It is a well-known fact that multiple groups of people choose to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle purely for religious reasons. In Jainism, vegetarianism is mandatory for everyone and in Hinduism it is advocated in many influential scriptures-yet veganism and vegetarianism is not usually connected with Christianity. I believe that veganism and vegetarianism should be accepted practices for Christians, because it links in strongly with the Bible’s teachings and God’s message.
Vegetarianism is practiced, encouraged, and even mandatory in many religions. The Chinese religion of Taoism holds nature as sacred, and this view favours vegetarianism. Hinduisms many scriptures contains thousands of passages recommend vegetarianism based on the important link between ahisma (non-violence) and spirituality, and also links in with the spiritual ecology of Hinduism. Unbeknownst to many, the Torah describes vegetarianism as an ideal. The prophet Isaiah viewed vegetarianism as one step closer to heaven: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb…the lion shall eat straw like an Ox.”
In the Garden of Eden, Adam, Eve, and all the creatures were instructed to eat plant foods. Vegetarianism, and ideally veganism would help to undertake the compassionate teachings of Jesus, and the teachings of the early church and the 12 apostles to all sentient beings. The Bible has been interpreted in many different ways, all to justify people’s actions and to back up people’s agendas, which results in supposed arguments for and against vegetarianism throughout the Bible. One of the Ten Commandments states: “Thou shalt not kill”, without specifically meaning humans. On the opposing side, specific sacrifices were mandated in the Bible to atone sins. After the Fall, God ordered the Jews to eat certain meats, for example lamb at Passover. Challengers to vegetarianism do not keep in mind that God only ordered people to eat meat AFTER sin came into the world. Jesus ate fish, as recorded in Luke 24:41-43. Vegetarian proponents have talked about the societal aspects of the time, when eating meat was considered the norm and encouraged, due to the Carnist culture. Jesus eating meat 2,000 years ago does not justify in any way humans, especially Christians, eating meat in the present day. There is a stark contrast between how animals and the environment are treated in the meat industry now compared to in Biblical times. There was no industrialisation of agriculture and livestock, no major agribusinesses like Monsanto degrading the land and capitalising on the abuse of animals. Pigs weren’t trapped in suffocating gestation crates for their short lives, only to see sunlight the day they get taken to the slaughter house. Male chicks were not massacred as soon as they are born simply because they were useless to the egg industry. I believe Jesus would not be so quick to feed 5,000 people fish if he knew that 90% of the world’s big fishes have disappeared due to overfishing.
Corporate greed had not stained the mouths of those living in biblical times. I believe that it would be universally agreed that Jesus would be a vegetarian (or vegan), if he lived in an age where atrocities against animals and the environment happened on a daily basis due to the meat industry. The Bible tells us that our bodies are temples, and we are made in the image of God. The health benefits of a healthy vegetarian or vegan are extensive and numerous. There is a lower risk for cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and heart disease. A decrease in blood pressure, as well as increased life expectancy and improved mood all back up the belief that by being a vegetarian it does not only help animals and the environment, but our health as well. Many Christians abstain from smoking, drinking, and unsafe sex due to the Bible’s teachings of treating our bodies like temples. Over time, ertain things and acts that have been condemned in the Bible, such as divorce, have become socially acceptable, along with meat eating. Homosexuality however, and abortion for many Christians, has been repeatedly condemned and shunned. People take what they want to out of the Bible, to justify their actions.
In Romans 14:20-23 it says: “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” The meat industry, filled with massive companies who treat the welfare of humans, nature, and animals as insignificant externalities, does not coincide with the values of the Bible. One example of this is the West’s increasing demand for meat and dairy. “If all the grain currently fed to the livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million,” says David Pimentel, professor of ecology in Cornell University. Agribusinesses are using much needed grain and water to satisfy the needs of those in the West, making the hunger crisis even more real and dangerous. Grain-fed beef production takes 100,000 litres of water for every kg of meat. Compared to the 2000 litres of water it takes to produce a kg of soybeans, this is a massive statistic. The causes of droughts all around the world, including the California drought, can be largely attributed to unethical and capitalistic meat corporations. The conditions of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) are also a clear breach of Jesus’s teachings. Worker abuse happens daily, and many CAFO’s are now being built in 3rd world countries, where workers can get paid less than what they need to survive, and they can be worked for hours on end without breaks, simply because those in power are capable of abusing their rights.
In the Bible, mercy is required over sacrifice. Mercy is showing compassion towards someone- even an animal or even nature-when it is in ones power to punish or harm. Animals are one of the world’s most vulnerable beings. Humans have the duty to care for animals, to treat them with compassion, and to be wise when it comes to making decisions that will affect the environment and animals, and not to capitalise on the suffering of the weak. God appointed humans to govern the earth and be stewards of the land. Meat is an extremely carbon intensive commodity, and directly contributes to climate change, which is slowly deteriorating this planet. If one human gave up beef, they could save a potential 300,000 gallons of water a year. People cannot comprehend why someone would go vegetarian based on their religion of Christianity, however the reasons are all just and visible. It is a sad reality that many people in churches would reject that idea of vegetarianism before they even heard the argument for it. Paul Farmer, a renowned anthropologist and humanitarian once said: “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with this world.”
I believe that Christians should not simply have an anthropocentric worldview, only focusing on humans, but instead view living as a Christian holistically. Creation should be viewed as a part of God’s kingdom, which we need to look after, along with animals. Vegetarianism and Christianity go hand in hand, and Christians need to break the mould and take a stand.