‘The wolf shall live with the lamb …
… and a little child shall lead them …
… they shall not hurt or destroy.’ Isaiah 11.6
The picture of peace which the Messiah inaugurates is not just for humanity, but for all the world.
This year it was heartening to hear that one more form of animal cruelty, the so-called ‘dancing bears’ of India, had come to an end after a seven-year campaign.
It is part of a world wide move to end cruelty to animals. In Barcelona, there has already been a vote to outlaw bull fighting, and the parliament of Catalonia, in the east of the Spain, is considering a proposal to change local animal protection laws. The people of Catalonia, who suffered intense tyranny during the time of Franco, associate bullfighting with the kind of oppression they endured at the hands of the fascist regime. As a result they identify much more with the doomed bull than with the matador. Few locals in Barcelona want bullfighting: it is far more important to have a top football team. They don’t want to be known as supporters of blood sports, and, in the approach to Christmas, the words of Isaiah sound a message which encourages their campaign.
How revolting it is then, at Christmas, to hear that the Conservative Party in Britain is proposing to allow legislation to legalise once more our own barbaric blood sport, the hunting of deer and foxes with hounds. I question whether this has wide appeal. Animal charities and the RSPB have massive support from millions of people today. It is possible that the number of people who encourage foxes by feeding them in their gardens far exceeds the number of those who might want to hunt; even if they don’t go to the lengths of a former neighbour who provided Waitrose chickens to the vixen with her cubs in the garden. Isn’t it time, as we listen to the song of the angels, to heed the message of the prophet and seek peace rather than ritualised torture and slaughter of dumb animals? And then ‘they will not hurt or destroy … for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord’ (Isaiah 11.9).
Tom Ambrose is a priest living in Cambridge.