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Christianity and Animals: Vegetarianism
Good Stewardship


By Stephen Kaufman





Good Stewardship

The Bible & Vegetarianism

Scriptural Challenges to Vegetarianism

Other Issues



Judaism & Animals

Islam & Animals




World Hunger

Jesus preached, "For I was hungry and you gave me food…as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Matt. 25:35, 40 Revised Standard Version). Yet, while tens of millions die annually from starvation-related causes and close to a billion suffer from malnutrition, 37% of the world's harvested grain is fed to animals being raised for slaughter; in the United States, the figure is 66%.


Converting grains to meat wastes up to 90% of grains' proteins, 96% of their calories, and all of their fiber. Since it generally takes far more grains to feed a meat eater, worldwide meat consumption greatly increases demand for grains. As demand grows, cost increases and the world's poor become increasingly unable to afford food of any kind.


Your Health

The apostle Paul wrote that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), and it follows that we should care for our bodies as gifts from God. According to the American Dietetic Association's comprehensive review of the scientific literature, vegetarian diets are associated with a reduced risk for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, colon cancer, lung cancer, and kidney disease. In contrast to the predominantly plant-based Mediterranean diet that Jesus ate, modern Western diets (heavily laden with animal products) put people at risk.


For example, pesticides and dioxins, which become concentrated in animal fat, are consumed by meat eaters and may increase the risk for cancer. People who eat lots of fish often develop dangerous blood mercury levels. Because farmed animals are bred to grow quickly and given little exercise, their flesh is typically high in saturated fats, which elevate meat eaters' cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for heart disease.


Farmed animals are often given hormones to stimulate excessive muscle development — a practice that causes harm to human health, as well as painful lameness in the animals. The routine use of antibiotics to prevent infections in crowded, stressed animals promotes dangerous antibiotic resistance among bacteria. Furthermore, high-speed slaughterhouse operations predispose meat to bacterial contamination.


In 1999, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that food poisoning sickens about 76 million Americans annually and kills about 5,000. A year later, the CDC found that about 86% of reported food poisoning outbreaks derive from animal food sources. Cooking meat can kill bacteria, but it also generates cancer-causing substances.


Interestingly, the Bible describes decreasing lifespans as humans became meat-eaters, from over 900 years before the Flood (when there is no record of meat-eating) to 600 years (Shem, Noah's son) to 200 years (Peleg, four generations later) to 120 years (Moses) to 70 years (King David).


The Earth

In Genesis 2:15, God instructed Adam to "till" and "keep" the Garden of Eden, and by analogy we may see caring for God's Creation as our sacred task. The typical meat eater's diet can easily consume up to 14 times more water and 20 times more energy than that of a vegetarian. Indeed, current use of land, water, and energy is not sustainable; resource depletion threatens to cause hardships for humankind this century. Already, 40% of the world's agricultural lands are seriously degraded.


Animal Welfare

Jesus said that God feeds the birds of the air (Matt. 6:26) and does not forget sparrows (Luke 12:6). The Hebrew writings forbid inhumane slaughter or cruelty towards beasts of burden (Exod. 23:5; Deut. 22:6–7, 25:4). Yet, in the United States, virtually all food derived from animals is obtained through intensive "factory farming" methods. Nearly ten billion land animals are slaughtered each year, over a million every hour, and the number of aquatic animals killed for food is far greater. These animals suffer greatly from stressful crowding, barren environments that frustrate their instinctive drives, amputations without anesthesia (including debeaking, dehorning, tail docking, and castration), and other painful procedures (Bernard Rollin, PhD, Farm Animal Welfare).


Slaughter typically involves terror and, often, great pain (Gail Eisnitz, Slaughterhouse). Illustrating the industry's callousness, animals too sick to walk are painfully dragged to slaughter rather than humanely euthanized. Typical of the industry's attitude, John Byrnes wrote, "Forget the pig is an animal. Treat him just like a machine in a factory" (Hog Farm Management).