76% of Scots do not support the practice of ‘predator control’ to kill hundreds and thousands of animals so that more grouse can be shot for entertainment. This report clearly outlines the ethical case against this uncontrolled killing. The biggest surprise is that any suggestion that this killing should stop is met with incredulity by the shooting fraternity. We hope the report will open the eyes of politicians considering the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill to the enormous ethical issues before them.” The Report can be viewed online here. league_scotland_grouse_ethics_final.pdf
The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics is an independent Centre which pioneers ethical perspectives on animals through research, teaching, and publication. It comprises a fellowship of more than 140 academics worldwide. The Centre collaborates with Palgrave Macmillan on the Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series which has published more than forty books to date. It also publishes the Journal of Animal Ethics in partnership with the University of Illinois Press. The Centre organises the Annual Oxford Animal Ethics Summer School each year, held at Merton College, Oxford. The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain’s leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused, and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. It carries out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. The League also works to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).
We are delighted to inform you that in early December one of our team, Natalia Doran, flew to Georgia to speak at the annual international conference of the Orthodox Research group of St John Chrysostom. ‘Reading Scripture as Orthodox Theologians’ being the over-arching theme of the conference, Natalia chose to focus her presentation on Psalm 103 (the creation psalm, numbered 104 in Western reckoning), hoping to make her paper an instantiation of Orthodox interpretation. Verses 29-31, and their significance for the wider issue of animal immortality, were carefully considered. Those verses happen to be directly quoted and commented on by St Maximus the Confessor and St Gregory of Nyssa. Do look out for a new entry on our website and let us know in the comments on our FB site if you are interested in Natalia’s take on the Tbilisi street dog situation, including a visit to a local shelter.
We have been asked to write a short article for The Wheel, on Mets Ware/Zizioulas’ concern for animals, which will include a critical comparison of their relative texts.
Now for some housekeeping and exciting news.
As a result of Fr Simon’s death, our President has relinquished the Chair of the charity to an exceptionally talented and well-respected Orthodox theologian. She will take on Fr Simon’s role as Treasurer, whilst remaining its President, and continuing to write articles and attend conferences on behalf of POCA. We shall be announcing the newest member of the team in early January, so keep your eyes on our FB and website!!
Finally, we thank you for your continuing support and love, and it gives us immense pleasure in wishing you all a wonderfully spiritual and loving Christmas, and a happy New Year.