In many Biblical passages, you will find teachings of compassion or mercy towards humans and animals alike. In fact, Christian scripture is, in places, adorned with stories promoting the humane treatment of animals, often even encouraging total abstinence from animal products.
According to Genesis, before the Fall of Man, the initial diet of humanity was a vegan diet:
“And God said Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.”
Despite this, veganism (or even vegetarianism for that matter) is not common practice in Western Christianity. Perhaps partially to do with the Bible’s many conflicting messages.
Regardless of ones’ opinions about religion, most will agree that unnecessary killing is wrong. To Christians, killing is deemed a sin and thus listed among the Ten Commandments.
“THOU SHALT NOT KILL”
It is clear that for the most part, God is identified as a compassionate and loving presence. True, there are biblical stories which suggest otherwise but in modern culture, we tend to be more aligned with “His” more merciful side.
During a recent Q&A in Norway, Animal Liberation Activist James Aspey is confronted by a member of his audience on this very topic. In response, James questions whether the act of killing and feasting on dead animals sounds like the work of a kind God or more like that of the Devil.
“Why, as a good person would you choose to harm animals when you don’t have to? When God doesn’t say you have to. When you could easily eat something else; why would you choose to do that?”
He makes a valid point.
Of course, religious scripture lay scrutiny to personal interpretation however Isaiah, (vegetarian) is seemingly in agreement, “The reek of sacrifice is abhorrent to me” (Isaiah 1:13), “There is blood on your hands; wash yourselves and be clean.” (1:15-16).
There are many aspects of religious beliefs which could be picked apart by vegans with opposing views, and the difficulty here is that the argument for veganism is majority based on logic and evidence. Similar to arguing the Big Bang with a Christian, it can be difficult to find common ground when the religious conjecture is largely based on a book of short fictional stories.
However it is worth considering that if we are to believe that Jesus returned to reconcile our sins and bring us back to our pure state (before the fall), then surely it’s logical to emulate the behaviour of Adam and Eve.
The Torah commands that we break the Sabbath in order to save a life and Jesus made connections between saving a human and saving a non-human life on the Sabbath in his teachings.
The Torah forbids us to waste or destroy anything of value unnecessarily, however modern animal agri-business runs counter to this commandment.
The Torah teaches sharing with the hungry, however to raise cattle today as much as 70% of the grain in the U.S. is fed to animals destined for slaughter. At the same time, upwards from 9 million people die from hunger each year while the meat industry wastes 12 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of flesh.
Proverbs 12:10 says, “A righteous man regards the life of his animal.”
What would Jesus do?