CATHOLIC CANINE CONTROVERSY: Pope Francis says choosing pets over children is selfish

Pope Francis looks at a dog
Pope Francis has been seen petting animals in the past.

By Lucy Ashton

Pope Francis has suggested people who choose to have pets over children are acting selfishly.

However, only a minority of Catholics would share the Pope’s view on this.

The late Father Peter McKelvie at St Martin’s Church in Renton used to have his dog on the altar with him  while he was celebrating Mass.

And the late Father Tom McAteer used to have an annual ceremony at his church, St Gildas in Rosneath, where he had an annual service at which pets were given his blessing.

The Pope’s comments came as he was discussing parenthood during a general audience at the Vatican in Rome.

“Today … we see a form of selfishness,” he told the audience. “We see that some people do not want to have a child.

“Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children.

“This may make people laugh, but it is a reality.”

The practice “is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity”, he added.

Pope Francis said that people who are unable to have children for biological reasons should consider adoption, urging people “not to be afraid” in embarking on parenthood.

He also spoke of a “demographic winter” – possibly referring to countries with declining birth rates – in which “we see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more”.

It is not the first time Pope Francis has taken aim at people who choose pets over children.

In 2014, he said that having pets instead of children was “another phenomenon of cultural degradation”, and that emotional relationships with pets was “easier” than the “complex” relationship between parents and children.

The 85-year-old Pope has been photographed petting animals ranging from dogs to panthers in the past, but he is not thought to have a personal pet.

His 2015 visit to the United States was marked by dog owners dressing their pets in canine papal outfits with the hashtag #popedog on Instagram.

Asked at the time if the Pope was aware of the trend, a Vatican spokeswoman said: “I imagine he has more important things to think about.”

Meanwhile, A new dog squad has been specially trained to sniff out products of animal origin (PoAO) and prevent them from entering circulation in Scotland.

The detector dogs, accompanied by handlers and funded by the Scottish Government will be based full time at airports, ports and parcel hubs across the country. They will help stop the introduction of exotic animal diseases to Scotland, such as African swine fever and foot and mouth disease.

Figures provided by Border Force North show that in 2020 more than a tonne of PoAO was seized at ports and airports from people seeking to enter Scotland.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon, pictured left,  said:  “The Scottish Government and Border Force have worked closely to get the dogs operational in Scotland. Alongside their handlers, they have taken part in a robust training regime and now that they have passed their assessments they can get to work and help us detect PoAO entering Scotland illegally.

“The Scottish Government investment in our new detector dog service will enhance the detection of illegal products of animal origin and reduce the risk of exotic diseases entering Scotland, thus helping to keep our rural economy safe.

“Monthly seizure data provided by Border Force North helps us ascertain where PoAO originate from and helps us identify periods where seizures are above average. We work closely with colleges and universities to ensure that international students studying in Scotland are aware of rules regarding the import of PoAO.

“It’s important for people to remember when travelling, particularly during the festive period, that they should not bring any meat or meat products with them when returning to the UK as they could carry diseases such as African swine fever. It is vital to keep the UK’s pig sector safe and free from this devastating disease.”

Assistant Director for Border Force Scotland Marie Craig said:  “Border Force detector dogs protect the UK from over a tonne of potentially harmful products that could spread disease each year.

“The deployment of specially trained detector dogs across our ports in Scotland will further improve our ability to protect the public from the importation of exotic diseases.”

* African swine fever is a deadly disease of pigs which doesn’t affect humans. It has however led to the death of pigs around the world and can be spread through imports of pork and pork products.

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