We recently received Pope Francis’ new ecological exhortation Laudate Deum, a follow-up to the socio-ecological encyclical Laudato si’. Its text reverberates with apocalyptic tones. International agreements, declarations, and commitments have failed to stop the devastation of the Earth’s environment and climate. Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising, the necessary transformations are going too slowly, and no targets have been met. We may be approaching the acknowledged tipping point for global warming of 1.5˚ C in just a few years (and not, as assumed in the 2018 climate target, around 2050). If we do not radically and quickly change how we manage the climate crisis, we will continue to slide into the hot abyss without hope of rescue. 

Pope Francis cries out for every person to change their lifestyle. Since the superpowers and economic leaders are failing, the lower echelons of society must mobilize to stop this crisis. Individuals, smaller organizations, and grassroots movements must work together to put pressure on the big decision-makers. He regards those who doubt the climate crisis as ignorant: ” I feel obliged to make these clarifications, which may appear obvious, because of certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church. (#14)  We already have so much knowledge, evidence, and sound analysis published by scientific bodies that any disputes by professionals tend to focus on the slight variations between their dramatically bad predictions. Yet in the lower realms of the Church, during the eight years since Laudato si’, the exhortations of the encyclical have scarcely been discussed or talked about as though it was a harmful ideology.  

 The exhortation Laudate Deum leaves no doubt that man is behind the crisis, and I would submit that this document is less anthropocentric than the encyclical Laudato si’. Admittedly, when dignity is mentioned, it is still exclusively human dignity, but the Pope also says that “human life is incomprehensible and unsustainable without other creatures” (#67).  

 Those of us who truly consider animals as our brothers and sisters, as children of the same Father, waited with great anxiety, but also with great hope, for this document. We hoped that the Pope would speak out and awaken the Christians and all the people of the Earth as to how we harm animals and what dire consequences this has for everyone.

The animal agricultural industry which exploits animals is not only unethical, unworthy of humanity, but is estimated to be responsible for a huge proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. The 2023 IPCC report* says that food production systems are currently responsible for as much as a third of all emissions and are a major cause of biodiversity loss. All the biosphere-related planetary boundary processes of the Earth system are at or close to a high-risk level of transgression.** Of an estimated 8 million plant and animal species, around 1 million are threatened with extinction***, and over 10% of the genetic diversity of plants and animals may have been lost over the past 150 years****. According to many scientists, the phasing out of animal farming in favour of plant production represents the most immediate and feasible opportunity to reverse the trend of climate and environmental changes.

The Pope was silent on the animal industry in Laudato si. As said, we hoped he would not overlook it in Laudato Deum, and we expressed this in a letter addressed to Pope Francis, signed by more than 50 organizations with religious foundations that fight for the rights of animals to live and die with dignity. It was also signed by the Plant Based Treaty, which calls for radical changes in food production and distribution for ecological reasons. 

 The exhortation Laudate Deum begins promisingly. Reading the first sentences about the „sensitivity of Jesus before the creatures of his Father”, and about sparrows „not one of them forgotten in God’s sight” (#1) I felt optimistic. The Pope will at last raise the issues of cruelty in animal exploitation such as industrial breeding, transport, and entertainment. He will make clear the contribution of factory farming to climate change, and he will speak about how the unbridled appetites for meat in rich societies contribute to human hunger in many places on Earth. He will also mention that species of land and sea animals are being irretrievably lost because of this exploitation and climate warming.  

 Unfortunately, we did not get an open and direct discussion on the evidence supporting our horrendous exploitation of animals in Pope Francis’ new ecological teaching. Indeed, the word 'animals’ is not mentioned once in the document.  They are again hidden in the content. 

 However, in several places in the Exhortation, those of us who advocate for animals can ‘read between the lines’ and recognize Pope Francis’ inference that human-animal relationships are broken and pose a danger to the flourishing of all life. But can everyone else reading this work perceive these inferences? The truth is still veiled, unclear, unsaid. It is as if the words: animals, livestock farms, emissions from animal production, cruelty, evaporate and cannot pass the lips and pens of Vatican environmentalists.  

In Laudato Deum there is a lack of detail about the consequences of animal exploitation, which to some extent can be excused by the concept and size of the document. But, as with the encyclical Laudato si’, it is incomprehensible that one can, in listing the sources of greenhouse gas emissions, fail to mention emissions caused by the animal agriculture industry. How is it possible when calling for an effective energy transition, not to mention in the same breath, for a reduction in meat consumption and a reform of food production and distribution. This is, after all, a powerful part of the response to the climate crisis. 

 Pope Francis speaks of how ” the other creatures of this world have stopped being our companions along the way and have become instead our victims” (#15), that, it is wrong to imagine the power of man, “before which nonhuman reality is a mere resource at its disposal” (#22) and he repeats what he has been saying for years, ” as part of the universe… all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family”(#67).  

But what does the phrase „non-human reality is merely a resource at man’s disposal” actually mean? Practically, what must we do to repair our relationships with our “universal family”? For most readers, this meaning will be unclear as our true bonds and moral responsibilities to non-human animals continue to remain unseen. 

 Most people do not want to know what goes on behind the walls of the industrial farms and slaughterhouses, because they would have to face a crisis of conscience. Some do not want to believe the reports and documentaries on animal abuse and exploitation because as ‘civilized’ people we cannot conceive of ourselves as being so cruel. Speciesism, cultural egocentrism and selfishness are so deeply ingrained in people, that they are truly indifferent to the harm done to animals, and how the “members of the universal family” who are increasingly served on their plates, ever lived or died. Animals are merely ‘things’ intended for human use who can be ‘produced’ as cheaply as possible. 

The animal exploitation industries continue to withhold or deny the true harm done to the animals, the environment, and human health resulting from their profit-driven and unconscionable practices. The vast majority of the public remains unaware of the consequences to themselves and the environment by the expansion in the production and consumption of animal products.

 One of the most significant points in the Pope’s exhortation is his contention that it is not enough to merely accept the fact we are destroying the Earth and do no more than worry about the future. If we know that evil is happening, and we do nothing about it, inaction is our fault, a sin.  Expert evidence on the dire consequences of the abuse and exploitation suffered by trillions of animals every year is readily available. However, if His Holiness does not refer to this knowledge in his encyclicals, how can we fulfill his call to become actors against the evil threatening God’s creation? 

The current climate and environmental crisis are huge problems for all life not just humans. Equally, morality does not only apply to human relations but also to our relationships with animals, who make up 60% of sentient life on Earth. Each of them is a separate valuable entity and, like the poor people of this world, is not responsible for the climate crisis.  God knows not only about every sparrow but also about every pig, cow, or chicken, but, they are forgotten in the Church’s sight. This has to change if we are God’s Church. 

If the Pope writes that faith transforms life, transfigures our goals, and sheds light on our relationship to others” (#61), this should also include our relationship with animals. Unless we repair our broken relationships with them, there cannot be the reconciliation with the world that Pope Francis so desperately calls for. We will not suppress climate change, environmental degradation, and related social justice issues. 

We respectfully ask for a separate teaching from the Holy See on the moral issues concerning human-animal relations. We await a clear, detailed ethical assessment of the contemporary practices utilized by animal exploitation industries that violate their nature, are disastrous for the environment, and are a disgrace to humankind. We look forward to the teaching about Animalia Dei! 


Barbara Niedźwiedzka 

Christians for Animals  – Poland 

Laudato si’ Animator in the Laudato si’ Movement 

Blog: www.opowiedzzwierze.pl 


** Raport IPCC, 2023 https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/syr/

** M. Exposito-Alonso, T. R. Booker, L. Czech, T. Fukami, L. Gillespie, S. Hateley, C. C. Kyriazis,
P. L. M. Lang, L. Leventhal, D. Nogues-Bravo, V. Pagowski, M. Ruffley, J. P. Spence, S. E. Toro
Arana, C. L. Weiß, E. Zess, Genetic diversity loss in the Anthropocene. Science 377, 1431–1435 (2022)

*** E. S. Brondizio, J. Settele, S. Díaz, H. T. Ngo, Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and
Ecosystem Services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and
Ecosystem Services
(IPBES, 2019)

*** Katherine Richardson et al. Earth beyond six of nine planetary boundaries. Sci. Adv. 9 (37), 2023