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Christianity and Animals: Vegetarianism
Other Issues


By Stephen Kaufman





Good Stewardship

The Bible & Vegetarianism

Scriptural Challenges to Vegetarianism

Other Issues



Judaism & Animals

Islam & Animals




Is Eating Meat Sinful?

Many Christians ask us if we believe that eating meat is sinful. By Biblical criteria, eating meat is not inherently sinful. Historically, many people have needed meat for nourishment. However, the Bible encourages us to follow Jesus' path of pure love and compassion. James recognized this when he wrote, "Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin" (James 4:17).


Christian Vegetarians

There there been many vegetarian Christians. Many early Christians were vegetarian, including the Desert Fathers. Since then, the Trappist, Benedictine, and Carthusian orders have encouraged vegetarianism, as have Seventh-Day Adventists. In the nineteenth century, members of the Bible Christian sect established the first vegetarian groups in England and the United States.


Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Tertullian, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, John Wesley (Methodism's founder), Ellen G. White (a Seventh-Day Adventists founder), Salvation Army cofounders William and Catherine Booth, Leonardo da Vinci, Leo Tolstoy, and the Nobel Peace Prize winner Rev. Dr. Albert Schweitzer were among the many notable Christians who became vegetarian.


Animal Welfare Laws

Many people falsely believe that laws ensure the welfare of farmed animals. However, in some countries, including the United States, standard procedures on farms are specifically exempted from all humane legislation, regardless of the pain and suffering they cause. Practices such as bodily mutilations, which would warrant felony animal cruelty charges if done to a dog or cat, are perfectly legal when done to a pig or chicken. At the slaughterhouse, "humane slaughter" laws are weak and poorly enforced for pigs, cattle, and sheep; the slaughter of birds is completely exempt. We support efforts to improve conditions on farms, but for many reasons, including our desire not to pay others to do things we would not do ourselves, we feel compelled to be vegetarians.


Workers in Meat Industries

Some Christians have expressed concern for those whose livelihoods depend on animal agriculture. In truth, the transition to a vegetarian world, if it happens, will occur slowly enough that few, if any, will be adversely affected — they will simply take different jobs.


Predators and Carnivores

We have heard many Christians relate that, since animals eat each other, there should be nothing wrong with humans eating animals. We note that Christians are not called to follow the law of the jungle (where "might makes right"), but to follow Christ — to be compassionate, merciful, and respectful of God's Creation.


A similar argument is that humans are naturally predators and therefore carnivores. While humans can digest flesh, and it is likely that our ancestors did consume small amounts of meat, our anatomy much more strongly resembles that of plant-eating creatures. For example: like plant eaters (but unlike meat eaters), our colons are long and complex (not simple and short); our intestines are 1011 times longer than our bodies (not 36 times longer); our saliva contains digestive enzymes (unlike carnivores); and our teeth resemble those of plant eaters — for instance, our canines are short and blunt (not long, sharp, and curved).


The millions of healthy vegetarians (who tend to outlive nonvegetarians) demonstrate that it is not necessary or even desirable to eat meat.


Holiday Celebrations

Some Christians have expressed concern that plant-based meals might interfere with holiday celebrations. Vegetarians celebrate holidays fully and joyfully without consuming animals. Numerous cookbooks offer tasty vegetarian meals, from quick and easy to complex and elegant.


What Can I Do to Help?

If you choose a plant-based diet, you significantly help humans, animals, and the environment, reducing global misery. As Christians, we are called to be faithful, which includes living in accord with our core values as inspired by the Holy Spirit. Being faithful also includes showing fellow Christians, in loving and compassionate ways, that non-animal foods promote good stewardship of God's creation and are tasty, convenient, and nutritious.