Mainstream Religious Leaders Ignore Animal Cruelty

In recent weeks, Australians for Animals Inc. co-ordinator has been banging on the doors of the mainstream churches seeking their support for a desperately needed increase in Inspectors who can police the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act on the mid and Far North Coast of NSW.

Animal cruelty is out of control with a huge increase in the population and one sole RSPCA Inspector whose area ranges from Coffs Harbor to the Queensland border. In spite of all the efforts of local shelters up and down the coast who have lobbied for years for an increase, the NSW State government under the ALP and the Coalition have remained mute, hands over ears, ignoring the problem.
With the exception of the Catholic Bishop of Lismore who listened carefully and with great compassion to AFA’s request for the support of the Catholic church in calling on the government to immediately provide funding for more inspectors, the mainstream churches can be put in the same basket as the state government.
Bishop Jarrett at Lismore’s Catholic Cathedral was happy to agree to a local priest being present in a press conference which AFA put together with the kind assistance and support of Lismore’s Mayor, Jenny Dowell. Bishop Jarrett completely understands the relationship between animal cruelty, child abuse, domestic abuse and the growing research which demonstrates that the majority of violent crime starts with animal abuse.
The Anglican Bishop of Grafton Keith Slater was just too busy to be bothered with providing a member of the clergy to attend a press conference on animal welfare issues. In spite of many phone calls and emails to his personal assistant, he couldn’t even find the time to send a letter of support. One Anglican Minister in Lismore dismissed AFA’s call with – “ What do you want ? We already have a blessing of the animals.” In fact, the Anglican Minister in Lismore was downright dismissive.
The Uniting Church couldn’t be bothered responding to emails or phone calls. Neither Minister replied.
The Buddhists were on retreat. No one was available.
This is a shocking state of affairs. God’s creation, according to the Anglican and Uniting Churches appears to centre, as always, on human beings. It’s hard to believe that ministers of religion can be so blatantly ignorant of the suffering of animals or the links between animal abuse and human abuse.
But wait, things got worse. Our Co-ordinator met with the Editor of the Northern Star prior to the press conference to ask for the newspaper’s support for the campaign. Only recently, the Northern Star had done a magnificent job in exposing the dreadful cruelty perpetrated on a pup found barely alive, brutally bashed and left to die at a local garbage tip.
Thousands of people sent emails to the newspaper, many messages came from overseas. The story of the pup’s struggle to survive touched the hearts of a huge number of people. As well, the newspaper has continued to run story after story of acts of cruelty to animals and AFA felt confident that with the help of the Northern Star we could make a difference and impress the new NSW government with the urgency of the situation.
A press conference was organised in the meeting room of the Lismore Council. Mayor Jenny Dowell agreed to open the conference and local shelter representatives agreed to participate and tell their stories of the cruelty being visited on animals in the mid and far North Coasts. Local shelters bare the brunt of the lack of inspectors, being forced to care for countless numbers of abandoned and badly treated animals.
Everyone who is involved with animals in this area is really burned off by the RSPCA’s constant refusal to appoint more inspectors – instead focusing on “ education” – at a time when almost every day there’s evidence of dreadful acts of abuse against domestic and farm animals.
The press conference duly took place. No Northern Star reporter turned up to cover the event. “ Sorry, we’re under-staffed”, was the Chief of Staff’s response. A brief report in the newspaper screwed up the facts and weeks of effort went down the drain.
The newspaper promised to put a major article in the coming weekend’s paper. Nothing appeared.
All this in spite of massive backing for more inspectors from vet clinics in the area, a significant number of local government Councils who supported more inspectors, and support from the NSW Police’s Regional Commander.
The final blow to this effort is the realisation that local MP, Don Page, is now the Minister for Local Government under Barry O’Farrell. AFA can think of no other member of the NSW Parliament who would be more aware of the appalling number of animal cruelty issues in this region, or who would be intimately aware of the problems created by having only one inspector. Or who would be in the perfect position to bring about badly needed changes.
Don Page’s response. Nothing.
Minister Katrina Hodgkinson is in charge of the RSPCA. AFA wrote to Min. Hodgkinson requesting a meeting. Request ignored. Finally a letter comes back from the Minister addressing the issue of 25 ponies who suffocated in a removal van. Yet another dreadful act of cruelty but NOT the issue AFA was dealing with – that is – the desperate need for more inspectors.
Local MP for Lismore, Thomas George, answered AFA’s emails weeks later with a response that would make any responsible politician embarrassed. In other words, he couldn’t care less.
Interesting to realise that Don Page, Katrina Hodgkinson and Thomas George are ALL members of the National Party. Barry O’Farrell recently gave millions of dollars to the RSCPA who continue to refuse to appoint more inspectors.
AFA is disgusted. It’s clear that the Anglican and Uniting Church need to hear the call of the suffering creatures, otherwise their role as representatives of Christ are nothing but hypocrisy. Strong words from this charity but in 27 years of activism for animals, the refusal of these Church leaders is unacceptable.
For those of you who are willing to write letters, AFA requests you send a stiff letter to Minister Don Page, Parliament House, Sydney, 2000 and ask him why the government continues to ignore the plight of animals ( in his electorate) and on the mid and far north Coast.
If you’re a member of the Anglican or Uniting Church congregation, then perhaps you can have a word with your Minister and find out how they feel about animals and the suffering inflicted on them by humans.
AFA has no religious bent. The charity is merely reporting the facts. We will continue the campaign to get more inspectors !

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