Jesus had compassion and respect for all who suffered, and I was wondering if that should mean animals as well as humans. I know that he ate meat himself, but there were few other healthy options then. When Catholics are presented with healthy alternatives to meat, should they choose the former out of respect for life? If so, would this only be required for those who do not face financial and other limitations to doing so?
The Church does call on men to treat animals kindly, not because animals have inherent “rights” but because to do otherwise would be opposed to human dignity. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons (CCC 2418).
However, there is no moral imperitive for Catholics to permanently abstain from meat. God gave man stewardship over creation, allowing man to use creation for just purposes, including food. The *Catechism *states:
God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives (CCC 2417).