Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D., CVA medical director
Nearly all veg. advocates have had the frustrating
experience of hearing someone declare, “God made animals for people.
We’re supposed to eat animals.” Many find it hard to have sympathy for
Christianity after hearing that. While I will not attempt to show that,
on balance, Christianity has benefited animals, I do think that the
faith is potentially very sympathetic to animal protectionism.
Furthermore, if we fail to reach out to the Christian community, we
“write off” a very large segment of American society.
Christianity and Animal Welfare
The Bible describes the Garden of Eden as vegetarian
(Genesis 1:29-30), and the prophet Isaiah envisioned a similarly
peaceful end of time, when the Messiah will come and “the wolf shall lie
with the lamb” and “the lion shall eat straw like the ox” and “they
shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 11:6-9)
Veganism is clearly a biblical ideal. Furthermore, there are many
passages (mostly in the Hebrew Scriptures) that oppose cruelty to
animals and praise compassion for animals.
Despite these encouraging teachings, I don’t think that
Christian tradition mandates that all people must be vegetarian today.
Christianity is humanocentric, and those who need to eat animals for
survival appear justified. Of course, this is true of few Americans, and
the harmful effects of animal agriculture on the environment, world
hunger, animal welfare, and human health lead the Christian Vegetarian
Association (www.christianveg.com) to conclude that, if Jesus were among
us today, he would likely be a vegetarian.
Reaching Out to Christians
I don’t think an animal rights/animal liberation
position readily derives from Christian tradition, but a strong case
against factory farming and any unnecessary killing of animals receives
powerful support. That many Christians fail to see this should not
prompt animal-friendly Christians to leave their churches. Rather, they
should persistently and respectfully encourage their church communities
to study and reflect on what the Christian faith teaches about
humankind’s proper relationship to nonhuman Creation.
Many animal advocates, frustrated by Christianity’s
humanocentric tendencies, may find the Christian faith altogether
unappealing. Nevertheless, I urge them, when distributing veg.
literature, to also offer materials aimed at Christian audiences. In
Cleveland, Vegetarian Advocates primarily distributes Vegan Outreach’s
Vegetarian Living, and many people who visit our tables are interested
in the Christian Vegetarian Association’s pamphlet What Would Jesus
Eat…Today? Most Christians find the CVA pamphlet very compelling, while
many Christians are unmoved by animal rights or other secular arguments.
Sometimes, Christians challenge the pamphlet’s content, and these
Christians are simply advised to contact the CVA.
The CVA offers up to 5 copies of WWJET free of charge.
After that, the 8-page pamphlets are only 12 cents each. For more
information about the CVA, visit
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