SUNDAY
January 21, 2001
volume 12, no. 21
Bullfights Criticized in L'Osservatore Romano

Theologian Assails Unjustified, Useless Suffering of Animals

    VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In an article addressing the ethical value of bullfights, a theologian writing in L’Osservatore Romano says "there is no justification for man making animals suffer for no reason."

    The article, published last Tuesday in the French edition of the Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper, is signed by Marie Hendrickx, a theologian who works for the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    The newspaper’s analysis is of great interest, given two recent and important appeals of John Paul II: "Let Us Save Man," which he made to the diplomatic corps last Saturday, and the need to avoid an "ecological catastrophe," which he mentioned at Wednesday’s general audience.

    Hendrickx, a Belgian theologian, writes: "If a good relation with God makes people good and benevolent in their relation with animals, for its part, benevolence toward animals could awaken in man’s heart feelings of admiration and praise for the grandiose work of the Creator of the Universe."

    The article poses decisive questions in response to ecological organizations, which reproach the Church for her biblical view of reality, considering the natural environment as the framework of human activity.

    "Does the right to use animals to nourish ourselves imply the raising of chickens in batteries, in a space that is smaller than a sheet of paper?" the theologian asks. "Or that calves be boxed in an enclosure where they cannot move and where they will never see the light?"

    She continues: "Does the right to use animals to make clothes imply leaving animals whose fur is precious, to die slowly of hunger, thirst and cold, or to hemorrhage in traps?"

    Entertainment is also included in the questions posed in the article. "Does the right to be helped by animals in our free time imply killing bulls after having tormented them for a long time with ’banderillas’? Does it imply riding horses to death? Does it imply throwing cats and goats from belfries?"

    The list could go on. The theologian chose a specific case to argue her point: scientific experimentation with animals. The 1992 version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church stated: ’If kept within reasonable limits, medical and scientific experiments on animals are morally acceptable practices, because they contribute to care for and save human lives" (No. 2417).

    The final version of the Catechism, published later, states: "Medical and scientific experiment on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for and saving human lives."

    The change made by the Church, Hendrickx explained, is that the word "because" is changed to a conditional "if."

    "There is no longer the a priori acceptance that medical and scientific experiments contribute to cure or save human lives," said said. "Prior to being legitimate, these operations must demonstrate their usefulness." In this connection, No. 2418 of the Catechism is clear: "It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly."

    In particular, the Belgian theologian addresses the topic of entertainment based on the fighting and suffering of animals, such as bullfights. She wrote: "An attack on life, suffering inflicted on a human being, who is an end in himself, is morally justifiable only in the case in which it allows the one who suffers it (and eventually others) to live better, to intensify and improve his human relations, and to come closer to God. In the case of animals, suffering cannot be legitimately inflicted unless it is in analogous conditions."

    "This observation can help to clarify the problems of spectacles that entail violence against animals," the theologian concluded. She acknowledged that it is often connected with festivals that are rich in color and folklore, and "it is easy to understand that the masses are fascinated by the spectacle of human intelligence triumphing over brute, wild force."

    "Moreover, it is readily understood that from this experience a feeling of solidarity and shared emotion arises, which seems to justify the sacrifice of the animal and the risk man runs," she added. Nevertheless, Hendrickx asked: "Is this real solidarity and a genuine rapprochement among people? Is there real collective purification of aggression?"

    No, the theologian answers unequivocally. Rather, the opposite arises. "All means must be used to obtain that which gives value to the spectacle, but without doing this at the expense of the animal and without excessive risks to man." ZE01011906

For other news stories, see


January 21, 2001
volume 12, no. 21
DAILY CATHOLIC Global News in the Universal Church



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