London - Churchgoers around Britain were urged on Sunday to add into their regular prayers for family and friends a thought for a less traditional object of sympathy - the soul of the animal about to be their roast dinner.
Anglican clergy around the country have been sent the suggestion in an order of service drawn up by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
During what has been dubbed "animal welfare Sunday" by the RSPCA, people "will ask God to give them compassion for animals exploited for food, science, and entertainment".
The suggested service - officially called "Prayers in the Service for Animal Welfare" - also includes repentance for abuses to animals and blessings for individual animals.
The author of the prayer is the Reverend Andrew Linzey, holder of the world's first post in theology and animal welfare at the University of Oxford, who argued that animals' rights were too often neglected by Christians.
"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," he said.
"It is only right that Christians should repent of their sins towards animals."
The date of the service was chosen to be as close as possible to the day of the patron saint of animals, St Francis of Assisi, October 4.