Churchgoers across the country were asked yesterday to give thanks to something other than God for the food on their tables - by saying a prayer for the soul of their Sunday roast before tucking in.
Thousands of Anglican clergy were sent the new order of service, written by a Birmingham theologian, from the RSPCA which sets out prayers for the soul of the animal slaughtered to provide the traditional Sunday meal.
During the day - dubbed animal welfare Sunday by the charity - people were invited to "ask God to give them compassion for animals exploited for food, for science, and for entertainment".
Prayers in the Service for Animal Welfare also include repentance for abuse to animals and blessings for individual animals. Author of the new service, the Rev Andrew Linzey, who holds the world's first post in theology and animal welfare at the University of Oxford and is an honorary professor of theology at the University of Birmingham, said animal welfare was a Christian duty which sometimes gets swept under the rug.
He said: "Clergy don't often appreciate that animal welfare is a Christian duty. After all, it was an Anglican priest who helped found the RSPCA - the first animal welfare society in the world - in 1824."