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The Case for Christian Vegetarian Activism

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association
August 2002

 

Nearly all vegetarian (vegan) 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 (vegan) (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 vegetarian (vegan) 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? (WWJET)  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 www.christianveg.com.

 

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D., CVA medical director

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