The Pope’s Pet Subject

The Pope’s Pet Subject
Jane Kelly

Jane Kelly is a freelance journalist, social commentator and artist, affiliated with the Stuckist Art Group. She was once dismissed from the Daily Mail![i] She is a practising member of the Church of England.

A Catholic friend said she wouldn’t allow her children to have pets as they might ‘distract their affection away from people.’ I disagreed but recognised that she was expressing a cultural view. I’d noticed that in Catholic and Orthodox countries people seemed friendlier to each other, but not so good with animals. In Spain I attended a bull fight which made me feel sick, in Ireland I saw dogs tied up outside in freezing rain. In 2004 at the time of the Olympics in Athens I participated in a demonstration outside the Greek embassy in London, after stray animals in Syntagma Square were poisoned because the Greeks believed that visitors wouldn’t want to see them. It was tourists who’d been keeping them alive.

I wasn’t surprised by the recent comments from Argentinian Pope Francis. In 2014 he told an Italian newspaper that people were favouring ‘easier bonds’ with pets rather than forming the more complex bonds needed with children. Perhaps this is a criticism of current levels of maturity. He castigated ‘selfish’ couples who ‘substitute dogs for children,’ who he said were, ‘taking away our humanity.’ That could be a reference to the declining western birth-rate.  He mentioned the amount spent on petfood, 2.9 billion in the UK alone, rather than on hungry children. The pet care industry is worth £8 billion, up from £2.9 billion in 2005. Half of that is in medical bills, pet insurance is now almost mandatory as vets start to rival dentists, energy providers and lawyers for greed. The rather inappropriately named Francis makes some valid points, but what he really wants to say about modern life remains strangely nebulous, perhaps because he is also a committed socialist …


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