I bet no one reading this blog has ever mulesed a lamb. (If you don’t know what “mulesing” is, see here)
I have. Well, in fact, I tell a lie. I have never actually mulesed a lamb myself – but it was my job to hold the lambs while my father did the job.
And in case you think that my father was a man who was comfortable with cruelty to animals, I will point out that I have never known any person more down to earth in his love and respect and compassion for our four-footed/furry/winged/feathered friends as my father.
To tell the truth, the practice of mulesing made me almost sick. But what made me MUCH sicker was the sight of a fly-blown sheep. I can remember early one Easter morning, before leaving for Adelaide for the service of baptism for an infant cousin, having to physically dip the rear ends of a whole mob of lambs in a bucket of sheep dip who were discovered to be fly-blown the day before. Fun.
Why mention this? Well, the practice is somewhat controversial here in Australia, with animal rights activists (somewhat less practical in their expression of love for our sub-human friends than my father) calling for an end to the practice. The alternative however is not all that clear.
And this weekend, apparently, Archbishop Coleridge of Canberra and Goulburn presided at a blessing of farm implement which included mulesing shears (just a word of note: usually the shears used for mulesing are the same as the old-fashioned hand shearing shears). And, of course, he has been criticised. But as he said, farmers are (generally) unjustly accused of cruelty to animals. They are, rather, simply more practical in their care of our fellow creatures than most animal rights activists.
And for another article by the same Archbishop on the matter of abuse of the sheep in the Lord’s “mob”, see this article in Canberra’s “Catholic Voice”, where Archbishop Mark gives his own take on the situation at St Mary’s in South Brisbane. He writes:
If any Church in this country has been the Church of the mob, open to all, it has been the Catholic Church. But the inclusiveness of the Church does not mean that there are no boundaries. It does not mean that there is no such thing as sin which sets a person or a group outside the communion of the Church.
And ya gotta love this:
In the end, communities like St Mary’s and those who support them, fail to recognise the difference between a band-wagon and a hearse. With the best of good intentions – and no-one is attributing any of this to malice – they jump gleefully on the band-wagon of a certain relevance and inclusiveness without realising that what looks like a band-wagon into the brave, new world of the future is in fact a hearse leading to a dead end that they do not see coming. Such confusions do not help, and it is the task of the Pope and the bishops to speak with one voice in pointing the way beyond them.