On a sunny afternoon, at the lovely Golders Green Unitarian Church in London, followers of the Brahmo Samaj, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Unitarian Universalist religions joined together in the third celebration of our fellow species, supported by the Director General of the RSPCA and speakers from The Doctor Hadwen Trust.

Sri Dimond, one of the editors of Lifescape magazine, the vegetarian, ethical glossy magazine for women, just embarking on its second year, also supported us and there was a photographer from the local press.

The service, with well-chosen readings, prayers, hymns and music from the harpist Marilene Berryman and organist Anna Parkitna, was again organised under the auspices of the World Congress of Faiths, of which Feargus O’Connor, minister of the Unitarians and QCA committee member, is secretary. Quaker Concern for Animals co-sponsored the event, at which we saw the launch of The Interreligious Fellowship for Animals and Universal Kinship Fund, which will be administered by The Doctor Hadwen Trust and will support their valuable ethical research in the field of human medicine.

Jackie Ballard, DG of the RSPCA, lit a candle for the world’s animals and we also remembered Molly Stacey, our life member of QCA, who died the day previously, Edna, a Unitarian friend and those animal companions whom we have lost. A candle was lit for Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, who was unable to give our address because of illness.

There was a recurrent theme throughout our service. We all, in some way or another, spoke of “kinship” and “fellowship”, of “the web of life”, of man’s overweening domination of a world not created by us and our sadness at the cavalier lack of respect accorded to creatures other-than-the-human, who do not speak our languages and whose own voices the majority refuses to hear.

The address, given by Feargus, explored the theme of emotion in other animals. We are generally open to the idea that the non-human primates share much of our make up and may react in ways we do, but there is also well-documented evidence that many other species reveal depths of emotion, hitherto considered the province of humans. Elephants may not have the power of human speech, but they have been known to shed tears at loss and ill treatment. Yet these facts are conveniently ignored, because if they were accepted, we would have to do something about it.

We hope to redress the balance in some way with our Interreligious Fellowship for Animals. This may be an innovation in this country. We aim to demonstrate to society that there are followers of all faiths, from all backgrounds, who feel strongly that our fellow species are due our compassion and respect and that a united, spiritual voice should be raised in their defence. We feel that this is long overdue.