The Catholic Faith and Animal Rights

Different people have different attitudes when it comes to animals. Some people have pets that they consider their ‘fur babies’ while others have such little regard for animals that they mistreat and abuse them. So what is the Church’s view when it comes to animals and animal rights?

Msgr. Stuart Swetland recently addressed this topic on Go Ask Your Father™ after seeing an article from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) suggesting that Jesus was a vegetarian. In reading the article, he also read the headline on PETA’s website that says, “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.”

As many Catholics are also animal lovers, Msgr. Swetland laid out the Catholic teaching on animal rights, saying:

“PETA is not consistent with Christian teaching. I just want to make that clear, in case anyone might think that what PETA teaches is consistent with Christianity. Because it is not.

We see this clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the Moral section, under the title ‘Respect for the Integrity of Creation.’ And here we are taught that we are to be good stewards, of course, and that God the Creator gave us His creation and we can’t just do whatever we want with it. Of course not, it has to be used in accordance with the plan of God.


So here’s what paragraph 2416-2417 says:

Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives.

So when PETA says that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, etc. they are teaching something that is not consistent with Christian ethics. So for them to try to pass it off as if it was consistent with the teaching of Jesus and His Church is a misleading thing to do at the best, and maybe more problematic

So I just want to clarify that this is the teaching of the Church of how we should relate to subpersonal creations – in this case, animals.”

Listen to the full explanation below:

Go Ask Your Father™ airs weekdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern/10:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.