Should Christians eat meat, hunt, or have pets? Does a consistent pro-life conviction require recognizing the moral life of non-human animals? Catholic bioethicist Camosy (Peter Singer and Christian Ethics) convincingly argues that the Bible, Christian tradition, and Catholic social doctrine all require these questions to be addressed seriously and thoroughly. Camosy is fully aware that his thesis is a hard sell. Discussion questions and suggestions for further reading make this an excellent primer for a group discussion that begins in Genesis and concludes with Michael Vick's dogfighting conviction. Some readers may stumble over Camosy's accusation of "speciesism" or his foray into treatises on angels and extraterrestrials to explain why humans are not the only rational beings capable of moral reasoning, but those who persevere will be rewarded with fine definitions of justice; complex, applicable explanations of "cooperation with evil" (especially in the context of factory farming); and a serious, well-argued challenge to baser market forces that make an idol of utilitarianism. Justice for animals must be part of a consistent ethic of life, Camosy concludes, giving readers grave second thoughts about the next order of McNuggets. —Publishers Weekly
Charles Camosy, a professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University, has written a provocative little book entitled For Love of Animals that challenges Catholics to consider not only what we eat but also how we relate to animals in light of Christian tradition. His concern is that we have become ethical slouches....Drawing on Scripture, the Church’s teaching regarding creation, and recent papal statements—especially Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate—Camosy concludes that a consistent Christian principle of justice leads to vegetarianism, cessation of factory farming, hunting and using animals for research, as well as reconsidering how we relate to pets.
....[T]his book achieves something important: it offers Catholics a chance to reflect on what we eat, how we relate to God’s creation and ultimately who we are. —Scott Kline, The Christian Herald, Toronto
Every once in a while, a book comes along that does something few books ever do, which is to change something fundamental about the way you live your life. For some people reading these words, theologian Charles Camosy’s For Love of Animals will be that book.
And for good reason: its subject—the rights and wrongs of our modern treatment of animals, especially (though not only) mammals, and especially (though not only) the creatures of factory farms—is simultaneously morally urgent and widely ignored by many people, including and inexplicably by many well-meaning but hitherto under-informed Christians.
Dr. Camosy has now remedied that defect with this lively, thoughtful, and original book. It ranges widely but with a teacherly touch over subjects as diverse as the history of Christian vegetarianism; papal and other pronouncements about creation; the development of Christian theology concerning nonhuman persons, such as angels; the morality of dogfighting; the relevance of laws against child labor; the question of pets; the truth about factory farming; and much more. Throughout, the author convinces the reader both that our culture’s treatment of defenseless creatures is morally indefensible much of the time; and also that those of us who follow Jesus Christ,” in particular, should give animals special moral consideration and attention.”
It is rampant and unexamined Western consumerism, more than anything else, that disconnects[s] us from the process by which pig meat gets on our plate.” I would add to that analysis the friendly amendment that this same consumerism encourages the formation of a habit that is suspect wherever and whenever it appears, but that chronically gets a pass where animals are involved: that is, a practiced desire to remain ignorant of those things about which we wish not to know.It would be gratifying if the book were also to start a serious discussion in Christian religious quarters. One wonders, for example, whether vegetarianism for some believers might be a unique sign of contradiction” in its own rightparticularly in a time of relative plenty marked by rampant consumerism, and particularly given what Pope John Paul II decried as an accompanying culture of death.” Wanton cruelty to animals, of the sort that is now pitiably routine, is arguably part and parcel of that same culture, and it further deadens the general moral sense at a time when it’s arguably needed most. As a vegetarian named Leo Tolstoy once put it, in a powerful 1909 essay that he wrote about a slaughterhouse: [W]e cannot pretend that we do not know this. We are not ostriches, and cannot believe that if we refuse to look at what we do not wish to see, it will not exist.”
The community of people now struggling to understand as much, and to do right by creatures both great and small, is in the process of constructing a wholly new big tent. Thanks to Camosy’s welcome contribution, it just got noticeably bigger. —from the Foreword, Mary Eberstadt, Senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC, August 2013
About the Author
Charles Camosy is an assistant professor of Christian Ethics at Fordham University. He holds a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame, and has a particular interest in the fields of bioethics, healthcare and clinical ethics, moral anthropology, and Catholic social teaching, among other areas. His early work focused on medical and clinical ethics with regard to stem cell research and the treatment of critically ill newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit, which was the focus of his first book, Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy, and the Neonatal ICU, awarded second place in the Social Issues category by the Catholic Press Association. His second book, Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization, uses intellectual solidarity in an attempt to begin a sustained and fruitful conversation between Peter Singer and Christian ethics. Camosy also convenes the bioethics section for the Catholic Theological Society of America and the ethics section for the College Theology Society.