Honoring God’s Creation -- Replies
Those defending meat-eating often cite certain biblical
passages. The discussion below represents the CVA’s responses
to some frequent biblically based objections to our position. We
emphasize that we do not hold that the Bible condemns all meat-eating,
but we do believe that our faith calls us to be vegetarian today.
“dominion” over animals, we believe, conveys sacred stewardship,
since God immediately after-ward prescribed a vegetarian diet
(1:29–30) in a world God found “very good” (1:31). Created in God’s
image of love (1 John 4:8), we are called to be care-takers of God’s
Creation, not tyrants over God’s creatures.
relates that, before God created humanity, God regarded the animals
“good” and blessed them. Further evidence that we should consider
animals as inherently valuable comes from Genesis 2:18–19, which
indicates that God made animals as Adam’s helpers and companions:
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I
will make him a helper fit for him.’ So out of the ground the Lord
God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and
brought them to the man to see what he would call them…” (RSV). Adam
named the animals, which we believe shows concern and friendship. We
don’t name the animals we eat.
God endowed pigs, cattle,
sheep, and all farmed animals with their own desires and needs,
which is apparent when these animals are given an opportunity to
enjoy life. For example, pigs are as curious, social, and
intelligent as cats or dogs. Pigs can even play some video games
better than monkeys. Similarly, chickens enjoy one another’s company
and like to play, dust bathe, and forage for food. Jesus compared
his love for us to a hen’s love for her chicks (Luke 13:34).
God gives Noah permission to eat meat
Virtually all plants were destroyed by
the Flood. Alternatively, God may have allowed Noah limited freedom
to express human violence, since unrestrained violence was
responsible for the Flood itself (Gen. 6:11–13). Importantly, this
passage neither commands meat eating nor indicates that the practice
is God’s ideal. Indeed, eating meat came with a curse—animals would
no longer be humanity’s friends: “The fear of you and the dread of
you shall be upon every beast…” (Gen. 9:2). While eating meat was
not prohibited, it represented a complete break from God’s ideal of
animals and humans living peacefully together, as depicted in Eden
and by the prophets.
Genesis 3:21; God Clothes Adam and Eve in
Humans cannot normally obtain animal skins without an animal dying,
so it seems that animals died to clothe Adam and Eve. However, the
Bible does not relate that God killed any creature to obtain the
skins. The Bible does suggest that God works in mysterious ways
(Deuteronomy 29:29, Romans 8:28), and “all things were created
by him, and for him (Colossians 1:16). If God had animals die for
this purpose, it would not follow that humans have unlimited license
to kill and otherwise harm God’s creatures.
Jesus casting demons
into swine (Matthew 8:28-32; Mark 5:1-13;
The Mark and Luke accounts refer to the
possessed man as from Gerasa, but there
are no steep banks near this city. Therefore,
it is most reasonable to regard this story
as allegorical, not literal, and Jesus
was not actually responsible for killing
2000 pigs. Though this appears to demonstrate
greater concern for people than swine,
modern animal agriculture harms both animals
and humans, and there remain good reasons
to choose a plant-based diet.
Killing the fatted calf in celebration of
the Prodigal Son’s return (Luke 15:23)
Eating the “fatted calf” was a sign of joy and celebration
that, presumably, Jesus’ audience understood. This was a parable,
and no calf was actually killed. When people today use language
and metaphors such as “to kill two birds with one stone,”
that doesn’t mean that we actually approve of such behavior.
Furthermore, if Jesus had approved of animal agriculture in his
day, it would not follow that he would endorse modern factory farming.
The miracle of the bread and fishes (Matthew
Multiplying fish who are already dead to feed to people who have
no objection to eating fish is an act of compassion that has no
adverse impact on the fish. This story does not depict Jesus killing
any animals, but rather miraculously feeding several thousand people.
The people were hungry, and Jesus had compassion for them. Again,
fishing 2,000 years ago was a far cry from the driftnets, long-lines,
and aquaculture farms of today, which are environmentally destructive
and treat fish as though they were pieces of seaweed rather than
Peter’s dream, in which he is instructed
to “kill and eat” all creatures (Acts 10:13)
Peter recognized that this dream should not be taken literally to
mean that he should proceed to kill and eat all animals. Instead,
"Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the dream might mean" (Acts
10:17). He recognized its meaning when the gentile Cornelius invited
him to dinner. Peter realized that the dream was instructing him not
to go out and eat meat, but to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.
The Jewish dietary laws should not prevent the spread of
Christianity, and, at Cornelius' dinner, Peter related to his hosts,
"You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with
or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I
should not call any man common or unclean." (Acts 10:28). Whatever
the meaning, it does not argue that modern factory farms, with all
their consequences, have God's blessing.
“Everything created by God is good”
(1 Tim 4:1-4)
This passage reflects Paul’s efforts to fight against a split
in the Christian community and does not justify cruel treatment
of animals. Here, Paul rebukes false doctrines that forbid marriage
as well as certain foods. Christian vegetarians don’t forbid
either marriage or meat. Rather, we encourage a plant-based diet
as good, responsible, Christian stewardship. Modern animal agriculture
is a human creation, and it harms humans, animals, and the earth.
While we should thank God for our ability to enjoy food, we may
also thank God for providing tasty vegetarian options. Indeed, many
Christian vegetarians see each meal as a prayerful reminder of God’s
grace and goodness. Each vegetarian meal reminds them of Isaiah’s
prophecy that all Creation will live harmoniously at the end of
time, as in Eden.
Vegetarians are “weak in faith”
Paul wrote to the Romans that “the weak man eats only vegetables”
(14:2). At that time, Jews were banned from Rome, and a kosher butcher
would have been arrested. Unable to obtain kosher meat, many Jews
abstained from meat altogether, for fear of eating meat that had
been offered to a pagan god. Paul maintained that eating meat, even
if offered to idols, was not a spiritual concern, because the pagan
gods didn’t exist. Only the “weak in faith” failed
to appreciate that sacrifices to fictitious gods were meaningless.
Paul said that meat-eaters should not condemn those who abstain,
and vice versa (14:3). It appears that Paul wrote this to the Romans
because Paul was concerned about differences on diet dividing the
church. Paul was not justifying meat-eating per se, and this passage
certainly does not endorse factory farming.
“Eat whatever is sold in the meat market”
(1 Corinthians 10:25)
Paul wrote, “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without
raising any question on the ground of conscience” (1 Corinthians
10:25). We believe that this passage warns people against rejecting
God’s gifts. However, Christian vegetarians celebrate good
food. We do not object to meat because it is from God but because
man-made factory farming is so harmful.
Whatever one eats does not defile him (Mark
This passage reads, “And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘Do
you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile
him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach and so passes
on?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.)” This section
actually relates to eating with unwashed “defiled” hands
(Mark 7:1-5). Jesus then explained that the Pharisees were only
concerned with what went into their mouths, but what really defiles
a person are evil thoughts from the heart within.
The Bible relates that God accepted animal sacrifices. Given the
many biblical passages showing God’s concern for animals,
one may conclude that the Hebrews’ need to relate to God with
sacrifices was a more pressing need. It is possible that, since
all ancient cultures sacrificed animals to their gods, the ancient
Hebrews could not imagine approaching God without first performing
sacrifices themselves. Interestingly, the Bible does not describe
God demanding sacrifice–it only explains how sacrifice should
be carried out if performed. Even Abraham’s sacrifice of the
ram was Abraham’s idea, not God’s requirement (Genesis
Regardless of sacrifice’s role in the worship
of the ancient Hebrews, several later prophets objected to sacrifice,
emphasizing that God prefers righteousness. Animal sacrifices are
not required or even desired now, for at least two reasons. First,
Paul encouraged self-sacrifice, writing, “[P]resent your bodies
as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your
spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Second, traditional interpretations
of Jesus’ death affirm that, because of him, animal sacrifice
is no longer necessary. Christians, being new creations in Christ,
may model Christ by choosing a loving relationship with all Creation.
Indeed, Jesus twice quoted Hosea (6:6), saying, “I desire
mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7).
Jesus assisted his disciples in fishing (Luke
5:2-11; John 21:5-8)
In Luke and John, Jesus helped disciples catch a vast quantity of
fish. In Luke, the event is depicted as his first call of the disciples.
In John, the event occurs after the resurrection.
Many Biblical scholars see the events symbolically,
and from a symbolic standpoint, Jesus assisting the disciples in
netting massive quantities of fish could not be much clearer, especially
considering his promise that he will make them "fishers of
men." They are bringing disciples (fish) into the fold.
A literal reading of the text shows animals cooperating
with Jesus to prove his divinity. In Luke, the miraculous catch
prompted the fishermen to follow Jesus, who told them, "Henceforth,
you will be catching men." When they returned to shore, they
"left everything, and followed him." This demonstrates
that killing fish was not the point of the story. In John, miraculously
catching a massive quantity of fish once again established Jesus’
divine identity. Jesus then ate the fish, demonstrating that he
was resurrected in the flesh. Again, the story is about an important
teaching, not enjoying tasty food.
Didn’t Jesus eat meat?
Luke 24:43 describes
Jesus eating fish after the Resurrection. However, Jesus’ diet 2,000
years ago in a Mediterranean fishing community, where many people
struggled to get adequate nutrition, does not tell us what
Christians should eat today. Similarly, we do not need to dress just
as Jesus did. We are blessed with a wide range of healthful, tasty,
convenient plant foods, much like in Eden. Meanwhile, we believe
that the way animals are treated today makes a mockery of God’s love
Are meat eaters sinners?
The Bible does not
prohibit eating meat in all circumstances. While many people have
eaten meat for nourishment, most Christians today have ready access
to a wide variety of healthful plant foods. Many Christian
vegetarians find modern factory farming particularly objectionable
because it is unnecessary and merciless.
Have there been many vegetarian Christians?
Our numbers are increasing rapidly, just as vegetarianism is growing
in the general population. Also, many early Chris-tians 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 co-founders William
and Catherine Booth, Leo Tolstoy, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Rev.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer were Christians who became vegetarian, as is
the musician Moby.
Don't laws ensure the welfare of farmed animals?
In the United States and many other countries, 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. The CVA supports 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.
What would happen to farmers and others whose livelihoods
depend on animal agriculture?
If people ate fewer animal
products, businesses would adapt to the increased consumer demand
for vegetarian foods.
Since animals eat each other, what’s wrong with humans
Christians are not called to follow the
law of the jungle (where “might makes right”), but to follow
Christ—to be compassionate, merciful, and humble, and to respect
Are we natural meat eaters?
While humans can
digest flesh, and it is likely that our ancestors consumed some
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 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 meat
eaters) demonstrate that it is neither necessary nor desirable to
What if I don’t think vegetarianism should be my
Cruelty-free eating requires very little time
and commitment and can improve one’s sense of well-being. Anyone can
adopt a healthy vegetarian diet while continuing other important