Practical Issues > Things to do > Religion and Animals


Lenten Fast from Violence

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Below is a blurb I thought I submitted for my parish newsletter (but had a mistake in the email address and didn't know it in time), followed by a portion of an email I sent to a priest on the topic.

“For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice….”
(Hosea 6:6 WEB)

Question: Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer: I renounce them.
(BCP pg. 302)

Lent is upon us. It is still the custom of the Eastern Orthodox faithful to observe a vegan Lent. Although western Christian observances have been all over the map throughout history, we still observe Shrove Tuesday as the day (symbolically, at least) to use up our eggs, fat, and milk before our Lenten fast begins. The following is a quote from New Advent’s website:

"… St. Gregory writing to St. Augustine of England laid down the rule, 'We abstain from flesh meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs.' This decision was afterwards enshrined in the 'Corpus Juris', and must be regarded as the common law of the Church."

Second, the massive, brutally inhumane seal slaughter is about to begin again “in full swing” in Canada. Mainstream animal welfare groups, including the HSUS are calling for action around the world, to encourage the Canadian government to stop subsidizing the mass killing. (A majority of Canadians are against the seal slaughter, too.) Please take a look at the “animal bulletin board” in the Memorial Hall, or visit sites like or to learn about the issue, and find out how you can help. Thanks, if you do!

I got involved with a small group that started Veg4Lent a few years ago in the UK. And for two years, I sent out letters to the churches in this diocese, and last year an email (to save money on postage). The first year, I sent Veg4Lent's "long letter", which [my rector] thought was offensive. (And I thought, if he thinks it's offensive, what about all the priests in the diocese who don't know me? I felt like I must be the most-hated person for doing that, which worried me just months before GC2003, and hoping to get Resolution D016 submitted/adopted -- and having no luck with the Chicago deputation agreeing to cosponsor it.) So the next year I wrote my own letter, which [my rector] said sounded fine. And last year I wrote a different one, so people wouldn't hear the same thing each year. Basically, I was asking churches to post a flier, and include some mention of giving up meat for Lent among all the other ideas churches sometimes suggest. And I gave them the URL for . It isn't the kind of thing I expect to get any feedback about, so I just threw it out to the wind. But I know final destination of the wind in [the town where my church is located]. In three years, there was no mention here about that or any Lenten observance at all. (Well [my curate] said something last year, but in passing. And I was probably the only one who caught it.) I've decided we are just too Protestant to worry very much about Lent. But on Maundy Thursday, one of our members brought me a newsletter from her mother's church in a south suburb, which pretty much quoted everything from my email. My first reaction was "how nice to see someone actually did something with the email I sent!". My second reaction was "how disappointing it is that no one even brings up the topic here at my own parish!"

Until a week or so ago, I always felt apologetic about bringing up the topic of giving up meat for Lent (because I'm an "animal person" with an agenda). But a question was raised on the HoB/D list about the meaning of Shrove Tuesday, and the history behind pancake dinners, etc. The answers weren't just about using up meat and fat, but about using up eggs and dairy before Lent started. We hear about pancake dinners as if they were a quaint practice, and carry on the tradition as a social event, but not as if we have to make any changes in our food supplies. Even though I knew the Orthodox Church observes a vegan Lent, and was impressed that some churches have extensive recipes on their websites, that doesn't help me in the Episcopal Church. I didn't know, until I read some of those posts, that it was also the custom for western Christians to observe a vegan Lent, and I've been an Episcopalian for almost 36 years, coming from an Anglo-Catholic parish, no less! 

So I Googled, and found this webpage , which tells how customs were never uniform, and became less stringent over time, especially since the mid-1700's I think I read. I really shouldn't feel apologetic about wanting to promote something that has been an expectation of the Church -- even if they did it for other reasons. The quote (from the webpage above) gave me quite a historic precedent, even though times have changed.

"… St. Gregory writing to St. Augustine of England laid down the rule, 'We abstain from flesh meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs.' This decision was afterwards enshrined in the 'Corpus Juris', and must be regarded as the common law of the Church."

The World Council of Churches, and the Episcopal Peace & Justice ministries advocate a "Lenten Fast from Violence", asking people to cut out one form of violence from their lives during Lent -- like violent movies, violent video games, etc. I, of course, take a "Lenten Fast from Violence" quite literally, since not only is the slaughter itself violent, but so are the accepted agricultural practices of disposing of male chicks, debeaking, de-toe-ing, forced moulting (depriving hens of food and water for up to 2 weeks to jump-start their last egg-laying cycle before they're spent) de-horning, castrating, and who knows what all, without anesthetic. And then there is the inhumane life-long captivity of animals crowded in cages or pens too small to even turn around, which is the situation for about 95% of our livestock raised out-of-sight in factory farms.
(They are truly slaves.)

Here's last year's resource for Week 2 "Fasting from Violence Against Creation" (The title sounds good....) 88fedfe1d5295b9ec1256fd300352f8c?OpenDocument&TableRow=6.1#6.
Here's a little info on the Orthodox fast: 88fedfe1d5295b9ec1256fd300352f8c?OpenDocument&TableRow=6.6#6.
ENS article from last year: Nothing too impressive for an "animal person-of-faith", except for the concept.

Whether as an act of penitence, an act of self-denial from a "privilege" people are otherwise unwilling to deny themselves, an act of withholding financial support from industries who (legally, and without outcry from the public) abuse over 10 billion animals in this country each year, or an act of charity/compassion/mercy/non-violence, I think getting back to St. Gregory's statement warrants at least some passing mention in our churches these days, before people decide to dutifully give up chocolate again, for lack of something more "life-giving" (as opposed to "life-taking"). Certainly things are worse now for the farmed animals, and on a much larger scale, than in his day. But on the other hand, no one who chooses to "boycott cruelty for Lent" has to go hungry, anymore, with all the vegetarian choices we have available now. So I don't understand why anything pertaining to animals is such a "taboo topic" -- whether it's Lent, or "Stewardship of Creation", or even the church-based environmentalists who ignore animal agriculture as a major contributor to green house gases, water pollution, or deforestation of rainforests. I guess animals are the "elephant in the living room" (if I understand the expression correctly).

Today's blurb bumped ENAW's News Release about the Orange Ribbon Campaign from the home page.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Happy Birthday, Sheldon!

Today's post bumped 'Promote the Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare with these items from the home page.

Saturday, February 4, 2006

ENAW business card:

(ENAW/ASWA will be located at Exhibit Hall Booth # 1.
And we will have a few hundred orange ribbons to offer.)

Travelling to Columbus this June? For a directory of veg or veg-friendly restaurants, click here, and choose 'Columbus' in the drop down box.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

From a mailing from In Defense of Animals:
"Being an animal guardian defines the compassionate connection between animals and humans, counteracting the throw-away mindset that society has towards animals."

-- Randy Grim, President, Stray Rescue of St. Louis

Orange Animal Guardian Ribbons

Click on the URL's to read about it:

Rational Animal's Press Release

Oklahoma Alliance for Animals' Animal Guardian Campaign

"Advocate Guardianship by wearing the beautiful orange ribbon with a black paw especially made for Oklahoma Alliance for Animals." Click on the picture, then "page down" to the very bottom of the page (past the T-shirts), to order a Guardian Ribbon pin:

Guardian pin:
By ordering a pin through the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals instead of general awareness sites, in addition to differentiating one orange cause from another with the paw print, the proceeds will go to an animal friendly organization, instead of risking a cut going to support animal research!

Start your own Animal Guardianship campaign. Here's more information from Rational Animals' site:

Free Downloadable color 8 1/2" X 11" poster (.pdf file) and bookmark

Order ribbon kits

More background info from

Orange ribbons are also for animal shelters. They chose orange, because:
"Orange is for people who have a family member in prison, and animals in shelters are in prison. They live behind the bars of cages, and most of them are on death row.
Orange is also an alarming color. Millions of animals are killed every year in this country just because no one wants them. That's an alarming statistic."

Also, see 'Orange Ribbon Campaign to raise Animal Protection Awareness. Wear Orange!' for pictures of my ribbons, and my recommendations for making enough to share with shelter volunteers and others.

Today's post bumped 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice', says God. Boycott fur. (And also, boycott Canadian seafood until they stop their brutal bloodbath of 350,000 or so defenseless seals.)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I really like this hymn, which we sang at church today in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday. Sing along -- loudly:

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift every voice and sing
till earth and heaven ring,
ring with the harmonies of liberty.
Let our rejoicing rise
high as the listening skies;
let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us;
sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
facing the rising sun
of our new day begun,
let us march on, till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
bitter the chastening rod,
felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
yet, with a steady beat,
have not our weary feet
come to the place for which our parents sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears have been watered;
we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
out from the gloomy past,
till now we stand at last
where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
thou who hast by thy might led us into the light;
keep us for ever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee;
lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee;
shadowed beneath thy hand
may we for ever stand,
true to our God, true to our native land.

Words: James Weldon Johnson, 1899

Here's a cool-sounding midi.
But the words are a little different.

(Today's blurb bumped 'Eco Eating: Eating as if the Earth Matters'; and the Collect for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and also a link to the Church Times article about a cancelled pig roast from the home page.