New RE Materials Launched on the Moral Status of Animals

The Animal Interfaith Alliance and Veganism in Education have been working with RE Today to produce a range of free classroom resources for Religious Education which will enable teachers and pupils to explore, through critical, objective and pluralistic RE lessons, questions around the moral status of animals and ethical veganism as a worldview. 

As RE widens its scope and moves towards a worldviews paradigm, aiming to prepare children and young people for life in a complex multi-religious and multi—secular world, studying ethical veganism offers opportunities to examine the dynamics between religions and worldviews. Ethical veganism, a rapidly growing, practice-based philosophical belief, protected under the Equality Act (2010) and in European law, can be understood as a non-religious worldview, but also, for many people, it is a worldview deeply intertwined with religious belief and practice; sometimes supported by religious teachings and doctrines and sometimes presenting challenges to them. Ethical veganism, and the issues relating to it, provide a rich field of study for children and young people as veganism increasingly becomes part of our collective consciousness in everyday life; whether in shops and restaurants, or in discussions ranging beyond our treatment of animals to environmental responsibility, human health, social justice, and of course, religion and belief.

We believe RE is the best placed subject to teach about aspects of ethical veganism.  Ultimately, empathy and compassion are the principal tenets found in most religious and ethical traditions throughout the ages.  By extending our circle of compassion to all living beings, we can stimulate the development of empathy in children which will help them improve all of their interpersonal relationships. This approach complements school goals of social-emotional learning, anti-bullying initiatives and creating global citizens responsible for ensuring a more ethical, just and sustainable world. 

We hope you enjoy exploring the 6 RE units that span Key Stages 1 to 5 (5-18-year-olds) and the accompanying Teacher’s Guide.  They are designed to be used flexibly and creatively by teachers of RE across the four nations of the UK and beyond. You will find a wealth of activities and ideas for teaching and learning accompanied by supplementary resources and links to external sources too, all of which engage with issues relating to the moral status of animals, and ethical veganism as both a religious and non-religious worldview. 

You can access these free RE Classroom resources on the  Veganism in Education  website here.

World Interfaith Harmony Week

This week is World Interfaith Harmony Week 2023 (WIHW) which runs from 1st – 7th February.  It is based on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution A/65/5 for a worldwide week of interfaith harmony. 

To celebrate the UN observance, AIA and its partners VinE and RE Today are promoting our new interfaith RE materials which address the moral status of animals and ethical veganism as both a religious and a non-religious worldview, and also our Spirited Arts competition. We have been contacting schools, presenting to groups and will be undertaking a social media campaign.

Further details of the RE materials are here
Further details of our Spirited Arts competition are here.

Additionally, we are celebrating this observance as a Pre-Parliament event on the run up to the 2023 Parliament of World Religions (PoWR).

Teaching the world’s children to show compassion for animals and to treat them with love and respect, is one of the most precious gifts we can bestow upon them and is vital to safeguard the interconnected web of life.

Spirited Arts Competition 2023

Get involved in the 2023 Spirited Arts & Poetry Competition, run by NATRE (the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education and join hundreds of schools from around the world taking part in this year’s competition.

The competition is now open and closes on 31 July 2023.

All God’s Creatures? This year AIA and VinE are jointly sponsoring the theme “All God’s Creatures?” to highlight the importance of animals.

Do animals belong to God? Are they part of a divine plan? Do animals have souls? The beauty and sheer awesomeness of non-human animals with whom we share planet Earth is celebrated in many of the world’s religions. Some worldviews see all living beings as interconnected, yet others emphasise the separateness and superiority of humans over other animals. Animals play a huge part in all our lives, whether we realise or not. How humans interact with other animals and the natural world impacts on all living beings and the planet. This theme invites exploration of ideas and beliefs about non-human animals. Great work will show originality and flare coming from deep consideration of the issues. Challenge learners to engage thoughtfully with scripture, philosophy, and scientific enquiry to write an inspiring passage to accompany stunning images. We are delighted to partner with the Animals Interfaith Alliance (AIA) and Veganism in Education (VinE) to bring you this theme.

NATRE welcomes entries in (almost!) any art form, including:

  • Art (painting, drawing, sketching etc)
  • Poetry
  • Photography
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Drama
  • Sculpture

All entries must be received before Monday 31 July 2023.

Full details can be read on the NATRE’s Website here.

AIA AGM 2022 with Guest Speaker, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

We are delighted to welcome Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg as our guest speaker at this year’s AGM on Thursday 17th November at 18.00GMT on Zoom.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg is a regular speaker on BBC Radio 4’s Prayer for the Day and Thought for the Day.  He is Rabbi of the New North London Synagogue and has taken a leading role in the development of the Masorti Movement for traditional non-fundamentalist Judaism in England. In 2008 he was appointed Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism in the UK. He is a President of the Council of Christians and Jews. He is a co-founder of Eco-Synagogue and deeply engaged in environmental issues and is closely involved in supporting refugees. Further interests include pastoral work, hospice care, and literature, especially poetry. He teaches and speaks widely.  For further details, see his website here.

The AGM will be held by Zoom during Interfaith Week, on Thursday 17th November, starting with our guest speaker at 18.00 GMT – all are welcome.  The AGM will commence at 19.30 GMT and will be for AIA members only. 

Please email barbgard.aia@gmail.com to register for the talk and/or the AGM.

Interfaith Celebration for Animals 2022

Interfaith Celebration for Animals 2022 

Ahimsa and Extending the Golden Rule to All Life

Saturday 19th November 2022, time 19.00 GMT – by Zoom.

This year’s Interfaith Celebration for Animals will be celebrating Ahimsa and Extending the Golden Rule to all Life and will be led by AIA Chair, Rev. Feargus O’Connor. The celebration will include talks and readings from all the major faiths concerning our care for all of God’s Creation, and will also celebrate the 200th birthday of social reformer, suffragist and anti-vivisection campaigner, Frances Power Cobbe, the founder of the BUAV and NAVS.

Everyone is welcome to attend. 

Please email Barbara at barbgard.aia@gmail.com to receive the Zoom link. 

If you wish to make a collection donation, please donate to Animal Free Research UK quoting the Cobbe/ SchweitzerUniversal Kinship Appeal, for humane animal research. 

AIA Join the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting at Westminster

AIA directors Judith Wilkings and Dr Christina Nellist joined the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting’s Westminster Hall’s reception and launch of “Trophy Hunting & Britain: the Case for a Ban” on Wednesday 29th June 2022. Judith gives this account of the impact of this ground-breaking event.

by Judith Wilkings

Sir Roger Gale MP was Chair.  Eduardo Gonçalves introduced the speakers who included RT Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; H.E. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President, Botswana (2008-2018); Snr Elder Boniface of the Maasai; Kris Verduycht from the Belgium Parliament; Dr Adam Cruise, a leading South African academic & researcher; Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE Founder-The Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace sent a message via film.

Eduardo Gonçalves had organised the event to coincide with the 7th year anniversary of the death of Cecil, the lion who was killed on 2nd July 2015 by Walter Palmer, an American dentist, using a bow and arrow.

Dr Jane Goodall’s message spoke of Trophy hunters killing for pleasure. Destroying animals for bragging rights supposedly to demonstrate some misguided sense of fearlessness and courage. She warned that the hunting lobby will work hard to preserve the status quo and if we want to maintain our reputation as an animal loving nation, all hunting trophies should be banned from Britain. Time is of the essence as many species killed by trophy hunters are close to extinction.

RT Hon George Eustice MP spoke of the Bill’s progress through Parliament and the Government’s commitment to pass the Bill. It will be back in the House of Commons on 25th November 2022 for a second reading. He thanked the former President of Botswana, H.E. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, for his time the day before, when they’d had a long discussion about trophy hunting.

Kris Verduycht from the Belgium Parliament said that the Belgium Parliament had voted unanimously to ban Trophy hunting imports from entering Belgium and 91% of the public supported the decision.

H.E. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, spoke about his time as President of Botswana. They had banned trophy hunting. They instinctively knew photographic tourism would preserve nature and lead to a revival of many species. During his time in office, they introduced 300 to 400 rhinos into the wild. He said that nature tourism was the only way forward to conserve the wildlife.

Snr Elder Boniface of the Maasai explained how Maasai warriors used to hunt a mature lion to prove their warriorhood, but they realised they could benefit from wildlife by conserving it. Furthermore, they needed to stop all traditional and cultural activities that involved killing an animal. Now the community receives a share of the revenue collected from Maasai Mara National Reserve. It uses the money to educate the children from the local villages. Boniface spoke of trophy hunting as a terrible, cruel and barbaric idea and warned of the misinformation campaign used by the hunting organisations to promote and protect their deadly trade.

Dr Adam Cruise also warned about the hunting organisations who rely on two pillars to mislead. That it improves African communities and gives conservation benefits. He says both are a distortion of the truth. His undercover work in Namibia, which purports to support wildlife and rural communities, has shown that wildlife numbers are decreasing and the local community is kept in a cycle of impoverishment. Dr Cruise spoke of letters being sent to MPs by organisations claiming to represent ordinary African people. ‘Our research also suggests that some of the supposed signatories did not actually sign the letter.’

All of the speakers cautioned that Trophy hunters are depleting the gene pool of lions, rhino, elephants, giraffes’ polar bears to name a few. They kill the largest animals which are crucial for the breeding of the species. They urged MPs, Ministers and NGOs gathered in the room to be aware of the power, money and influence of the hunting industry & Gun Club Lobby. Eduardo Gonçalves said that The Times revealed Britain’s pro hunting lobby is funded by top allies of Vladimir Putin. The Guardian reports the American gun lobby is behind the campaigns to block a British trophy ban. He warned of a Smart Ban something that the lobbyists would use to derail the Bill going through Parliament.

In the Executive Summary I was given at the launch, under the name of Inclusive Conservation Group, I read an extract from The Safari Club International-funded strategy document to deceive British Ministers and MP’s. ‘SHAPE, INFORM, INFLUENCE, MANIPULATE, MISLEAD, EXPOSE, DIMINISH, PROMOTE, DECEIVE, COERCE, DETER, MOBILIZE, CONVINCE.’

“With the decline of wildlife worldwide, and many species approaching extinction, all caused by man, how can there be justification in trophy hunting? How can any government say they are fighting poaching whilst allowing trophy hunting? I call upon those countries from where these promoters of extinction come from to ban the import of trophies.”

 H.E. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President, Botswana (2008-2018)

Too Many Animals Still Used in Research – It’s Time for Change.

As the UK Home Office publishes its Annual Statistics on Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, AIA Director, Dr Andre Menache comments on the need to replace them with 21st century human based test methods.

Dr Andre Menache

Animal experiments have been cleverly sold to the public as a “necessary evil” by some in the scientific research community. For about a century, this argument was accepted in good faith as being truthful, both by the public and the government. However, based on our current scientific understanding of living organisms and the complexity of living beings, it is painfully obvious that animal experimentation constitutes a perversion of science in the present day.

How are animals used in science ?

The above pie chart indicates roughly how animals are used in science :

  1. Education and training (undergraduate and post graduate university studies) :  5%
  2. Regulatory requirements for marketing purposes (animal testing of pharmaceutical drugs, industrial chemicals, etc.) :  25%
  3. Scientific research (basic aka fundamental research, which in simple terms refers to scientific curiosity ; and applied research, which in simple terms means goal oriented research) :  70%
  1. The replacement of animals in education and training is a huge success story. Most, if not all animal use in this category can and has been replaced with humane alternatives (see for example the work of www.interniche.org).
  2. The replacement of animals in the context of regulatory testing is an area where progress can happen very rapidly once public opinion and consumer awareness are mobilised. For example, shareholders in the pharmaceutical industry need to be made aware of the fact that animal tests are conducted more for legal reasons than scientific ones AND that the pharmaceutical industry has the means but simply lacks the political will to replace animal testing with 21st century human based test methods. Just as shareholders in the energy industry are demanding an end to the use of fossil fuels, so too we can expect a shareholder revolt within the pharmaceutical industry once the facts on animal testing are exposed.
  3. The replacement of animals in scientific research (basic and applied research) remains the biggest challenge to overcome because our current research paradigm is still based on 19th century scientific dogma. However, once the transition to human based test methods becomes established in the field of regulatory testing (as soon as 2025), this will greatly accelerate the end of animal research in general.

The following short video shows the procedure that beagle dogs endure up to three times a day for up to 90  days as part of the regulatory requirements for testing new pharmaceutical drugs. The drug is passed directly into the stomach via a tube. The dogs receive no anaesthetic or analgesic. It sometimes happens that the drug accidentally passes into the lungs instead of the stomach, which can result in pneumonia. At the end of the 90 day test period, the dogs will be killed and their organs examined.

If you are a shareholder in a pharmaceutical company which still hasn’t changed to human relevant test methods, please raise this issue with them. You may consider making other shareholders aware of this and proposing a resolution to end animal testing at their AGM.

Trophy Hunting Imports – Let’s Get the Ban Done!

We have some GOOD NEWS from The Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting as we finally have a date for the bill to ban trophy hunting imports. The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill was officially listed in Parliament on 15th June and will come back to Parliament in earnest on 25th November.  Although it will be the Government’s legislation, it will be presented as a Private Member’s Bill by Henry Smith MP, a longstanding friend of the Campaign. While a bill in government time was the Campaign’s first preference, this does, however, mean that the logjam is finally broken and the legislation will now start moving forward. At last! Now we just need to ensure that we WIN!

Please Support the Campaign

On 16th June, we recorded the webinar (above) presented by Eduardo Goncalves, Director of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting and co-hosted by our new Patron, actor Peter Egan, a longstanding supporter of the Campaign. Eduardo’s presentation is inspirational as he is incredibly knowledgeable on the topic, having undertaken considerable investigation into this enormously devastating activity.

Please watch and share this most informative video and do all you can to support the campaign at this critical moment as the Bill passes through Parliament.

Further information can be found on the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting’s website.