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Animal Welfare in World Religion: Teaching and Practice by Joyce D'Silva

News Section Icon Published 08/06/2023

Modern science clearly demonstrates that animals are sentient beings and that many of them express similar emotions to humans, such as care, anger and grief. And yet billions of animals around the world are maltreated by humans.

They are experimented on, hunted for sport, forced to perform shows for us and most commonly of all, made to suffer their whole life in factory farms before being slaughtered for our consumption.

That such abuse has become part of our way of life causes great concern to the Ambassador Emeritus for Compassion in World Farming, Joyce D’Silva.

A former secondary school RE teacher, she wanted to find out what the faiths teach about our relationship with animals. If they teach compassion and care, then why is their teaching ignored? She found an unexpected answer.

Animal Welfare in World Religion: Teaching and Practice is a unique and readable book which examines the relationship between religion and animal welfare, taking a detailed dive into the teachings and practices of the major world religions.

While there are many books expounding the beliefs of the major religions and many about the rights and welfare of animals, there are few linking the two.

Focusing initially on the five major religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddism and Hinduism, the author compares the teaching of old and present-day practices, drawing on holy books and the recorded sayings of leading historical religious figures and contemporary faith leaders and was truly surprised by the depth and spread of concern for animals in faith teachings.

In addition, Joyce looks beyond the major world religions, to examine a wider range of beliefs and practices, including Indigenous peoples from the USA and Australia, Jainism, Sikhism and Rastafarianism, to provide fascinating insights into another range of beliefs and views on the human-animal relationship.

Joyce says: “I have been astonished and inspired by many of the teachings of the major faiths about our relationship with other animals, but sadly I have been appalled by the way these teachings have been ignored by many faith leaders and followers. I hope my book will help to put the wellbeing of animals on the agenda of faith leaders, followers of faiths – and indeed, everyone who is concerned about ethical issues.”

Overall, this book challenges and encourages religious leaders and followers to re-examine their teachings and to prioritise the well-being of animals. It is essential reading for those interested in the role of religion in animal welfare, human-animal studies, and animal welfare and ethics more broadly.

About the Author

Joyce has an MA from Trinity College Dublin and two Honorary degrees from the universities of Winchester and Keele. Joyce taught in India and then became Head of Religious Education at a comprehensive school in England.

She has worked for Compassion in World Farming since 1985, including fourteen years as Chief Executive. Joyce played a key role in achieving the UK ban on sow stalls in the nineties and in getting recognition of animal sentience enshrined in the European Union Treaties.

Joyce has received an RSPCA Award for a “very important contribution in the field of animal welfare”. She has given evidence to the UK and New Zealand governments, the European Commission and the United Nations on issues ranging from genetic engineering and cloning of farm animals to meat reduction and regenerative agriculture. Joyce co-edited, with Professor John Webster, the book The Meat Crisis: Developing more sustainable and ethical production and consumption, Earthscan, 2017.

Praise for the book

"D’Silva’s research shows that love for all living beings is at the core of all faiths. Her powerful book calls upon us to lift our blinkers and act accordingly.”

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary UNFCC (2012-2016)

“This book is a beautiful anthology of religious ideals about sentient beings.”

Professor Nanditha Krisha, Director, C.P.R Institute of Indological Research, Chennai

“This book is an impassioned cry from the heart, a call to the conscience of humanity to heed the principle of compassion at the core of the religions by showing greater concern for our fellow travellers through life, the animals.”

Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi, Chair, Buddhist Global Relief

"The book, which provides passage about animals from the scriptures of the world’s religions along with profiles of great Saints and thinkers, can serve as an excellent resource for scholars and activists alike.”

Professor Mark Berkson, Professor and Chair in the Department of Religion at Hamline University


For preview copies, interview requests with Joyce D’Silva and for further information, please contact Ali Large on +44 (0) 7966 446478 or Katie Read

Relevant images can be downloaded here.


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