Catholicism and Animal Ethics
I am convinced that given the teachings of the Catholic Church, they suggest some kind of a change in our diets given our current animal agriculture system - veganism being what I have concluded as a reasonable "ideal" (not that it isn't without its faults and is, of course, subject to variation given certain contexts). This conclusion is more specific to America given our general wealth and my lack of knowledge pertaining to other countries. I am seeking to discuss the thoughts, insights, objections, etc. of Catholic priests and then analyze any recurring themes, thought processes, frameworks, etc. that are at work among the Catholic leaders. I approached this using a qualitative methodology. This project is very much an ethnographic study with a philosophical/theological analyzation. The aim of this project is to see, from a complete Catholic perspective, if a vegan-diet is in fact the logical conclusion of the Catholic Church in today’s animal agriculture system. I will attempt to fully explain the positions of priests in this study and the thoughts behind them, but do note that I am not a theologian or clergy member of the Catholic Church and further research will most likely be required to fully understand the positions of the priests. Topics of discussion will be as follows: Hierarchy of Being, what value animals have, what is allowed in relation to animals in Catholicism, Dominion & Stewardship, animal rights, speciesism, the Animal Food System, animal welfare, environmental impact, Pro-Life connection, the current vegan movement, Adopting a Vegan-Diet as part of an Individual’s Catholic Faith, and Veganism as a gesture. Subjects to be interviewed must be male ordained priests of the Catholic Church from any race/ethnicity & age in the Central Texas area (San Antonio, San Marcos, Austin area) - specifically in Central Texas due to practical reasons relating to travel. A total of 7 priests were interviewed in this study and were spread throughout the area specified above. Age of priests were between around 30 and 75 years old. Scheduling and place of meeting was discussed privately and agreed upon between myself and the priest. An informed consent document was given and signed by the priests prior to the interview. Priests were free to decline to answer any question, challenge a question, skip a question if they lacked knowledge of the subject, or leave the interview if they so wished. No penalty of any kind was given in reaction to any of these scenarios. It is crucial to understand that this thesis is evaluating the issue of a vegan-diet from a complete Catholic perspective. Critiques, thoughts, implications, etc. are all operating from and within the teachings of the Catholic Church. My findings were as follows: Most of the priests agreed that veganism can serve as a part of one’s faith, however, there is absolutely no obligation to do so. With that comes the responsibilities of upholding the Order of Creation and must never attempt to elevate animals to that of humans. A Catholic must also prioritize actions in response to the Order of Creation as well. Based on the responses of the priests, they do seem to suggest a change in diet, however, only one priest explicitly stated this. Essentially, a vegan-diet can work as a response to the issues surrounding factory farms, but it does not have to be the response. What I can hold as universal is that Catholicism would call for a more sustainable food system with greatly improved animal welfare conditions as well as an overall greater simplicity of life. In conclusion, while a vegan-diet is not an obligation, there is absolutely good reason to do so.
Catholicism, animal ethics, Catechism, priests, order of creation, veganism, pro-life, Honors College
Rodriguez, D. (2019). Catholicism and animal ethics (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.