Peace meal

Helping ourselves to health and peace through a nonviolent diet...one bite at a time

by Nathan Braun

Human use of other animals for food, especially, is no longer remotely "necessary," if it ever was. Not only is it unnecessary, but as the recent foot-and- mouth disease scare reminds us - following as it does the "mad cow" epidemic (which just claimed its 100th known human victim´s life) - it is often downright hazardous to our own health and well-being.

Food chain safety is certainly better secured by plant-based meals, which are generally healthier and reduce risk for several chronic degenerative diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Not only is food safety and thus human health improved, but food production capacity leaps when meat is removed (or even moderately reduced). The simple fact is vegetarian diets also help feed more people. This potential to feed people has been widely discussed in the best-selling classics "Diet for a Small Planet" and "Diet for a New America." But its reality has often been ignored. Converting grains to meat wastes fully 80-90 percent of grains' proteins, 96 percent of their calories, and 100 percent of their carbohydrates and fibre. But meat's defenders claim world hunger is the result of political mismanagement and not (just) gluttony. They don't realize, of course, that increasing vegetarian consciousness necessarily mobilizes required political resources.

Freeing the resources currently tied up in meat production would also do wonders for the environment, as substantial natural resources are committed to this dubious enterprise. For meat production requires far more energy than plant food production, with the result that it contributes considerably to land, water, and air pollution (and consequent ozone depletion and global climate change).

Last but not least, vegetarianism obviously spares many animals lifetimes of the neglect and mistreatment inherent in modern agriculture´s intensive "factory farming."

For the good of the planet, the world´s hungry, animals, and our own health, Christians must move beyond the liberty proclaimed by Paul (and even exercised by Jesus himself) almost 2000 years ago. Let's instead help lead the way back to Eden's vegetarian paradise, as envisioned by the prophet Isaiah, "where the wolf shall dwell with the lamb...the lion shall eat straw like the ox...and they shall neither hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain" (Isaiah 11:6-9, cf. Genesis 1:29-30).

Why not make your next meal animal-free?

Nathan Braun is President of the Christian Vegetarian Association [http://www.christianveg.org].

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