Desmond Tutu, the first black archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, became a major figure during the 1980s anti-apartheid movement and later received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 in honor of his efforts.

Tutu has since been involved with a number of social justice issues including fighting AIDS, poverty, racism, homophobia, and sexism.

His voice is undeniably strong and influential and he is now using it to do more good by standing up for a crowd often ignored by the mainstream – animals!

In a forward to “The Global Guide to Animal Protection,” which will be released today, December 30, Tutu asks readers to “seek justice and protection for all creatures, humans and animals alike,” according to the University of Illinois Press website.

Tutu wrote:

I have spent my life fighting discrimination and injustice, whether the victims are blacks, women, or gays and lesbians. No human being should be the target of prejudice or the object of vilification or be denied his or her basic rights.

But there are other issues of justice–not only for human beings but also for the world’s other sentient creatures. The matter of the abuse and cruelty we inflict on other animals has to fight for our attention in what sometimes seems an already overfull moral agenda. It is vital, however, that these instances of injustice not be overlooked.

It is a kind of theological folly to suppose that God has made the entire world just for human beings, or to suppose that God is interested in only one of the millions of species that inhabit God’s good earth.

Our dominion over animals is not supposed to be despotism. We are made in the image of God, yes, but God – in whose image we are made – is holy, loving, and just. We do not honour God by abusing other sentient creatures.

This is considered Tutu’s first major statement on animal welfare. While it is colored with religious sentiments, whether or not readers believe is not the question here, but rather at his statement’s heart is the way we conduct ourselves in relation to the other beings that inhabit the Earth.

It holds up a mirror and begs us to take a look at how we treat animals – do we believe animals do not deserve our time because of other current issues? Do we feel that we are the supreme beings and can do with animals as we please?

We now see where Tutu stands on these questions, and perhaps it’s time for us to draw similar conclusions. For far too long animals have been placed at the margins, deemed less important or even unimportant to the larger whole, yet if we examine any animal protection issue, we see the recurrence of other “major” issues – those of injustice, exploitation, abuse, and even poverty and sexism.

Animals are not a separate part of this equation – they are as much a part of it and our world as we humans are, and as many would argue, it’s about time we realized this.

If you are interested in ordering “The Global Guide to Animal Protection,” please visit the University of Illinois Press website. In addition to Tutu’s urgent call for animal protection, the book features articles from Jane Goodall, Shirley McGreal, Biruté Mary Galdikas, Bernard E. Rollin, and Roger Fouts.

Green Monsters: With a comment below, tell us how you feel about Tutu’s statement and your stance on animal protection.

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