We’ve seen animal rights activists dress up in costumes, storm NFL football fields, protest inside grocery stores and do just about anything to gain attention for their cause, but many people don’t know about their efforts in an unexpected area. With Lent around the corner and activist groups calling for the Pope and others to give up meat, now is the time to become familiar with how animal rights groups are “spinning scripture” (in the words of Paul Copan, PhD, Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University).
Animal rights groups using religion to petition people to eat less meat is not a new tactic, but it has been gaining traction in recent years. The Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are two groups with established faith outreach or religion programs.
“Activists re-translate God’s mandate to say something different in their favor” and “cherry pick certain phrases and give them a spin not aligned with the author’s intentions,” said Walter Kaiser, PhD, President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Old Testament and Ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary at the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2016 Stakeholders Summit.
So, why are they targeting people of faith?
- They have sustained beliefs – so once they believe something, they are more committed.
- They traditionally contribute more money to charities.
- Animal issues appeal to their sense of compassion.
- Giving money may help appease guilt associated with knowing animals die for their benefit (guilt that activist groups drive and foster).
Lent is a religious period before Easter in which people of faith refocus their lives on God. It is often characterized by giving up things to help rid oneself of distractions and selfish desires. Unfortunately, Lent is currently being used by animal rights activists to spread misinformation about animal agriculture.
Activist messaging is getting into the hands of children during Sunday School and into sermons as they persuade church leaders. As overwhelming and frustrating as this is, there is hope. Wes Jamison, PhD, Associate Professor of Public Relations at Palm Beach Atlantic University and ordained minister said, the Bible “gives you permission [to use animals] and applauds you for doing so. You have the truth on your side.” The Alliance has resources available for discussing this sensitive topic in your communities – contact us at [email protected] for more information.