Archbishop Desmond Tutu seeks social justice for everyone-- including animals.
Tutu is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, and was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his anti-apartheid work. He previously made headlines for his strong statements in support of LGBT rights, when he said that he would prefer going to hell over a homophobic heaven.
In his first major statement on animal welfare, Tutu said:
I have spent my life fighting discrimination and injustice, whether the victims are blacks, women, or gays and lesbians. No human being should be the target of prejudice or the object of vilification or be denied his or her basic rights.
But there are other issues of justice--not only for human beings but also for the world’s other sentient creatures. The matter of the abuse and cruelty we inflict on other animals has to fight for our attention in what sometimes seems an already overfull moral agenda. It is vital, however, that these instances of injustice not be overlooked.
The remarks were made in his foreword to the Global Guide to Animal Protection, edited by Oxford theologian Professor Andrew Linzey, Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. It will be published by the University of Illinois on 30 December.
I have seen firsthand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged.
It is a kind of theological folly to suppose that God has made the entire world just for human beings, or to suppose that God is interested in only one of the millions of species that inhabit God’s good earth.
Tutu isn't the only world leader to support animal welfare. The Dalai Lama attended World Compassion Day in Mumbai to promote animal welfare in 2012, where he said, “Now, with regard to animals, they not only have life, but feelings of pleasure and pain too. We should treat their lives with respect, which we Tibetans are accustomed to do.”
Pope Francis has spoke out about the importance of caring for the earth and all creation, and is known for his support of the vulnerable.
“Our dominion over animals is not supposed to be despotism," said Tutu. "We are made in the image of God, yes, but God – in whose image we are made - is holy, loving, and just. We do not honor God by abusing other sentient creatures."