The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973

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Letters

Christianity and Vegetarianism
two of several replies to a dispute between a correspondent and her Christian neighbour:  

I am sorry that Mrs. Wade is worried by the friend who makes apparent Christian excuses for rejecting Vegetarianism, but would assure her most earnestly that this is a question which she must first decide in accordance with her own conscience (which is the voice of God in each one of us), and then other points must be considered in that light.

Many of these can be answered. The one about the fatted calf has already been dealt with by another correspondent.* The story about the draught of fishes, it is interesting to note (though this may sound like special pleading), only occurs at the end of John’s Gospel, where its historicity is suspect for quite other reasons; and in Luke 5: seeing it is closely connected with Peter, it is strange that it finds no place in Mark’s Gospel, which is probably derived from Peter. It is possible that, like the story about cursing the fig-tree, it is a misunderstanding of a parable.

The argument that we must eat our fellow-creatures because it is usual for animals to do so is hard to take seriously. Since when are we obliged to copy all the instincts of the animal world? Does Mrs. Wade’s friend run about on all fours or sleep curled up on the floor? We (most of us) do not indulge in indiscriminate sexual relationships because it is the custom of most animals to do so. It is right for Homo sapiens to rise above the baser instincts of his animal ancestors (not, I believe, implanted by a benevolent Creator, but the result of evolution, aided by an elementary form of free-will), and flesh-eating is one of these.

I must, however, with apologies, warn Mrs. Wade in her search for enlightenment not to be led astray by those excellent and sincere but not very well informed persons who take the early chapters of Genesis and the story of the Fall as literal history – these passages only show that the authors of the Priestly Code in the fourth century BC thought, not inappropriately, that a vegetarian diet was suited to primitive innocence – or who attach importance to the Apocryphal Gospels which, however praiseworthy their sentiments, have no vestige of a claim to authenticity. Ask any Biblical scholar.

This does not alter the fact that some of the early Christian Fathers seem to have been vegetarians, which argues some tradition in this direction; and Mrs. Wade may derive comfort from reflecting that some later Christian saints have been vegetarians too.

D. Martin Dakin


In response to Mrs. Wade’s request for arguments to counter her neighbour’s reference to Biblical support for killing the fatted calf; it being alright as long as the animal is humanely killed: God implanting the instincts that make nature red in tooth and claw, etc.

Christ sat down with publicans and prostitutes. Not necessarily because he intended thereby to confer approval on their activities, but because he knew that the world of man’s creation was simply a reflection of his inner state, and he worked always for real transformation by a “quickening of their spirit” or as we would say – lifting them on to his wavelength, at which level “sin” or ignorance (of their true spiritual destiny) would no longer be possible. This, surely, was why, even when finally crucified, he could say “forgive them, they know not what they do”. If only men had taken this to heart over the centuries, instead of blandly assuming that vicarious sacrifice was a good thing for them and absolved them from personal effort – indeed entitled them to inflict suffering wherever and whenever it suited them as long as it was for their own “good”!!

No truly religious man would tolerate zoos, circuses or the abattoir – each an abuse of a creation meant to fill him with wonder, delight and gratitude. These latter emotions add up to a loving at-one-moment with creation – the Universe – God…To whom much has been given, much is expected….

Joan Batty
The Vegetarian
September 1973

* “As for Christ approving of the fatted calf being killed for a celebration, this is part of the parable of ‘The Prodigal Son,’ not an actual event.” – Ian Gibbard, The Vegetarian, August 1973.

With thanks to the Vegetarian Society: www.vegsoc.org

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