LET MY PEOPLE GO :Claiming the Bible for the Animals

By Revd Christa Blanke

Published by Animals’ Angels Press

ISBN  978-3-9814946-6-2

117pp. Paperback

Price

 

 
      From the outset Christa Blanke makes it plain that this is not a theological survey of  what the Bible says  about animals and their rights (there are other books on this, for example Andrew Linzey and Dan Cohn-Sherbok, After Noah. Animals and the Liberation of Theology,1997)), but  rather  it is a forthright  attempt to show how the implications of justice issues in the Bible, notably  in  the story of the Exodus  and in the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, might be extended as a freedom manifesto to embrace all Creation. As such it timingly echoes Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s recent endorsement for the Global Guide to Animal Protection that ‘we do not honour God by abusing other sentient creatures’.    If I have any  criticism it is that the author might have added that much  of the specific abuse of  animals she details is in fact strictly  contrary to several compassionate provisions detailed in Biblical texts, notably  Exodus and Deuteronomy. These enjoin humane treatment of domestic animals by ensuring they are adequately fed and watered and demand that the owner  let them enjoy a Sabbath rest.

 

    Christa Blanke’s focus is the work of  Animals’ Angels which  exposes  the gross cruelties which  human beings, motivated by greed, are still inflicting on countless animals sold for slaughter both in the marketplace and when they are then  transported over long distances to a terrible fate in often unsupervised slaughterhouses. They try to provide a loving presence alongside the animals on their final journey and where possible to ameliorate their lot and this little book sets what is happening now against Biblical texts which proclaim God’s love and express  a yearning for the freedom of creation. Each section  ends with a prayerful, poetic  reflection. While the writing is gentle, compassionate and often very lyrical, I found this quite a difficult and, indeed, tearful  read because of the appalling suffering witnessed on a daily basis by  Christa and her fellow workers.

     Like some of the psalms, the book is shot through with a pious  questioning of God, rooted in prayer (see p.36). Why is such terrible large scale suffering  allowed to happen? This is a question which of course exercises all of us, of ten in relation to abuses against human beings such as the Nazi Holocaust. Like her, I think one simply has to trust in the loving purposes of God, and like the late Rabbi Hugo Gryn answer the question ‘where was God?’ with another question 'where was Man[kind]?'  Christa Blanke fearlessly tackles the evil our species does while  persisting  in the  faith that  God loves all his creatures, that ‘He himself is with them, in slavery and during the mass killing.’ Although ‘humans can kill and eat non-human animals… they will never succeed in killing God’s love for His children.’(p.54).


The extended message of  what should be seen as a powerful manifesto for animals is that Christians should go much further than simply ensuring half adequate welfare standards for  them on the way to slaughter. Killing and eating animals is ultimately an offense against the love enjoined on us by Christ, an offense the freedom which all creation is destined to share. Moreover it is one aspect of the way in which we are destroying the earth and its delicate ecosystems (see p.67-8), though rather more might have been made of  the fact that the clearance of tracts of forest in order  to facilitate meat-production is one of the  major factors in environmental degradation and species extinction. The Anglican church, indeed the church as a whole, has been silent for far too long in condemning the callous way in which our fellow creatures are reared in  industrial squalor  and slaughtered as commodity in their millions.

   I am strongly recommending this book to my congregation for Lent reading this year, for its stark exposure of  suffering in this world, for its  helpful meditations and prayers, and finally for its Easter vision of a brighter future for us humans together with the other animals in the light of Christ.

Martin Henig

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