Religion and Animals Project

Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon once recounted the view of Rowland Hill that a person ‘was not a true Christian if his dog or cat were not the better off for it’. And commented: ‘That witness is true’.

But is it true that Christianity – and religion in general – benefits animals? Are religious people and religious institutions more or less likely to be respectful to animals – either those kept as companions or those used for other human purposes?

This research project will attempt to answer these questions and in so doing will examine the ethical adequacy of religious attitudes to animals.

The project will provide scope for multidisciplinary approaches, for example:

  • Theologians and religious thinkers will address the positive and negative resources within their own traditions.
  • Historians will examine the ways in which religious attitudes have influenced movements for animal protection.
  • Social scientists will examine how religious positions affect behaviour to animals.
  • Psychologists will consider the religious motivations of those who care for or abuse animals.
  • Criminologists will examine the religious views of those who engage in criminality and cruelty.
  • We invite scholars who would like to publish in this field, as well as those already doing so, to contribute.

The first stage of our research was a Summer School on Religion and Animal Protection at Stephen’s House, Oxford, on 21-23rd July 2014. The School was international, multi-religious, and multidisciplinary.

St Stephen’s House is an Anglican Theological College and a Hall of the University of Oxford. The School will be followed by a book collection of papers.

For more information, contact the Deputy Director at

To view the programme see here.