Doing Enough for Animals
“The livestock population of the United States
today consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed over five times the entire
human population of the country. We feed these animals over 80% of the corn
we grow, and over 95% of the oats. Less than half the harvested agricultural
acreage in the United States is used to grow food for people. Most of it is
used to grow livestock feed.”
–John Robbins, Diet for a New America
"One man's meat is another man/woman/child's hunger."
This slogan is part of the "Enough" campaign, with its aim of reducing
meat consumption. The campaign highlights the waste of resources
involved in feeding grain to animals: "Every minute 18 children die from
starvation, yet 40% of the world's grain is fed to animals for meat."
Vegetarianism for a trial period is advocated to "help the hungry, improve the environment" and "stop untold animal suffering." Vegetarianism is also recommended on health grounds. This campaign actually has the support of organized religion.
Ronald J. Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, in his 1977 book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, pointed out that 220 million Americans were eating enough food (largely because of the high consumption of grain fed to livestock) to feed over one billion people in the poorer countries.
The realization that meat is an unnecessary luxury, resulting in inequities in the world food supply has prompted religious leaders in different Christian denominations to call on their members to abstain from meat on certain days of the week. Paul Moore, Jr., the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of New York, made such an appeal in a November, 1974 pastoral letter calling for the observance of “meatless Wednesdays.”
A similar appeal had previously been issued by Cardinal Cooke, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York. The Reverend Eugene Carson Blake, former head of the World Council of Churches and founder of Bread for the World, has encouraged everyone in his anti-hunger organization to abstain from eating meat on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
“Is this not the fast I have chosen? To loosen the chains of wickedness, to
undo the bonds of oppression, and to let the oppressed go free? Is it not to
share thy bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless?
Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your
“Honourable men may disagree honourably about some details of human treatment of the non-human,” wrote Stephen Clark in his 1977 book, The Moral Status of Animals, “but vegetarianism is now as necessary a pledge of moral devotion as was the refusal of emperor-worship in the early church.”
According to Clark, eating animal flesh is “gluttony,” and “Those who still eat flesh when they could do otherwise have no claim to be serious moralists.”
“Clark’s conclusion has real force and its power has yet to be sufficiently appreciated by fellow Christians,” says the Reverend Andrew Linzey, author ofChristianity and the Rights of Animals. “Far from seeing the possibility of widespread vegetarianism as a threat to Old Testament norms, Christians should rather welcome the fact that the Spirit is enabling us to make decisions so that we may more properly conform to the original Genesis picture of living in peace with creation.”
Father Thomas Berry, a Catholic priest, author, and founder of the Riverdale Center of Religious Research in New York, wrote in 1987 that “Vegetarianism is a way of life that we should all move toward for economic survival, physical well-being, and spiritual integrity.”
In a speech before the World Council of Churches in September 1988, Dr. Tom Regan concluded:
“…the whole fabric of Christian agape is woven from the threads of sacrificial acts. To abstain…from eating animals, therefore, although it is not the end-all, can be the begin-all of our conscientious effort to journey back to (or toward) Eden, can be one way (among others) to re-establish or create that relationship to the earth which, if Genesis 1 is to be trusted, was part of God’s original hopes for and plans in creation. "It is the integrity of this creation we seek to understand and aspire to honor. In the choice of our food, I believe, we see…a small but not unimportant part of both the challenge and the promise of Christianity and animal rights.”
In biology, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe calculated the probability of proteins forming from the random interaction of amino acids–the building blocks of Life. They found the odds were one out of ten to the 40,000th power. Given these extreme odds, it’s hard to imagine the self-organization of matter without the deliberate intervention of some kind of higher power or intelligence.
All life is thus precious and sacred. Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Francis Crick has admitted, “the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle.”
Organized religion is just beginning to understand that the “sanctity of life” includes other species.
In a 1989 article entitled, “Re-examining the Christian Scriptures,” Rick Dunkerly of Christ Lutheran Church concludes, “…the Bible-believing Christian, should, of all people, be on the frontline in the struggle for animal welfare and rights. We who are Christians should be treating the animal creation now as it will be treated then, at Christ’s second coming. It will not now be perfect, but it must be substantial, otherwise we have missed our calling, and we grieve the One we call ‘Lord’, who was born in a stable surrounded by animals simply because He chose it that way.”
Dunkerly teaches Bible studies at his home Church and is actively involved
in animal rescue projects. In 1992, members of Los Angeles’ First Unitarian
Church agreed to serve vegetarian meals at the church’s weekly Sunday lunch.
Their decision was made as a protest against animal cruelty and the
environmental damage caused by the livestock industry.
The Reverend Marc Wessels, Executive Director of the International Network for Religion and Animals (INRA) made this observation on Earth Day 1990:
“It is a fact that no significant social reform has yet taken place in this country without the voice of the religious community being heard. The endeavors of the abolition of slavery; the women’s suffrage movement; the emergence of the pacifist tradition during World War I; the struggles to support civil rights, labor unions, and migrant farm workers; and the anti-nuclear and peace movements have all succeeded in part because of the power and support of organized religion. Such authority and energy is required by individual Christians and the institutional church today if the liberation of animals is to become a reality.”