By Chris Fegan
I was delighted to visit Poland recently for Catholic Concern for Animals (CCA). The catalyst for the visit was World Youth Day 2016 (WYD), a major Catholic ‘jamboree’ for young Catholics from around the world, which is held every two to three years and which, this year, was held in Krakow at the end of July.
The highlight for the young people was the attendance of Pope Francis for four days.
I also took the opportunity to meet with CCA Members in Poland to discuss our planned activity in the country over the next 12-18 months and also to visit an animal project in Poland.
The unexpected bonus was the Conference on Animal Rights in Europe (CARE) in Warsaw which I also attended, which focused on issues in Eastern Europe and was, as far as I am aware, the first of its kind ever held and it is hoped it will become an annual event – I hope so, as it was excellent.
The whole trip was most worthwhile and, whilst at WYD 2016, I helped the Global Catholic Climate Movement with a Laudato Si’ Eco-Village in which we engaged pilgrims, especially young Catholics and the local Krakow population to WYD and the Pope’s encyclical letter on the environment, which was published last year. I was there to make sure that the Pope’s message on the care for all Creation, including the animal kingdom, was to the forefront, along with all the messages about climate change and sustainability, etc.
I am delighted to say that the message was warmly received by all the young people that I spoke to and they were very well informed about the major animal stories of the recent past, including the killing of Cecil the Lion and the recent deaths of animals in zoos due to human intrusion. I was delighted that this young and ‘active’ generation of Catholics will, and do, take animal welfare issues seriously wherever they live in the world and this was very encouraging.
The CARE was also very encouraging, with a large number of young animal welfare advocates from across Europe discussing the issues of animal welfare generally and focusing on the problems in countries such as Czech Republic, Ukraine and Russia, as well as Poland itself. The situation in some of these countries is dire and it made me consider that, despite all the problems that animals still face in the UK, the situation is better than that of some of our European neighbours. The problems seem to get worse the further east you go.
An interesting sub-theme for me was the way animal welfare suffered or benefited under differing political regimes and also within and without EU member countries and accession states. The example of Russia as a country that has had major political upheaval, and indeed revolution, was a case in point, and a short history of animal welfare from the days of Tolstoy to the present was very interesting in this regard.
Also, taking into account the UK populations’ referendum vote to leave the EU, the workings of animal welfare on an international level was very relevant. Keeping the gains made via the EU on animal welfare matters will be a major concern for us all and something we must keep an eye on as the Brexit negotiations move forward over the coming months and years.
All in all, the trip to Poland was very useful. A lot of differing ground for animal welfare were covered and a lot of boxes were ticked.
Chris Fegan, 1st August 2016.
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