The Pope, the Animals and the Earth: The Vatican Says, Stop Exploiting; Do Something!

06/24/2015 09:34 am ET | Updated Jun 23, 2016

"Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it." Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter

I am not a fan of organized religion, the opposite, in fact, I loathe it. I loathe it for its massacre of the pagan and indigenous tribes once proliferating this planet. I loathe it for the burning of women, children and animals during the medieval times. I loathe it for its despicable cover-up of raping children. However, Pope Francis new encyclical is a ray of hope for the church in an otherwise, what for me is, a dark history.

I have never before heard this position of power speak as he has. He may not be going Vegan anytime soon but it seems the Vatican might be waking up to its imminent demise along with the rest of us as we slide into changing this planets ecosystem forever and thereby eradicating life as we know it.

The recently published encyclical has some astonishing statements. While I differ with the Vatican on a number of issues, I cannot diminish the incredible stand the new Pope has taken on issues of global injustice, the environment, animal welfare and poverty. It is a well-written and deeply thoughtful encyclical. I hope that it has the intended impact on the Catholic Churches followers and helps inspire a growing apathetic world community to wake up and act, FAST!

You can read the entire document here, but I would like to point out a few paragraphs of particular interest. The Pope clearly recognizes that moneyed interests are effectively stopping all efforts to curb global warming by saying,

"It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected."

And -

"The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes."

I must quote one of the most remarkable reports of our time, which is still fundamentally ignored because we just can't grasp the fact that by eating animals we are contributing the most to global warming. In a special report released by Worldwatch, it is stated a startling 51% of Green House Gases (GHG's) can be attributed to livestock products. The top cause oof the devastating deforestation the Pope refers is for soybean cultivation. The soybeans are grown for animal food NOT vegetarians!

"Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change."

Indeed. Like perhaps the entire climate justice camp who chose to ignore the fact that animal agriculture is the worst offender for global greenhouse gases even more than our entire transportation system combined. Am I laboring a point yet?

In the following paragraph, the Pope makes a very interesting and provocative statement considering a huge amount of the population believe we have dominion OVER the Earth and her creatures.

"It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential "resources" to be exploited while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species, which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority becomes extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right."

Let me just repeat that to make sure you heard the Pope quite clearly, WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO KILL TO EXTINCTION! When I say this, I am summarily dismissed but perhaps people will now listen to the appointed head of the most powerful Church in the western hemisphere.

It baffles me that the current human vision of our future is some romanticized, highly charged, exciting, violent Mad Max world but in reality it will be more like The Road with people squabbling around in bunkers killing each other for a morsel of food. Men have such grandiose ideas of how they would be in a future desolate world, but I doubt most humans could come up to the anti-hero status. As the Pope says, the damage we are doing by destroying species is incalculable.

"Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values involved are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration."

There is a very clear directive when it comes to animal welfare and the Vatican recognizes animal exploitation is out of control, they seem very concerned with Ocean life perhaps because fish have such a strong symbolic meaning for Christians. He refers to our oceans as being turned into "cemeteries bereft of color and life."

"Oceans not only contain the bulk of our planet's water supply, but also most of the immense variety of living creatures, many of them still unknown to us and threatened for various reasons. What is more, marine life in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, which feeds a great part of the world's population, is affected by uncontrolled fishing, leading to a drastic depletion of certain species. Selective forms of fishing, which discard much of what they collect continue unabated. Particularly threatened are marine organisms which we tend to overlook, like some forms of plankton; they represent a significant element in the ocean food chain, and species used for our food ultimately depend on them."

So all you pesky pescatarians and Sushi eaters take note, there seems no excuse!


"Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family." Does it seem that we, the human race, cherish, love and respect all creatures? I think not.

The following part jumped out at me having worked for years to change attitudes towards animals. The animal advocacy movement has made valiant efforts for change and is widely ridiculed, and dismissed. When they force the point using tactics such as undercover investigations and liberation of tortured animals they have aggressive laws enacted against them like the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act or the Ag gag.

"Whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented."

In paragraph 59 the Pope speaks to human complacency and reckless behavior, ignoring the truth of the impact our current lifestyle has on our ecosystem. Avarice and greed that clearly needs to stop. He outright says, that we have misinterpreted the bible in our belief that we have "dominion" over the earth and we must "forcefully reject" the idea that we have absolute domination over other creatures. He clearly indicates passages in the Bible referring to giving animals rest time and not "taking" baby animals away from their mothers or indeed disturbing mothers with young. Hey, Christian right wing hunters take note! He says, man must respect other creatures and avoid "disordered use of thing."

A very interesting part of the text is when he is referencing the Canadian and Japanese Bishops, who were noted in the text as having made poignant remarks about creatures being an expression of the divine and as such, one assumes, worthy of treating creatures as sacred beings. This is very interesting considering Japan has such a horrible whaling and dolphin slaughtering contingent and Canada conducts a despicable hunt on the seals every year.

The Pope clearly states that we have misinterpreted Christian message, and we do not have dominion over the universe but more a sense of "responsible stewardship."


And then the Pope and I part company over a few important issues but one cannot expect too much. This is obviously hugely controversial and took a lot of work and dialogue to put together. It is extremely progressive for the Catholic Church built on so much oppression and exploitation so I welcome this encyclical.

But finally, I am very happy to see the Vatican acknowledged the importance of indigenous communities and their struggle and have charged us to stop forcibly removing them from their ancestral land.

"In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture."

So, let my last word on this be about an issue very close to my heart. So final note to the BIA, Peabody Western Coal, and John McCain, please stop trying to remove the Dineh from their homeland and leave them be! Stay strong Big Mountain resistors, the Pope is with you!

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