Reflections from the Road

by Sarah Withrow King

CreatureKind spent the latter part of December and the first week of January on the road, exhibiting and talking to attendees of Intervarsity’s Urbana Missions Conference and the Society of Christian Ethics annual meeting (held in conjunction with the Society of Jewish Ethics and the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics).

For me, these two very different events highlighted both the success and deep need for the work of CreatureKind.

At Urbana, we spoke with hundreds of college students, the vast majority of whom had never thought about the connection between faith and animals. Throughout the event, it was clear that there is a profound need for CreatureKind’s work to encourage Christians to recognize faith-based reasons for caring about the wellbeing of fellow animal creatures used for food, and to take practical action in response.

A small number of students were thrilled to see us. One vegetarian said she, “thought I was the only one!” Another student gestured at our table and said, “I’ve never seen this as a Christian thing! But it’s something that I’m interested in.”

Other students, many of whom were studying animal science or agriculture or who hunted for food, approached our display with a bit of suspicion, thinking we might be there to condemn farmers or insist that every Christian must be vegan. These were extraordinary opportunities to demonstrate that CreatureKind’s primary goals are to raise awareness, build bridges, and help Christians make food choices that reflect their values.

From Urbana, we headed straight to Louisville, Kentucky for the annual meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics (SCE). Four years ago, CreatureKind held our official launch at SCE. We’re now in conversation with nearly 50 schools and organizations, encouraging these institutions to adopt more animal-friendly food policies driven by Christian values. I am able to work full-time on CreatureKind, and we have a growing team of partners, many of whom are a part of an increasing number of religious educators who include animal ethics in their teaching and preaching. Most of the professors we spoke with at SCE recognized the urgency and importance of helping their students think about factory farming and animal welfare, and the connections between these issues and climate change, food security, immigration, worker justice, environmental racism, and more.

In addition to our table at SCE, where professors could talk with us about our institutional food policy program, CreatureKind held our annual reception (we hosted around 30 people this year, our biggest event to date). David Clough gave a paper called, “Eating More Peaceable: Christianity and Veganism.” And we attended a panel on “Christians and Other Animals: Book Symposium on David Clough's On Animals, Vol II: Theological Ethics (2018), during which Maria Teresa Davila, Eric Gregory, Jennifer Herdt, and Darryl Trimiew offered their responses to David’s new volume. If you are sad that you couldn’t be there in person for this incredible panel discussion, have no fear! The Syndicate Network will be releasing the papers, David’s response, and an introduction by CreatureKind North American Advisory Council member Candace Laughinghouse. Sign up here to stay in the loop. And be sure to check out David’s upcoming North American book tour dates.

So on the one hand, we are in touch with an extraordinarily engaged community of scholars and practitioners who are deeply committed to helping the church re-engage with our call to care for the whole of God’s creation. On the other hand, there is still much work to be done to help Christians make connections between God’s other creatures and our faith. If you want to help us in this important mission, please don’t hesitate to reach out, donate, or share our work with others.

October Highlights from CreatureKind

The CreatureKind team was out and about in October!

Our project editor, Margaret, spoke about CreatureKind’s theological foundations and approach to food policy at the Humane Society International’s “Forward Food Week” at Oxford Brookes University, Headington.

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David addressed the Church of England's Annual Gathering of Readers in the Diocese of Chester on the topic of “Christian Ethics and Other-than-human Creatures.” David also delivered a paper called “Should Christians Eat Animals” as part of the Nantwich Lecture Series at St. Mary’s Church, Nantwich, in South Cheshire. 

Sarah gave a presentation titled “The Future of Food Isn’t Meat” to students at Temple University. She also presented “Animals on the Agenda, Not Just on Our Plates” at the Baylor Institute for Faith and Life’s Symposium on Stewardship of Creation. The Baylor event, held in Waco, Texas, was an opportunity to urge institutionally-connected Christian environmental advocates to take action on behalf of animals, specifically by working with CreatureKind to change food policies and practices at their schools.

Sarah’s piece on grief and motherhood and veganism (titled, “Labor Pains”) appeared in the journal Rock! Paper! Scissors!, a publication of Jesus Radicals.

This winter, CreatureKind will be at the American Academy of Religion / Society of Biblical Literature meetings in Denver, Colorado; the Urbana Student Missions Conference in St. Louis, MO; the Society of Christian Ethics annual meeting in Louisville, KY; and accompanying David on his tour for On Animals, Volume II: Theological Ethics, which will take us to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, California, and British Columbia! Be sure to come see us, and help spread the word!

Friends House in London Signs Up to CreatureKind

We were delighted to be at Friends House in London, the centre for Quakers in Britain, to celebrate their signing up to be a CreatureKind institution. Friends House have been leaders in the ethical sourcing of food products, and were the first religious organization to be awarded Compassion in World Farming’s Good Egg and Good Chicken awards. They were enthusiastic about CreatureKind because of our focus on getting institutions to commit to a cycle of identifying strategies to reduce overall consumption of animal products and identify opportunities to move to higher welfare sources for remaining products.

Photo: Friends House / Quaker Centre Cafe

Photo: Friends House / Quaker Centre Cafe

At the launch event, we were joined by Quaker Concern for Animals (QCA), an organization with its origins in Christian opposition to vivisection in the late 19th century. Thom Bonneville of QCA expressed his warm appreciation for this commitment of Friends House and their previous hosting of QCA World Animals Day events.

Friends House provided samples of new vegan items from their menu, which included cashew nut curry, falafels, sausage rolls, and snacks and chocolate. The catering staff at Friends House were recently able to enhance the organization's plant-based offerings with help from a chefs’ training event provided by Humane Society International. The results were quite delicious. 

Photo: Friends House / Quaker Centre Cafe

Photo: Friends House / Quaker Centre Cafe

Photo: Friends House / Quaker Centre Cafe

Photo: Friends House / Quaker Centre Cafe

In his remarks, David described how the current unprecedented extent of livestock farming was bad for humans, bad for animals, and bad for the environment. He noted that in 1900 the total biomass of domesticated animals was around 3.5 times that of all wild land mammals, but by 2000, a fourfold increase in domesticated animals together with a halving in wild animal numbers meant the biomass of domesticated animals had grown to an astonishing 25 times that of wild land mammals, with dramatic effects on increased land use and environmental problems. Unlike many other global problems, David noted this was something we can act to address immediately, as individuals and members of institutions, by reducing consumption of animal products and moving to higher welfare sourcing.

David gave an enthusiastic welcome to the commitment Friends House have made to reduce their consumption of animal products by 20% over two years and look for additional opportunities to move to higher welfare sources for remaining animal products. As part of their commitment, Friends House will also launch a new vegan CreatureKind menu for their events catering.

CreatureKind is in conversation with a number of other institutions and organizations in the UK and North America about signing up to CreatureKind. If you belong to one we should be talking to, do let us know!

CreatureKind Retreat

by Sarah Withrow King

For many Christian animal advocates, the gift of presence, of being able to simply show up and be is a rare gift. At church gatherings, we are explaining why there isn't any meat on our plate or where exactly we get our protein. We are navigating the politics of the buffet table, or simply trying to remain calm in the face of an onslaught of insensitivity. At events hosted by animal advocates, we might be the only Christian, working to show that "not all Christians" are indifferent to suffering. Even in spaces where justice issues are front and center, animal issues are too often seen as insignificant. 

It's a tiring way to be in the world. 

One of CreatureKind's goals is to help strengthen the fast-growing community of Christian animal advocates. We can do that to a certain extent online, through our blog and Facebook page. But there's something special about being face-to-face with like-minded people. There's something special about being able to show up in a space to simply rest in the presence of God and not have to be "on." 

In early December, CreatureKind gathered a small group of Christian animal advocates from all walks of life for a weekend retreat at a spiritual center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Through group dialogue, conversation partners, and individual reflection time, we traded stories of our experiences, sources of strength, and hopes for our future work. 

Some of the prayers and words of encouragement offered by retreat participants for the retreat group. One participant described the experience as "healing and inspiring." 

Some of the prayers and words of encouragement offered by retreat participants for the retreat group. One participant described the experience as "healing and inspiring." 

"It was extremely helpful for me to be in community with fellow veg Christians. I was deeply fed, my heart has healed and I have been inspired to press on..." said one retreat participant. Another commented, "I very much enjoyed and was encouraged by the simple presence of other vegan Christians! I do not have the opportunity to gather this way with people who are both rather than one or the other!"

I know that I am finite. I know that the fate of the world does not rest in my hands (let's all pause to be grateful for that). And I know that it's important to take time to relax and recenter. But as a lifelong activist and recovering workaholic with the weight of All The World's Bad Things pressing on my heart and mind day after day, it is difficult for me to act on what I know to be true: my worth is not tied to my productivity. And real life, flesh-and-blood, face-to-face connection with other Jesus followers is critical to my spiritual and advocacy health. 

People came from all over the United States for this retreat, from coast to coast, north to south, by plane, train, and automobile. I believe this experience should be accessible for all, regardless of their ability to travel a great distance. 

If you're interested in bringing a CreatureKind retreat to your community, drop us a line. Let's figure out how to help ensure that Christian animal advocates in Orlando, Chattanooga, Denver, London, and beyond have the chance to gather with other like-minded Jesus followers, and to receive the gifts of presence and of being seen. 

And if you'd like to support CreatureKind's work to strengthen the growing community of Christian animal advocates, you can donate here

Peace. And many prayers that you are able to experience needed moments of connection with God, fellow creatures, and your own heart. 

CreatureKind Partners with University of Winchester in Groundbreaking New Program

How do you stop factory farming? Reduce the demand. Today, the University of Winchester became the first institution internationally to sign the CreatureKind Commitment, meaning that they have pledged to: 1)  reduce their purchase of animal products; 2) source meat, dairy, and eggs from higher welfare farms for its catering operations on campus; and 3) educate the campus community about why they decided to make these important changes.

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