Inside a Barn on a Chicken Factory Farm

Inside a Barn on a Chicken Factory Farm (Photo credit: Socially Responsible Agricultural Project)


The Vatican’s election of Pope Francis hopefully will signal an era of increased awareness and activism that will culminate in the end of factory farming.  Taking the name of Francis, after St.Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, the new pope has set the stage for his agenda, which features compassion for animals and a commitment to the poor.


This attention to the plight of animals is needed desperately in light of the cruel practices of factory farming, whereby animals raised for food are crammed together in close quarters, barely able to move.  Chickens and turkeys raised for market spend their entire lives on beds of excrement, while pigs, cattle and calves are raised on slatted floors, which permit their feces to drop below into manure pits.  These environments are toxic, with the resulting ammonia fumes from the animals’ waste circulating the enclosed environment, weakening their immune systems and burning their respiratory tracts.  Also, penning animals in close quarters results in fighting with pecking and biting, causing injuries, sores and infections. This whole scenario is indicative of the extreme cruelty to animals and deserves the attention of the world and the passage of laws to end these practices.


Additionally, the practice of factory farming, with its inherent contaminated and toxic environment, poses an ever-present threat of disease, necessitating the routine use of antibiotics to treat animals.  This is particularly alarming at a time when there is a major concern about the overuse of antibiotics by humans, which is suspected to lead to antibiotic resistance and the development of mutant virulent strains of bacteria and viruses.  Permitting the commercial marketing of meat products laced with antibiotics for human consumption is hazardous to human health and should not be outlawed.


Pope Francis also has voiced his commitment to the poor and the Church’s need to address the issue of poverty all over the world.  It is noteworthy that factory farming practices are more likely to impact the poorer segments of the population because these individuals are less likely than their wealthier counterparts to have access or means to meat and poultry raised organically, largely due to cost.  Nutritionally insufficient diets have been identified as a major contributor to poor health, and the ingestion of products of factory farming clearly is a part of this cycle.


With this new era in the Catholic Church, social activists, farm animal welfare activists and environmentalists look with optimism to Pope Francis and the Vatican to lend a voice to the need to protect animals and humans by adopting the necessary legal measures to end factory farming.  To do so is to live green, be green.

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pope and me

pope and me (Photo credit: BoFax)

With the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the upcoming enclave to elective a successor Pontiff, it is paramount that the College of Cardinals remain mindful of the environmental legacy of Pope Benedict and the need to continue and advance his work.

Pope Benedict XVI, John Ratzinger, is a strong champion of the environment as evidenced by his words and actions.  In his speeches and writings, he called for both Catholics and people of “good will” to care for creation.  He prompted the installation of solar panels on the roof of Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, and he authorized the Vatican’s bank to purchase carbon credits through funding of a Hungarian forest, resulting in Vatican City being the only country that is totally carbon neutral.  Additionally, Benedict adopted the use of the hybrid, partially electric Popemobile.  Pope Benedict’s commitment to the environment is based on spirituality, as well as morality, thereby making his mission a universal one and prompting the environmental community to acknowledge the Catholic Church as an ally in the green movement.

It is noteworthy that Pope Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, also was committed to the environment.  In many of his speeches and writings, he remarked on the principle of “stewardship” and the consequences of failure to address “problems stemming from globalization of the economy and the worsening of the ‘ecological question‘ “.

As these Pontiffs have set the stage for the inclusion of the environment in the work of the Vatican, it is so important that this legacy continues and grows.  This could be especially beneficial to the Catholic Church in light of its status in the world today.  Faced with distractions from its good work by criticism of its handling of sexual abuse and pedophilia within its realm and corruption extending into its inner circle, the Vatican needs a game changer.  Inasmuch as the younger generation (millennial) appears to be more committed to the green movement (as evidenced by their greater efforts as compared to older generations to recycle, buy local and to reduce their ingestion of meat), the election of a successor Pope strongly committed to the environment presents an excellent opportunity for outreach to young people g
globally, who have left the Catholic Church.  Additionally, the issue of the environment is a global one, which also tends to be more attractive to the younger generations, particularly in the United States, which has witnessed an increased apathy of young people towards many institutions in America, such as church and government, largely due to the toxic state of politics in this country.

The Catholic Church is the one organization that has a global presence.  Whether Catholic or not, we all listen to the messages and doctrines coming from the Vatican, and we look to the Church for guidance on most issues.  This acknowledgment of the Church as a major player in world matters positions the it to be not just a voice on the environment, but also to be a leader in this effort.  We hope this will be recognized by the College of Cardinals in their election of their new leader.  Having a green Pope at the helm of the Catholic Church definitely inspires us to live green, be green.

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