Caring for four-legged friends is honourable but humans must come first

The relentless push for animal rights is raising questions about the integrity of UK politics. Jeremy Corbyn’s plans on animal welfare may well attract support from a wide section of British society but some remain unconvinced.

Writing in The Spectator, Ross Clark has questioned Mr Corbyn’s policies which include the banning of foie gras, making it mandatory for motorists to report that they have run over and killed cats, and a new law to allow tenants to keep pets. This can be added to other initiatives such as tackling the trafficking of pangolins and tougher criminal sanctions on those who steal bird eggs. The latter being rather ironic when you consider the plight of unborn human beings. And it’s not just Jeremy Corbyn and Labour; every mainstream political party in the UK is generally on board.

Mr Clark does have a point. Modern society in the West is increasingly concerned with the welfare of animals and increasingly ambivalent about the welfare of the most vulnerable humans. Whilst political parties clamber for public applause as another creature is spared some suffering, the plight of suffering humans, many of them unborn, is largely ignored.

It’s a noble thing to look after the animals God has gifted to us. We must respect our earthly neighbours and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2416) states that we ‘owe them kindness’. We might have dominion over animals and they may be entrusted to our stewardship but we shouldn’t abuse this and we must maintain ‘respect for the integrity of Creation’ (CCC, 2415). And we should not ‘cause them to suffer or die needlessly’ (CCC, 2418).

However, it is still legitimate to use animals for certain means which are beneficial to humanity. For example, it is ‘legitimate to use animals for food and clothing’ (CCC, 2417). They may also be domesticated and used as pets to help people in their work and leisure. Further still, it is morally acceptable to use animals for medical and scientific experimentation provided it ‘remains within reasonable limits and contributes to the caring for or saving of human lives’ (CCC, 2417). And this is the nub; animals are not humans. They are not individuals made in the image and likeness of God.

So whilst it is absolutely wrong to allow an animal to suffer or die needlessly, it is also wrong to ‘spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery’ (CCC, 2418). Essentially, whilst there is human suffering there can be no favour directed towards animals where that favour could instead be directed toward the alleviation of human suffering.

It is right that we care for our animals, and it is right that we show them affection. But whilst millions of human beings around the world suffer and whilst millions of unborn children are at risk from abortion, we need to be unequivocal in prioritising the plight of humanity over the plight of animals. It is heart-breaking to think of the suffering being endured by human beings whilst politics plays ‘caring mother’ to our four-legged friends. We need to recalibrate and see to human need first.