Animal Rights and Animal Souls: Can Christianity become good news for animals?

Benson Lecture
Truro Cathedral
Wednesday 7th November, 2007, at 7pm.

The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey
Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
and a member of the Faculty of Theology,
University of Oxford

7 November, 2007, at 7.30pm

Contact Canon Philip Lambert for more information: 01872 245018;

For centuries, many Christians have thought that all that needs to be said about animals is that we have ‘dominion’ over them. Animals have been variously defined as ‘things’, machines, and soulless beings with any rights. But careful study of Genesis shows that far from meaning egoistical exploitation, dominion – in context – means that we are divinely commissioned to look after the world as God intended – even and especially animals. Professor Linzey argues that we need to re-envision ourselves – not as the master species – but as the servant species. Our power or dominion over animals should be interpreted in terms of Christ’s lordship over humanity, i.e. as consisting in a diaconal, serving role. In Christian terms, there can be no lordship wthout service. Professor Linzey charts the theological basis of this radical reappraisal with reference to the ‘instrumentalist’ tradition represented by classical Christian thinkers – from Aquinas to Luther – ending up with the bold (and much overlooked) text from the 1998 Lambeth Conference that ‘[human] servanthood to God’s creation is … the most important responsibility facing humankind’, and that ‘we as Christians have a God given mandate to care for, look after and protect God’s creation’ (1998 resolution 1.8.b iv and v). He relates this theology to the modern discussions about animal rights, and explains how all sentient creatures can be seen to have rights because their Creator has rights to see that what is created is treated with respect. Professor Linzey concludes by pinpointing the ethical challenges that arise from this theology, including: living free of violence and cruelty, vegetarianism, experimentation, and intensive farming