“Mercy!” was my very first art exhibition that handled the moral reflection towards animals from a Christian point of view.
We support factory farming, even though we couldn’t stand it if animals in a domestic animal park were treated in the same way. What is the reason for our dualistic attitude towards animals? Animal producers justify this by stating that animals could be treated better only if consumers were willing to pay more for the products. Consumers think that they shouldn’t be responsible of the animals, since that is the duty of legislators. Many animal rights organizations have tried to establish a new animal law in Finland with little success so far – which is because legislators see the demands as too strict for producers. In other words, the responsibility towards animals goes around in circles.
Many researchers have noticed that the reason might be found indirectly from religion. Christianity has emphasized the infinite value of humanity and the dominion of people. This way of thinking has been ingrained into our minds through our culture – at least unconsciously. We always leave animals to someone bigger than ourselves.
Christians haven’t always been indifferent towards animals. Instead, caring about animals has been seen as a sign of knowing God. A famous animal theologian Andrew Linzey believes that the attitudes changed in the 13th century, because of the influence of St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas reasoned that animals’ suffering was morally insignificant. This way of thinking is still in effect within Christianity and western culture, and it hinders the realizations of animal rights. Animals’ value and their accepted way of treatment are dependent of how we are going to “use” them. The purpose of this art exhibition is to get people to see that all creatures belong within the people’s scope of moral responsibility.
There is a huge spiritual and mental need for an exhibition like this. The horrible treatment of animals is based on the fact that they are hidden from consumers, on relocating our moral responsibility and even on self-deception. The exhibition guides to a new kind of moral reflection towards animals. It will gently wake up the people to think about the content of “love thy neighbor”.