Fish eaters no more

Animal rights activist says being Catholic means being vegetarian
Pope Francis (C) caresses a guide dog during a private audience to members of the medias on March 16, 2013 at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (Alberto Pizzoli / AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis caresses a guide dog during a private audience to members of the medias on March 16, 2013 at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (Alberto Pizzoli / AFP/Getty Images)

The following comes from a July 10 LA Times article by Bruce Friedrich. Friedrich is director of policy for Farm Sanctuary, a national farm animal protection organization that runs two farm animal shelters in California.

Does Catholicism require opposition to animal cruelty, including industrial farming?

For two years I taught social studies at an inner-city high school; for six years I ran a Catholic Worker shelter for homeless families. Then, almost 20 years ago, I became a full-time animal advocate, confident that such labor is integral to Catholicism.

As one might expect, I received plaudits from fellow Catholics for my anti-poverty and educational work but less support for my animal protection work. Most Catholics I’ve encountered seem to think of such do-gooding as fundamentally removed from religious imperatives.

Yet Pope Francis begs to differ.
“Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork,” Francis wrote in his latest encyclical, “is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”

On the day Francis released the encyclical, he tweeted, “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. #LaudatoSi.”

Leaving aside the modern method of transmission, this statement is not actually remarkable. It’s a quotation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

But what does it mean that we should not cause animals to suffer or die needlessly? Surely this admonition demands more of us than that we not personally injure and kill animals. I’m convinced that we are also obligated as Catholics to avoid paying others to kill or harm animals, absent some exceedingly compelling justification.

Put another way, “purchasing is always a moral — and not simply economic — act.” That line also comes from the encyclical, in a paragraph in which Francis applauds consumer boycotts focused on pushing corporations to engage in more ethical practices.

Thinking about consumer choices in the context of animal rights, consider that by far the most needless suffering comes at the hands of the meat industry, which kills about 9 billion land animals annually. These creatures are treated in ways that would warrant cruelty-to-animals charges were dogs or cats similarly abused.


No less a moral authority than Pope Benedict XVI denounced society’s “industrial use of creatures” on farms as a violation of “the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.” Or as Francis put it, “the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.”
In arguing that there is no difference between cruelty to a farm animal and cruelty to a dog or cat, primatologist (and proud vegetarian) Jane Goodall declared that “farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear, and pain … they are individual beings in their own right. Who will plead for them if we are silent?”

Francis could not have said it better, and those of us who take these concepts seriously should see them as a call to action.

For me, not only opposition to factory farming but also a vegetarian diet is a requirement of my faith. Since I don’t need to eat animals to survive, I believe Catholicism dictates that I must not.



  1. Warren Memlib says:

    To paraphrase Pope Pius XI from his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno:

    Carnivorism (eating meat) is based nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and irreconcilable with true Christianity. Religious carnivorism, Christian carnivorism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true carnivore.

    • David Mammola says:

      I hope everyone here knows that Pope Pius XI says nothing of “carnivorism.” The post above is satire. The quote is really about socialism. Of course, no Catholic would oppose the eating of meat in and of itself on moral grounds. To abstain from meat at given times (or in a religious order) is a penance — giving up something good for something better.

    • Tell that to the Lord Jesus Christ and St. Peter the fisherman when you meet them since they ate lamb and fish for sure, and bought doves for the sacrifices. Under Jewish Law, then and today, animals for human consumption are to be killed as quickly and humanely as possible. The Old Testament does discourage excessive meat eating, but allows a moderate amount of consumption. It also encourages kindness to animals but not pampering them..

      We buy better, leaner and healthier cuts of meat and use less of it. We also give up meat most Fridays, and eat more cheese, fish or homemade vegetable soup. Fish is truly “brain” food as my grandmother told me as experiments have found people do better on tests after eating it or curry and one other…

    • We also try to buy hormone free meat and eggs as much as possible.

  2. Warren Memlib says:

    His motto must be “Carnivale semper” meaning not “Always a good time” but rather “Farewell to meat forever”!

  3. The “CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, second edition” of 1997 states:
    CCC: ” 2418 It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.”
    CCC: ” 2417 God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or…

    • Finishing CCC 2417 –
      “…… Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives. “

  4. Tom Byrne says:

    I knew this nonsense would rear its ugly head. It is part of the new Pharisaism: let’s make up stuff that we want Jesus to say, even though He didn’t say it. The Old Testament not only allows meat-eating, at certain sacrifices (of slaughtered animals) it commanded it. The Tabernacle (tent) was covered in hides. Jesus eliminated dietary rules that forbade certain kinds of meat (as Acts and Paul’s Epistles too amply testify to quote). Veganism was associated with goof-ball sects like the Gnostics. Forbidden foods is as anti-Catholic as teetotalism.

    • Not eating meat on Friday was specific to only some Countries – including the USA. It was meant to do sacrifice and penance.
      Not eating meat was not completely lifted. We are not to eat meat, OR we can do some other penance on Fridays per Bishop’s Conferences.
      See CODE of CANON LAW: 1249 – 1253

      • Anonymous says:

        When we were young eating fish was a penance. There wasn’t wide distribution, it was in the stores only on Friday, usually Cod, etc. Today it is different isn’t it. You can have fish any day of the week and it is very good and very expensive, so not a penance. Besides, I doubt that anyone went to hell for eating meat on Friday. The big question, years ago, was what would happen to you if you bit into an apple on Friday and ate a worm – was hell in your future?:)

  5. mrpkguy says:

    Hmmmmmm…….it does give one pause.
    But a bit unrealistic to think Catholics will give up eating meat even though it probably would be a lot healthier for them.
    Want to guess how many were quick to begin eating meat again on Fridays once the restrictions were removed?

  6. Steve Seitz says:

    As typical of heresy, an idea starts with the best of intentions but then develops into error. While I feel that the farm and slaughter industries should be more respectful towards their animals, its most true that Catholics are not Kosher. Saints Peter and Paul both stated unequivocally that all animals are clean and are good for human consumption. The error of the author comes from his statement “[animals] are individual beings in their own right.” This is true but it slyly insinuates that animals have human dignity which they do not. It also ignores the truth that the animal world is full of pain and suffering.

  7. Great point mrpkguy! In fact the Roman Catholic Church is still stricter on not-eating meat than the V2 Church. The Roman Catholic Church does not permit the eating of meat on any Friday except for in the United States the eating of meat the day after Thanksgiving or in the event a very special feast day happened to land on a Friday. During Lent the Roman Catholic Church not only restricted meat on Fridays but also Ash Wednesday, and except for Sundays, allowed only one meal of meat per day maximum, for those who were medically fit and not to young or old. Oh yes and the Roman Catholic Church also has Ember Days where during the 4 seasons of the year, one week was set aside. In that week, Roman Catholics were allowed only one meal of…

    • Anonymous says:

      What is the Roman Catholic Church?

    • Anonymous says:

      The Roman Catholic Church….the V2 Church. There is no difference. Please stop spreading shismatic lies.

      • Steve Seitz says:

        If you’re correct that V2 is a reference to Vatican II, thank you for your comment. I’ve had discussions with a number of schismatic ex-Catholics over the years and I’ve never once had one omit the truth about their canonical status. Rather, they use all manner of subterfuge to obscure the truth. This lack of honesty on their part is one indication of which church is the Catholic Church.

      • Canisius says:

        Ahhh…really take a look at the mass tell me they are the same

  8. Maryanne Leonard says:

    How ridiculous. Are plants not also part of God’s creation? And did God not create them for nourishment of man and beast? Should we not eat plants either? Studies prove that plants communicate with one another; can we know if they also feel pain when we eat them?

    Is water not another one of God’s great creations? Should we not drink? Where in the Bible does it say we should abstain from any of these? My interpretations of what the Bible says on these subjects is exactly the opposite.

    With so many human beings in need of the help and support of their fellow human beings, it seems highly questionable for someone to devote their lives to the help and support of animals, many of which would gladly eat human beings if the…

  9. Linda Maria says:

    I believe personally, that it is better to live a simple life, while on earth, and seek to prepare for a life with our Loving God, in Heaven. I believe it is wonderful, if we try to do no harm, and give love and mercy, to all God’s poor, helpless, often-suffering little creatures! I love the prayer for animals, composed by the saintly Christian missionary, Dr. Albert Schweitzer! I firmly believe in compassion and love for animals! I do not eat any poor animal, or any fish, due to my lifelong convictions of mercy and love, for all God’s creatures! And I do not buy any product, unless I know for certain, it is a “cruelty-free” product! I do not criticize others for their beliefs. But these are my lifelong, personal convictions.

  10. Linda Maria says:

    St. Peter and St. Paul had a disagreement, in the New Testament– and came to a final agreement, that new Christian converts who were Gentiles, would not have to first become a Jew, and practice the Jewish laws, including dietary laws, etc., to follow Christ. Also, no animal sacrifices were a part of being a Christian– Christ is the perfect and only Sacrifice, for our sins!

  11. Linda Maria says:

    In regards to my above posts– I love to meet other Christians (especially Catholics!) who love Jesus, are animal lovers, and are vegetarians and vegans! That is so beautiful!

  12. Linda Maria says:

    I will say one more thing. A few years ago, I saw a TV program, regarding a Protestant denomination, that believed in non-violence, a simple life close to God, and avoiding many modern conveniences. They were very close-knit, with farm-based, large families. They believed in no harm to animals, as well as to human beings. One charming elder lady in this group, in her 80’s, said, “I don’t eat anything that has a mother! That includes fish, because they, too, all have mothers!” I thought that was so cute– and very compassionate!

  13. David Mammola says:

    I thought this article was satire.
    God shows Peter all manner of animals and says, “Get up Peter, kill and eat” (Acts 10).
    I don’t get my theology from Jane Goodall.

  14. Canisius says:

    Defy the a steak…I know I will….

  15. Linda Maria says:

    Compassion, love, and mercy for animals, is a beautiful thing! I do not think it has anything to do with being some sort of anti-Christian, immoral, crazy, leftist political activist, or anyone’s political or other “radical” belief. Love is of God, and it is a very simple thing! I admire people who are Christ-like, loving, and compassionate! I still love old Walt Disney movies, like “Bambi!”

  16. Anonymous II says:

    Fish can be quite a delicacy! Not much of a penance, to eat crab, lobster, shrimp, salmon, trout, etc. etc. How about a crab salad for lunch, and a Japanese sushi dinner?? What a day of penance!

  17. Anon, From what authority do you speak? Where is your credibility smarty pants? What do you know of the Roman Catholic Church? Have you studied Her history? Have you even read a true Roman Catholic Bible like the Douay-Rheims or a true Roman Catholic Catechism like the old Baltimore Catechism, or even better yet the Catechism of the Council of Trent? I’ll bet not, you would probably scoff and defy them rather than accept them.

  18. Modernists who think you are so spiritually superior are a joke. Odds are they have never received the true Roman Catholic 7 Holy Sacraments initiated by Our Lord and Savior Himself, nay, they have only experienced those dreamed up by wolves in sheeps clothing out to change the church. And for this is the great reason for the unquestionable and very evident loss of the catholic faith in millions of souls all because they haven’t received the graces because the modern rituals our empty, void, and powerless. You will know them by their fruits. Take a little time to do some honest research and see how the V2 Church has imploded, but the Roman Catholic Church, which isn’t the same is growing! Jesus said He will be with His Church to the…

    • Anonymous says:

      OK> So what is the Roman Catholic Church? Where is it?

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      Once again, Tom shows himself to be a schismatic catholic. The Roman Catholic Church is established by Christ with Peter as its head. Tom denies Peter, or at least claims that Peter heads one Church and the “Roman Catholic Church” is some other church. This is heresy and schism, by definition.

      CCD readers would do well to call Tom out on his heresy and schismatic words.

  19. Steve, How do you define a schismatic ex-catholic? When people preserve and persevere their allegiance to an organization are they schismatic? If the new leadership under the organization changes it drastically from within is it still the same organization? Has the new organization followed or broken with its predecessor? Then who actually turned their backs on the Roman Catholic Church? those that hold firmly to the original faith, doctrine, sacraments, prayers, and rites that you criticize, or those that connived and made the changes? Yes, I am sure you will defend the changes to the death, all in the name of blindness to the truth, because the truth is to hard to bear. God is the truth, not the V2 church with its almost daily…

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      Tom, from the tone of your questions, I’m guessing you’d have made a good disciple of Luther, because those were exactly the same arguments he was making.

  20. YFC, Speaking like you know everything you falsely accuse me of denying Peter. How dare you? I doubt that you know much about the Roman Catholic faith since you’ve probably never step foot in Her door. Yes V2 changed it all, far worse than Luther and he was excommunicated for it! Popes Saint Pius the Vth and Xth weren’t excommunicated for preserving and defending the faith, no they were declared saints by their many undisputable intervening miracles. Not just one, but many each! You’re absolutely wrong! I do believe in the Chair of St Peter, but that Chair is empty, unfilled after the reign of Pope Pius the XIIth when V2 changed it all and declared liberation theology among many other horrible scandalous. YFC, What do you know of…

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COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.