The UK is changing fast
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy


SARX: For All God's Creatures
May 2018

"I am not vegan to be a Christian. I am vegan because I am a Christian."

Veganism and plant-based diets, once a maligned movement, is now a mainstream and rapidly growing lifestyle choice. Research conducted by Kantar Worldpanel, reveals that more than a quarter of all evening meals in the UK are vegan or vegetarian. According to the Vegan Society, the number of UK vegans has rocketed to over 542,000 people, up by 360% in 10 years!

But why are so many people cutting out animal products from their diets?

“For the animals”, “For the environment”, “For my health” or “For people”.

wild cows

These are the most common answers people give when asked why they have chosen a vegan or plant-based diet. However in recent years, a growing number of people are responding to this question with faith-based answers such as: “Because of who I believe God to be”, “I can’t imagine slaughter houses in heaven” or simply; “For God’s creatures”.

Christians who have felt challenged to explore faith-based reasons to reassess the place of animals within creation and, subsequently, their eating habits include many prominent Christian church leaders and academics. Dr David Grumett, lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, notes this growing interest in food issues within mainstream society and its relevance for Christians: “Food co-operatives, vegetarianism, veganism, raw foodism, and other such movements are increasingly popular… (and) can help us Christians reconnect with the hopes, concerns and disciplines that form part of our own tradition but which we are in danger of forgetting.”

For The Revd Canon Paul Overend, Canon Chancellor at Lincoln Cathedral, joining the dots between food and faith was an important aspect of his walk of faith: "Veganism is a life choice for me, a commitment that is a part and parcel of my discipleship. It is an intention to live in harmony with God and all of creation (which includes not only veganism, but environmentalism, global trade justice, welfare and economic issues and a whole range of concerns concerning the ‘Common Good’.) It’s a question for me of who we include in God’s family of concern and God’s loving grace, and who we exclude from that."

two deer

The Revd Stephen Potter, senior leader of Oasis Elim Church, Portsmouth, sees food and his identity as a Christian to be intimately connected: "I am not vegan to be a Christian. I am vegan because I am a Christian. It's hard to argue that Jesus was a vegan but I'm convinced that given the condition of our planet and the widespread cruelty to animals in our age that He would be one now! … I believe my eating choices help the planet; I believe my eating choices make the planet a less violent and cruel place."

The Revd Dr Jan Goodair, who completed a PhD in the area of Animal Ethics and Theology, believes that God’s good purposes for the whole of creation is a compelling reason to adopt a vegan diet: "God's purposes, whatever they are, are clearly for the whole creation and not just for people. (God so loved the world ... the whole creation groans in eager longing for the revealing of the children of God ... do you know when the mountain goat gives birth ...) If animals are on God's agenda then they should be on mine, and not on my menu."

For The Revd Chris Moore, Vicar at St Cross Church, Clayton, a compassionate, vegan diet is foundational for both his faith and vocation as a priest: "Part of God’s calling to me, as a priest, involves devoting whatever advantages he might have bestowed on me, to the cause of the weak and the helpless, and this includes animals… For me, being vegan is an expression of my faith and an expression of faithfulness. Genesis commands human beings to follow a vegan diet. This command is part of the commission God enjoins on humankind of responsible stewardship. Without wishing to sound too preachy, this is, for me, enough to awaken me to a larger sense of the moral significance of what we put in our mouths and wear on our backs."

The dietary changes we are witnessing in modern society are good news. Good news for the animals, the environment, addressing human health and poverty issues and food and water security concerns.

It is particularly good news that Christians have distinctively faith-based reasons to be at the forefront of initiating change and withdrawing their support of the cruel treatment and slaughter of God’s creatures.

dog and sunset

In championing the cause of animals and choosing a different way of living, one that is generous and merciful, Christians have the potential to witness, in daily practice, to the in-breaking Messianic reign of the God who desires there to be peace between all creatures and promises to bring this about at the completion of creation (Romans 8:20-21; Isaiah 11:6-9).

A compelling, faith-based message of compassion and hope which speaks relevantly to both those within the church and wider society.

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