A Vegan, Pro-Life Perspective on Animal Rights

An interesting and thoughtful article on why the animal rights movement matters by Matt Scully, who was a speechwriter for Bush. And also a Vegan. And anti-abortion. And pro-animal rights.

I went to college with Matt, and found his views interesting, and probably unique as a political position, even back then. I don’t know if he is Catholic (he identifies himself as “not a churchgoer”) but it’s interesting that he uses Catholic moral theology and social justice teaching in support of his arguments.



I agree with him on the moral and logical bankruptcy of setting up the moral claims of animals and those of the unborn against each other.

However, I’m not convinced that killing animals for food is wrong. I’m conflicted about it, and I am certainly convinced that the factory farm system is evil. But it seems to me that given the different natures of animals, in fact one of the ways in which we honor God’s creation of them and enter into a relationship with them as fellow-creatures is to use them for food (whether in hunting or farming).

One of the points I don’t think vegans address sufficiently is the fact that all eating involves some kind of destruction, and pretty much all eating of plants involves some kind of conflict with or destruction of animal life. Over the past two days, I’ve slaughtered a massive host of caterpillars that were eating my broccoli (I’m moving to a new house and have already started a garden, but have only been there to take care of it for a few days every month). I feel somewhat conflicted about my brutality, but I can’t see my way to saying that I’m doing the wrong thing in preserving my own food source and that of my family by killing caterpillars.

Granted, a cow is not a caterpillar. But on the other hand, my relationship with an animal I’m eating for food is less hostile than that with an animal I’m killing so that I can eat vegetable food.


I’ve read Scully’s book “Dominion”, as well as many others in preparation for my thesis on the Catholic view on Animal welfare.

There are a number of different issues to think about, and he gives one perspective on how to look at them. “Dominion” is a good read, although there are some significant areas with which he and I disagree.

That target that Scully and others miss, I believe, is to first define and differentiate “Animal Rights” and “Animal Welfare”, which have some overlap but are not the same. The notion of Animal Welfare is one on which I think we might all agree; that there be no cruelty shown toward animals of any sort, wild or domestic. “Rights”, as a notion, carries an extremely wide variation of definition.

To my way of thinking, it is better to promote and use the term “Animal Welfare” instead of the more emotionally charged “Animal Rights”; starting with common ground first, then moving into areas where there are legitimate areas of disagreement as to how to achieve such welfare.

The hole in this view is that created animals routinely kill other animals (in various brutal ways), and do so by God’s design. So, if killing animals for food is sinful, then God sins via the instincts he placed in billions of animals around the world every day.

That doesn’t work for me.

I remain a carnivore. Jesus ate fish (can’t remember if there are other references to Him eating meat), so obviously it’s okay. I agree that the conditions some animals are kept in are abominable, however.

Lamb during Passover?


No disagreement, here.

I prefer to call myself and omnivore, since eat some vegetables, too.

There is also a very profound connection to Christ’s prescription to eat his body and drink his blood in order to have life. In a sense, he was hunted down and killed like the prey you speak of, but then gives himself to be eaten, paradoxically, to provide his hunters (we humans) the nourishment of his very life. He made himself incarnate (a participant in the biological energy cycle) in order to become divine food through the very process you describe above.

Perhaps the natural order of killing to eat only makes sense in light of Christ becoming human and suffering death in order to feed humanity with real food. Viewing food, in general, as symbolic of Christ’s giving himself to us out of love might engender a more appreciative respect for plants and animals as symbols of God’s gift of love. A love which does not avoid suffering when necessary.

In a very real sense, God took on the role of the billions of animals that are killed by predators in order to become food for them. Christ’s suffering and death is symbolized in the suffering and death of animals that become food for others.

It seems a grand aikido move on his part to turn the very act of aggression and killing against aggressors themselves in order to bring about the ultimate triumph of life over death.

We eat to live on a natural level because we had to be provided divine nourishment through the only means God had left to him to break into our broken cycle of aggression and survival after the fall.

I raise chickens, both for meat and eggs (two different kinds of chickens) and rabbits for meat and my husband and I consider ourselves and take seriously our role as stewards of God’s creation. Our animals are well fed (no chemicals or hormones in feed) with plenty of fresh water and room to freely move around. FACTORY FARMS ARE INDEED EVIL!!

God created humans on a higher level then that of animals though. We are created in HIS likeness and image.

All through salvation history, scripture has recorded many times when an animal was sacrificed and either burned on the alter (sending a sweet aroma up to heaven or eaten as in the fatten calf). And lets not forget that Jesus Himself ate meat, as in the Passover Lamb and fish.

Adam and Eve, after the fall covered their naked bodies with (fig) leaves and it was God who replaced those leaves with animal hides.

I like my pork and beef medium rare, my fish raw (yep- you read correct:p) and my veggies steamed, but I always give thanks to God for my food that He has provided and take seriously my responsibility to use these resources wisely.


I didn’t read the Camosy link but he is usually thought provoking.

I see many points and topics being addressed here.

First, whatever somebody wants to eat let them eat. I like meat products of all kind. Those who choose not to please don’t inflict your standards on those of us who don’t have your standards.

Animals should not be treated meanly. However the lack of affection for an animal is not necessarily evil. I’m not familiar with how large quantities of animals are raised.

Large amounts of animals being raised in one place make those protein products available to those who otherwise may not be able to afford and really may not otherwise have accessability.

Just another side to look at.

God bless.

I don’t think one can say that categorically. Undoubtedly some are cruel. I have been in some that definitely are not.

Something that needs to be remembered is that all food animals have a “natural” set of challenges in the wild state; nutrition, disease, injuries, predators. What at least the “factory farms” I have seen do is alter that. They ensure nutrition, eliminate disease and most sources of injury and all predators but one; man. Whether, say, a chicken is better off in a more “natural” state, out on a green pasture with hawks circling overhead and coyotes lurking in the bushes, or in a poultry house that’s more boring visually but in which there are no hawks or coyotes, is something people can debate.

But it’s academic because it’s impossible to know what kind of scenery chickens prefer, if they have any preference at all, so we’ll never resolve the “aesthetics for animals” issue.

Definitely we need to remember that there is almost certainly not enough organic or even non-organic food to feed the world. About 1/3 of the useable temperate and tropical land masses on earth are fit for nothing but grass. We can’t eat grass. It’s worthless to us nutritionally. But God created creatures that can digest grass and turn it into wholesome food. Chickens and hogs aside, there would be a tremendous protein deficit in the world if we did not have grass-eating animals like cattle, sheep, goats and even camels.

By way of possible illustration. Before the horse came to America, the Great Plains were almost devoid of human inhabitants. Why? Because despite the billions of tons of high-quality protein (buffalo) all around them, people could rarely access it because buffalo are fast, migratory and deadly dangerous to a human on foot. The Indians couldn’t eat the grass. So the human habitations were very small and concentrated in river valleys where one could farm a bit, endangered always by gigantic herds passing through. It was only when the horse made it possible for Indians to follow the herds and kill swift-footed buffalo for meat that the plains Indian population became significant.

If only everyone thought that way. But then over half the earth’s population would probably starve to death in a year or two.

People can debate it, but I think the arguments for the former position are clearly better. No animal lives forever. Danger and death are part of life, and hawks and coyotes are God’s good creatures too. To quote Joel Salatin, chickens need to be able to express their “chickenness.”

But it’s academic because it’s impossible to know what kind of scenery chickens prefer, if they have any preference at all, so we’ll never resolve the “aesthetics for animals” issue.

I don’t think that’s true. I don’t have much personal experience with chickens, but I have been reading quite a few books on them in preparation for acquiring some next year, and these books (Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, for instance) pretty consistently say that you can tell when chickens are happy. Storey’s Guide goes into great detail on the different sounds chickens make to express various emotions and to communicate information.

The only livestock animal with which I have any considerable experience is goats, and you can certainly tell when goats are happy.

Certainly non-human animals can’t tell us their opinions on the larger philosophical questions you raised above. If they could, they would have, in Thomistic terms, “rational souls” and it would be wrong to kill and eat them. Since they don’t and can’t, we are justified in making those decisions for them, but we should be guided by what we can learn about their natures and what will help them fulfill those natures.

Definitely we need to remember that there is almost certainly not enough organic or even non-organic food to feed the world.

I think you mean “vegetable food.” That’s probably true, but I’m not as certain as you are.

About 1/3 of the useable temperate and tropical land masses on earth are fit for nothing but grass. We can’t eat grass. It’s worthless to us nutritionally. But God created creatures that can digest grass and turn it into wholesome food. Chickens and hogs aside, there would be a tremendous protein deficit in the world if we did not have grass-eating animals like cattle, sheep, goats and even camels.

It might be possible to change this, but only by radically changing the environment around us in ways that I think would be ultimately harmful and unhealthy, and would certainly destroy the rich diversity of God’s creation.


Thank you for posting this article - I am about to read it. I am an animal rights activist, Vegan, Pro lifer and RC so I am interested to read this. :thumbsup:

Thank you for the article. I may be back…:wink:

I am conflicted as to whether one should be vegetarian or vegan for religious or moral reasons.

Killing an animal for food is obviously ending its life. The arguments in favor of it seem to be that we are a higher species and so it is okay to do so. But imagine that there is a higher species than us (eg, aliens), and they come to Earth, is it okay for them to eat humans? One could easily imagine creatures that have an intellectual superiority over humans that is the same as the difference between us and animals.

Regardless, it seems being vegan is ideal for health reasons anyway. Vegans have much lower rates of many different kinds of cancers compared to those who eat meat, even compared to those who eat meat or fish one day/week. It is also much more environmentally sustainable. Using animals for food has caused dramatically increased carbon emissions and caused problems in medicine due to the fact that at least 75% of antibiotics are used in animals, causing antibiotic resistance. It is environmentally sustainable for the entire world to be vegan, but not so for the entire world to consume the amount of meat that is consumed in the US. I don’t know the numbers offhand, but Americans consume far more meat than would be expected by population.

This thread has been dormant for a considerable period. With rare exceptions, reviving threads after a protracted period of inactivity is discouraged because:

*]the issues that spurred them are often no longer “hot” or current topics, explaining why thread activity ceased originally.
*]posters originally involved in the discussion are sometimes no longer active on the forum and, therefore, unavailable to reply to comments added to the thread.

Our experience suggests that, when a topic merits revival, it is best accomplished by initiating a new thread that draws on recent events and can be posted to contemporaneously. This eliminates the baggage of folks being frustrated by asking and not receiving responses to issues raised in early posts (because the new poster didn’t notice that the post he was responding to was made a long time ago).

Posters are very welcome to open a new thread on the subject or any other topic, as well as to actively participate in the myriad active threads in the fora.
Thank you to all those who have participated in this discussion. This thread is now closed. **

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.