At a time when, globally, more animals are suffering at human hands than at any point in history, Pope Francis has made an extraordinary appeal to each and every one of us — Catholic or not.
A refreshing humility and willingness to speak out on key areas of concern has become the hallmark of Pope Francis — who in 2013 took the name of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. So it’s no surprise that in his recent encyclical (one of the Church’s most authoritative teaching documents — addressed to the World’s billion-odd Catholics) the Pope has called on his followers to be more compassionate. But he has done more than that.
In recognising that our treatment of animals and the environment reflects our treatment of each other, he is using his position to appeal for change beyond the influence of the Church: “I wish to address every person on this planet.” And he’s not mincing words. When it comes to climate change, Pope Francis is scathing of our recent history and warns that humanity is now reaching a “breaking point”. And when it comes to animals, he is equally forthright with his statements.
When today, the vast majority of animals raised into human care — billions worldwide — endure the human-made horrors of factory farms and slaughterhouses, Pope Francis’ message couldn’t be more potent. And when the figurehead of one of the world’s most conservative institutions warns that we need to be more progressive on animal protection — we’ve reached a defining moment in history.