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Christian Ethics of Farmed Animal Welfare project

Around 90 billion birds and mammals and 6 trillion fish are used for food globally each year. The Christian Ethics of Farmed Animal Welfare (CEFAW) project is the first major project to bring together churches, scientists, farmers, theologians and animal rights advocates to explore the ethical implications of these animals’ welfare from a Christian perspective. David Clough argues in the second of his two-part series ‘On Animals’ (which is now available for Common Awards staff and students to access on the Moodle hub here):

“Human activity is having a very great and increasing impact on the lives of other animals. This impact is captured strikingly in Vaclav Smil’s estimates that in 1900 the combined mass of all domesticated animals (biomass) was 3.5 times that of wild land mammals, but by 2000 a nearly four-fold increase in domesticated animals accompanied by a halving of wild land mammal biomass meant that the domesticated animal biomass exceeded that of wild terrestrial mammals by twenty-four times….Livestock in these numbers cannot be sustained by available grazing land, which has resulted both in rapid deforestation and the use of over a third of global cereal output to feed to livestock. The rapid increase in numbers of farmed animals has been effected by a revolution in how animals are raised, with most now confined in monotonous industrialized systems that provide very little opportunity for the expression of species-typical behaviours.” (Clough, David L. On Animals: Volume Two: Theological Ethics. (London: T&T Clark, 2019), p.xi)

A Christian response to the crisis of the massive scale of animal farming which has evolved in the last hundred years is urgently needed. The CEFAW project has produced a Policy Framework (available here) which explores this question in detail, considering the species-specific needs and behaviours of the most commonly farmed animals, and the welfare implications of different farming systems. It is an invaluable resource to begin to consider what a Christian response to these questions might be.

The CEFAW project’s current phase is to develop teaching resources for schools and TEIs to help students to engage with these questions. This has resulted in a range of resources which are or will become available on the Hub Plus section of Moodle in 2023. Here’s a list of what’s available to support your teaching and learning across the curriculum for TEIs:

  • Biblical Studies: Annotated Bibliography
  • Church History: 17th – 19th Century Reader
  • Doctrine: Annotated Bibliography
  • Ethics: Annotated Bibliography
  • Mission: Annotated Bibliography
  • Theological Reflection: Two sample Theological Reflections
  • David Clough’s books (part 1 and 2 ‘On Animals’), now available as online books on the Hub
  • Webinar recording available

A concern for the wellbeing of all God’s creatures may fit most obviously within modules such as Sustaining the World: Christian Faith and the Environment, and TEI academic staff seeking resources for teaching this module will certainly find many helpful resources for teaching this module amongst these resources. However, good theology is good theology for all God’s creation, not simply for humans, and so the resources should be of benefit in other areas of the curriculum. You will find two sample theological reflections, which were produced in the knowledge that students often find this style of writing difficult, and ask to see a sample.

The CEFAW team hope you find these resources helpful, and that you will be able to join us for a workshop on animal ethics at the Common Awards conference, 3-5th July at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire.