Opinion Piece: Contributing Positively to the Discussion of the Ethics of Food

Written by Rodney Calgher in response to ‘The Challenge of Christian Animal Ethics’ Event advertised in the Diocesan Messenger a few weeks ago.

I am the son of a primary producer, who grew up on a sheep and cattle station in central west of NSW and I have a brother who is also on the land. Living as we did in a very isolated place, my father killed and butchered our own animals for our own consumption and we often assisted in the process. Slaughtering animals was traumatic and I questioned my father about this. He was a strong Christian of a Methodist kind. He explained his ethical values saying that, we humans have been given authority by God to use the animals he has provided for food. The Genesis Mandate – “Take Dominion”. By “dominion”, I understood this brought with it RESPONSIBILITY.

I understood also that all life is sacred and a gift from God. I must not kill any healthy animal unless I intended to eat it. Then there is also the “duty of care”. Welfare and relief of suffering which includes, I extreme circumstances, mercy killing. I can remember an occasion when a horse had to be put down because it had broken its leg…

…Unfortunately animal welfare has ceased to be a matter of Morality and Ethics, and has become political. This fact alone muddied the waters. Politicians will simply take the side they think will give them the most votes. The animal gets the least consideration.

For producers and consumers alike, I think the most glaring issues are as follows:

  1. Live Animal export should be banned
  2. Caging of egg laying fowls banned
  3. Sexing and destruction of unwanted chickens banned
  4. Concentrated lots for cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry restricted.
  5. Abattoirs, slaughtering and processing practices strictly regulated.
  6. Foreign ownership carefully monitored and restricted.

In my experience in Country Parishes over many years, I have observed that the influence of some “ill informed” do-gooders far exceeds their experience and qualifications while the farmer with 3 or 4 generations of local knowledge and experience, is treated with contempt.

I hope this contributes positively to the discussion o the Ethics of Food… I believe there is equal precedent for the eating of meat in Holy Scripture…the answer is not total Vegetarianism, but the responsible utilisation of God’s providence.

Does the average Anglican family out there say Grace before meals, for example?

This may be a good starting point.

Yours in Christ,
Rodney Galagher