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12/29/2013 7:37:00 AM
Author overstates case on ethical treatment of animals
"For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action" by Charles Camosy. Franciscan Media (Cincinnati, 2013). 136 pp., $15.99.
Catholic News Service


My family runs Horse Haven Farm, caring for 19 horses, a Sicilian donkey, five dogs, four cats and a goat. A number of these animals are rescued from the grim lives that Charles Camosy so rightly deplores in "For Love of Animals." My daughter teaches horse riding, which can benefit humans as a form of therapy. The issues raised by this book are not simply theoretical but part of my daily life.

Camosy does a good job of critiquing "factory farming," which involves cruelty to animals, and the abuses that can occur in hunting, research and even the way some people treat their pets. He shows the respect for animals that can be found in the Bible and Christian theologians. He advocates, rightly, for just and ethical treatment of animals and supports farmers who produce and sell "ethical foods," humanely treating the animals they will kill to provide meat for our tables.

Readers of this book can applaud the author's sensitivities and will come away, it is to be hoped, with a more "Franciscan" appreciation of animals and how they should be treated. Yet readers may not be convinced that they should become vegetarians, or believe that eating meat is in itself sinful.

Camosy, in fact, overstates his case, presenting only those aspects of Scripture and tradition that conform to his views. He makes an either/or of many biblical passages that are, in fact, nuanced. He notes in passing that Judaism requires humane treatment of animals, while still allowing the eating of meat, but does not follow through on Judaism's understanding of its own Scriptures, which embody the ethical ideals that he advocates.

In several places in his treatment of the Bible Camosy verges on Marcionism, the notion that the Hebrew Scriptures should be rejected in favor of the New Testament. He argues at one point, for example, that Jesus did not eat lamb at the Last Supper, contrary to the testimony of the synoptic Gospels that Jesus was a pious Jew of his time. Camosy's reason is that Jesus rejected what was in fact for him the Bible, which Jesus held to be sacred and the word of God.

Camosy misinterprets Acts 15 to be a rejection of the law of God, which is to say the Hebrew Bible, when in fact the issue was whether gentile Christians needed to observe the whole of the law or just its essence. Acts 15 parallels rabbinic Judaism in arguing that gentiles need only observe the "Noahide covenant," the laws given to all humanity in Genesis, to be considered righteous in God's eyes. This leads him to reject the inspired nature of Chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians, since it is inconvenient for his ideology.

We Christians must accept the Scriptures as a whole. It is not given to us to pick and choose those passages we like and to reject those we find troublesome. Readers may continue to eat meat, though with Camosy, should do so in an ethical fashion.







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