MEDIA RELEASE: Pope Urged to Reconsider Comments on Human Children vs. Animal Companions

MEDIA RELEASE: Pope Urged to Reconsider Comments on Human Children vs. Animal Companions

NEW YORK (January 11, 2022)In Defense of Animals’ Interfaith Vegan Coalition and the Compassion Consortium object to Pope Francis’ recent pronouncement that not having children and that living with cats and dogs are selfish acts. 

In his remarks on January 5, Pope Francis stated, “Many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one – but they have two dogs, two cats… And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity... a man or woman who does not develop the sense of fatherhood or motherhood, they are lacking something, something fundamental, something important.”

Reverend Sarah Bowen, animal chaplain and co-founder of the Compassion Consortium declared, “Animal lovers around the world gasped, yet Pope Francis’ words offer us all an opportunity to deeply consider our relationships with other species. With all due respect to the pope, in a time of climate crisis, economic pressure, war, poverty, hunger, and anthropogenic violence, some of us are lacking nothing by choosing not to have children. Rather we are gaining something: true respect and reverence for the complexities of living in an interspecies world where the needs of human animals and other-than-human animals are often in conflict and always entangled.”

Judy Carman, M.A., author and co-founder of the Interfaith Vegan Coalition, agreed and asked us all to question the content of such a Papal announcement. “Many of our most pressing problems today, including the sixth mass extinction of wild animals, have resulted from human beings’ disconnection of and fear of nature. For many, a family dog, cat or bunny may be their only connection to the world of interspecies communication. Animals have a great deal to teach us, and we had best listen to them during these troubled times. The Bible itself speaks of this: ‘But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.’ (Job 12:7-25 7)”

Reverend Bowen adds that Pope Francis’ suggestion that couples should adopt children if they are unable to have them does not consider the procedural and legal complexities of adoption, the significant cost of adopting and raising a child that may be out of reach for many couples, and issues for the LGBTQ community, adding, “While concerns for the welfare of orphans is admirable, the Church can’t have it both ways. Pope Francis suggests that humans who cannot have children should adopt one — while Catholic organizations continue to deny same-sex couples the right to adopt.”

Studies have found that living in an interspecies home has many benefits, such as decreasing depression and feelings of loneliness, lowering stress and anxiety, and improving cardiovascular health. On the other hand, some people who keep animals are abusive to them, or buy them from breeders or puppy mills instead of adopting. Feeding animal companions also often means other animals will be killed in factory farms. We acknowledge that animal guardianship is a complicated and controversial topic.

Yet, because Pope Francis has made prior efforts to raise consciousness about the impact of humanity on the Earth and the interconnection of Creation, his words this week surprised many. For example, in “Laudato Si,” his 2015 encyclical on the environment, he wrote, “Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect.” We believe this week’s comments are a backward step. 

To suggest that loving — or living with — cats and dogs is selfish is to imply that love is something that is of limited supply. We prefer to heed Pope Francis’ earlier words, and cherish each animal with love and respect.

As Dostoevsky wrote, “Love all God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything… And you will at last come to love the whole world with an abiding, universal love.”

“We applaud Pope Francis’ commitment to the environment, yet we question his intentions to admonish those who choose to live with animal companions instead of having human children. Adopting or rescuing animal companions can provide a welcome source of unconditional love and an environmentally-friendly alternative to human children,” said Lisa Levinson, of In Defense of Animals and co-founder of the Interfaith Vegan Coalition. “Interfaith Vegan Coalition members and our partner organization Animal Interfaith Alliance represent thousands of people of diverse faiths and express concerns from the faith-based vegan community.”

Our rapidly increasing population harms everyone. Human population growth drives animal agriculture, which is the greatest contributor to the environmental crisis, and threatens all life on Earth. In an effort to address this, the Interfaith Vegan Coalition, Animal Interfaith Alliance and Compassion Consortium are among many individuals and organizations urging world leaders to adopt the Plant Based Treaty as a companion to the Paris Agreement to stop animal agriculture from causing further devastation.

In Defense of Animals started the Interfaith Vegan Coalition to help animal activists and spiritual leaders bring vegan values to spiritual, ethical, and religious communities. The coalition provides faith-based tools to help all faith and secular wisdom traditions practice the ideals of nonviolence, lovingkindness, and harmlessness toward all animals. The coalition is composed of 34 member organizations, 2 allied organizations, and one partner organization Animal Interfaith Alliance comprising 17 organizations, all working in harmony for a common cause.

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Interfaith Vegan Coalition Member Organizations:

A Prayer for Compassion Film
American Vegan Society
Animals' Prayer Flag Project
Catholic Action for Animals
Catholic Concern for Animals
Christian Animal Rights Association
Christian Vegetarian Association
Circle of Compassion
Climate Healers
Compassion Consortium
Compassionate Living
Compassionate Spirit
Concern for Helping Animals in Israel
Dharma Voices for Animals
Faith Action for Animals
Fraternitè pour le Respect Animal
God’s Creatures Ministry
In Defense of Animals
Interfaith Vegan Alliance
Jewish Veg
Karuna Music and Art
Main Street Vegan Academy
One Love Animal Connection Ministry
PETA Lambs
Quaker Animal Kinship
Seeds to Inspire Foundation
Shamayim: Jewish Animal Advocacy
St. Francis Alliance
The Spiritual Forum
Together in Creation
United Poultry Concerns
Vegan Spirituality
Vegan World 2026
World Vegan Assembly

Animal Interfaith Alliance Member Organizations:

Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals
Bhagvatinandji Education and Health Trust
Catholic Concern for Animals
Christian Vegetarians and Vegans UK
Christian Vegetarian Association US
Dharma Voices for Animals UK
Institute of Jainology
International Ahimsa Organisation
Animals in Islam
Jewish Vegetarian Society UK
Mahavir Trust
Oshwal Association of the UK
Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals
Quaker Concern for Animals
Romeera Foundation
Sadhu Vaswani Centre
Young Jains


In Defense of Animals, Interfaith Vegan Coalition, Lisa Levinson,, (215) 620-2130
Interfaith Vegan Coalition, Judy Carman,, (785) 887-9965
Compassion Consortium, Reverend Sarah Bowen,, (845) 407-4046 

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 supporters and a 38-year history of fighting for animals, people, and the environment through education and campaigns, as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi.

The Interfaith Vegan Coalition (IVC) helps animal activists and spiritual leaders bring vegan values to spiritual, ethical, and religious communities. The IVC provides tools to help all faith and secular wisdom traditions practice the ideals of nonviolence, lovingkindness, and harmlessness toward all animals.

Compassion Consortium is a non-sectarian community that is interfaith, interspiritual, and interspecies. The consortium offers monthly Sunday services, educational events, fellowship, and resources for vegans, vegetarians, animal rights activists, and all humans who care about and advocate for animals and the planet.


Judy McCoy Carman, M.A., is the author of Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul and  Homo Ahimsa: Who we Really are and how we're going to save the world.  Some current projects include the Animals' Peace Prayer Flag project, Vegan Spirituality interviews and retreats, co-founding Animal Outreach of Kansas, the Circle of Compassion, Prayer Circle for Animals Facebook and the Interfaith Vegan Coalition. She received the Henry Spira Grassroots Animal Activist Award in 2014. Her website is

Rev. Sarah Bowen is an animal chaplain and advocate for all creatures who helped co-found Compassion Consortium, the first interfaith, interspiritual, and interspecies faith community. She is also a faculty member at One Spirit Interfaith Seminary and the author of Sacred Sendoffs: An Animal Chaplain’s Advice for Surviving Animal Loss, Making Life Meaningful, and Healing the Planet.


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