Catholicism and Animal Welfare: What Does the Church Say?


The topic of animal welfare within the context of Catholicism invokes a blend of scriptural, doctrinal, and ethical considerations. The Catholic Church, through its rich theological tradition and authoritative texts like the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Holy Bible, provides insights into how Catholics are called to view and treat animals. This article aims to explore these sources to understand the Church’s stance on animal welfare.

Biblical Foundations

The relationship between humans and animals in the Catholic faith can be traced back to the Bible. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is pivotal in establishing the foundation for the Church’s understanding of animals. Genesis 1:26 states, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'” This verse is often interpreted as granting humans a special responsibility towards animals, a stewardship rather than a dominion of exploitation.

Stewardship and Responsibility

Dominion in Genesis is not a license for unbridled exploitation but a call for stewardship. Psalm 145:9, which says, “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made,” underscores a universal compassion that includes animals. This compassion calls for a responsible stewardship where humans must care for and respect all of God’s creation.

Teachings of the Catechism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), as a major teaching document, provides further clarity. Paragraph 2416 of the CCC explicitly states, “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.” This passage highlights the inherent value of animals as part of God’s creation and the duty of kindness owed to them by humans.

Respect for Animals

The CCC also addresses the proper treatment of animals. Paragraph 2418 states, “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.” This implies a moral obligation to avoid unnecessary suffering of animals, aligning with the broader Catholic teaching on respecting all life forms.

Theological Opinions and Interpretations

While the Church provides clear guidance, there is room for theological opinions on the extent and nature of animal welfare. For instance, some theologians argue that while animals should be treated with respect and kindness, they do not possess the same moral status as humans, as implied in Genesis 1:27, which states that humans are made in the image of God, a distinction not given to animals.

Universal Teachings vs. Theological Opinions

It is crucial to distinguish between the universal teachings of the Church, like the inherent dignity of all creatures, and theological opinions, which might vary, such as the exact nature of animals’ spiritual status. The universal teachings are well-documented in sources like the CCC, while theological opinions often emerge from scholarly discourse.

Contemporary Catholic Perspectives

In recent times, Popes have spoken about the relationship between humans and the environment, including animals. Pope Francis, in his encyclical “Laudato Si’,” emphasizes the interconnectedness of all creation and the human responsibility to care for our common home, including animals. This encyclical, while not changing doctrinal teachings, encourages a deeper reflection on our relationship with the natural world.

Theological Consistency

Throughout the exploration of animal welfare in Catholicism, it is vital to ensure theological consistency. The principles of stewardship, respect for life, and compassion, as gleaned from the Bible and the CCC, form a cohesive framework guiding how Catholics are to treat animals. This framework consistently reflects the broader Catholic teaching on the dignity of creation.


In conclusion, Catholic teaching on animal welfare, grounded in the Bible and elaborated in the Catechism, calls for a respectful and compassionate treatment of animals. This treatment is part of the broader stewardship entrusted to humans by God. While there is room for theological opinions, the universal teachings of the Church provide clear guidance on the moral obligation to care for all of God’s creation, including animals. This responsibility is an integral part of the Catholic understanding of respecting and preserving the dignity of all creation.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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