An Interview with Christine Gutleben of The Humane Society of the United States
In Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, he tasks the entire world with a greater care and concern for creation. In recent years, one major area in which this call has been heeded on a practical level is the recent alliance between pro-lifers and pro-animal welfare activists. As someone who is convinced that Christians have a moral obligation to care for animals and oppose cruelty, I’m a proponent of the work of the Humane Society of the United States, which has a great history of promoting animal welfare, particularly among Christians. Christine Gutleben is the Senior Director of Faith Outreach for the Humane Society, and she recently spoke with me about both the history and the future of this noble cause.
Christopher White (CW): The Humane Society has a deeply entrenched historical relationship with Christian leaders. Can you give us some background on this?
Christine Gutleben (CG): The Humane Society of the United States has acknowledged the important role of faith in animal advocacy since it was founded 60 years ago. The first Chairman of the Board, Robert Chenoweth, said during his first annual presentation to the members of HSUS, “Our faith is that there is a God who created all things and put us here on earth to live together. Our creed is that love and compassion is due from the strong to the weak.” Since then, two previous Presidents of The HSUS were clergy and their leadership spanned 35 years, more than half of the organization’s existence. One of them, John Hoyt, was a Presbyterian minister and he described his work with The HSUS as a ministry that benefited both people and animals.
CW: Why, in your opinion, should people of faith—particularly Christians—care about animals?
CG: My primary goal at The HSUS is to encourage people to think about our dealings with animals in moral terms. Animal welfare is less about animals than it is about ourselves and our values. And Christian values are grounded in caring for the “least of these.” The Bible is clear that we are to extend God’s mercy to the vulnerable and this includes the animal kingdom. Read More