Sunday, April 13, 2014

God gave people animals to eat. Right?

Peace Pilgrim, one of our most spiritually
aware public figures, said it best.
"I would not kill a creature, and I would
not ask someone else to do it for me, so
I will not eat the flesh of the creature."
I'd like to round out this three-part series of Lenten posts by answering a few responses to last week's Why aren't more Christians vegan?

One response came from a recent acquaintance who is devout in his faith and is unafraid to defend an unpopular stance. For these and other reasons, he's earned my respect. He's put himself out in the public sphere, and even lost friends, for holding fast to his convictions. Interestingly, he is also—for health and environmental reasons—sympathetic to veganism.

In his response to me, he referenced a few well-known Biblical justifications for using animals for human purposes. As I wrote in Biblical and other religious support for veganism, the Bible has been used to justify just about anything—including veganism—so those assertions don't really move me.

What did strike me, though, was his invocation of the "animals in nature kill each other, so it's natural" justification. In this final Lenten post on the subject of vegan Christians, I'll address this and some other common criticisms of veganism. Though other vegans have already done so much better than I can, I've always wanted to answer these questions publicly and in my own voice.

"I saw a fish swallow another fish while snorkeling in the Carribean." "I saw a cheetah take down a wildebeest on a nature program on TV." "I saw my cat trap a bird and tear it to pieces in our backyard." "It's the cycle of life. We are mere participants."

With thanks to Harvey Diamond, who first opened my eyes on this subject, my response to these observations is that those animals are doing precisely what they were designed to do. In their native habitat of water, savannas, or backyards, and using only the skills, claws, fins, and jaws God gave them, they are able to stalk, capture, kill, consume, and digest their living prey.

All of this occurs naturally, without the use of any motors, binoculars, maps, spears, sharpened sticks, traps, slingshots, darts, guns, rods, bullets, knives, nets, assistance from third parties (like butchers or farmers), or processing (a slaughterhouse, stove, oven, or a campfire) to help them complete the acts of capture and consumption. Humans, on the other hand, must use some combination of all of these to order a cheeseburger, prepare a turkey at Thanksgiving, or even "go fishing."

If we were to turn a man loose in nature, allowing him only the hands and feet God gave him, but gave him no traps or other advantages, he would probably succeed in capturing, killing, and eating earthworms, domesticated animals that trusted him, and perhaps the babies of other species (if their parents didn't defend them). But adult birds? Deer? Even common squirrels?

Vegans kill, too. They kill living plants, and harvesting machines destroy the habitats of—and kill—untold millions of rodents living in fields.

I once saw a question that addresses the first part of this response well: If you saw your neighbor mowing his lawn, would you call the cops to have him arrested? No? What if you saw him chopping off the legs of his dogs and cats? Yes? You mean there's a difference?

As for what vegans participate in, yes, we know about harvesting. When we can eliminate this death by growing things ourselves or shopping at the local CSA where crops are harvested by hand, we do. When we cannot, we trust that a general intention to respect life is better than a general policy of seeing it as ours to exploit.

Animals kill each other. Homo sapiens are animals. Ergo, we must kill other animals.

Well, not exactly. Hawks and snakes that snatch baby ducklings are following their instinct, and therefore, don't have a choice. To survive, they must eat smaller animals. Humans, in most places and times in history—and certainly in our modern world—very much have a choice. We can easily thrive selecting only plant-based foods. People without supermarkets and meat substitutes have probably thrived living vegan lives for as long as we've inhabited this planet. (This is a good place to point out that many delicious pasta, soup, and ethnic dishes that omnivores enjoy are already vegan.)

Vegans are full of it. If push came to shove, they'd kill animals to feed themselves and their families.

What if society breaks down, and supermarkets are empty, you might ask? Would I kill an animal to feed my family, or to feed myself if the only other option were starving to death? Like everyone else who's never been in such a survival situation, I'm glad I don't have to know the answer to this question. Self-preservation and providing for family are, of course, very strong motivators. But when these types of questions are only theoretical, I don't believe we have any moral justification for not at least considering being vegan.

I know I probably won't change many minds with this series of posts. But thankfully, through writing and posting them, I've learned I'm not alone. The Christian Vegetarian Association lists pastors and churches, and posts essays written by other Christians who are vegan and vegetarian. Other bloggers and authors have written extensively on the subject, and plenty of other people and organizations have listed support for a vegan life found in Bible verses.

For the sake of the animals, our health, and the environment, I hope that this conversation continues to grow—and take root in—more hearts.

This is the third and final in a Lenten series on being Christian and vegan. Please visit my other postings on Biblical and other religious support for veganism and Why aren't more Christians vegan?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Why aren't more Christians vegan?

This Lent, I've written a challenge to non-vegan Christians to prayerfully consider going vegan. Head over to Spiritual Pop Culture to check it out—and please comment and share it if you are able.

Why aren't more Christians vegan?
Spiritual Pop Culture, April 6, 2014

Many thanks to John for posting the essay, to Have Gone Vegan for expertly editing (and vastly improving) it, and to Vegan Bloggers Unite! for sharing it. Also, please check out last week's related  Biblical and other religious support for veganism if you get a chance.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Biblical and other religious support for veganism

When we adopted our dog three years ago, I took a photo of the Bible verse that the rescue organization had printed on the side of their truck.

Since then, that verse—"A righteous man cares for his animals"—has been bouncing around in my head as the seed idea for an essay challenging more Christians to consider veganism.

This Sunday, that essay will finally be published. In the meantime, I'd like to post a few more Bible verses I've found. We all know that specific passages in the Bible have been used to justify just about anything. But it's important to remember that, for every Biblical or other religious reference to animals as meat or for other human uses, there are plenty of counterparts suggesting support for a vegan life.

Here are a few. Please suggest any corrections and/or add others as Comments!

Psalms 145:9
“The Lord is good to all men, and his tender care rests upon all his creatures.”

Saint Francis of Assisi
“All things of creation are children of the Father and thus brothers of man. God wants us to help animals, if they need help. Every creature in distress has the same right to be protected.”

Saint Jerome
“The eating of meat was unknown up to the big flood, but since the flood they have the strings and stinking juices of animal meat into our mouths, just as they threw in front of the grumbling sensual people in the desert. Jesus Christ, who appeared when the time had been fulfilled, has again joined the end with the beginning, so that it is no longer allowed for us to eat animal meat.”

Hosea 2:20
“Then I will make a covenant on behalf of Israel with the wild beasts, the birds of the air, and the things that creep on the earth, and I will break bow and sword and weapon of war and sweep them off the earth so that all living creatures may lie down without fear.”

Saint Basil
“The steam of meat meals darkens the spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys meat meals and feasts. In the earthly paradise there was no wine, no one sacrificed animals, and no one ate meat.”

Genesis 1:29-30
“And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, all the birds of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’” 

Isaiah 11:6-9
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
And the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall feed;
Their young shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The suckling child shall play over the hole of the asp,
And the weaned child shall put his hand on the adders den.
They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain;
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.”

Proverbs 12:10
“A righteous man cares for his beast.”

Isaiah 66:3
“The one slaughtering an ox, striking man, sacrificing a lamb, breaking a dog’s neck, making an offering of pig’s blood, burning incense, honoring an idol—these have chosen their own ways, and taken pleasure in their own abominations.”

Isaiah 1:11-12
“The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the LORD.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
The offer of your gifts is useless, the reek of sacrifice is abhorrent to me.”

Hosea 6:6
“For it is loyalty I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Albert Schweitzer
“Let no one regard as light the burden of his responsibility. While so much ill-treatment of animals goes on, while the moans of thirsty animals in railway trucks sound unheard, while so much brutality prevails in our slaughterhouses ... we all bear guilt. Everything that lives has value as a living thing, as one of the manifestations of the mystery that is life.”

Peace Pilgrim
"I would not kill a creature, and I would not ask someone else to do it for me, so I will not eat the flesh of the creature."

More, from Have Gone Vegan:

Rev. Andrew Linzey
"Animals are God's creatures, not human property, nor utilities, nor resources, nor commodities, but precious beings in God's sight."

Micah 6:8
"...and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

Cardinal John Henry Newman
"Cruelty to animals is as if a man did not love God."

This is the first of a three-part series on Christianity and veganism posted during Lent 2014. Please take a moment to also read Why aren't more Christians vegan? and God gave people animals to eat. Right?