Virtual Visit with David Clough

If you’d like a chance to meet and discuss Christianity and animal ethics with CreatureKind founder and co-director, Professor David Clough, please plan to join us on October 21 and 22, 2019, for the “David Clough Virtual Visit,” a series of interactive online sessions, hosted by Farm Forward.

You can sign up for this free event by filling out the form here! You can participate as an individual, or as a group. We hope to see you there!

New Video Highlighting CreatureKind's Work!

Watch this great video to see how CreatureKind addresses faith, anti-racism, and farmed animal welfare, in conversation with other community initiatives that share similar concerns.

A note from CreatureKind: We are grateful and happy to be in partnership with Farm Forward, which takes seriously the role of faith communities in creation care and animal protection. We hope you enjoy this video, which talks about our work as it relates to other projects supported by Farm Forward. You can read more about the video series here.

Here’s what Farm Forward’s Erin Eberle says about our work: “Founded with Farm Forward's support, CreatureKind has worked with dozens of Christian churches and seminaries in the US and the UK to foster conversations about animal welfare and faith, provide education about factory farming, and encourage Christian institutions to adopt plant-based and higher welfare food policies.”

If you’d like to support CreatureKind’s work, please donate today! (note: donations are processed by our fiscal sponsor, ESA at Eastern University).

Truth, Freedom, and Creaturely Kindness

by Ashley M. Lewis

The work of CreatureKind, and the influence of Co-Director, Sarah Withrow King, have been instrumental for me over the last few years as I decided to leave my corporate career and pursue a Master of Divinity degree, with the hope of working in ministry related to food justice and animal protection. When I first read Sarah’s book in 2016, I never dreamed that today I’d be working with her and the CreatureKind team as a Ministry Intern. 

Last week, as a representative of CreatureKind, I had the incredible privilege of attending The Summit 2019. This conference is held annually in Washington, DC and is presented by Sojourners, a Christian publication dedicated to covering issues at the intersection of faith, politics, and culture. “The Summit is a gathering of 350 leaders committed to changing the world through faith and justice. The mission of Sojourners is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, to inspire hope and build a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.”

During The Summit’s opening keynote, entitled “The Imperative for Truth-Telling,” powerful speakers addressed a challenging part of our Christian calling – that of lighting up dark places through truth-telling so that lies, oppression, abuse, and deceit cannot stay hidden. Rev. Miriama White-Hammond of New Roots AME Church in Boston reminded us that Jesus spoke about truth and lies, light and darkness, slavery and freedom in John chapter 8. She said that truth and freedom are directly connected, and we cannot have one without the other.

Photo: Ashley M. Lewis

Photo: Ashley M. Lewis

Rev. Miriama began to describe the “Hot Mess” we are living in right now. She clarified this isn’t a figurative hot mess. It’s a literal one, where our warming Earth puts messy situations in front of us every day: deadly weather phenomena, hunger and drought, migrations of creatures – human and non-human – to distant lands in pursuit of life-giving resources they may never find. While cosmic freedom is secured through Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, the freedom to flourish as earthly creatures is not enjoyed by all. Rev. Miriama offered a call to action. She strongly conveyed that we must face this hot mess for what it is, the very truth of our day. If we can’t face it, we can’t begin to ask God to help us speak truth to power. And if we do not speak truth to power, freedom will not come. 

As I took in the first event of the conference, I felt within me something like an oil and water mixture of conviction and apprehension swirling around, not knowing which one would end up on top. Truth-telling is exciting to me because of its potential to unravel harmful systems that are destroying lives as we speak. It’s a serious responsibility! Here I was with legendary truth-tellers all around, and I felt empowered to take part in this important work while also feeling scared of how my message might be received. 

The Summit was my first event representing CreatureKind, and as I sat in the auditorium, I considered what it means to bear a message that is surprising and challenging for many people: that my faith is an important part of my commitment to animal protection, and particularly the protection of animals used for food.

As a follower of Jesus, I want to shine a light on the systems that treat animals like commodities, and that cage, abuse, and brutally kill creatures for whom God has called us to care. And it’s not only animals who are negatively affected by these systems. Our US food systems wreak havoc on the world and its inhabitants through chronic disease, harmful working conditions, environmental degradation, and climate change. In countless ways, my desire for animal protection is interwoven with the desire for human rights and environmental justice. 

Systems that keep animals in the shadows are detrimental to us all. Their existence does not bring us or our world closer to freedom, and freedom isn’t only for people, but for all creation. As long as animals are locked up in literal or figurative darkness, then the Earth will continue to groan – not only for animals, but for everything God has made and Jesus has redeemed. If freedom and truth-telling go together, then our truth-telling must occur alongside the many other messages of hope, redemption, justice, and radical love that were present in a place like The Summit.

As I thought about the days ahead, I braced myself for resistance. I prepared for negative responses. I considered how I could best express the truth about our food system so that it could be heard and received. When the opening session closed, I walked out with my conviction on top, but my heart leading the way. 

Photo: Ashley M. Lewis

Photo: Ashley M. Lewis

Photo: Ashley M. Lewis

Photo: Ashley M. Lewis

Whether engaging in my Rising Leaders and Seminarians Cohort group; attending sessions like the “Sacred Economy,” “Fundraising and Ministry,” or “Bridge Building in Polarizing Times;” or networking over food and drinks, conversations about CreatureKind’s work came naturally. During the exhibitor reception, our booth had a constant flow of attendees who were interested to learn more about the harm caused by our food system, how animal creatures used for food need our protection, and how we as Christians are particularly well-equipped to respond to this need. Visitors to our table were excited to hear that CreatureKind is engaging with partners around the world in an effort to reduce consumption of farmed animals used for food and to move toward buying the animal products we do consume from higher welfare sources. We connected with several individuals who want to use CreatureKind’s resources in their own communities. We also met representatives from seminaries and colleges who want to begin conversations about food policy on their campuses or who hope to host theological discussions regarding treatment of animals and food practices – or both!

Photo: Ashley M. Lewis

Photo: Ashley M. Lewis

Your support and participation help us carry on with this imperative work. We’d love to hear your experiences about how truth, freedom, and creaturely kindness are all connected, and we hope you’ll also consider donating to CreatureKind so we can continue engaging in events like The Summit. Most of all, we appreciate the ways you speak truth and seek freedom for all God’s creatures in your own life and community, so that even the darkest of places may become a little brighter day by day.

On Food and Faith: Ministry in the Time of Climate Change

by Sarah Withrow King

Three years ago, almost to the day, I shared the following exchange with my son, who was then not-quite-eight years old.

Son: “Mommy? Can I tell you one thing I'm worried about? If people keep littering [begins to cry] the planet will get too hot and we will die!”
Me: “That's why we don't eat animals.”

I noted at the time that my first instinct was to say, "No, no, won't happen, no worries!" I desperately wanted my kid to believe that there was hope, that the world would be able to sustain him. Maybe all the climate change deniers are just flawed parents.

I struggle to maintain this hope myself, and it only gets more challenging as the years continue to wear on and the species continue to die off. I find myself in a frenetic race to produce work that will convince fellow Jesus-followers to take action to prevent suffering and foster flourishing, both present and future.

But there is hope. There is the cosmic hope we share of the full restoration of creation to the Creator, a world, “on earth, as it is in heaven.” And there’s the hope from stories of people who are daily following a call to resist the status quos of consumerism and despair. I heard many of those stories at “On Food and Faith: Ministry in the Time of Climate Change,” a conference hosted on the campus of Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO) by MTSO, The Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT), The Center for Earth Ethics, and The Climate Reality Project. Thanks to a few signs of hope, I came away from that event with a profound sense that we who care deeply are not alone in this work, that it’s possible for people with different drives to unite for a common cause, and that the more we work together, the more transformative our work will be.

Honored to co-lead a workshop on “Eating for Community and Climate” with Adrienne Krone, of Allegheny College. Photo credit: MTSO.

Honored to co-lead a workshop on “Eating for Community and Climate” with Adrienne Krone, of Allegheny College. Photo credit: MTSO.

My first sign of hope? “The Well-Being of Animals” was a major theme of the event, from small-group discussion time to workshop options, to the mostly vegan food served at the conference. Here’s the handout on the connections between animal agriculture and climate change that Adrienne and I shared with our workshop participants.

Second sign of hope? Stories of transformative actions and initiatives by and from everyday, mostly midwestern, Church folks. The homeschool mom known as the “vegetable pusher.” The young vegetarian who taught herself to hunt when she decided she wanted to eat meat, and who shed tears over every life she took. The bi-racial couple who is defying the odds by holding on to their family farm, despite incredible economic pressure. The Bible teacher who runs a farm co-op, so that the people in his community can have access to healthy, sustainable food. And so much more.

Third sign of hope? Institutions who are changing their practices, taking risks to do what they know is right. MTSO, for instance, runs a huge vegetable farm on their campus, serving farmer’s markets and families throughout their region, in addition to providing food and training in sustainable agricultural practices for their own community. Before they started the farm, campus food services were provided by opening cans and dumping their contents into warming trays. The only kitchen appliance was a microwave. Now, CIA-trained chefs serve up smoked vegetables, wood-fired pizza, local greens, farm-grown fruit, and more. The well-managed farm provides paid internship opportunities for young people who want to learn sustainable farming methods, along with furnished housing and utilities. Faculty members like the brilliant Elaine Nogueira-Godsey, who brought down the house in the final plenary, show students how theology, ecology, and race are deeply intertwined. The campus is buzzing with bees, butterflies, and a sense of possibility.

Photo credit: MTSO

Photo credit: MTSO

I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this special gathering, and determined to find and share examples of this kind of hope-filled work happening in my own backyard. I hope you share yours, too.

Oh, and I also got to meet former Vice President, Al Gore. His film  An Inconvenient Truth  was my first exposure to the concept of climate change, and it helped shape my entire life.

Oh, and I also got to meet former Vice President, Al Gore. His film An Inconvenient Truth was my first exposure to the concept of climate change, and it helped shape my entire life.

P.S. One way you can support this kind of awareness-raising work is to donate to CreatureKind. We are funded entirely by donations, and every dollar makes a difference!

Lenten Reflection: Transforming Scarcity into Excess

by Lucas Patterson

During the Lenten season of reflection, it’s appropriate to meditate on the “other” – quiet partners deeply woven into the fabric of our daily existence and sustenance. There are immense spiritual and practical applications to be considered, and giving up meat for Lent is a uniquely tangible way we can consider the intersections between human and non-human creations of the same Creator God.

That relationship between Creator and creation received above average attention in the weeks leading up to Lent as one environmentally-minded group launched Million Dollar Vegan, a challenge asking the Pope to give up meat for Lent in exchange for a $1 million gift to the nonprofit of his choice. He quietly declined the offer, but public awareness of connections between Lent and reduced meat consumption grew nonetheless.

The practice of giving up meat for Lent is anything but new and reasons for this dietary sacrifice pre-date some of the more popular modern motivators such as concerns regarding climate change and animal welfare. Instead, it goes back to the first century and is based, in part, on meat playing a historically significant role in celebrations and feasts. Meat was considered special because it came at great financial cost, which limited its use. And on Fridays during Lent as Christians meditate on the crucifixion, the mood is anything but festive. Our thoughts are somber and streamlined, focusing on matters of eternal consequence.

Stories in the Bible highlight Jesus’ penchant for transforming scarcity into excess—multiplying seven loaves and fishes into sufficient food to feed thousands, for example. Carol J. Adams, in a SARX article about her 2018 book, Burger, presents a striking contrast to Jesus’ miraculous resource stewardship by describing how food producers (and consumers driving demand) have turned a blind eye to the ethical dilemmas created by staggeringly poor agricultural efficiencies:

“For every 16 pounds of grain and soy fed to beef cattle in the United States we get back one pound of meat. We have become the people who reverse the miracle, diverting and reducing rather than multiplying resources.”

Nearly 2,000 years after the crucifixion and resurrection, abstaining from meat remains a staple of contemplative Christians during Lent because meat continues to come at great cost. Especially to the animals. Although this year’s 40 days of Lent ends on April 18, a critical question to keep in mind beyond the Easter season is how our Christian worldview influences food policy decisions on a personal and corporate level. Will we be workers pushing for miraculous change, or those who would maintain the status quo and “reverse the miracle” through the inertia of inaction?

Lucas Patterson works in grant writing and other philanthropy communications for Southern Adventist University in southeast Tennessee. He enjoys contributing to the important food policy mission of CreatureKind as both a monthly donor and through occasional website and editorial assistance.

CreatureKind Presents at Eco-Minded Theological Symposium

“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want.” Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace

Those among us who work in animal or environmental advocacy work often feel the effects of that “want,” although not the “want” for physical resources that Berry described. Instead, we suffer from “want” of community. This creation care truth that we see as core to framing our daily activities is often quickly dismissed by food producers and consumers. That’s one big reason why it is such an enormous blessing when the occasion arises to join together with like-minded others for conferences and events that highlight our mutual mission.

Sarah Withrow King with co-presenter, Rev. Sarah Macias (left) and Green Seminary Initiative Director, rev. abby mohaupt (right).

Sarah Withrow King with co-presenter, Rev. Sarah Macias (left) and Green Seminary Initiative Director, rev. abby mohaupt (right).

In March, CreatureKind co-director Sarah Withrow King was invited to participate in the Southwest Symposium on Ecologically Informed Theological Education at Brite Divinity School, where Methodist Theological Seminary in Ohio (MTSO), the Green Seminary Initiative (GSI), and the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development hosted two days of insightful conversations and collaborations. Attendees included students, faculty, administration, alums, and staff from around the Southwest.

“The symposium at Brite Divinity School was an encouraging opportunity to gather and learn from educators who are committed to encouraging the next generation of faith leaders to fully integrate creation care into every part of their ministry,” King said. “Professors and administrators who want to equip their students to lead in a time of climate crisis should put this symposium on their ‘must-not-miss list’.”

A recap of topics covered is available in a blog by the Green Seminary Initiative.

Lecture Explores Theological Relationship Between Human and Non-Human Animals

Calvin College recently hosted its 11th Animals and the Kingdom of God lecture series. The ongoing event includes lectures, panel discussions, and a potluck dinner shared by both speakers and attendees. Christopher Carter, PhD, presented this year’s keynote: “Being Human Takes Practice: Toward a Liberative Theological Anthropology.”

In his talk, Carter examines how traditional Christian cultures shaped heavily by oppressive hierarchal relationships between humans and non-human animals are inconsistent with the vision shared in Scripture. He concludes the presentation by describing a process of being human that recasts the God-human encounter in ways leading to the collective flourishing of all Creation. 

Carter is an assistant professor of theology at the University of San Diego, a Faith in Food fellow at Farm Forward, a member of CreatureKind’s North American Advisory Council, and an assistant pastor at Pacific Beach UMC. His work explores the intersectional oppressions experienced by people of color, the environment, and animals.

In a previously-published article, lecture series organizer Matthew C. Halteman, PhD, explained his college’s role in championing these conversations about food ethics.

“What makes Calvin different from many Christian colleges is our deliberate engagement with issues that Christians are often tempted to avoid. The aim [of these lectures] is to invite all comers—omnivores, vegans, and everyone in between—into a conversation about why our attitudes and actions toward creation should matter for Christians.”

Past Animals and the Kingdom of God lecturers include CreatureKind Founder David Clough and Carter’s fellow North American Advisory Council members Carol J. Adams and Bruce Friedrich.

Green Seminary Initiative and CreatureKind Announce Partnership

GSI director, abby mohaupt, and CreatureKind co-directors, Sarah Withrow King and David Clough, on the campus of Santa Clara University in San Jose, CA.

GSI director, abby mohaupt, and CreatureKind co-directors, Sarah Withrow King and David Clough, on the campus of Santa Clara University in San Jose, CA.

While environmental advocacy and animal advocacy groups have often been at odds with one another, Green Seminary Initiative and CreatureKind believe that a holistic, effective approach to creation care must include attentiveness to both the breadth of environmental issues and the particular concerns raised by industrial farming practices.

Green Seminary Initiative (GSI) fosters efforts by theological schools and seminaries to incorporate care for the earth into the identity and mission of the institution, such that it becomes a foundational part of the academic program and an integral part of the ethos of the whole institution. CreatureKind’s mission is to encourage Christians to recognize faith-based reasons for caring about the well-being of fellow animal creatures used for food, and to take practical action in response. Today the two organizations announced a formal partnership that allows CreatureKind to work with GSI schools to help them achieve GSI’s certification standards related to food policy and to encourage them to include concern and action for animals in other areas of community life.

As an organization committed to many faith traditions, GSI understands that food and eating are central to multiple religions, as well as to spiritual formation. The consumption of food is a human experience that crosses ethnic and geographic barriers, and many religious traditions see animals as sacred in some way. GSI is also committed to paying attention to the ways in which environmental justice interlocks with justice for the poor, workers, and other marginalized communities.

CreatureKind calls attention to the abyss that currently exists between what Christians believe about animals and how we treat them in industrialized food production. Concern for animal well-being is deeply rooted in our Christian faith, and there is a long history of Christian leadership in animal protection movements. But as industrialized systems of animal agriculture have developed over the last century, churches have remained mostly silent about our radically altered relationships with pigs, chickens, turkeys, fish, and cows (and with the people who work to produce our food), and the devastating consequences of animal factories on the broader environment. Scientist and policy analyst Václav Smil has estimated that from the year 1900 to the year 2000, the biomass of all domesticated animals increased from three and a half times to twenty four times the biomass of all wild land mammals. During that same period of time, the biomass of wild land mammals was halved. It’s no coincidence that these same hundred years saw the demise of the small family farm alongside the birth and global spread of factory farming, which is now the dominant means of producing animal products for human consumption.

& (1).png

As more and more land is consumed by animal agriculture, the wild animal population shrinks, and there are additional urgent problems caused by increased consumption of animals. In addition to Industrial farms and slaughterhouses cause widespread environmental damages and use a disproportionate share of earth’s resources, while subjecting animals to painful physical mutilations, miserable living conditions, and traumatic deaths. Workers within the industrial farming system endure long hours, frequent injuries, and unjust working conditions. The increased use of antibiotics has contributed to the rise of so-called “superbugs,” and the overconsumption of animal products has been linked to a host of human ailments. In the United States, the vast majority of animal products—meat, milk, and eggs—are now produced on these intensive farms, where it is impossible for creatures to flourish as their Creator intended and where both humans and animals pay a high price for the availability of cheap meat.

These factory farms and other unsustainable food management systems are odds with theological institutions committed to teaching and embodying environmental justice for workers, consumers, and animals alike. That’s why GSI requires schools in their certification program to offer vegetarian food choices at all meals and to include organic and/or local produce at all meals. Electives in the program include the 30% reduction of the amount of meat served over three years, vegan options, and cage-free eggs.

Worldwide, more than 70 billion fellow land creatures and up to 7 trillion sea animals are killed for food each year. The use of animals for food massively dominates all other human uses of animals, and yet farmed animals—the animals on our plates—are conspicuously absent from the vast majority of Christian conversations about stewardship, creation care, and the environment. The partnership between GSI and CreatureKind seeks to correct that oversight.  

CreatureKind will join GSI and other partners at the Southwest Symposium on Ecologically Informed Theological Education at Brite Divinity School on March 13-14. More information can be found here.

Reflections from the On Animals North American Book Tour

by David Clough

The On Animals North American book tour is complete! In numbers: 31 days, lectures and seminars at 21 venues, combined audience of over 1000, 9 institutional food policy meetings, well over 100 books distributed.

I'm most grateful to hosts for the warm welcome received at each stop: Yale Divinity School, Boston University School of Theology, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Law School, Christ Episcopal Church in Rockville MD, Georgetown University, Wesley Theological Seminary, University of Virginia, High Point University, Duke Divinity School, Wheaton College, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Notre Dame University, Santa Clara University, Fuller Theological Seminary, Azusa Pacific University, University of San Diego, Regent College Vancouver, Vancouver Humane Society, and University of Victoria. Thanks too to Ilana Braverman for her expert coordination of the tour, and my CreatureKind co-director Sarah Withrow King who co-directed and accompanied.

Remarkably, in every venue, across a very wide range of theological perspectives and convictions, audiences responded enthusiastically to the argument that Christians have strong faith-based reasons to reduce consumption of animal products and move to higher welfare sourcing, and showed willingness to make practical changes in response. This gives me a great deal of hope that CreatureKind can be successful in catalysing change so that it becomes routine for Christian institutions to attend to their consumption of animal products as a faith issue. If you know of institutions interested in getting help from CreatureKind to engage in this area, please get in touch.

Excitingly, the positive response to this tour has helped confirm plans for a follow-up speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand in June 2019, which will take me to Brisbane, Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, and possibly Hobart. If you live in Australia or New Zealand and would like to assist with book tour events there (set-up, sign-up, book donations), please send us a message with the subject line: Book Tour Help.

If you're interested in seeing or sharing the lecture, here’s the recording from Notre Dame. Please do share widely!

Video: Center for Theology, Science, and Human Flourishing at the University of Notre Dame