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Case-by-case approach to bats in churches

by
20 June 2014

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From the Revd Dr Helen Hall
Sir, - The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (ASWA) is committed to both animals and the Church, which is why we feel compelled to speak about the issue of bats in church buildings. The debate about how best to deal with the problem is one that understandably arouses strong feelings on all sides; for this reason it is critical that the dialogue stays constructive.

Statements to the effect that churches are more important than bats, or that environmental concerns trump religious ones, are not helpful. In reality, there is a need to balance all of the conflicting interests in any given situation, and then try to find a compassionate approach that weighs and acknowledges them all. Every case of bats' inhabiting a church is different, depending on the species of bat, type of roost, and use that humans make of the building.

We would certainly not say that it is always wrong to prioritise human needs over a form of animal life: for example, removing death-watch beetle from a medieval church tower is likely to be a justified step. But, on the other hand, a non-negotiable part of living a Christian life is to care for God's creation. God requires us to be responsible and loving stewards. Sometimes this means that we have to do difficult things and make sacrifices. Our duty towards animal life, just like our obligation to look after the poor and forgive our enemies, applies even when it is difficult and inconvenient.

Where the balance of interests lies will vary from case to case, but it is important that, as Christians, we are committed to co-operating with one another in order to find that balance, and engage in creative solutions to shared problems.

HELEN HALL
Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals
PO Box 7193, Hook
Hampshire RG27 8GT

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