The Friends We Keep - Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals

By Laura Hobgood-Oster

Published by Darton Longman & Todd Ltd

ISBN 978-0-232-52845-9
237 pages Paperback Eleven black & white photographs
Price £14.99

Look at Behemoth, which I made just as I made you    Job 40

This writer is both an academic, Professor of religion and Environmental Studies, and someone who gives practical help at animal sanctuaries. She is thus very well placed to write this book about the theology of humans' relationships with animals. At the heart of her work is the Christian duty of hospitality at its widest interpretation.

The stories of many early and medieval saints, both "Mediterranean" and Celtic, tell of their close relationships with animals including some that were even in their own times considered to be dangerous or as fit for sport and hunting. Thus St Jerome befriended a lion which became like a household pet and St Brigit of Kildare befriended a wild boar. Much of this tradition was lost at the time of the Protestant Reformation and since the Enlightenment theological ideas have placed humans at the centre of everything.

Laura Hobgood-Oster considers animals as pets or companions, in sport and as food. Living in Texas it is inevitable that her examples and statistics mostly come from United States sources but this does not in any way diminish the message's relevance to the rest of the world. It may be that we are on the brink of a sixth mass extinction of species (five others have occurred possibly as a result of climate change or meteor impact over the last six hundred million years. Central to the book is the question, "Does Christianity have the resources to encourage the sustenance of abundant life in all of its forms?" She cites many passages from scripture and from preachers down the ages to say that it should.

With several pages of ideas for giving practical assistance both for individuals and congregations, a list of extra resources and an extensive bibliography this book is a valuable work for anyone interested in the reasons why we should care about animal welfare.

John Roll Pickering