Was Jesus a Vegetarian? Should Christians Be?

by Jimmy Akin

in +Religion, Bible, Diet, Moral Theology, Video

Vegetarianism is a hot topic today. Many people are cutting out some or all animal products from their diet.

When done for health reasons, this is a matter of science rather than faith. But what about claims that Christians should be vegetarians for religious reasons?

Some even claim that Jesus himself was a vegetarian.

And what are we to make of the slogan “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy”?

In this video episode of the Jimmy Akin Podcast, best-selling author Jimmy Akin looks at the evidence and reveals startling facts that are often overlooked, though they are right there in the Bible.

With charity and patience, Akin explores the truth about the Bible and vegetarianism and provides a balanced view of the relationship between humans and animals.

You can watch it online . . .

. . . or DOWNLOAD IT HERE.

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{ 71 comments }

BillyHW May 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Vegetarianism (as opposed to merely abstinence) is a form of gluttony. It’s also rude of vegetarians to demand vegetarian options at group events.

J. F. O'Neill May 6, 2012 at 8:48 am

Vegetarians, or those perceived to be vegetarians, are often very pushy, demanding, and intrusive. They “joke” about force feeding people meat, make rude comments about the effects of a diet, and otherwise behave worse than how they think vegetarians act. Normal people do this without thinking that they are not the first. Non-vegetarians are obsessed with the wool and leather that they might see a vegetarian wear. They are quick to attack vegetarians using very bad science (but they don’t care, as long as they get an attack in).

Many of those people are Christians.

It is rude of you to demand perhaps. Most of the time, vegetarians are asked what they want, so people can accommodate them, even if the vegetarian does not desire accommodation. People on restricted diets of all kinds normally make do when they are in groups rather than ask for accommodation. This is a very lopsided perception of what really happens, and it just so happens the demanding, rude, uncharitable, and otherwise pushy behaviour is on the part of those who are not vegetarian.

While the basis for dietary restrictions are the important part of the moral judgement, it is also the internal disposition of others which matters. Just because one is “right” in one aspect, it is not a license to disregard charity in all others.

Vegetarianism is not gluttony any more than eating whatever one comes across is gluttony. People may restrict their diets for health, modern farming concerns, or other benign reasons other than elevation of animal life. Most people eat what they are brought up to eat and whatever is culturally acceptable. That is a mindless way of organising a diet and perhaps more prone to gluttony than a purposefully chosen diet.

“Wherefore, if meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat flesh, lest I should scandalize my brother.” – 1 Corinthians 8:13

Referring to an issue in the early Church, but the idea is the same on how to act towards those who may be misguided.

Skygor May 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Vegetarianism is a form of gluttony in the mode of delicacy. “I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it.” Normal people will inform others of any dietary needs and accept any limits to accommodation due to time & material constants. Then there are the weirdos who don’t, possibly forcing themselves on others, and twisting the truth as this video excerpt clarifies.

Mary@42 May 6, 2012 at 7:08 am

No, Jimmy, Jesus was definitely not a Vegetarian. He ate fish. He celebrated the Passover where the Sacrificial Lamb was slaughtered and eaten. And He, certainly ate it. He did so at the Last Supper.

Mariusz May 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Can you prove that Jesus “certainly” ate the Paschal lamb?

Tom Simon May 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm

One of the laws of the Old Covenant is the commandment to celebrate Passover, which includes eating the Paschal lamb. Jesus ‘came not to break the Law, but to fulfil it’: He obeyed all the laws of the Old Covenant and thereby fulfilled it, making a new dispensation possible. If He obeyed all the laws, He certainly obeyed the law about eating the Paschal lamb: Q.E.D.

Mariusz May 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm

“Jesus ‘came not to break the Law, but to fulfil it’: He obeyed all the laws of the Old Covenant…”
No, He didn’t. He broke many traditional laws in respect to the Sabbath as I’m sure you know. Your argument is certainly not QED.

Mariusz May 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Not to mention the Old Covenant divorce law…

Unborn Human Rights May 6, 2012 at 7:29 am

Great info as always Jimmy! Some may argue that fish isn’t considered meat, but I agree with Mary above in her comment. Obviously Jesus was not a vegetarian. I also agree with the stance the Church takes on animals. Funny how people get so emotional over animals being killed for food, but many of those same people look the other way when human babies are being slaughtered in their mothers wombs through legal abortion.

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 9:18 am

Funny how many pro-life people are against life when it comes to animal life…

pat May 7, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Wait a second. Plants are life too, right? It’s very clear that human life is different than other forms. That is not permission to be cruel and dismissive of other forms of life. But to place plant and animal life at the same level as human life, something many environmentalists seem to do, is a real disregard for God’s law and common sense, which are not at all mutually exclusive.

Mike Gliebe May 6, 2012 at 7:34 am

Mike Gliebe Before the flood people ate only vegetables. (Gen 9:3) So man can flourish on just vegetables. In Dan 1:11-16 Daniel had his men fed only vegetables for 10 days to prove to the chief official they could grow healthy on vegetables in comparison to the other people who feasted on the rich royal food who were fat and sick. I have been a vegan (no meat, eggs or dairy) for 20 years. I do it for mostly health reasons. I follow the McDougall Diet,. (drmcdougall.com) where I learned diet is the main cause of most of the health problems today. You can’t just live on lettuce type foods though. You need natural whole food that isn’t highly refined; high carb,starchy, whole foods like potatoes, rice, beans sweet potatoes, wheat etc.: in other words low fat, high complex carbohydrate, not high protein, high fat foods. There are many generations of people that have eaten this way, granted some with very little naturally produced meat who are healthy. It’s only when they get a hold of the typical western high fat American diet that their health degrades.
7 minutes ago · Like

Bede May 6, 2012 at 9:57 am

It is amazing! People can stuff themselves with fat, suger, alcohol, tobbaco and so on with darely a word against them. They can feast on beef burgers made from cheap meat produced at the cost of our precious rain forest by way of debt reduction payments, whilst the indiginous population starves. You can discriminate against anyone you don’t like, sick, disabled, unemployed, hardly a word is uttered by the sanctimonious “christians,” but say your a vegetarian and all hell breaks loose! The bible that gathers dust on the shelf is flung open to prove that jesus ate a fish or even a lamb. But show them the scripture that says “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”Prov 31: 8-9. and you will not see them for dust!

Thank God that there are some C (capital C) hristians who do care about living things on this world, who do think the compassionate way is more Christ like, and thank God the numbers are growing which, probably explains the hostility to people who simply choose to not eat meat. “One day all the people in the world will go mad, and when someone comes along who is not mad, they will say to him ‘you are out of your mind!’ simply because he is not like them” St Anthony of the Desert.

Fr. Basil May 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm

In the Byzantine tradition, monks and nuns NEVER eat the flesh of fowl or quadrupeds. The Rule of St. Benedict forbids the latter perpetually, as well.

Even the traditional fasting and abstinence observed by devout Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic seculars is ideally vegan (not even fish, eggs, or dairy) for most days of the year.

At the time of Christ, and even until relatively lately in the west, meat was NOT a normal part of the diet.

Vasu Murti May 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Friends,

Just join PETA!

I’ll be honest with you: we humans can’t end abortion (or war) until we cease to kill animals.

Religious pro-lifers claim they don’t have to “work,” but aren’t they “working” to protect the unborn?

We see pro-lifers lobbying Congress; signing online petitions; contributing financially to right-to-life groups; educating the American people, the American public and the younger generation on life issues; engaging in political activism; engaging in activities that require effort, with a specific result (e.g., greater protection of the unborn) intended as the desired outcome.

If faith in Jesus is all that’s required, why are pro-lifers struggling or engaging in “work” to end abortion? Why doesn’t the abortion crisis magically go away as soon as one accepts Jesus as one’s Lord and Saviour?

Beyond mere faith in Jesus, we see religious pro-lifers engaging in religious activity: praying for an end to the abortion crisis; 40 Days For Life of Prayer and Fasting; the Walk For Life, etc.

Again: if faith in Jesus is all that’s required, why do pro-lifers have to struggle, or engage in effort or “work” to end abortion?

Legal abortion is promoted in China, and we now see a gender imbalance of 37 million more males than females in China, due to sex-selective abortion.

Ending abortion in China would end the gender imbalance.

Whether expressed in terms of karma (action and reaction) or a secular slippery slope argument familiar to pro-lifers, clearly, there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship: allowing one social injustice to flourish results inevitably in other social injustices.

Please consider these other direct cause-and-effect relationships:

The Worldwatch Institute estimates one pound of steak from a steer raised in a feedlot costs: five pounds of grain, a whopping 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about 34 pounds of topsoil.

Thirty-three percent of our nation’s raw materials and fossil fuels go into livestock destined for slaughter. In a vegan economy, only two percent of our resources will go to the production of food.

“It seems disingenuous for the intellectual elite of the first world to dwell on the subject of too many babies being born in the second- and third-world nations while virtually ignoring the overpopulation of cattle and the realities of a food chain that robs the poor of sustenance to feed the rich a steady diet of grain-fed meat.”

–Jeremy Rifkin, pro-life AND pro-animal author, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, and president of the Greenhouse Crisis Foundation

According to the editors of World Watch, July/August 2004:

“The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future–deforestization, topsoil erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.”

Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, similarly says in the February 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future (a peace and justice periodical on the religious left):

“…the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging — to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets to pigs and chickens and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer.”

Is ending abortion “work”? Or is it merely ceasing to do evil, as the prophet Isaiah (1:11,15) says, when quoting God Himself attacking animal sacrifice?

Opponents of global warming, global hunger, the energy, environmental, population and water crises aren’t offended when told veganism (ceasing to kill animals) is the solution to each of their respective crises.

Perhaps it’s time pro-lifers take a serious look at animal rights as THE political strategy for ending the abortion crisis!

(Even with sentience, rather than species membership, as the criterion for personhood, most abortions would have to be prohibited.)

I understand Christians aren’t interested in being “converted” to another religion! Animal rights, as a secular, moral philosophy, may appear to be at odds with traditional religious thinking (e.g., human “dominion” over other animals), but this is equally true of:

…democracy and representative government in place of monarchy and belief in the divine right of kings; the separation of church and state; the abolition of (human) slavery; the emancipation of women; birth control; the sexual revolution; LGBT rights…

…all social progress since the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment…social progress even conservative Christians take for granted!

Some of the greatest figures in human history have been in favor of ethical vegetarianism and animal rights. These include:

Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, Alice Walker, George Bernard Shaw, Robert Browning, Percy Shelley, Voltaire, Thomas Hardy, Rachel Carson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Victor Hugo, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pythagoras, Susan B. Anthony, Albert Schweitzer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Gertrude Stein, Frederick Douglass, Francis Bacon, William Wordsworth, the Buddha, Mark Twain, and Henry David Thoreau.

Abraham Lincoln once said: “I care not for a man’s religion whose dog or cat are not the better for it.”

Some of the most distinguished figures in the history of Christianity were vegetarian. A partial list includes:

St. James, St. Matthew, Clemens Prudentius, Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, Aegidius, St.Benedict, Boniface, St. Richard of Wyche, St. Filippo Neri, St. Columba, John Wray, Thomas Tryon, John Wesley, Joshua Evans, William Metcalfe, General William Booth, Ellen White, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, and Reverend V.A. Holmes-Gore.

In a 1989 interview with the now-defunct Animals’ Agenda, Reverend Andrew Linzey, an Anglican clergyman, said:

“We treat animals today precisely as we treated slaves, and the theological arguments are often entirely the same or have the same root. I believe the movement for animal rights is the most significant movement in Christianity, morally, since the emancipation of the slaves. And it provides just as many difficulties for the institutional church…”

The International Network for Religion and Animals was founded in 1985. Since then, numerous books have been written on animals and theology, including:

The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ: the Pacifism, Communalism and Vegetarianism of Primitive Christianity; Food for the Spirit: Vegetarianism and the World Religions; The Souls of Animals; Replenish the Earth; Of God and Pelicans; Is God A Vegetarian?; God’s Covenant with Animals; They Shall not Hurt or Destroy; The Lost Religion of Jesus; Good News for All Creation;Vegetarian Christian Saints; The Dominion of Love; Good Eating; Of God and Dogs; Every Creature a Word of God; School of Compassion, etc.

All of this biblical scholarship by Christian vegetarians and vegans (and their friends in the non-Abrahamic faiths), trying to reconcile biblical tradition with animal rights, would be unnecessary if the other side would treat animal rights as a secular civil rights issue applicable to **everyone** — including atheists and agnostics — as they view their own (sectarian?) opposition to abortion.

Nor is anyone preventing pro-life Christians from listening to the vegetarian and vegan voices (past and present) in their own biblical tradition.

In the April 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a peace and justice periodical on the religious left, Catholic civil rights activist Bernard Broussard concludes:

“…our definition of war is much too limited and narrow. Wars and conflicts in the human kingdom will never be abolished or diminished until, as a pure matter of logic, it includes the cessation of war between the human and animal kingdoms.

“For, if we be eaters of flesh, or wearers of fur, or participants in hunting animals, or in any way use our might against weakness, we are promoting, in no matter how seemingly insignificant a fashion, the spirit of war.”

Nor is anyone preventing pro-life Christians from listening to vegetarians and vegans throughout history!

The Table of Contents to Rynn Berry’s 1993 book, Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes: Lives & Lore from Buddha to the Beatles, includes:

Pythagoras; Gautama the Buddha; Mahavira; Plato (and Socrates); Plutarch; Leonardo the Vinci; Percy Shelley; Count Leo Tolstoy; Annie Besant; Mohandas Gandhi; George Bernard Shaw; Bronson Alcott; Adventist physician Dr. John Harvey Kellogg; Henry Salt; Frances Moore Lappe; Isaac Bashevis Singer; Malcolm Muggeridge, and Brigid Brophy.

Nor is anyone preventing pro-life Christians from listening to secular vegetarians and vegans today!

“A world of authors, philosophers, and scientists — including Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, St. Francis of Assisi, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, and Alice Walker — are or were vegetarians. Nowadays, there are countless celebrities — actors, writers, athletes, thinkers — who have embraced the ecological sanity and compassion of the vegetarian diet.

“A number of these people have been outspoken. Among celebrity vegetarians are:

“Film stars Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Brad Pitt, Richard Gere, Jude Law, Josh Hartnett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore, Ryan Gosling, Kim Basinger, and Dustin Hoffman.

“Recording artists Dr. Dre, the B52s, Paul and the late Linda McCartney, Chrissie Hynde, Joaquin Phoenix, Andre3000 Meatloaf, Peter Gabriel, kd lang, Elvis Costello, and Melissa Etheridge.

“Models Brooke Shields, Christy Turlington, Cindy Jackson, and Christie Brinkley.

“Sports stars Hank Aaron; B.J. Armstrong, Andreas Cahling, Sally Eastall, Sylvia Cranston, Chris Campbell, Aaron Pryor, Edward Moses, Robert de Castella, Anton Innauer, and Killer Kowalski.”

–excerpted from The Higher Taste: A Guide to Gourmet Vegetarian Cooking and a Karma-Free Diet (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust: 2006).

Nor is anyone preventing these Christians from joining any number of secular animal rights and welfare organizations: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); In Defense of Animals (IDA); Friends of Animals (FoA); Last Chance for Animals; Mercy for Animals; Vegan Action; Vegan Outreach, etc.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is challenging those who think they can still be “meat-eating environmentalists” to go vegan, if they really care about the planet.

peta2 is now the largest youth movement of any social change organization in the world.

peta2 has 267,000 friends on MySpace and 91,000 Facebook fans.

A few years ago, PETA was the top-ranked charity when a poll asked teenagers which nonprofit group they would most want to work for. PETA won by more than a two to one margin over the second place finisher, The American Red Cross, with more votes than the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity combined.

Pete Cohn of Veggie Jews (in San Francisco, CA) once told me Rabbi Michael Lerner (founder, Network of Spiritual Progressives) focuses on Palestinian issues, not animal rights! But in November 2007 (shortly before moving to Israel), Pete said to me, “PETA’s not Jewish.”

Secular arguments (religion-neutral) apply to everyone, including atheists and agnostics.

Your freedoms are limited by someone else’s rights. You no longer have the “freedom of choice” to lynch blacks or commit domestic violence, or hate crimes against LGBTs.

Liberals concede abortion is not merely a “religious” issue, but a secular human rights issue, admitting, “We might be violating someone else’s rights.”

Few conservatives admit we’re violating the self-evident rights of billions of animals every day! They obsess over the silent screams of the unborn, while ignoring the very real screams of animals. They obsess over protecting mentally handicapped children while silent about experiments on chimpanzees.

Religious pro-lifers dictate to those outside of their faith… but react with disbelief (“God!”) when told it’s wrong to kill animals.

If their interpretation of Christianity “exempts” these Christians from protecting animals, are pro-choice Christians similarly exempt from protecting the unborn?

If you carry pro-life Christian sectarianism to its logical conclusion, religious pro-lifers can’t oppose abortion, either, if someone else’s religion permits it!

Religious pro-lifers complain protecting unborn children is depicted inaccurately by feminists, progressives, the secular news media, online and offline, etc. as a narrow, sectarian, conservative Christian issue rather than as a secular human rights issue which should concern everyone.

Thus, these religious pro-lifers (who dominate the pro-life movement!) must know it’s wrong to similarly dismiss animal issues as sectarian.

Adolf Hitler thought Albert Einstein’s scientific discoveries were mere “Jewish science” and thus not applicable to gentiles. Is this the way conservative Christians view vegetarianism?

(Ironically, many liberals see abortion as a sectarian religious issue!)

The number of animals killed for food in the United States is nearly 75 times larger than the number of animals killed in laboratories, 30 times larger than the number killed by hunters and trappers, and 500 times larger than the number of animals killed in animal pounds.

And issues like animal experimentation, circuses, fur, etc. have nothing to do with diet, eating, or food. The issue clearly IS the animals’ right to life!

If the issue were merely “dietary laws,” why would pro-lifers be offended by pro-choice vegetarians and vegans, unless its understood people go veg for the animals’ right to life, and thus these people appear to value animal life over human life under some circumstances? Why would pro-lifers joke if it’s wrong to kill plants, unless it’s understood people go veg because they believe it’s wrong to kill animals? Why would pro-lifers bring up the thoroughly debunked myth that Hitler was a “vegetarian”…if not to discredit vegetarianism as a nonviolent philosophy toward humans and animals alike?

It’s hypocritical for pro-life Republicans to attack the animal rights movement for not being officially pro-life when they allow their own political party to remain a “big tent” on abortion for fear of losing votes. It doesn’t occur to them that the animal rights movement faces an identical political reality?

The animal rights movement, representing a cross-section of mainstream American society, is divided on abortion. Maria Krasinski, whom I met through Democrats For Life, was relieved to hear this in 1999, saying before she was under the mistaken impression animal activists are all pro-choice, and she thus felt she could not support their views. Pro-life and pro-animal groups emerged during the 1990s. I encourage you to join us!

Les Brown of the Overseas Development Council calculates that if Americans reduced their meat consumption by only ten percent per year, it would free at least twelve million tons of grain for human consumption — or **enough** to feed sixty million people.

Monk Brendan May 7, 2012 at 8:23 am

Vasu Murti wrote:Some of the greatest figures in human history have been in favor of ethical vegetarianism and animal rights. These include:

Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, Alice Walker, George Bernard Shaw, Robert Browning, Percy Shelley, Voltaire, Thomas Hardy, Rachel Carson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Victor Hugo, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pythagoras, Susan B. Anthony, Albert Schweitzer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Gertrude Stein, Frederick Douglass, Francis Bacon, William Wordsworth, the Buddha, Mark Twain, and Henry David Thoreau.

So was Hitler, so the idea that eating only vegetables leads to higher thought and a higher moral viewpoint is dead.

Vasu Murti May 7, 2012 at 10:11 am

Hitler was a meat-eater, not a vegetarian.

Vegetarianism, in itself, is merely an ethic, and not necessarily a religion.

As an ethic, vegetarianism has attracted some of the greatest figures in history.

Do meat-eaters see a vision of universal emancipation?

Do meat-eaters think of Susan B. Anthony, Gandhi, Tolstoy or even Henry David Thoreau when it comes to vegetarianism?

No, they think of Hitler!

According to Carol Orsag, in Irving Wallace and David Wallechinsky’s The People’s Almanac (1975), however:

Adolf Hitler “became vegetarian because of stomach problems” rather than because of compassion for animals, and “was criticized for eating pig’s knuckles.” (a popular German delicacy known as eisbein.)

In a 1996 article appearing in the now-defunct Animals’ Agenda, “Nazis and Animals: Debunking the Myths,” Roberta Kalechofsky of Jews for Animal Rights says Hitler “had a special fondness for sausages and caviar, and sometimes ham,” as well as “liver dumplings.”

Kalechofsky writes that the Nazis experimented on animals as well as humans in the concentration camps:

“The evidence of Nazi experiments on animals is overwhelming. In The Dark Face of Science, author John Vyvyan summed it up correctly:

“‘The experiments made on prisoners were many and diverse, but they had one thing in common: all were in continuation of, or complementary to, experiments on animals.

“‘In every instance, this antecedent scientific literature is mentioned in the evidence, and at Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps, human and animal experiments were carried out simultaneously as parts of a single programme.’”

Wouldn’t reverence for life —showing other animals the moral concern we now narrowly restrict only to showing other humans — have the opposite effect?

Compassion for all-creatures?

There is no evidence vegetarianism (for ethics or health) will make people saints or give them Gandhian compassion, but neither is there any evidence that it will make people Nazis.

Hitler was a meat-eater and not a vegetarian.

Hitler thought Albert Einstein’s scientific discoveries were mere “Jewish science” — and not a Christian concern.

This is the mentality of meat-eating Christians.

These Christians think they’re exempt from animal issues, which they consider sectarian (like circumcision), rather than seeing them as a universal ethic (not harming or killing animals) for all mankind.

Professor Henry Bigelow observed: “There will come a time when the world will look back to modern vivisection (animal experimentation) in the name of science as they do now to burning at the stake in the name of religion.”

In his 1979 book, Aborting America, Dr. Bernard Nathanson (co-founder of NARAL, a physician who presided over some 60,000 abortions before changing sides on the issue) similarly wrote:

“Anti-abortion authors cannot restrain themselves from dragging Adolf Hitler out of the grave. A society that accepts abortion, we are told, is doing what the Nazis did when they killed off the handicapped, the retarded, the gypsies, and the Jews.

“The facts are these. The German Nazis had strict anti-abortion policies–for ‘Aryans.’ Jews were encouraged to abort, as part of Hitler’s racial purity madness…

“Strange that Right-to-Lifers do not make more of the fact that the pioneer in liberal abortion was not Hitler but V.I. Lenin, in 1920. The Soviet Union is not exactly one’s ideal of a humanitarian, life valuing state, either.”

Again:

Like not harming or killing unborn children (being pro-life), not harming or killing animals (vegetarianism) in itself is merely an ethic, and not necessarily a religion.

As an ethic, vegetarianism has attracted some of the greatest figures in history.

The Table of Contents to Rynn Berry’s 1993 book, Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes: Lives & Lore from Buddha to the Beatles includes:

Pythagoras; Gautama the Buddha; Mahavira; Plato (and Socrates); Plutarch; Leonardo da Vinci; Percy Shelley; Count Leo Tolstoy; Annie Besant; Mohandas Gandhi; George Bernard Shaw; Bronson Alcott; Adventist physician Dr. John Harvey Kellogg; Henry Salt; Frances Moore Lappe; Isaac Bashevis Singer; Malcolm Muggeridge and Brigid Brophy.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): 501 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510 (757) 622-PETA

Vasu Murti May 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Vegetarianism has gone from merely being trendy to becoming a mainstream social ethic. Like opposing abortion or opposing capital punishment…vegetarianism is now a mainstream value!

According to the editors of World Watch, July/August 2004:

“The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future — deforestization, topsoil erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.”

Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, similarly says in the February 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future (a peace and justice periodical on the religious left):

“…the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging–to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets to pigs and chickens and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer.”

“Carl Pope could probably affect the world more by being a vegetarian than through his job as president of the Sierra Club,” quipped Jennifer Horsman, co-author (with her daughter Jaime Flowers) in their 2007 book, Please Don’t Eat the Animals.

The number of animals killed for food in the United States is nearly 75 times larger than the number of animals killed in laboratories, 30 times larger than the number killed by hunters and trappers, and 500 times larger than the number of animals killed in animal pounds.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is challenging those who think they can still be “meat-eating environmentalists” to go vegan, if they really care about the planet.

peta2 is now the largest youth movement of any social change organization in the world.

peta2 has 267,000 friends on MySpace and 91,000 Facebook fans.

A few years ago, PETA was the top-ranked charity when a poll asked teenagers what nonprofit group they would most want to work for. PETA won by more than a two to one margin over the second place finisher, The American Red Cross, with more votes than the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity combined.

“If anyone wants to save the planet,” says Paul McCartney in an interview with PETA’s Animal Times magazine from 2001, “all they have to do is stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it.

“Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty. Let’s do it! Linda was right. Going veggie is the single best idea for the new century.”

****

An example of how mainstream vegetarianism has become in secular American society?

Holland America Line has introduced a new alternative, vegetarian-only menu, as well as thirty new vegetarian dishes to their main dining room menu, furthering the line’s commitment to providing exceptional dining experiences for all guests.

Holland America Line’s award-winning Master Chef Rudi Sodamin has designed an exclusive 22-dish vegetarian and vegan menu that highlights vegetables and other naturally healthy ingredients in vibrant, flavorful culinary selections. The alternative menu includes a full range of appetizers, salads, soups and main entrees, and is available upon request at no extra cost for lunch and dinner in the main dining room aboard all fifteen ships in the fleet.

“Many more people are choosing a vegetarian culinary experience, yet the options can be limited,” said Richard Meadows, Holland America Line’s executive vice president of marketing, sales and guest programs. “By offering a complete vegetarian-only menu and the largest vegetarian selection at sea, we are ensuring that all guests can take part in an exceptional dining experience while cruising with Holland America Line.”

The savory collection of dishes on the new vegetarian-only menu include Portobello Mushroom and Chipotle Quesadillas, Vietnamese Vegetable Spring Rolls, Curried Vegetable Empanadas, Spicy Lentil and Garbanzo Salad, Sweet and Sour Vegetable Tempura, Vegetable Jambalaya, Grilled Vegetable and Tofu Kebobs, and Baked Cheese Polenta with Mushrooms and Artichoke Hearts.

In addition to the new vegetarian-only menu, 30 new vegetarian dishes will be added to the main dining room menu. These offerings also will be featured as a second vegetarian option in the casual Lido buffet during lunch. Additionally, every dinner menu will now offer guests the option of one appetizer, one soup or salad, and at least one vegetarian entrée each evening, increasing the total number of vegetarian options on board to 52 delectable dishes.

Some of the newly expanded vegetarian selections on the main dining room menu include Corn and Zucchini Pancakes served with Southwest-style cous cous salad, Asparagus and Zucchini Torte with wild rice and sun-dried tomato coulees, Carrot and Parmesan Risotto topped with a lemony arugula salad and crispy carrot ribbons, and Grilled Eggplant and Bell Pepper Masala braised in yogurt with Indian spices and served with coconut-pistachio basmati rice.

Extraordinary culinary experiences are a hallmark of every Holland America Line vacation. Aboard each cruise, guests can choose from an array of dining options — from gourmet-quality fare served in the elegant Pinnacle Grill to casual food favorites served buffet-style in the relaxing Lido Restaurant.

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Les Brown of the Overseas Development Council calculates that if Americans reduced their meat consumption by only ten percent per year, it would free at least twelve million tons of grain for human consumption–or enough to feed sixty million people.

Mariusz May 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Think of vegetarianism as showing charity to animals. Charity is one of the theological virtues and good Christians are supposed to practice it. It is as simple as that.

Justin May 7, 2012 at 6:37 am

Why not show the same charity to plants, fungi, etc.? Aren’t they living things too?

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 11:26 am

Well, one has to begin somewhere. The all-or-nothing attitude has never changed anything for better because it is just a convenient excuse for doing nothing.

Tom S May 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm

This generalization that all vegetarians force their views on others or cannot be a faithful Catholic is far from the truth. Weighing 325 lbs on Dec. 20, 2010 i decided that a change was needed so using Mr. Akin’s words it started as scientific but it is part of who I am now. I sit at dinner with my family who all eat meat. I don’t ask for someone to make a special meal for me at any event that I attend. I now weigh 200 lbs and am able to fulfill my obligations at home and at work with greater joy. I am in service to God, my family, the 130 Catholic High School students that I teach, take on retreat, and to Washington for the March for Life. I thank God for this gift of health that He has given me and my response to it is to serve Him with more joy than ever before in my life.

etr May 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Please go to the Weston A Price Foundation website and search for “Myths of Vegetarianism” and read it. We really need animal fats to get a good dietary source of vitamins A, D, B12, and K2. Also in Acts 10:9-16 Peter was given and vision of animals and told to “slaughter and eat” ( I know this also refers to something other than eating meat). The monks and nuns, that abstain from meat, eat eggs, fish, butter, and cheese. They abstain as sacrifice, but when they are sick they have chicken soup and can eat meat.

Amanda May 6, 2012 at 2:51 pm

etr, I have been wanting to say the same thing. Oy! Yes. Please check out the real science behind vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is extremely unhealthy. Check out http://www.westonaprice.org

Pattie, RN May 7, 2012 at 3:14 am

Thank you! It is complicated to get complete proteins as a vegetarian (requires research to combine imcomplete proteins to get essential amino acids) it is TERRIBLY hard to do so as a vegan, and vegan diets can and do KILL children under the age of five. (Ditto for the exclusively breastfed child of a vegan mother.) Humans are omnivores, clearly evidenced by dentation (type of teeth) and digestive arragement.

Spiritually, if someone is a Buddhist or holds similar beliefs, who am I to disparage another faith. BUT, to claim the moral high ground for being a vegetarian and a Christian is silly and disingenuous. Christ as well as the patriarches were omnivores, and man was given dominion over all the animals by God Himself to use them for man’s good purposes. Animals do NOT have souls or eternal life, that is reserved for humans (and angels).

Finally, I agree that militant vegetarianism IS gluttony….re-read Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters” and see what he has to say about the mother who “only wants a bit of toast…”

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Vegetarianism is unhealthy? Well, I haven’t eat meat (including fish and chicken) for about 16 years and I am in excellent health. There are very good and cheap substitutes (for example, tofu) and one does not really need all the antibiotics and other horrible crap that’s in the commercial meat products.

TeaPot562 May 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Regular eating of meat is, in fact, a larger hit on the environment than a corresponding diet for the same number of people consisting mostly of veggies, grains and fruits.
But for a legally required drain on the environment – global warming, anyone? – very little exceeds the USA’s requirement for ethanol mixed into gasoline for cars, and the subsidies for ethanol production by farmers. Analyzed properly, these subsidies in the $billions annually, and mandates actually ADD to the CO2 burden in the atmosphere.
It might be easier to repeal the ethanol subsidies and mandates than to save a similar amount of CO2 by converting a portion of the adult population to a mostly vegetarian diet.
TeaPot562

etr May 7, 2012 at 10:47 am

It is not true that meat is a larger hit on the environment. It is a falsehood being perpetuated by the “global warming” or “climate change” enthusiasts. Do the research.

Vasu Murti May 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm

St. Jerome (AD 340-420) wrote to a monk in Milan who had abandoned vegetarianism:

“As to the argument that in God’s second blessing (Genesis 9:3) permission was given to eat flesh—a permission not given in the first blessing (Genesis 1:29)—let him know that just as permission to put away a wife was, according to the words of the Saviour, not given from the beginning, but was granted to the human race by Moses because of the hardness of our hearts (Matthew 19:1-12), so also in like manner the eating of flesh was unknown until the Flood, but after the Flood, just as quails were given to the people when they murmured in the desert, so have sinews and the offensiveness been given to our teeth.

“The Apostle, writing to the Ephesians, teaches us that God had purposed that in the fullness of time he would restore all things, and would draw to their beginning, even to Christ Jesus, all things that are in heaven or that are on earth. Whence also, the Saviour Himself in the Apocalypse of John says, ‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.’ From the beginning of human nature, we neither fed upon flesh nor did we put away our wives, nor were our foreskins taken away from us for a sign. We kept on this course until we arrived at the Flood.

“But after the Flood, together with the giving of the Law, which no man could fulfill, the eating of flesh was brought in, and the putting away of wives was conceded to hardness of heart…But now that Christ has come in the end of time, and has turned back Omega to Alpha…neither is it permitted to us to put away our wives, nor are we circumcised, nor do we eat flesh.”

St. Jerome was responsible for the Vulgate, or Latin version of the Bible, still in use today. He felt a vegetarian diet was best for those devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. He once wrote that he was not a follower of Pythagoras or Empodocles “who do not eat any living creature,” but concluded, “And so I too say to you: if you wish to be perfect, it is good not to drink wine and eat flesh.”

The 4th century St. Blaise is said to have established an animal hospital in the wilderness. The wildlife, in turn, protected him. St. Patrick (389?-481?) is said to have saved a mother deer and her baby from hunters. Commentators say it was this act of compassion which led to the conversion of the pagan.

“By saving the fawn they were about to kill,” writes Richard Power in The Ark, St. Patrick made the Christian religion meaningful to the hardened Ulster warriors. Before that act of compassion, his preaching had failed to convince them.” (The Ark is a bulletin published by the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare.)

St. Ciaran of Ossory noted in the 5th Century that animals have intrinsic rights because of their capacity to feel pleasure and pain. Butler’s four-volume Lives of the Saints describes many saints as abstinent from childhood, never eating flesh-meats, never touching meat or wine, compassionate to all creatures, etc.

According to Father Ambrose Agius:

“Many of the saints understood God’s creatures, and together they shared the pattern of obedience to law and praise of God that still leaves us wondering. The quickest way to understand is surely to bring our own lives as closely as possible into line with the intention of the Giver of all life, animate and inanimate.”

The Reverend Alvin Hart, an Episcopal priest in New York, says:

“Many Georgian saints were distinguished by their love for animals. St. John Zedazneli made friends with bears near his hermitage; St. Shio befriended a wolf; St. David of Garesja protected deer and birds from hunters, proclaiming, ‘He whom I believe in and worship looks after and feeds all these creatures, to whom He has given birth.’ Early Celtic saints, too, favored compassion for animals. Saints Wales, Cornwall and Brittany of Ireland in the 5th and 6th centuries AD went to great pains for their animal friends, healing them and praying for them as well.”

St. Benedict, who founded the Benedictine Order in AD 529, made vegetarian foods the staple for his monks, teaching, “Nothing is more contrary to the Christian spirit than gluttony.” The Rule of St. Benedict itself is a composite of ascetic teachings from previous traditions, such as St. Anthony’s monasticism in Egypt, which called for abstinence from meat and wine.

Aegidius (c. 700) was a vegetarian who lived on herbs, water and the milk of a deer God sent to him. One day the deer was being hunted by a king and his entourage, and fled to Aegidius for protection. Aegidius stopped with his right hand the arrow intended for the deer, but which only perforated his hand.

In the 7th century, the hermit monk St. Giles was an Athenian, who resided in a French forest, dwelling in a cave, and living on herbs, nuts, and fruits. One day the King of France came hunting in the forest. He pursued a young deer which took refuge in Giles’ arms. The King was so impressed with Giles’ holiness he begged forgiveness and built him a monastery.

Boniface (672-754) wrote to Pope Zacharias that he had begun a monastery which followed the rules of strict abstinence, whose monks do not eat meat nor enjoy wine or other intoxicating drinks. St. Andrew lived on herbs, olives, oil and bread. He lived to be 105.

The early English mystic St. Guthlac of Crowland (673-714) is said to have been able to call birds in to feed from his hand. “Hast thou never learned in Holy Writ that he who led his life after God’s will, the wild beasts and the wild birds have become more intimate with him?” he asked. St. Gudival of Ghent once brought a slaughtered sheep back to life “because he saw in it Christ led like a sheep to the slaughter.”

St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) “was moved to feelings of compassion for animals, and he wept for them when he saw them caught in the hunger’s net.” St. Richard of Wyche, a vegetarian, was moved by the sight of animals taken to slaughter. “Poor innocent little creatures,” he observed. “If you were reasoning beings and could speak, you would curse us. For we are the cause of your death, and what have you done to deserve it?”

Secular scholar Keith Akers writes:

“The ‘orthodox’ response to vegetarianism has been somewhat contradictory…The objection to meat consumption has been taken as evidence of heresy when Christians have been faced with outsiders; however, vegetarianism met with a kinder reception among the monastic communities…Vegetarianism does attain a certain status even in orthodox circles.

“Indeed, a list of known vegetarians among the church leaders reads very much like a Who’s Who in the early church. Peter is described as a vegetarian in the Recognitions and Homilies. Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius, said that James (the brother of Jesus) was a vegetarian and was raised as a vegetarian. Clement of Alexandria thought that Matthew was a vegetarian…

“According to Eusebius, the apostles—all the apostles, and not just James—abstained from both meat and wine, thus making them vegetarians and teetotalers, just like James. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Basil, Gregory of Nanziance, John Chrysostom, and Tertullian were all probably vegetarians, based on their writings…they themselves are evidently vegetarian and can be counted on to say a few kind words about vegetarianism. On the other hand, there are practically no references to any Christians eating fish or meat before the Council of Nicaea.

“The rule of Benedict forbade eating any four-legged animals, unless one was sick. Columbanus allowed vegetables, lentil porridge, flour, and bread only, at all times, even for the sick. A fifth-century Irish rule forbids meat, fish, cheese, and butter at all times, though the sick, elderly, travel-weary, or even monks on holidays may eat cheese or butter, but no one may ever eat meat.

“The Carthusians were especially strict about vegetarianism. The origin of their order is related by the story of St. Bruno and his companions, who on the Sunday before Lent are sitting before some meat and are debating whether they should eat meat at all.

“During the debate, numerous examples of vegetarians among their monastic predecessors are mentioned—the Desert Fathers, Paul (the Hermit), Antony, Hilarion, Macharius, and Arsenius, are all cited as vegetarian examples. After much discussion, they fall asleep—and remain asleep for 45 days, waking when Archbishop Hugh shows up on Wednesday of Holy Week! When they wake up, the meat miraculously turns to ashes, and they fall on their knees and determine never to eat meat again.

“It is true that the church rejected the requirement for vegetarianism, following the dicta of Paul. However, it is interesting under these circumstances that there are so many vegetarians. In fact, outside of the references to Jesus eating fish in the New Testament, there are hardly any references to any early Christians eating meat.

“Thus, vegetarianism was practiced by the apostles, by James the brother of Jesus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Basil, Gregory of Nanziance, John Chrysostom, Tertulllian, Bonaventure, Arnobius, Cassian, Jerome, the Desert Fathers, Paul (the Hermit), Antony, Hilarion, Machrius, Columbanus, and Arsenius—but not by Jesus himself!

“It is as if everyone in the early church understood the message except the messenger. This is extremely implausible. The much more likely explanation is that the original tradition was vegetarian, but that under the pressure of expediency and the popularity of Paul’s writings in the second century, the tradition was first dropped as a requirement and finally dropped even as a desideratum.”

In her 2004 book, Vegetarian Christian Saints: Mystics, Ascetics & Monks, Jewish scholar Dr. Holly Roberts (she has a Master’s degree in Christian theology) documents the lives and teachings of over 150 canonized vegetarian Christian saints:

St. Anthony of Egypt; St. Hilarion; St. Macarius the Elder; St. Palaemon; St. Pachomius; St. Paul the Hermit; St. Marcian; St. Macarius the Younger; St. Aphraates; St. James of Nisibis; St. Ammon; St. Julian Sabas; St. Apollo; St. John of Egypt; St. Porphyry of Gaza; St. Dorotheus the Theban; St. Theodosius the Cenobiarch; St. Sabas; St. Fugentius of Ruspe; St. Gerasimus; St. Mary of Egypt; St. Dositheus; St. Abraham Kidunaja; St. John the Silent; St. Theodore of Sykeon; St. Lups of Troyes; St. Lupicinus; St. Romanus; St. Gudelinis; St. Liphardus; St. Maurus of Glanfeuil; St. Urbicius; St. Senoch; St. Hospitius; St. Winwaloe; St. Kertigan; St. Fintan; St. Molua; St. Amatus; St. Guthlac; St. Joannicus; St. Theodore the Studite; St. Lioba; St. Euthymius the Younger; St. Luke the Younger; St. Paul of Latros; St. Antony of the Caves of Kiev; St. Theodosius Pechersky; St. Fantinus; St. Wulfstan; St. Gregory of Makar; St. Elphege; St. Theobald of Provins; St. Stephen of Grandmont; St. Henry of Coquet; St. William of Malavalle; St. Godric; St. Stephen of Obazine; St. William of Bourges; St. Humility of Florence; St. Simon Stock; St. Agnes of Montepulciano; St. Laurence Justinian; St. Herculanus of Piegaro; St. Francis of Assisi; St. Clare of Assisi; St. Aventine of Troyes; st. Felix of Cantalice; St. Joseph of Cupertino; St. Benedict; St. Bruno; St. Alberic; St. Robert of Molesme; St. Stephen Harding; St. Gilbert of Sempringham; St. Dominic; St. John of Matha; St. Albert of Jerusalem; St. Angela Merici; St. Paula; St. Genevieve; St. David; St. Leonard of Noblac; St. Kevin; St. Anskar; St. Ulrich; St. Yvo; St. Laurence O’Toole; St. Hedwig; St. Mary of Onigines; St. Elizabeth of Hungary; St. Ivo Helory; St. Philip Benizi; St. Albert of Trapani; St. Nicholas of Tolentino; St. Rita of Cascia; St. Francis of Paola; St. John Capistrano; St. John of Kanti; St. Peter of Alcantara; St. Francis Xavier; St. Philip Neri; St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi; St. Jean-Marie Vianney; St. Basil the Great; St. Jerome; St. Ephraem; St. Peter Damian; St. Bernard; St. Catherine of Siena; St. Robert Bellarmine; St. Peter Celestine; St. Olympias; St. Publius; St. Malchus; St. Asella; St. Sulpicius Severus; St. Maxentius; St. Monegundis; St. Paul Aurelian; St. Coleman of Kilmacduagh; St. Bavo; St. Amandus; St. Giles; St. Silvin; st. Benedict of Aniane; St. Aybert; St. Dominic Loricatus; St. Richard of Wyche; St. Margaret of Cortona; St. Clare of Rimini; St. Frances of Rome; St. James de la Marca; St. Michael of Giedroyc; St. Mariana of Quito; St. John de Britto; St. Callistratus; St. Marianus; St. Brendon of Clonfert; St. Kieran (Carian); St. Stephen of Mar Saba; St. Anselm; St. Martin de Porres; St. Procpius; St. Boniface of Tarsus; St. Serenus.

In the (updated) 1986 edition of A Vegetarian Sourcebook, Keith Akers similarly observes: “But many others, both orthodox and heterodox, testified to the vegetarian origins of Christianity. Both Athanasius and his opponent Arius were strict vegetarians. Many early church fathers were vegetarian, including Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Heironymus, Boniface, and John Chrysostom.

“Many of the monasteries both in ancient times and at the present day practiced vegetarianism…The requirement to be vegetarian has been diluted considerably since the earliest days, but the practice of vegetarianism was continued by many saints, monks, and laymen. Vegetarianism is at the heart of Christianity.”

Vegetarian writer Steven Rosen explains:

“…over the centuries, there has arisen two distinct schools of Christian thought. The Aristotelian-Thomistic school and the Augustinian-Franciscan school. The Aristotelian-Thomistic school has, as its fundamental basis, the premise that animals are here for our pleasure—they have no purpose of their own. We can eat them, torture them in laboratories—anything…Unfortunately, modern Christianity embraces this form of their religion.

“The Augustinian-Franciscan school, however, teaches that we are all brothers and sisters under God’s Fatherhood. Based largely on the world view of St. Francis and being platonic in nature, this school fits in very neatly with the vegetarian perspective.”

It is said that St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) bought two lambs from a butcher and gave them the coat on his back to keep them warm; and that he bought two fish from a fishwoman and threw them back into the water. He even paid to ransom lambs that were being taken to their death, recalling the gentle Lamb who willingly went to slaughter (Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29) to pay the ransom of sinners.

“Be conscious, O man, of the wondrous state in which the Lord God has placed you,” instructed Francis in his Admonitions (4), “for He created and formed you to the image of His beloved Son—and (yet) all the creatures under heaven, each according to its nature, serve know, and obey their Creator better than you.” St. Francis felt a deep kinship with all creatures. He called them “brother,” and “sister,” knowing they came from the same Source as himself.

Francis revealed his fraternal love for the animal world during Christmas time 1223: “If I ever have the opportunity to talk with the emperor,” he explained, “I’ll beg him, for the love of God and me, to enact a special law: no one is to capture or kill our sisters the larks or do them any harm. Furthermore, all mayors and lords of castles and towns are required to scatter wheat and other grain on the roads outside the walls so that our sisters the larks and other birds might have something to eat on so festive a day.

“And on Christmas Eve, out of reverence for the Son of God, whom on that night the Virgin Mary placed in a manger between the ox and the ass, anyone having an ox or an ass is to feed it a generous portion of choice fodder. And, on Christmas Day, the rich are to give the poor the finest food in abundance.”

Francis removed worms from a busy road and placed them on the roadside so they would not be crushed under human traffic. Once when he was sick and almost blind, mice ran over his table as he took his meals and over him while he slept. He regarded their disturbance as a “diabolical temptation,” which he met with patience and restraint, indicating his compassion towards other living creatures.

St. Francis was once given a wild pheasant to eat, but he chose instead to keep it as a companion. On another occasion, he was given a fish, and on yet another, a waterfowl to eat, but he was moved by the natural beauty of these creatures and chose to set them free.

“Dearly beloved!” said Francis beginning a sermon after a severe illness, “I have to confess to God and you that…I have eaten cakes made with lard.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia comments on this incident as follows: “St. Francis’ gift of sympathy seems to have been wider even than St. Paul’s, for we find to evidence in the great Apostle of a love for nature or for animals…

“Francis’ love of creatures was not simply the offspring of a soft sentimental disposition. It arose from that deep and abiding sense of the presence of God. To him all are from one Father and all are real kin…hence, his deep sense of personal responsibility towards fellow creatures: the loving friend of all God’s creatures.”

Francis taught: “All things of creation are children of the Father and thus brothers of man…God wants us to help animals, if they need help. Every creature in distress has the same right to be protected.”

According to Francis, a lack of mercy towards animals leads to a lack of mercy towards men: “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

One Franciscan monk, St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), who preached throughout France and Italy, is said to have attracted a group of fish that came to hear him preach. St. James of Venice, who lived during the 13th century, bought and released the birds sold in Italy as toys for children. It is said he “pitied the little birds of the Lord…his tender charity recoiled from all cruelty, even to the most diminutive of animals.”

St. Bonaventure was a scholar and theologian who joined the Franciscan Order in 1243. He wrote The Soul’s Journey into God and The Life of St. Francis, the latter documenting St. Francis’ miracles with animals and love for all creation. Bonaventure taught that all creatures come from God and return to Him, and that the light of God shines through His different creatures in different ways:

“…For every creature is by its nature a kind of effigy and likeness of the eternal Wisdom. Therefore, open your eyes, alert the ears of your spirit, open your lips and apply your heart so that in all creatures you may see, hear, praise, love and worship, glorify and honor your God.”

St. Filippo Neri spent his entire life protecting and rescuing other living creatures. Born in Florence in 1515, he went to Rome as a young man, and tried to live as an ascetic. He sold his books, giving away the money to the poor. He worked without pay in the city hospital, tending to the sick and the poor. He gave whatever he possessed to others.

St. Filippo loved the animals and could not bear to see them suffer. He took the mice caught in traps away from people’s homes and set them free in the fields and stables. A vegetarian, he could not endure walking past a butcher shop. “Ah,” he exclaimed. “If everyone were like me, no one would kill animals!”

The Trappist monks of the Catholic Church practiced vegetarianism from the founding of their Order until the Second Vatican Council in the late 1960s. According to the Trappist rules, as formulated by Armand Jean de Rance (1626-1700), “in the dining hall nothing is layed out except: pulse, roots, cabbages, or milk, but never any fish…I hope I will move you more and more rigorously, when you discover that the use of simple and rough food has its origin with the holy apostles (James, Peter, Matthew).

“We can assure you that we have written nothing about this subject which was not believed, observed, proved good through antiquity, proved by historians and tradition, preserved and kept up to us by the holy monks.”

A contemporary Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast points out that the lives of the saints teach compassion towards all living beings. “Unfortunately,” says Brother David, “Christians have their share of the exploitation of our environment and in the mistreatment of animals. Sometimes they have even tried to justify their crimes by texts from the Bible, misquoted out of context. But the genuine flavor of a tradition can best be discerned in its saints…

“All kinds of animals appear in Christian art to distinguish one saint from another. St. Menas has two camels; St. Ulrich has a rat; St. Bridgid has ducks and geese; St. Benedict, a raven; the list goes on and on. St. Hubert’s attribute is a stag with a crucifix between its antlers. According to legend, this saint was a hunter but gave up his violent ways when he suddenly saw Christ in a stag he was about to shoot…Christ himself is called the Lamb of God.”

According to Brother David, “…the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging—to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets, to pigs and chickens and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer.”

Roman Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-90), wrote in 1870 that “cruelty to animals is as if a man did not love God.” On another occasion, he asked: “Now what is it that moves our very heart and sickens us so much at cruelty shown to poor brutes? I suppose this: first, that they have done us no harm; next, that they have no power whatever of resistance; it is the cowardice and tyranny of which they are the victims which make their sufferings so especially touching…there is something so very dreadful, so satanic, in tormenting those who have never harmed us and who cannot defend themselves; who are utterly in our power.”

Cardinal Newman compared injustices against animals to the sacrifice, agony and death of Christ upon the cross:

“Think of your feelings at cruelty practiced upon brute animals and you will gain the sort of feeling which the history of Christ’s cross and passion ought to excite within you. And let me add, this is in all cases one good use to which you may turn any…wanton and unfeeling acts shown towards the…animals; let them remind you, as a picture of Christ’s sufferings. He who is higher than the angels, deigned to humble Himself even to the state of the brute creation…”

Another cardinal, Henry Edward Manning (1808-92), spoke out against cruelty to animals, especially experimentation upon animals. In a letter dated July 13, 1891, he wrote: “We owe ourselves the duty not to be brutal or cruel; and we owe to God the duty of treating all His creatures according to His own perfections of love and mercy.”

Bishop Westcott wrote, “Animals are in our power in a peculiar sense; they are committed by God to our sovereignty and we owe them a considerate regard for their rights. No animal life can be treated as a THING. Willful disrespect of the sanctities of physical life in one sphere bears its fruit in other and higher spheres.”

Cardinal Francis Bourne (1861-1934) told children in Westminster Cathedral in April 1931: “There is even in kindness to animals a special merit in remembering that this kindness is obligatory upon us because God made the animals, and is therefore their creator, and, in a measure, His Fatherhood extends to them.”

Cardinal Arthur Hinsley (1865-1943), the former archbishop of Westminster, wrote, “The spirit of St. Francis is the Catholic spirit.” According to Cardinal Hinsley, “Cruelty to animals is the degrading attitude of paganism.”

A Roman Catholic priest, Msgr. LeRoy McWilliams of North Arlington, New Jersey, testified in October 1962 in favor of legislation to reduce the sufferings of laboratory animals. He told congressional representatives:

“The first book of the Bible tell us that God created the animals and the birds, so they have the same Father as we do. God’s Fatherhood extends to our ‘lesser brethren.’ All animals belong to God; He alone is their absolute owner. In our relations with them, we must emulate the divine attributes, the highest of which is mercy. God, their Father and Creator, loves them tenderly. He lends them to us and adjures us to use them as He Himself would do.””

Msgr. McWilliams also issued a letter to all seventeen thousand Catholic pastors in the United States, calling upon them to understand “what Christianity imposes on humans as their clear obligation to animals.”

Father Thomas Berry, a Catholic priest, author, and founder of the Riverdale Center of Religious Research in New York, wrote in 1987, “Vegetarianism is a way of life that we should all move toward for economic survival, physical well-being, and spiritual integrity.”

In an editorial that appeared on Christmas Day, 1988, Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy, a prominent Catholic writer and a vegan, observed:

“A long raised but rarely answered question is this: If it was God’s plan for Christ to be born among animals, why have most Christian theologians denied the value and rights of animals? Why no theology of the peaceable kingdom?…Animals in the stable at Bethlehem were a vision of the peaceable kingdom. Among theology’s mysteries, this ought to be the easiest to fathom.”

Mother Teresa, honored for her service to the poor with the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, wrote in 1992 to Marlene Ryan, a former member of the National Alliance for Animals. Her letter reads:

“I am praying for you that God’s blessing may be with you in all that you are doing to create concern for the animals which are often subjected to much cruelty. They, too, are created by the same loving Hand of God which created us. As we humans are gifted with intelligence which the animals lack, it is our duty to protect them and to promote their well being.

“We also owe it to them as they serve us with such wonderful docility and loyalty. A person who shows cruelty to these creatures cannot be kind to other humans also. Let us do all we can to become instruments of peace—where we are—the true peace that comes from loving and caring and respecting each person as a child of God—my brother—my sister.”

In an article entitled “The Primacy of Nonviolence as a Virtue,” appearing in Embracing Earth: Catholic Approaches to Ecology (1994), Brother Wayne Teasdale wrote:

“One key answer to a culture’s preoccupation with violence is to teach, insist on, and live the value of nonviolence. It can be done successfully, and it has been done for more than 2,500 years by Jains and Buddhists. Neither Jainism nor Buddhism has ever supported war or personal violence; this nonviolence extends to all sentient beings. Christianity can learn something valuable from these traditions. This teaching on nonviolence has been incarnated in the lives of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Fourteenth Dalai Lama with significant results…”

According to Teasdale:

“…it is necessary to elevate nonviolence to a noble place in our civilization of loving-compassion because nonviolence as ahimsa in the Hindu tradition, a tradition that seems to possess the most advanced understanding of nonviolence, IS love! Love is the goal and ultimate nature of nonviolence as an inner disposition and commitment of the heart. It is the fulfillment of love and compassion in the social sphere, that is, in the normal course of relations among people in the matrix of society.”

Brother Aelred (Robert Edmunds), a Catholic monk living in Australia, discusses the moral question of killing animals for food in his book Encounter: Christ and Krishna. He points out that Jesus Christ greatly expanded the interpretation of the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” to include not getting angry without cause:

“My position is that Jesus’ teachings on mercy in the Beatitudes require an open-ended ethical inquiry. I ask, for example, how a Christian may speak of ‘mercy’ in the terms of Jesus Christ, and deny mercy to creatures of God who, as we do, experience fear and suffering. Isn’t it the case that Jesus constantly went beyond the ‘letter of the law’ to its spirit?”

Brother Aelred quotes the prophecies of Isaiah (11:6-9, 65:25) concerning the coming Kingdom of Peace. “The passage sees a time when pain and bloodshed will be no more; when prey and devourer will be reconciled. What a vision! Even if the passage is seen as just poetic exaggeration, it is clear that there is hope for a future which will be very different to the world we know. And surely we, as Christians, must be part of this ‘peace process.’ Perhaps our main burden, as Christians, is to be part of this message of hope and reconciliation.”

Brother Aelred concludes: “An Anglican Franciscan superior, in Australia, tells his novices that if they wish to eat flesh they must go out and themselves kill the animal. The moral responsibility must be theirs alone. I consider this a thoroughly sound position, and any Christian reading this article might well reflect on the brother’s teaching.

“In conclusion, I must report a sad truth. My own Christian formation taught me many things of great value, but ‘respect for all things living’ was not part of that formation. It was other religious traditions and ‘secular’ insights which gave me teaching in this area.”

Vasu Murti May 6, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Vegetarianism and concern for animals can be found in Protestant Christianity as well. Commenting on Deuteronomy 22:6, which forbids harming a mother-bird if her eggs or chicks are taken, Martin Luther (1483-1546) wrote: “What else does this law teach but that by the kind treatment of animals they are to learn gentleness and kindness? Otherwise it would seem to be a stupid ordinance not only to regulate a matter so unimportant, but also to promise happiness and a long life to those who keep it.”

According to Luther, Adam “would not have used the creatures as we do today,” but rather, “for the admiration of God and a holy joy.” Referring to passages from Scripture concerning the redemption of the entire creation and the Kingdom of Peace, Luther taught that “the creatures are created for an end; for the glory that is to come.”

British historian William Lecky observed that, “Luther grew sad and thoughtful at a hare hunt, for it seemed to him to represent the pursuit of souls by the devil.”

Author Dix Harwood, in Love for Animals, depicts a grieving young girl being comforted by Luther. Luther assures her that her pet dog who died would certainly go to heaven. Luther tells her that in the “new heavens and new earth…all creatures will not only be harmless, but lovely and joyful…Why, then, should there not be little dogs in the new earth, whose skin might be as fair as gold, and their hair as bright as precious stones?”

Biblical teachings on human responsibilities towards animals were not lost on John Calvin (1509-1564). According to Calvin, animals exist within the framework of human justice: “But it must be remembered that men are required to practice justice even in dealing with animals. Solomon condemns injustice to our neighbours the more severely when he says, ‘a just man cares well for his beasts’ (Proverbs 12:10). In a word, we are to do what is right voluntarily and freely, and each of us is responsible for doing his duty.”

John Wray (1627?-1705), the “father of English natural history,” made the first systematic description and classification of animal and vegetable species. He wrote numerous works on botany, zoology, and theology. In 1691, Wray published The Wisdom of God Manifest in the Works of His Creation, which emphasized the sanctity and value of the natural world.

Wray advocated vegetarianism and made two points in his book. The first was that God can best be seen and understood in the study of His creation. “Let us then consider the works of God and observe the operation of His hands,” wrote Wray. “Let us take notice of and admire His infinite goodness and wisdom in the formation of them. No creature in the sublunary world is capable of doing this except man, and yet we have been deficient therein.”

Wray’s second point was that God placed animals here for their own sake, and not just for the pleasure of humans. Animals have their own intrinsic value. “If a good man be merciful to his beast, then surely a good God takes pleasure that all His creatures enjoy themselves that have life and sense and are capable of enjoying.”

Thomas Tryon’s lengthy The Way to Health, Wealth, and Happiness was published in 1691. Tryon defended vegetarianism as a physically and spiritually superior way of life. He came to this conclusion from his interpretation of the Bible as well as his understanding of Christianity. Tryon wrote against “that depraved custom of eating flesh and blood.” The opening pages of his book begin with an eloquent plea for mercy towards the animals:

“Refrain at all times such foods as cannot be procured without violence and oppression, for know, that all the inferior creatures when hurt do cry and fend forth their complaints to their Maker…Be not insensible that every creature doth bear the image of the great Creator according to the nature of each, and that He is the vital power in all things.

“Therefore, let none take pleasure to offer violence to that life, lest he awaken the fierce wrath, and bring danger to his own soul. But let mercy and compassion dwell plentifully in your hearts, that you may be comprehended in the friendly principle of God’s love and holy light. Be a friend to everything that’s good, and then everything will be a friend to thee, and co-operate for thy good and welfare.”

In The Way, Tryon (1634-1703) also condemned “Hunting, hawking, shooting, and all violent oppressive exercises…” On a separate occasion, he warned the first Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania that their “holy experiment” in peaceful living would fail unless they extended their Christian precepts of nonviolence to the animal kingdom:

“Does not bounteous Mother Earth furnish us with all sorts of food necessary for life?” he asked. “Though you will not fight with and kill those of your own species, yet I must be bold to tell you, that these lesser violences (as you call them) do proceed from the same root of wrath and bitterness as the greater do.”

“Thanks be to God!” wrote John Wesley, founder of Methodism, to the Bishop of London in 1747. “Since the time I gave up the use of flesh-meats and wine, I have been delivered from all physical ills.”

John Wesley was a vegetarian for spiritual reasons as well. He based his vegetarianism on the Biblical prophecies concerning the Kingdom of Peace, where “on the new earth, no creature will kill, or hurt, or give pain to any other.” He further taught that animals “shall receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings.”

Wesley’s teachings placed an emphasis on inner religion and the effect of the Holy Spirit upon the consciousness of such followers. Wesley taught that animals will attain heaven: in the “general deliverance” from the evils of this world, animals would be given “vigor, strength and swiftness… to a far higher degree than they ever enjoyed.”

Wesley urged parents to educate their children about compassion towards animals. He wrote: “I am persuaded you are not insensible of the pain given to every Christian, every humane heart, by those savage diversions, bull-baiting, cock-fighting, horse-racing, and hunting.”

In 1786, Reverend Richard Dean, the curate of Middleton, published An Essay on the Future Life of Brute Creatures. He told his readers to treat animals with compassion, and not to “treat them as sticks, or stones, or things that cannot feel… Surely… sensibility in brutes entitles them to a milder treatment than they usually meet from hard and unthinking wretches.”

The Quakers have a long history of advocating kindness towards animals. In 1795, the Society of Friends (Quakers) in London passed a resolution condemning sport hunting. The resolution stated in part, “let our leisure be employed in serving our neighbor, and not in distressing, for our amusement, the creatures of God.”

John Woolman (1720-72) was a Quaker preacher and abolitionist who traveled throughout the American colonies attacking slavery and cruelty to animals. Woolman wrote that he was “early convinced in my mind that true religion consisted in an inward life, wherein the heart doth love and reverence God the Creator and learn to exercise true justice and goodness, not only toward all men, but also toward the brute creatures…”

Woolman’s deep faith in God thus led to his reverence for all life. “Where the love of God is verily perfected and the true spirit of government watchfully attended to,” he taught, “a tenderness toward all creatures made subject to us will be experienced, and a care felt in us that we do not lessen that sweetness of life in the animal creation which the great Creator intends for them.”

Joshua Evans (1731-1798), a Quaker and a contemporary of Woolman’s, stated that reverence for life was the moral basis of his vegetarianism. “I considered that life was sweet in all living creatures,” he wrote, ‘and taking it away became a very tender point with me…I believe my dear Master has been pleased to try my faith and obedience by teaching me that I ought no longer to partake of anything that had life.

The “Quaker poet” and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92), wrote: “The sooner we recognize the fact that the mercy of the Almighty extends to every creature endowed with life, the better it will be for us as men and Christians.”

One of the most respected English theologians of the 18th century, William Paley (1743-1805), taught that killing animals for food was unjustifiable. Paley called the excuses used to justify killing animals “extremely lame,” and even refuted the rationalizations concerning fishing.

The founder and first secretary of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was an Anglican priest, the Reverend Arthur Broome. The RSPCA was originally founded as a Christian society “entirely based on the Christian Faith, and on Christian Principles,” and sponsoring sermons on humane education in churches in London. The Society formed in 1824, and its first “Prospectus” spoke of the need to extend Christian charity and benevolence to the animals:

“Our country is distinguished by the number and variety of its benevolent institutions…all breathing the pure spirit of Christian charity…But shall we stop here? Is the moral circle perfect so long as any power of doing good remains? Or can the infliction of cruelty on any being which the Almighty has endued with feelings of pain and pleasure consist with genuine and true benevolence?”

This Prospectus was signed by many leading 19th century Christians including William Wilberforce, Richard Martin, G.A. Hatch, J. Bonner, and Dr. Heslop.

The Bible Christian Church was a 19th century movement teaching vegetarianism, abstinence from intoxication, and compassion for animals. The church began in England in 1800, requiring all its members to take vows of abstinence from meat and wine.

One of the church’s first converts, William Metcalfe (1788-1862), immigrated to Philadelphia in 1817 with forty-one followers to establish a church in America. Metcalfe cited numerous biblical references to support his thesis that humans were meant to follow a vegetarian diet for reasons of health and compassion for animals.

German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) believed flesh-eating to be responsible for the downfall of man. He felt vegetarianism could help mankind return to Paradise. He wrote: “Plant life instead of animal life is the keystone of regeneration. Jesus used bread in place of flesh and wine in place of blood at the Lord’s Supper.”

General William Booth (1829-1912), founder of the Salvation Army, practiced and advocated vegetarianism. Booth never officially condemned flesh-eating as either cruelty or gluttony, but taught that abstinence from luxury is helpful to the cause of Christian charity. “It is a great delusion to suppose that flesh of any kind is essential to health,” he insisted.

“The moral evils of a flesh diet are not less marked than are the physical ills,” wrote Ellen White, founder of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. “Flesh food is injurious to health, and whatever affects the body has a corresponding effect on the mind and soul.”

Although Seventh-Day Adventists strongly recommend vegetarianism for reasons of health and nutrition, White also espoused the belief that kindness to animals should be a Christian duty. In Ministry of Healing, she urged the faithful to:

“Think of the cruelty that meat eating involves, and its effect on those who inflict and those who behold it. How it destroys the tenderness with which we should regard these creatures of God!”

In Patriarchs and Prophets, White referred to numerous passages in the Bible calling for kindness to animals, and concluded that humans will be judged according to how they fulfill their moral obligations to animals:

“It is because of man’s sin that ‘the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain’ (Romans 8:22). Surely, then, it becomes man to seek to lighten, instead of increasing, the weight of suffering which his transgression has brought upon God’s creatures. He who will abuse animals because he has them in his power is both a coward and a tyrant. A disposition to cause pain, whether to our fellow men or to the brute creation is satanic.

“Many do not realize that their cruelty will ever be known because the poor dumb animals cannot reveal it. But could the eyes of these men be opened, as were those of Balaam, they would see an angel of God standing as a witness to testify against them in the courts above.

“A record goes up to heaven, and a day is coming when judgement will be pronounced against those who abuse God’s creatures.”

In Counsels on Diet and Foods, White referred to the Garden of Eden, a Holy Sanctuary of God, where nothing would ever die, as the perfect example of humans in their natural state:

“God gave our first parents the food He designed that the race should eat. It was contrary to His plan to have the life of any creature taken. There was to be no death in Eden. The fruit of the tree in the garden was the food man’s wants required.”

“Tenderness accompanies all the might imparted by Spirit,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. “The individuality created by God is not carnivorous, as witness the millenial estate pictured by Isaiah (11:6-9).

“All of God’s creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible. A realization of this grand verity was a source of strength to the ancient worthies. It supports Christian healing, and enables its possessor to emulate the example of Jesus. ‘And God saw that it was good.’”

Congregational minister Frederic Marvin preached a Christmas Eve sermon in 1899 entitled, “Christ Among the Cattle.” Like Hindus revering Lord Krishna as a cowherd or a shepherd, Marvin similarly saw Jesus’ birth in the manger as that of God incarnate teaching humanity by personal example. Birth among the cattle was a sign for people all over the world to follow—a lesson teaching the need to show compassion towards the animals.

In his 1923 work, The Natural Diet of Man, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg observed:

“The attitude of the Bible writers toward flesh-eating is the same as toward polygamy. Polygamy as well as flesh-eating was tolerated under the social and religious systems of the old Hebrews and even during the early centuries of the Christian era; but the first man, Adam, in his pristine state in the Garden of Eden was both a monogamist and a flesh-abstainer.

“If the Bible supports flesh-eating, it equally supports polygamy; for all the patriarchs had plural wives as well as concubines. Christian ethics enjoin a return to the Edenic example in matters matrimonial. Physiologic science as well as human experience call for a like return to Eden in matters dietetic.”

An essay on “The Rights of Animals” by Dean William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) can be found in his 1926 book, Lay Thoughts of a Dean. It reads in part:

“Our ancestors sinned in ignorance; they were taught (as I deeply regret to say one great Christian Church still teaches) that the world, with all that it contains, was made for man, and that the lower orders of creation have no claims upon us. But we no longer have the excuse of saying that we do not know; we do know that organic life on this planet is all woven of one stuff, and if we are children of our Heavenly Father, it must be true, as Christ told us, that no sparrow falls to the ground without His care.

“The new knowledge has revolutionized our ideas of our relations to the other living creatures who share the world with us, and it is our duty to consider seriously what this knowledge should mean for us in matters of conduct.”

Dean Inge is reported to have said, “Whether animals believe in a god I do not know, but I do know that they believe in a devil—the devil which is man.”

“The day is surely dawning,” wrote the Reverend V.A. Holmes-Gore, M.A., “when it will become clear that the idea of the Blessed Master giving His sanction to the barbaric habit of flesh-eating, is a tragic delusion, foisted upon the Church by those who never knew Him.”

Reverend Holmes-Gore called vegetarianism “absolutely necessary for the redemption of the planet. Indeed we cannot hope to rid the world of war, disease and a hundred other evils until we learn to show compassion to the creatures and refrain from taking their lives for food, clothing or pleasure.”

Perhaps alluding to the twin doctrines of karma and reincarnation, Reverend Holmes-Gore explained:

“The Church is powerless to free mankind from such evils as war, oppression and disease, because it does nothing to stop man’s oppression of victimizing living creatures…Every evil action, whether it be done to a man, a woman, a child, or an animal will one day have its effect upon the transgressor. The rule that we reap what we sow is a Divine Law from which there is no escape.

“God is ever merciful, but He is also righteous, and if cruel men and women will learn compassion in no other way, then they will have to learn through suffering, even if it means suffering the same tortures that they have themselves inflicted. God is perfect Love, and He is never vengeful or vindictive, but the Divine Law of mercy and compassion cannot be broken without bringing tremendous repercussions upon the transgressor.”

Reverend Holmes-Gore acknowledged that a great deal of social progress has been made, but injustices continue to flourish:

“…we have made many great reforms, but there remains much to be done. We have improved the lot of children, of prisoners, and of the poor beyond all recognition in the last hundred years. We have done something to mitigate the cruelties inflicted upon the creatures. But though some of the worst forms of torture have been made illegal, the welter of animal blood is greater than ever, and their sufferings are still appalling.

“What we need is not a reform of existing evils,” concluded Reverend Holmes-Gore, “but a revolution in thought that will move Christians to show real compassion to all God’s creatures. Many people claim to be lovers of animals who are very far from being so. For a flesh-eater to claim to love animals is as if a cannibal expressed his devotion to the missionaries he consigns to the seething cauldron.”

“Dear God,” began the childhood prayers of Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), “please protect and bless all living things. Keep them from evil and let them sleep in peace.” This noted Protestant French theologian, music scholar, philosopher and missionary doctor in Africa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.

Schweitzer preached an ethic of reverence for life: “Not until we extend the circle of compassion to include all living things shall we ourselves know peace.” When a man questioned his philosophy, saying God created animals for man to eat, Schweitzer replied, “Not at all.”

Schweitzer reflected, “How much effort it will take for us to get men to understand the words of Jesus, ‘Blessed are the merciful,’ and to bring them to the realization that their responsibility includes all creatures. But we must struggle with courage.” According to Schweitzer, “We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also.”

Schweitzer founded the Lambarene Hospital in French Equatorial Africa in 1913, managing it for many years. “I never go to a menagerie,” he once wrote, “because I cannot endure the sight of the misery of the captive animals. The exhibiting of trained animals I abhor. What an amount of suffering and cruel punishment the poor creatures have to endure to give a few minutes of pleasure to men devoid of all thought and feeling for them.”

Schweitzer taught compassionate stewardship towards the animal kingdom: “We…are compelled by the commandment of love contained in our hearts and thoughts, and proclaimed by Jesus, to give rein to our natural sympathy to animals,” he explained. “We are also compelled to help them and spare suffering as far as it is in our power.”

In a sermon preached in Bath Abbey, the Reverend E.E. Bromwich, M.A., taught: “Our love of God should be extended as far as possible to all God’s creatures, to our fellow human beings and to animals…In His love, God caused them all to exist, to express His feelings for beauty and order, and not merely to provide food and companionship for man.

“They are part of God’s creation and it is God’s will that they should be happy, quite as much as it is His will that we should be happy. The Christian ought to be bitterly ashamed for the unnecessary suffering that men still cause their animal brothers.”

According to the Reverend Lloyd Putman: “In the beautiful story of creation in Genesis, God is pictured as the Creator of all Life—not just of man. To be sure, man is given ‘dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth,’ but far from being a brutal dominion, man is to view the animal world with a sense of stewardship and responsibility.

“If man lives recklessly and selfishly with no regard for animals, he is denying that God is to be seen as the creator of all life, and he is forgetting that God beheld not only man, but all creation and said that ‘it was very good.’ He is omitting the Biblical emphasis on man and animals sharing a common creation.”

On June 5, 1958, the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale stated, “I do not believe a person can be a true Christian, and at the same time engage in cruel or inconsiderate treatment of animals.”

One of the leading Protestant thinkers of the 20th century, Karl Barth (1886-1968), wrote in The Doctrine of Creation (1961):

“If there is a freedom of man to kill animals, this signifies in any case the adoption of a qualified and in some sense enhanced responsibility. If that of his lordship over the living beast is serious enough, it takes on a new gravity when he sees himself compelled to suppress his lordship by depriving it of its life. He obviously cannot do this except under the pressure of necessity.

“Far less than all the other things which he dares to do in relation to animals, may this be ventured unthinkingly and as though it were self-evident. He must never treat this need for defensive and offensive action against the animal world as a natural one, nor include it as a normal element in his thinking or conduct. He must always shrink from this possibility even when he makes use of it.

“It always contains the sharp counter-question: who are you, man, to claim that you must venture this to maintain, support, enrich and beautify your own life? What is there in your life that you feel compelled to take this aggressive step in its favor? We cannot but be reminded of the perversion from which the whole historical existence of the creature suffers and the guilt which does not really reside in the beast but ultimately in man himself.”

Responding to a question about the Kingdom of Peace, Lord Donald Soper of the Church of England was of the opinion that Jesus, unlike his brother James, was neither a teetotaler nor a vegetarian, but, “I think probably, if He were here today, He would be both.”

In a 1963 article on “The Question of Vivisection,” Lord Soper concluded:

“…let me suggest that Dr. Schweitzer’s great claim that all life should be based on respect for personality has been too narrowly interpreted as being confined entirely to the personality of human beings. I believe that this creed ‘respect for personality’ must be applied to the whole of creation. I shouldn’t be surprised if the Buddhists are nearer to an understanding of it than we are.

“When we apply this principle, we shall be facing innumerable problems, but I believe we shall be on the right track which leads finally to the end of violence and the achievement of a just social order which will leave none of God’s creatures out of that Kingdom which it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us.”

In 1977, at an annual meeting in London of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Dr. Donald Coggan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: “Animals, as part of God’s creation, have rights which must be respected. It behooves us always to be sensitive to their needs and to the reality of their pain.”

“Honourable men may honourably disagree 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. “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.”

The contemporary Christian attitude towards vegetarianism is perhaps best expressed by ministerial student Kenneth Rose, in a 1984 essay entitled “The Lion Shall Eat Straw Like the Ox: The Bible and Vegetarianism.”

“At present,” Rose acknowledges, “vegetarianism among those who base their lives on the Bible is quite rare. Nevertheless, vegetarianism remains God’s ultimate will. Since, according to the Bible, the goal of history is the transformation of the predatory principle in the principle of universal love, it seems reasonable to suppose that people who take the Bible seriously should strive to bring their lives into accordance with the righteousness and nonviolence that will prevail in God’s kingdom. Surely we can’t in this life fully escape the consequences of the Fall, but we can try, with God’s grace, to live in accordance with God’s perfect will.

“…no rational or scriptural reason can be discovered,” Rose observes, “that would prohibit the teacher of Christian truth from encouraging believers to go beyond the concession to human weakness granted in Genesis 9:3 so that, even now, before the full dawning of God’s kingdom of peace, they may begin living according to the ethics of that kingdom.

“To live in this way must be considered as part of God’s ultimate intention for humanity, for how else can one account for the fact that the Bible both begins and ends in a kingdom where the sound of slaughter is unknown?

“For those of us who take the Bible seriously,” Rose concludes, “our obedience to God will then become greater as it aspires to live out the vision of the peaceable kingdom the Bible points to. To the degree that we stop slaughtering innocent creatures for food, to that degree we will nullify the predatory principle, a principle that structures the injustices characteristic of this fallen age. And seeing all creatures with equal vision, we will enter more deeply into the kingdom of God.”

(Kenneth Rose is now a professor of religious studies.)

In 1986, Dale and Judith Ostrander, ministers in the United Church of Christ, a pro-choice Protestant denomination, issued a biblical call for stewardship, in which they concluded:

“For Christians the Scriptures contain the Word of God. And there is a particular conviction about Jesus Christ being the normative Word through whom all scriptural words are interpreted—the central meaning of Love and reconciliation of all creation. Therefore, all other biblical themes and all specific pieces of Scripture become authoritative for the Christian insofar as they affirm or are consistent with God’s reconciling purpose.

“The role of Christians is to help God’s reconciling purpose become a reality. This means, among other things, living out our calling to care for God’s creation. It means taking seriously the interconnectedness of all life and our kinship with all living things.

“If Christians accept God’s loving dominion, then, created in God’s likeness, we are called to exercise our given ‘dominion’ over creation with the same kind of love. And if the great commandment is to love God, we must love God also through the complex ecological relationship of all living things.

“To misuse our delegated authority over the creation in exploitative, abusive, cruel or wasteful ways is to live as if we did not love God. We are led, therefore, as Christians to raise questions about our attitudes toward and treatment of animals.

“A growing number of ‘voices crying in the wilderness’ are calling us to take more seriously the ways in which we are despoiling the Earth and threatening its ability to sustain and support life. These voices are calling us to rethink our attitudes and our treatment of animals as we consider anew what it means to be faithful stewards of creation.”

In 1987, the Reverend Carolyn J. Michael Riley declared Unity Church in Huntington, NY a fur-free zone. Reverend Riley, a vegetarian since 1982, remains committed to her position. “I really do believe,” she says, “that everyone is able that much more to feel the Spirit, because there are no longer vibrations of death.” Reverend Riley says she wants to “help raise the consciousness of the suffering going on in the animal kingdom.”

According to the Reverend James Caroll, an Episcopal priest in Van Nuys, California, “A committed Christian, who knows what his religion is about, will never kill an animal needlessly. Above all, he will do his utmost to put a stop to any kind of cruelty to any animal. A Christian who participates in or gives consent to cruelty to animals had better reexamine his religion or else drop the name Christian.”

In 1992, members of Los Angeles’ First Unitarian Church agreed to serve vegetarian meals at the church’s weekly Sunday lunch. This decision was made as a protest against animal cruelty and the environmental damage caused by the livestock industry.

Vegetarianism and ethical concern for animals are consistent with Protestant Christianity:

“It is not a question of palate, of custom, of expediency, but of right,” wrote the Reverend J. Tyssul-Davies, B.A., on the subject of vegetarianism. “As a mere Christian Minister, I have had to make my decision. My palate was on the side of custom; my intellect argued for the expedient; but my higher reason and conscience left me no alternative. Our Lord came to give life, and we do not follow Him by taking life needlessly. So, I was compelled, against myself, to eschew carnivorism.”

The Reverend George Laughton taught:

“The practice of kindness towards dumb creatures is a sign of development to the higher reaches of intelligence and sympathy. For, mark you, in every place there are those who are giving of their time and thought and energy to the work of protecting from cruelty and needless suffering the beasts of the field and streets. These are the people who make the earth clean and sweet and more like what God intended it to be.”

Vasu Murti May 6, 2012 at 6:07 pm

George T. Angell, founder of the Massachuse­tts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said, “I am sometimes asked, ‘Why do you spend time and money talking about kindness to animals when there is cruelty to men?’ I answer: ‘I am working at the roots.’”

“There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be kind to beasts as well as man, it is all a sham.”

—Anna Sewell
author, Black Beauty

“I care not for a man’s religion whose dog or cat are not the better for it…I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”

—Abraham Lincoln

French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes (1596-1650) taught that animals are simply machines, without souls, reason or feeling. The cry of a dog in pain, according to Descartes, is merely a mechanical noise, like the creak of a wheel. His beliefs found acceptance in ecclesiastical and scientific circles. Science was progressing quite rapidly in the 17th century; Descartes effectively removed all moral objections to animal experimentation.

One voice of objection was that of Henry More (1614-1687), a Cambridge Platonist. In a series of letters with Descartes, More wrote that no one can prove animals lack souls or experience an afterlife. He regarded animal souls and immortality as consistent with the inherent goodness of God. He wrote that people deny the animals souls and an afterlife out of “narrowness of spirit, out of overmuch self-love, and contempt of other creatures.”

More wrote further that this world was not made for man alone, but for other living creatures as well. He taught that God loves the animals and is concerned about their welfare and happiness. More believed that humans were meant to rule over the animals with compassionate stewardship. He quoted Proverbs 12:10 from the Old Testament: “The good man is merciful to his beasts.”

A distinguished philosopher and an eloquent writer, More believed unrestrained human violence and abuse towards animals would cause humans to likewise deal with one another. “I think that he that slights the life or welfare of a brute Creature,” wrote More, “is naturally so unjust, that if outward laws did not restrain him, he would be as cruel to Man.”

In 1776, Dr. Humphrey Primatt, an Anglican priest, published A Dissertation on the Duty of Mercy and the Sin of Cruelty to Brute Animals. This may have been the first book devoted to kindness to animals. Dr. Primatt believed that cruelty towards animals leads inevitably to human violence: “if all the barbarous customs and practices still subsisting amongst us were decreed to be as illegal as they are sinful, we should not hear of so many shocking murders and acts as we now do.”

According to Primatt, “Love is the great Hinge upon which universal Nature turns. The Creation is a transcript of the divine Goodness; and every leaf in the book of Nature reads us a lecture on the wisdom and benevolence of its great Author…upon this principle, every creature of God is good in its kind; that is, it is such as it ought to be.”

Primatt drew no distinction between the sufferings of animals and those of men: “Pain is pain, whether it is inflicted on man or on beast; and the creature that suffers it, whether man or beast, being sensible of the misery of it whilst it lasts, suffers Evil…”

Primatt wrote with a vision of universal emancipation: “It has pleased God the Father of all men, to cover some men with white skins, and others with black skins; but as there is neither merit nor demerit in complexion, the white man, nonwithstanding the barbarity of custom and prejudice, can have no right, by virtue of his colour, to enslave and tyrannize over a black man.

“Now, if amongst men, the differences of their powers of the mind, and of their complexion, stature, and accidents of fortune, do not give any one man a right to abuse or insult any other man on account of these differences; for the same reason, a man can have no natural right to abuse and torment a beast, merely because a beast has not the mental powers of a man.

“For, such as the man is, he is but as God made him; and the very same is true of the beast. Neither of them can lay claim to any intrinsic Merit, for being such as they are; for, before they were created, it was impossible that either of them could deserve; and at their creation, their shapes, perfections or defects were invariably fixed, and their bounds set which they cannot pass.

“And being such, neither more nor less than God made them, there is no more demerit in a beast being a beast, than there is merit in a man being a man; that is, there is neither merit nor demerit in either of them.

“We may pretend to what religion we please,” Primatt concluded, “but cruelty is atheism. We may boast of Christianity; but cruelty is infidelity. We may trust to our orthodoxy; but cruelty is the worst of heresies.

“The religion of Jesus Christ originated in the mercy of God; and it was the gracious design of it to promote peace to every creature on earth, and to create a spirit of universal benevolence or goodwill in men.

“And it has pleased God therein to display the riches of His own goodness and mercy towards us; and the revealer of His blessed will, the author and finisher of our faith, hath commanded us to be merciful, as our Father is also merciful, the obligation upon Christians becomes the stronger; and it is our bounded duty, in an especial manner, and above all other people, to extend the precept of mercy to every object of it. For, indeed, a cruel Christian is a monster of ingratitude, a scandal to his profession and beareth the name of Christ in vain…”

Christian writer C. S. Lewis noted that animals were included in the first Passover. The application of the “blood of the lamb” on the doorposts, not only saved a man and his family from death that night in Egypt, it saved his animals as well. Lewis put forth a rational argument concerning the resurrection of animals in The Problem of Pain. His 1947 essay, “A Case for Abolition,” attacked vivisection (animal experimentation) and reads as follows:

“Once the old Christian idea of a total difference in kind between man and beast has been abandoned, then no argument for experiments on animals can be found which is not also an argument for experiments on inferior men. If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we re backing up our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists for the same reason. Indeed, experiments on men have already begun. We all hear that Nazi scientists have done them. We all suspect that our own scientists may begin to do so, in secret, at any moment.

“The victory of vivisection marks a great advance in the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law; a triumph in which we, as well as animals, are already the victims, and of which Dachau and Hiroshima mark the more recent achievements. In justifying cruelty to animals we put ourselves also on the animal level. We choose the jungle and must abide by our choice.”

“I am not a Christian,” wrote one animal rights activist in Animals, Men and Morals (1971), “but I find it incomprehensible that those who preach a doctrine of love and compassion can believe that the material pleasures of meat-eating justify the slaughter it requires.”

In 1977, at an annual meeting in London of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Dr. Donald Coggan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said, “Animals, as part of God’s creation, have rights which must be respected. It behooves us always to be sensitive to their needs and to the reality of their pain.”

Dr. L. Charles Birch, an Australian “eco-philosopher,” has long urged the churches to preach conservation of nature and respect for other living creatures. In July 1979 he argued at a conference of the World Council of Churches in Cambridge, Massachussetts, that all living creatures should be valued because of their “capacity for feeling.” Dr. Birch has also condemned “factory farming” — the overcrowded, confinement methods of raising and killing animals for food as “unethical,” and declared that “the animal rights movement should be supported by all Christians.”

Christians have mobilized on abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment and other sanctity-of-life issues. While a rational case can be made for the rights of preborn humans, a stronger, more immediate, self-evident and compelling secular case exists for the rights of animals. Animals are highly complex creatures, possessing a brain, a central nervous system and a sophisticated mental life. Animals suffer at the hands of their human tormentors and exhibit such “human” behaviors and feelings as fear and physical pain, defense of their children, pair bonding, group/tribal loyalty, grief at the loss of loved ones, joy, jealousy, competition, territoriality, and cooperation.

Can organized religion give its massive support to the struggle for animal rights? Today we find churches spearheading social change, calling for civil rights, the protection of unborn children, an end to human rights abuses in other countries, etc. This has not always been the case. It has often been said that on issues such as women’s rights and human slavery, religion has impeded social progress.

The church of the past never considered slavery to be a moral evil. The Protestant churches of Virginia, South Carolina, and other southern states actually passed resolutions in favor of the human slave traffic.

Human slavery was called “by Divine Appointment,” “a Divine institution,” “a moral relation,” “God’s institution,” “not immoral,” but “founded in right.” The slave trade was called “legal,” “licit,” “in accordance with humane principles” and “the laws of revealed religion.”
New Testament verses calling for obedience and subservience on the part of slaves (Titus 2:9-10; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25; I Peter 2:18-25) and respect for the master (I Timothy 6:1-2; Ephesians 6:5-9) were often cited in order to justify human slavery. Some of Jesus’ parables refer to human slaves. Paul’s epistle to Philemon concerns a runaway slave returned to his master.

“Paul’s outright endorsement of slavery should be an undying embarrassment to Christianity as long as they hold the entire New Testament to be the word of God,” says contemporary Quaker physician Dr. Charles P. Vaclavik. “Without a doubt, the American slaveholders quoted Paul again and again to substantiate their right to hold slaves.

“The moralist movement to abolish slavery had to go to non-Biblical sources to demonstrate the immoral nature of slavery. The abolitionists could not turn to Christian sources to condemn slavery, for Christianity had become the bastion of the evil practice through its endorsement by the Apostle Paul. Only the Old Testament gave the abolitionist any Biblical support in his effort to free the slaves.
‘You shall not surrender to his master a slave who has taken refuge with you.’ (Deuteronomy 23:15) What a pittance of material opposing slavery from a book supposedly representing the word of God.”

In 1852 Josiah Priest wrote Bible Defense of Slavery. Others claimed blacks were subhuman. Buckner H. Payne, calling himself “Ariel,” wrote in 1867, “the tempter in the Garden of Eden…was a beast, a talking beast…the negro.” Ariel argued that since the negro was not part of Noah’s family, he must have been a beast. Eight souls were saved on the ark, therefore, the negro must be a beast, and “consequently he has no soul to be saved.”

The status of animals in contemporary human society is not unlike that of human slaves in centuries past. Quoting Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18, Colossians 3:11, Galatians 3:28, or any other biblical passages in favor of liberty, equality and an end to human slavery in the 18th century would have been met with the same response animal rights activists receive today if they quote Bible verses in favor of ethical vegetarianism and compassion towards animals.

Dr. Tom Regan, the foremost intellectual leader of the animal rights movement and author of The Case for Animal Rights, notes that animals “have beliefs and desires; perception, memory, and a sense of the future, including their own future; and emotion life together with feelings of pleasure and pain; preference and welfare interests; the ability to initiate action in pursuit of their desires and goals; a psychophysical identity over time; and an individual welfare in the sense that their experiential life fares well or ill for them, logically independently of their being the object of anyone else’s interests.”

Similarly, research psychologist Dr. Theodore Barber, writes in his 1993 book, The Human Nature of Birds, that birds are intelligent beings, capable of flexible thought, judgment, and the ability to express opinions, desires, and choices just as humans do. According to Dr. Barber, birds can make and use tools; work with abstract concepts; exhibit grief, joy, compassion and altruism; create musical compositions, and perform intricate mathematical calculations in navigation.

If animals have rights, then the widespread misconception amongst Christians, that compassion for animals and vegetarianism are solely “Jewish” concerns, becomes as absurd as saying, “it’s only wrong to own slaves if you’re a Quaker.” Suffering and injustice concern us all. Christian clergy have begun to seriously address the issue of animal rights. The Reverend Dr. S. Parkes Cadman has been quoted as saying:

“Life in any form is our perpetual responsibility. Its abuse degrades those who practice it; its rightful usage is a signal token of genuine manhood. If there be a superintending Justice, surely It takes account of the injuries and sufferings of helpless yet animate creation. Let us be perfectly clear about the spirituality of the issue before us. We have abolished human bondage because it cursed those who imposed it almost more than those who endured it. It is now our bounded duty to abolish the brutal and ferocious oppression of those creatures of our common Father which share with man the mystery of life…this theme is nothing if not spiritual: an acid test of our relation to the Deity of love and compassion.”

In a 1985 paper entitled “The Status of Animals in the Christian Tradition” (based on a September 1984 talk at a Quaker study center entitled “Non-violence: Extending the Concept to Animals”), the Reverend Andrew Linzey redefined the traditional understanding of human “dominion” over the animal kingdom:

“…scholarly research in the modern period interprets the notion of dominion in terms of early kingship theology in which man is to act as God’s vice-regent in creation, that is with authority, but under divine moral rule. We are therefore not given absolute or arbitrary power over animals but entrusted with God-like power which must be exercised with responsibility and restraint.

“…for centuries Christians have misinterpreted their own scripture and have read into it implications that were simply not there. The idea that human beings have absolute rights over creation is therefore eclipsed. The vital issue that now confronts moral theologians is how far and to what extent we may use animal life and for what purposes.”

After citing Scripture and many positive instances of concern for animals in the Christian tradition, Reverend Linzey concludes that the Christian basis for animal rights includes the following points:

1. Animals are fellow creatures with us and belong to God.

2. Animals have value to God independently of their value or use to us.

3. Animals exist in a covenant relationship with God and mankind and therefore there is a moral bond between us.

4. Human beings are set in a position of responsibility to animals.

5. Jesus Christ is our moral exemplar in his sacrifice of love for creation.

6. God’s redeeming love extends to all creation.

7. We have duties to animals derived from our relationship of responsibility to them.

In a sermon preached in York Minster, September 28, 1986, John Austin Baker, the Bishop of Salisbury, England, attacked the overcrowded confinement methods of raising and killing animals for food, choosing as his example, the treatment of chickens.

“Is there any credit balance for the battery hen, denied almost all natural functioning, all normal environment, lapsing steadily into deformity and disease, for the whole of her existence?” he asked. “It is in the battery shed and the broiler house, not in the wild, that we find the true parallel to Auschwitz. Auschwitz is a purely human invention.”

On another occasion, Bishop Baker taught: “By far the most important duty of all Christians in the cause of animal welfare is to cultivate this capacity to see; to see things with the heart of God, and so to suffer with other creatures.”

On World Prayer Day for Animals, October 4, 1986, Bishop Baker preached against indifference to animal pain and lauded the animal welfare movement: “To shut your mind, heart, imagination to the sufferings of others is to begin slowly but inexorably to die. It is to cease by inches from being human, to become in the end capable of nothing generous or unselfish–or sometimes capable of anything, however terrible. You in the animal welfare movement are among those who may yet save our society from becoming spiritually deaf, blind and dead, and so from the doom that will justly follow…”

According to Bishop Baker: “…Rights, whether animal or human, have only one sure foundation: that God loves us all and rejoices in us all. We humans are called to share with God in fulfilling the work of love toward all creatures…the true glory of the strong is to give themselves for the cherishing of the weak.”

In October, 1986, on the Feast Day of St. Francis, the Very Reverend James Morton in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City, made this observation: “We don’t own animals, any more than we don’t own trees or own mountains or seas or, indeed, each other. We don’t own our wives or our husbands or our friends or our lovers. We respect and behold and we celebrate trees and mountains and seas and husbands and wives and lovers and children and friends and animals…Our souls must be poor–must be open–in order to be able to receive, to behold, to enter into communion with, but not to possess. Our poverty of soul allows animals to thrive and to shine and be free and radiate God’s glory.”

A 1980 United Nations report states that women constitute half the world’s population, perform nearly two-thirds of its work hours, yet receive one-tenth of the world’s income and own less than one-hundredth of the world’s property. The impact of the women’s movement upon the church is being heralded as a Second Reformation. Women are now being ordained as priests, pastors and ministers, while patriarchal references to the Almighty as “Father” are replaced with the gender-neutral “Parent.” Jesus Christ is designated the “Child of God.”

The words of Scripture–perhaps, more accurately, the words of the apostle Paul–on this subject are seen today not as a divine revelation, but rather as an embarrassment from centuries past:

“Let the women keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak. Instead, they must, as the Law says, be in subordination. If they wish to learn something, let them inquire of their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church…let a woman learn quietly with complete submission. I do not allow a woman to teach, neither to domineer over a man; instead she is to keep still. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, since she was deceived, experienced the transgression. She will, however, be kept safe through the child-bearing, if with self-control she continues in faith and love and consecration.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35; I Timothy 2:11-15)

Many churches now claim these instructions were merely temporary frameworks used to build churches in the first century pagan world–they are not to be taken as universal absolutes for all eternity. If churches, Scripture and Christianity can adapt and be redefined or reinterpreted in a changing world to end injustices towards women, they can certainly do the same towards animals.

The International Network for Religion and Animals (INRA) was founded in 1985 by Virginia Bouraquardez. Its educational and religious programs are meant to “bring religious principles to bear upon humanity’s attitude towards the treatment of our animal kin…and, through leadership, materials, and programs, to successfully interact with clergy and laity from many religious traditions.”

According to INRA:

“Religion counsels the powerful to be merciful and kind to those weaker than themselves, and most of humankind is at least nominally religious. But there is a ghastly paradox. Far from showing mercy, humanity uses its dominion over other animal species to pen them in cruel close confinement; to trap, club, and harpoon them; to poison, mutilate, and shock them in the name of science; to kill them by the billions; and even to blind them in excruciating pain to test cosmetics.

“Some of these abuses are due to mistaken understandings of religious principles; others, to a failure to apply those principles. Scriptures need to be fully researched concerning the relationship of humans to nonhuman animals, and to the entire ecological structure of Nature. Misinterpretations of scripture taken out of context, or based upon questionable theological assumptions need to be re-examined.”

In the winter of 1990, INRA’s Executive Director, the Reverend Dr. Marc A. Wessels of the United Church of Christ wrote: “As a Christian clergyman who speaks of having compassion for other creatures and who actively declares the need for humans to develop an ethic that gives reverence for all of life, I hope that others will open their eyes, hearts and minds to the responsibility of loving care for God’s creatures.”

In a pamphlet entitled “The Spiritual Link Between Humans and Animals,” Reverend Wessels writes: “We recognize that many animal rights activists and ecologists are highly critical of Christians because of our relative failure thus far adequately to defend animals and to preserve the natural environment. Yet there are positive signs of a growing movement of Christian activists and theologians who are committed to the process of ecological stewardship and animal liberation.

“Individual Christians and groups on a variety of levels, including denominational, ecumenical, national and international, have begun the delayed process of seriously considering and practically addressing the question of Christian responsibility for animals. Because of the debate surrounding the ‘rights’ of animals, some Christians are considering the tenets of their faith in search for an appropriate ethical response.”

According to Reverend Wessels, “The most important teaching which Jesus shared was the need for people to love God with their whole self and to love their neighbor as they loved themselves. Jesus expanded the concept of neighbor to include those who were normally excluded, and it is therefore not too farfetched for us to consider the animals as our neighbors.

“To think about animals as our brothers and sisters is not a new or radical idea. By extending the idea of neighbor, the love of neighbor includes love of, compassion for, and advocacy of animals. There are many historical examples of Christians who thought along those lines, besides the familiar illustration of St. Francis. An abbreviated listing of some of those individuals worthy of study and emulation includes Saint Blaise, Saint Comgall, Saint Cuthbert, Saint Gerasimus, Saint Giles, and Saint Jerome, to name but a few.”

Reverend Wessels notes that: “In the Bible, which we understand as the divine revelation of God, there is ample evidence of the vastness and goodness of God toward animals. The Scriptures announce God as the creator of all life, the One responsible for calling life into being and placing it in an ordered fashion which reflects God’s glory. Humans and animals are a part of this arrangement. Humanity has a special relationship with particular duties to God’s created order, a connection to the animals by which they are morally bound by God’s covenant with them.

“According to the Scriptures, Christians are called to respect the life of animals and to be ethically engaged in protecting the life and liberty of all sentient creatures. As that is the case, human needs and rights do not usurp an animal’s intrinsic rights, nor should they deny the basic liberty of either individual animals or specific species. If the Christian call can be understood as being a command to be righteous, then Christians must have a higher regard for the lives of animals.

“Jesus’ life was one of compassion and liberation;” concludes Reverend Wessels, “his ministry was one which understood and expressed the needs of the oppressed. Especially in the past decade, Christians have been reminded that their faith requires them to take seriously the cries of the oppressed.

“Theologians such as Gutierrez, Miranda, and Hinkelammert have defined the Christian message as one which liberates lives and transforms social patterns of oppression. That concept of Christianity which sees God as the creator of the universe and the One who seeks justice is not exclusive; immunity from cruelty and injustice is not only a human desire or need–the animal kingdom also needs liberation.”

A growing number of Christian theologians, clergy and activists are beginning to take a stand in favor of animal rights. In a pamphlet entitled Christian Considerations on Laboratory Animals Reverend Marc Wessels notes that in laboratories animals cease to be persons and become “tools of research.” He cites William French of Loyala University as having made the same observation at a gathering of Christian ethicists at Duke University–a conference entitled “Good News for Animals?”

On Earth Day, 1990, Reverend Wessels observed:

“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.”

The Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey’s 1987 book, Christianity and the Rights of Animals, may be regarded as a landmark in Christian theology as well as in the animal rights movement. Linzey responds to criticism from many of the intellectual leaders of the animal rights and environmental movements–Peter Singer, Richard Ryder, Maureen Duffy, Lynn White, Jr.–that Christianity has excluded nonhumans from moral concern, that Christian churches are consequently agents of oppression, and that Christian doctrines are thus responsible for the roots of the current ecological crisis.

“We do not have books devoted to a consideration of animals,” he acknowledges. “We do not have clearly worked-out systematic views on animals. These are signs of the problem. The thinking, or at least the vast bulk of it, has yet to be done.”

Dr. Tom Regan calls Reverend Linzey, an Anglican clergyman, “the foremost theologian working in the field of animal/human relations.” Christianity and the Rights of Animals, a must-read for all Christians, certainly clears the ground.

According to Reverend Linzey:

“It does seem somewhat disingenuous for Christians to speak so solidly for human rights and then query the appropriateness of rights language when it comes to animals…the Christian basis for animal rights is bound to be different in crucial respects from that of secular philosophy. But because Christians (as we see it) have a good, even superior, basis for animal rights, that in no way precludes others from utilizing the terminology.”

Linzey acknowledges that the gospel is ambiguous on ethical questions such as animal rights. “When it comes to wanting to know the attitude that Jesus may have taken to a range of pressing moral issues today, we are often at a loss to know precise answers. But we can at least be clear about the contours. The lordship of Christ is expressed in service. He is the one who washes dirty feet, heals the sick, releases individuals from oppression, both spiritual and physical, feeds the hungry, and teaches his followers the way of costly loving…”

Linzey justifies compassion for animals through the example of Christ. “If God’s self-revealed life in Jesus is the model of how Christians should behave and if, crucially, divine power is expressed in service, how can we disregard even ‘the least among us’? It may be that in the light of Christ we are bound to say that the weakest have in fact the greater claim upon us.

“In some ways,” Linzey continues, “Christian thinking is already oriented in this direction. What is it that so appalls us about cruelty to children or oppression of the vulnerable, but that these things are betrayals of relationships of special care and special trust? Likewise, and even more so, in the case of animals who are mostly defenseless before us.

“Slowly but surely,” Linzey explains, “having grasped the notion of dominion means stewardship, we are now for the first time seeing how demanding our lordship over creation is really meant to be. Where once we thought we had the cheapest ride, we are now beginning to see that we have the costliest responsibilities…Lordship without service is indeed tyranny.”

Discussing the finer points between human “dominion” over animals, versus humane stewardship, Linzey says, “the whole point about stewardship is that the stewards should value what God has given as highly as they value themselves. To be placed in a relationship of special care and special protection is hardly a license for tyranny or even… ‘benevolent despotism.’ If we fail to grasp the necessarily sacrificial nature of lordship as revealed in Christ, we shall hardly begin to make good stewards, even of those beings we regard as ‘inferior.'”

Linzey sees divine reconciliation through Christ. The “hidden purpose” of God in Christ was “determined beforehand,” and consists of bringing “all in heaven and on earth” into a “unity in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:9-11) Linzey notes that in Ephesians, as in Colossians and Romans, the creation is “foreordained in Christ.”

“Since it is through man’s curse that the creation has become estranged from its Creator,” Linzey asserts, “it is only right that one important step along the road to recovery is that man himself should be redeemed. The salvation of human beings is in this way a pointer to the salvation of all creation…For it must be the special role of humans within God’s creation to hasten the very process of redemption, by the power of the Spirit for which God has destined it.

“Human beings must be healed,” Linzey insists, “because it is their violence and disorder which has been let loose on the world. Through humans, liberated for God, we can glimpse the possibility of world redemption. Can it really be so difficult to grasp that the God who performs the demanding and costly task of redeeming sinful man will not also be able to restore the involuntary animal creation, which groans under the weight of another’s burden?”

Linzey thus sees Jesus Christ as the only hope for animal liberation. “In Christ, God has borne our sufferings, actually entered into them in the flesh so that we may be liberated from them (and all pain and all death) and secure, by his grace, eternal redemption.

“In principle the question of how an almighty, loving God can allow suffering in a mouse is no different to the same question that may be posed about man. Of course there are important differences between men and mice, but there are no morally relevant ones when it comes to pain and suffering. It is for this reason alone that we need to hold fast to those cosmic strands of the biblical material which speak of the inclusive nature of Christ’s sacrifice and redeeming work.”

Linzey finds two justifications for a Christian case for vegetarianism:

“The first is that killing is a morally significant matter. While justifiable in principle, it can only be practically justified where there is real need for human nourishment. Christian vegetarians do not have to claim that it is always and absolutely wrong to kill in order to eat. It could well be that there were, and are, some situations in which meat-eating was and is essential in order to survive. Geographical considerations alone make it difficult to envisiage life in Palestine at the time of Christ without some primitive fishing industry. But the crucial point is that where we are free to do otherwise the killing of Spirit-filled individuals requires moral justification. It may be justifiable, but only when human nourishment clearly requires it, and even then it remains an inevitable consequence of sin.

“The second point,” Linzey explains, “is that misappropriation occurs when humans do not recognize that the life of an animal belongs to God, not to them. Here it seems to me that Christian vegetarianism is well-founded. For while it may have been possible in the past to rear animals with personal care and consideration for their well-being and to dispatch them with the humble and scrupulous recognition that their life should only be taken in times of necessity, such conditions are abnormal today.”

In Christianity and the Rights of Animals, the Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey not only makes a very sound Christian theological case for animal rights, but states further that animal slavery may be abolished on the same grounds that were used in biblical times to abolish human sacrifice and infanticide:

“…it may be argued that humans have a right to their culture and their way of life. What would we be, it may be questioned, without our land and history and ways of life? In general, culture is valuable. But it is also the case that there can be evil cultures, or at least cherished traditions which perpetuate injustice or tyranny.

“The Greeks, for example, despite all their outstanding contributions to learning did not appear to recognize the immorality of (human) slavery. There can be elements within every culture that are simply not worth defending, not only slavery, but also infanticide and human sacrifice.”

“With God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27) Linzey urges Christian readers to think in terms of future possibilities. “For to be committed to Jesus involves being committed not only to his earthly ministry in the past but also to his living Spirit in whose power new possibilities are continually opened up for us in the present. All things have yet to be made new in Christ and we have yet to become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Making peace is a dynamic possibility through the Spirit.”

Frances Arnetta founded Christians Helping Animals and People Inc. (CHAP), a New York-based ministry. “I believe Jesus Christ is the only hope for ending cruelty towards animals,” she says. The end of animal cruelty will coincide with Jesus’ Second Coming, when the Kingdom of Peace will reign. Arnetta lives her life in preparation for that day. Arnetta cites Psalm 50:10-11 and Revelations 4:11, insisting animals belong to God and are not here for human exploitation.

“Compassion towards people and compassion towards animals are not mutually exclusive,” Arnetta writes. “A truly sympathetic person cannot turn his or her feelings on and off like a faucet, depending on the species, race, sex or creed of the victim. God teaches us in Psalm 36:6 and in Matthew 6:26 and 10:29 that his compassion encompasses all creatures, human and animal. Shall we not imitate our Heavenly Father?”

In a pamphlet entitled Animal Rights: A Biblical View, Arnetta cites Genesis 1:20-22. God creates animals and blesses them; animals have the right to be blessed by God. After creating the nonhuman world, God “saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:25) “Here, God gave the animals their own intrinsic value; the Creator and Lord of the universe called them good! Now they had the right to be viewed as individuals with inherent qualities of goodness and worth, independent of human beings, who had not yet been created!

“Next,” Arnetta continues, “God brought the animals to Adam to be named. This naming gave status to the animals…God saw to it that every living creature had a name. (Genesis 2:19) here God gave them the right to personhood and respect…God has also used the animals as His messengers. The first time Noah sent forth the dove from the ark, her return told him that the waters had not receded enough for the occupants of the ark to leave it. The second time she returned with an olive leaf, telling him that the waters were abated. During the drought and resulting famine in Israel under Ahab’s reign, God sent ravens to feed the prophet Elijah. (I Kings 17:4-6)”

On the issue of animal sacrifice, Arnetta notes that, “Without the shedding of innocent blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). I believe that death was the price exacted by Satan for the return of creation into fellowship with God…The sacrificial animal was an Old Testament symbol of Christ, the Redeemer: ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye shall have no life in you.’ (John 6:53) I believe God dearly loves the animals, because they are innocent–only their innocent blood could cover sin until Jesus shed His innocent blood to wash away sin. With Jesus’ death, the need for animal sacrifice was done away with.”

Arnetta supports this position, as well as her view that animals are included in God’s kingdom, by citing John 3:16:

“‘For God so loved the world (not just humankind), that He gave His only begotten Son…’ The word ‘world’ used here in the original Greek means ‘cosmos’–all of creation! (See also I Corinthians 15:16-28 and Colossians 1:15-20). And so, through Jesus Christ, the animals have a right to eternal life!

“Revelations 5:13 tells of the coming worship of Jesus,” explains Arnetta. “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, ‘Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb (Jesus) for ever and ever.'”

Arnetta regards animal rights not as a form of “good works,” but rather as a fundamental Christian concern: “Why worry about the unwanted unborn? Why worry about the starving peoples of the world? Here’s why: We are to ‘occupy’ until Jesus returns…the salvation of souls is our first priority. But we can’t help souls if we’re one-dimensional. Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and in general practice all the works of mercy.

“In our present world,” Arnetta admits, “human problems will never be solved. Jesus said, ‘For ye have the poor always with you…’ (Matthew 26:11) What we must do is try to relieve suffering wherever we find it, regardless of the nature of the victim, until Jesus comes back. Only His return will eliminate all suffering forever (see Isaiah 11:6-9).

“Revelations 12:12 specifically states that the devil causes suffering to animals, and Ephesians 4:27 warns us not to give him any place. Genesis 1:20-25 declares that as God created each creature ‘He saw that it was good.’ In this way, God gave every creature its own intrinsic worth, before man was even created…Some years ago, the FBI did a study on the link between a child’s cruelty to animals and his/her tendency toward violent crime in adulthood. A direct relationship was proven beyond doubt…”

According to Arnetta, “As humanism and speciesism took hold in the ‘Age of Reason,’ Descartes declared that animals are only machines. And so, Western civilization took a tragic detour from Biblical compassion–a detour that is with us to this day.”

Arnetta rejects the idea that biblically-based respect for the sanctity of all life will lead to pantheism or the deification of animals, as is the case with certain non-Christian faiths. “When we Christians are compassionate to animals,” she says, “we are imitating our Heavenly Father. If non-Christian people are leading the way in respect for the lives of animals, it is because we Christians have failed to be the light Jesus commanded us to be. We should be an example of boundless mercy.”

In a pamphlet entitled What the Bible Says About Vegetarianism: God’s Best for All Concerned, Arnetta writes that Christians should be “harmless as doves,” and describes vegetarianism as “God’s best for good health,” “God’s best for the environment,” and “God’s best to feed the hungry.”

She writes:

“Vegetarianism is the diet that will once again be given by God. Jews look forward to that time as the coming of the Messiah; Christians see it as the return of the Messiah–Jesus Christ. It is prophesied in Isaiah 11:1-9 and in Isaiah 65–a time when, under His lordship, predator and prey will lie down side by side in peace and once again enjoy the green herb and the fruit of the seed-bearing tree.

“In the New Testament, Revelation 21:4 describes this as the time when ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.’

“Not only is it totally Scriptural to be a vegetarian,” Arnetta concludes, “but when done in service to the true and living God, it may well be as close to a heavenly lifestyle as one can get!”

Clive Hollands of the St. Andrew Animal Fund in England, wrote in a 1987 paper entitled “The Animal Kingdom and the Kingdom of God” that animal rights “is an issue of strict justice,” and one that calls for Christian compassion:

“As Christians we believe that God gave us dominion over His Creation and we used that authority, not to protect and safeguard the natural world, but to destroy and pollute the environment and, worse, we have deprived animals of the dignity and respect which is due to all that has life.

“Let us then thank God for the unending wonder of the created world, for the oneness of all life–for the Integrity of Creation. Let us pray for all living creatures, those in the wild that may never even see man and in whose very being worship their Creator.

“Let us think and pray especially for all those animals who do know man, who are in the service of man, and who suffer at the hands of man. Let us pray to the God who knows of the fall of a single sparrow, that the suffering, pain and fear of all animals may be eased.

“Finally, let us pray for all those who work to protect animals that their efforts may be rewarded and the time may come when animals are granted the dignity and respect which is their due as living beings created by the same hand that fashioned you and me.”

The Glauberg Confession is a theological statement of faith made before a God whose love extends to all His creatures. It reads as follows:

“We confess before God, the Creator of the Animals, and before our fellow Men; We have failed as Christians, because we forgot the animals in our faith.

“As theologians we were not prepared to stand up against scientific and philosophical trends inimical to life with the Theology of Creation.
We have betrayed the diaconical mission of Jesus, and not served our least brethren, the animals.

“As pastors we were scared to give room to animals in our churches and parishes.

“As the Church, we were deaf to the ‘groaning in travail’ of our mistreated and exploited fellow-creatures.

“We justify the Glauberg Confession theologically.

“We read the statements in the Bible about Creation and regard for our fellow-creatures with new eyes and new interest. We know how tied up we are with Nature, linked with every living thing–and under the same threat.

“The rediscovery of the theology of Creation has also turned our regard upon the animals, our poorest brothers and sisters. We perceive that as theologically thinking and working Christians we owe them a change of attitude.

“We justify our Confession pastorally.

“For years many people actively engaged in animal welfare have been waiting for us ministers of religion to take up the cause of animal rights. Many of them have quit the Church in disappointment because no clear witness was given for the animals in the field of theology, in the Church’s social work or in the parishes, either in word or in deed. The task of winning back the trust of these people who dedicate their time, money, energy and sometimes their health to reconciliation with the animals, is a pastoral challenge to us.”

Reverend Marc Wessels says of The Glauberg Confession:

“It speaks simply but eloquently on behalf of those who have determined that they will no longer support a theology of human dictatorship that is against God’s other creatures…

“This brief statement was written during the spring of 1988 and was signed by both Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy who participated in its framing.

“It was signed by men and women of religious orders, as well as by laity. Both academics and average church members have indicated their support for the document by signing it.

“Growing numbers of people around the globe are also adding their own personal declaration of support by forwarding their names to the covenors of the confession.”

“Increasingly, during this century Christians have come to understand the gospel, the Good News, in terms of freedom, both freedom from oppression and freedom for life with God and others. Too often, however, this freedom has been limited to human beings, excluding most other creatures, as well as the earth.

“This freedom cannot be so limited because if we destroy other species and the ecosystem, human beings cannot live. This freedom should not be so limited because other creatures, both species and individuals, deserve to live in and for themselves and for God. Therefore, we call on Christians as well as other people of good will to work towards the liberation of life, all life.”

—World Council of Churches
“The Liberation of Life,” 1988

In “The Liberation of Life,” the World Council of Churches, a politically left-liberal organization with worldwide influence, has taken the strongest animal protection position of any Christian body.

This document urges parishioners to avoid cosmetics and household items that have been tested on animals; to buy “cruelty-free” products, instead. This document urges parishioners to boycott animal furs and skins, and purchase “cruelty-free” clothing as a humane alternative. This document asks that meat, eggs and dairy products be purchased from sources where the animals have not been subject to overcrowding, confinement and abuse, and reminds parishioners they are free to avoid such products altogether. Parishioners are also asked not to patronize any form of entertainment that treats animals as mere objects of human usage.

In a paper presented before the Conference on Creation Theology and Environmental Ethics at the World Council of Churches in Annecy, France in September, 1988, American philosopher Dr. Tom Regan (the foremost intellectual leader of the animal rights movement), expressed opposition to discrimination based upon genetic differences:

“…biological differences inside the species Homo sapiens do not justify radically different treatment among those individual humans who differ biologically (for example, in terms of sex, or skin color, or chromosome count). Why, then, should biological differences outside our species count morally? If having one eye or deformed limbs do not disqualify a human being from moral consideration equal to that given to those humans who are more fortunate, how can it be rational to disqualify a rat or a wolf from equal moral consideration because, unlike us, they have paws and a tail?”

Dr. Regan concluded:

“…the whole fabric of Christian agape is woven from the threads of sacrificial acts. To abstain, on principle, 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, not in a glass darkly, but face to face, a small but not unimportant part of both the challenge and the promise of Christianity and animal rights.”

In a 1989 interview with the Animals’ Agenda, Reverend Linzey insisted, “…my primary loyalty is to God, and not to the church. You see, I don’t think the claims of the church and the claims of God are identical…The church is a very human institution, a frail human institution, and it often gets things wrong. Indeed, it’s worse than that. It’s often a stumbling block and often a scandal.”

Linzey expressed optimism from a study of history: “Let’s take your issue of slavery. If you go back in history, say 200 years, you’ll find intelligent, conscientious, loving Christians defending slavery, because they hardly gave it two thoughts. If they were pressed, they might have said, ‘Slavery is part of progress, part of the Christianization of the dark races.’

“A hundred or perhaps as little as 50 years later, what you suddenly find is that the very same Christian community that provided one of the major ideological defenses of slavery had begun to change its mind…here is a classic example of where the Christian tradition has been a force for slavery and a force for liberation.

“Now, just think of the difficulties that those early Christian abolitionists had to face. Scripture defended slavery. For instance, in Leviticus 25, you’re commanded to take the child of a stranger as a slave…St. Paul simply said that those who were Christian slaves should be better Christians. Almost unanimously, apart from St. Gregory, the church fathers defended slavery, and for almost 1800 years, Christians defended and supported slavery. So, in other words, the change that took place within the Christian community on slavery is not just significant, it is historically astounding.

“Now, I give that example because I believe the case of animals is in many ways entirely analogous. We treat animals today precisely as we treated slaves, and the theological arguments are often entirely the same or have the same root. I believe the movement for animal rights is the most significant movement in Christianity, morally, since the emancipation of the slaves. And it provides just as many difficulties for the institutional church…”

Christians have found themselves unable to agree upon many pressing moral issues–including abortion. Exodus 21:22-24 says if two men are fighting and one injures a pregnant woman and the child is killed, he shall repay her according to the degree of injury inflicted upon her, and not the fetus. On the other hand, the Didache (Apostolic Church teaching) forbade abortion.

“There has to be a frank recognition that the Christian church is divided on every moral issue under the sun: nuclear weapons, divorce, homosexuality, capital punishment, animals, etc.,” says Reverend Linzey. “I don’t think it’s desirable or possible for Christians to agree upon every moral issue. And, therefore, I think within the church we have no alternative but to work within diversity.”

In a 1989 article entitled, “Re-examining the Christian Scriptures,” Rick Dunkerly of Christ Lutheran Church notes that, “Beginning with the Old Testament, animals are mentioned and included everywhere…and in significant areas.”

According to Dunkerly, God’s solution to the problem of human loneliness “was to bring the animals to the man for personalized naming and for a restorative, unconditional, and loving relationship with them all. Animals are specifically included in the covenant given by God to Noah in the aftermath of the Flood, with God as the sole contracting party.

“Animals portray Jesus Christ in the covenant with Abraham: Three animals are included as the intermediary. Each animal is a willing servant of man and each was to be three years old; the same duration as the earthly ministry of the Messiah.”
Dunkerly cites Romans 8:18-25, which describes the entire creation awaiting redemption:

“What Saint Paul is saying in the Romans 8 passage is that the death of Jesus upon the cross not only redeems every human being who willingly appropriates it unto him/herself, it also redeemed the entire creation as well, including the animals who were subjugated to the Adamic curse without choice on their part…each element of the ancient Curse would be reversed…Satan would be denied all aspects of victory.

“In light of this,” he 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.

1991 marked the publication (in England) of Using the Bible Today, a collection of essays by distinguished clergy, theologians, and Christian writers on the relevance of the Bible to contemporary issues such as ecology, human suffering, animal rights, the inner city, war and psychology. An essay by the Reverend Andrew Linzey, “The Bible and Killing for Food” makes the following observations:

“…we have first of all to appreciate that those who made up the community whose spokesperson wrote Genesis 1 were not themselves vegetarian. Few appreciate that Genesis 1 and 2 are themselves the products of much later reflection by the biblical writers themselves. How is it then that the very people who were not themselves vegetarian imagined a beginning of time when all who lived were vegetarian by divine command?

“To appreciate this perspective we need to recall the major elements of the first creation saga. God creates a world of great diversity and fertility. Every living creature is given life and space (Genesis 1:9-10, 24-25). Earth to live on and blessing to enable life itself (1:22). Living creatures are pronounced good (1:25). Humans are made in God’s image (1:27) given dominion (1:26-29), and then prescribed a vegetarian diet (1:29-30). God then pronounces that everything was ‘very good’ (1:31). Together the whole creation rests on the Sabbath with God (2:2-3).

“When examined in this way, we should see immediately that Genesis 1 describes a state of paradisal existence. There is no hint of violence between or among different species. Dominion, so often interpreted as justifying killing, actually precedes the command to be vegetarian. Herb-eating dominion is hardly a license for tyranny. The answer seems to be that even though the early Hebrews were neither pacifists nor vegetarians, they were deeply convinced of the view that violence between humans and animals, and indeed between animal species themselves, was not God’s original will for creation.

“But if this is true, how are we to reconcile Genesis 1 with Genesis 9, the vision of original peacefulness with the apparent legitimacy of killing for food? The answer seems to be that as the Hebrews began to construct the story of early human beginnings, they were struck by the prevalence and enormity of human wickedness.

“The stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and his descendants are all testimonies to the inability of humankind to fulfill the providential purposes of God in creation. The issue is made explicit in the story of Noah: Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them.'” (Genesis 6:11-14)

“The radical message of the Noah story (so often overlooked by commentators) is that God would rather not have us be at all if we must be violent. It is violence itself within every part of creation that is the pre-eminent mark of corruption and sinfulness. It is not for nothing that God concludes: ‘I am sorry that I have made them.’ (Genesis 6:7)

“It is in this context–subsequent to the Fall and the Flood–that we need to understand the permission to kill for food in Genesis 9. It reflects entirely the situation of the biblical writers at the time they were writing. Killing–of both humans as well as animals–was simply inevitable given the world as it is and human nature as it is. Corruption and wickedness had made a mess of God’s highest hopes for creation. There just had to be some accommodation to human sinfulness…

“Meat eating has become the norm. Vegetarians, especially Christian vegetarians, have survived from century to century to find themselves a rather beleaguered minority.”

Reverend Linzey studies the messianic prophecies concerning the future Kingdom of Peace: “It seems…while the early Hebrews were neither vegetarians nor pacifists, the ideal of the peaceable kingdom was never lost sight of. In the end, it was believed, the world would one day be restored according to God’s original will for all creation…we have no biblical warrant for claiming killing as God’s will. God’s will is for peace.

“We need to remember that even though Genesis 9 gives permission to kill for food it does so only on the basis that we do not misappropriate God-given life. Genesis 9 posits divine reckoning for the life of every beast taken under this new dispensation (9:5).”

Linzey concludes his essay by examining the current trends in vegetarianism and animal rights in contemporary society: “…it often comes as a surprise for Christians to realize that the modern vegetarian movement was strongly biblical in origin. Inspired by the original command in Genesis 1, an Anglican priest…founded the Bible Christian Church in 1809 and made vegetarianism compulsory among its members. The founding of this Church in the United Kingdom and its sister Church in the United States by William Metcalfe, effectively heralded the beginning of the modern vegetarian movement.”

In a 1991 article entitled “Hunting: What Scripture Says,” Rick Dunkerly observes:

“There are four hunters mentioned in the Bible: three in Genesis and one in Revelation. The first hunter is named Nimrod in Genesis 10:8-9. He is the son of Cush and founder of the Babylonian Empire, the empire that opposes God throughout Scripture and is destroyed in the Book of Revelation. In Micah 5:6, God’s enemies are said to dwell in the land of Nimrod. Many highly reputable evangelical scholars such as Barnhouse, Pink and Scofield regard Nimrod as a prototype of the anti-Christ.

“The second hunter is Ishmael, Abraham’s ‘son of the flesh’ by the handmaiden, Hagar. His birth is covered in Genesis 16 and his occupation in 21:20. Ishmael’s unfavorable standing in Scripture is amplified by Paul in Galatians 4:22-31.

“The third hunter, Esau, is also mentioned in the New Testament. His occupation is contrasted with his brother (Jacob) in Genesis 25:27. In Hebrews 12:16 he is equated with a ‘profane person’ (KJV). He is a model of a person without faith in God. Again, Paul elucidates upon this model unfavorably in Romans 9:8-13, ending with the paraphrase of Malachi 1:2-3: ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’

“The fourth hunter is found in Revelation 6:2, the rider of the white horse with the hunting bow. Scholars have also identified him as the so-called anti-Christ. Taken as a group, then, hunters fare poorly in the Bible. Two model God’s adversary and two model the person who lives his life without God.

“In Scripture,” notes Dunkerly, “the contrast of the hunter is the shepherd, the man who gently tends his animals and knows them fully. The shepherds of the Bible are Abel, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and David. Beginning in the 23rd Psalm, Jesus is identified as ‘the Good Shepherd.’

“As for hunting itself, both the Psalms and Proverbs frequently identify it with the hunter of souls, Satan. His devices are often called ‘traps’ and ‘snares,’ his victims ‘prey.’ Thus, in examining a biblical stance on the issue of hunting, we see the context is always negative, always dark in contrast to light…premeditated killing, death, harm, destruction. All of these are ramifications of the Fall. When Christ returns, all of these things will be ended…

“Of all people,” Dunkerly concludes, “Christians should not be the destroyers. We should be the healers and reconcilers. We must show NOW how it will be THEN in the Peaceable Kingdom of Isaiah 11:6 where ‘the wolf shall lie down with the lamb…and a little child shall lead them.’ We can begin now within our homes and churches by teaching our children respect and love for all of God’s creation…”

“We do not know how to celebrate, rejoice, and give thanks for the beautiful world God has made,” wrote the Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey in 1992. “If we treat it as trash it is because so many of us still imagine the world as just that. For too long Christian churches have colluded in a doctrine that the earth is half-evil, or unworthy, or–most ludicrous of all–‘unspiritual.’

“The Church needs to teach reverence for life as a major aspect of Christian ethics…So much of Christian ethics is pathetically narrow and absurdly individualistic… One of the major problems with St. Francis…is that the Church has not taken any practical notice of him. St. Francis preached a doctrine of self-renunciation, whereas the Church today remains concerned with its own respectability. St. Francis lived a life of poverty, whereas the modern Church is as ever concerned about money. St. Francis, like Jesus, associated with the outcasts and the lepers, whereas the Church today consists predominately of the middle class.”

Linzey cites Paul’s epistle to the Romans, which describes the creation itself in a state of childbirth. “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” According to the Christian scheme of things, Linzey explains, “the world is going somewhere. It is not destined for eternal, endless suffering and pain. It has a destiny. Like us, it is not born to die eternally.

“The fundamental thing to grasp,” Linzey declares, “is that we have responsibility to cooperate with God in the creation of a new world.
“I believe then that the Church must wake up to a new kind of ministry,” Linzey concludes, “not just to Christians or to human beings, but to the whole world of suffering creatures. It must be our human, Christian task to heal the suffering in the world.”

Linzey notes that “humans are made in the image of God, given dominion, and then told to follow a vegetarian diet (Genesis 1:29). Herb-eating dominion is not despotism.” However, Linzey acknowledges the need for a new theology, an animal liberation theology, which would revolutionize our understanding of humanity’s place in creation and relationship to other species, just as the Copernican picture of a sun-centered universe replaced the earth-centered picture.

“We need a concept of ourselves in the universe not as the master species but as the servant species–as the one given responsibility for the whole and the good of the whole. We must move from the idea that animals were given to us and made for us, to the idea that we were made for creation, to serve it and ensure its continuance. This actually is little more than the theology of Genesis chapter two. The Garden is made beautiful and abounds with life: humans are created specifically to ‘take care of it.’ (Genesis 2:15)

“A great wickedness of the Christian tradition,” observes Reverend Linzey, “is that, at this very point, where it could have been a source of great blessing and life; it has turned out to be a

BillyHW May 7, 2012 at 4:41 am

Oh how I loathe vegetarians.

Justin May 7, 2012 at 6:44 am

If only 150 saints have been documented to be vegetarians, then the “numbers” argument works against you since hundreds more have been meat eaters.

BillyHW May 7, 2012 at 9:57 am

These people forget that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, too.

Vasu Murti May 7, 2012 at 10:16 am

Hitler was a meat-eater, not a vegetarian.

Vegetarianism, in itself, is merely an ethic, and not necessarily a religion.

As an ethic, vegetarianism has attracted some of the greatest figures in history.

Do meat-eaters see a vision of universal emancipation?

Do meat-eaters think of Susan B. Anthony, Gandhi, Tolstoy or even Henry David Thoreau when it comes to vegetarianism?

No, they think of Hitler!

According to Carol Orsag, in Irving Wallace and David Wallechinsky’s The People’s Almanac (1975), however:

Adolf Hitler “became vegetarian because of stomach problems” rather than because of compassion for animals, and “was criticized for eating pig’s knuckles.” (a popular German delicacy known as eisbein.)

In a 1996 article appearing in the now-defunct Animals’ Agenda, “Nazis and Animals: Debunking the Myths,” Roberta Kalechofsky of Jews for Animal Rights says Hitler “had a special fondness for sausages and caviar, and sometimes ham,” as well as “liver dumplings.”

Kalechofsky writes that the Nazis experimented on animals as well as humans in the concentration camps:

“The evidence of Nazi experiments on animals is overwhelming. In The Dark Face of Science, author John Vyvyan summed it up correctly:

“‘The experiments made on prisoners were many and diverse, but they had one thing in common: all were in continuation of, or complementary to, experiments on animals.

“‘In every instance, this antecedent scientific literature is mentioned in the evidence, and at Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps, human and animal experiments were carried out simultaneously as parts of a single programme.’”

Wouldn’t reverence for life — showing other animals the level of concern we now narrowly restrict only to showing other humans — have the opposite effect?

Compassion for all-creatures?

There is no evidence vegetarianism (for ethics or health) will make people saints or give them Gandhian compassion, but neither is there any evidence that it will make people Nazis.

Hitler was a meat-eater and not a vegetarian.

Hitler thought Albert Einstein’s scientific discoveries were mere “Jewish science” — and not a Christian concern.

This is the mentality of meat-eating Christians.

These Christians think they’re exempt from animal issues, which they consider sectarian (like circumcision), rather than seeing them as a universal ethic (not harming or killing animals) for all mankind.

Professor Henry Bigelow observed: “There will come a time when the world will look back to modern vivisection (animal experimentation) in the name of science as they do now to burning at the stake in the name of religion.”

In his 1979 book, Aborting America, Dr. Bernard Nathanson (co-founder of NARAL, a physician who presided over some 60,000 abortions before changing sides on the issue) similarly wrote:

“Anti-abortion authors cannot restrain themselves from dragging Adolf Hitler out of the grave. A society that accepts abortion, we are told, is doing what the Nazis did when they killed off the handicapped, the retarded, the gypsies, and the Jews.

“The facts are these. The German Nazis had strict anti-abortion policies–for ‘Aryans.’ Jews were encouraged to abort, as part of Hitler’s racial purity madness…

“Strange that Right-to-Lifers do not make more of the fact that the pioneer in liberal abortion was not Hitler but V.I. Lenin, in 1920. The Soviet Union is not exactly one’s ideal of a humanitarian, life valuing state, either.”

Again:

Like not harming or not killing unborn children (being pro-life), not harming or not killing animals (vegetarianism) in itself is merely an ethic, and not necessarily a religion.

As an ethic, vegetarianism has attracted some of the greatest figures in history.

The Table of Contents to Rynn Berry’s 1993 book, Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes: Lives & Lore from Buddha to the Beatles includes:

Pythagoras; Gautama the Buddha; Mahavira; Plato (and Socrates); Plutarch; Leonardo da Vinci; Percy Shelley; Count Leo Tolstoy; Annie Besant; Mohandas Gandhi; George Bernard Shaw; Bronson Alcott; Adventist physician Dr. John Harvey Kellogg; Henry Salt; Frances Moore Lappe; Isaac Bashevis Singer; Malcolm Muggeridge and Brigid Brophy.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): 501 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510 (757) 622-PETA

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 11:28 am

Hitler was also a non-smoker. Do you want to support smoking because of that?

BillyHW May 7, 2012 at 11:48 pm

I want to oppose anti-smoking Nazis.

Mariusz May 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Bravo, Vasu Murti! I thank you wholeheartedly for this vast amount of information. It will be of great help in my own arguments for Christian vegetarianism. Let’s face it: many Christians bend backwards to find religious justifications for eating meat because (1) they like to eat meat, (2) they are against the culture of secular vegetarianism/veganism with its pagan philosophies and false premises. While the second reason is somewhat understandable, it usually has the effect of throwing out the baby with the bath water. The first reason, however, is much more prevalent and important. The basic thing to remember is that in Christianity there is no absolute command to eat meat and no prohibition of vegetarianism. As I have written before, Christian vegetarianism is simply charity to animals.

Justin May 7, 2012 at 6:41 am

Did you watch Jimmy’s video? Obviously not, you define Christian dogma, not the magisterium!

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 8:53 am

Is the Magisterium against charity?

Bill Russell May 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm

The more fanatical a people get about any subject (1) the less humorless they are and (2) the longer and almost interminable is their writing. This is evidenced in some of the comments above. For some wise and witty remarks, just Google the classic essay on vegetarians the erudite Father George Rutler: – Rutler- Vegetarianism April 27, 2007.

Mariusz May 6, 2012 at 7:20 pm

“The more fanatical a people get about any subject (1) the less humorless they are and (2) the longer and almost interminable is their writing.”

So I guess you consider Saint Thomas Aquinas (a) a fanatic, (b) humorless and (c) an interminable bore…

Mariusz May 6, 2012 at 7:22 pm

By the way, you wanted to say “the MORE humorless”, right?

Pattie, RN May 7, 2012 at 3:19 am

Um, Vasu?

When your replies total about ten times the amount of words in the orginial article, you may want to ask yourself “How many eyes have glazed over and stopped reading anything else I pontificate on?”

Just sayin’

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 8:54 am

Problems with short attention span, Pattie?

Amanda May 7, 2012 at 6:54 pm

No, and let’s be reasonable here. Even if Vasu had good points, Vasu is using the comment box for more than a comment. He/she has enough information to start a blog (which might not be a bad idea). The length of his/her comments are so long that yes, most people are going to skim over them. This isn’t the place for a dissertation on vegetarianism or on eating meat. When a person writes as much as Vasu did, no one can really comment back on it because it would take as long or much longer to disintegrate all the errors in his/her writing. Plus, it just doesn’t sound like either side is open to an actual discussion on the topic.

Frkerch May 7, 2012 at 4:38 am

It should be noted that the Lincoln quotes being bandied about here are utter fabrications: http://www.mikehudak.com/Articles/Lincoln_AR_090930.html

Tim Moore May 7, 2012 at 6:56 am

The problem with animal rights is getting them to adhere to them.

Tess May 7, 2012 at 7:04 am

Mr. Akin, have you researched the horrible living and dying conditons on most factoy farms for pigs, chickens, cows, sheep, etc?
Fur farms treat animals the same way.
Iams tortures animals (dogs and cats, etc) to test their products.
Animal experimentation with all it’s cruelty is well documented on Youtube.
I don’t believe Our Lord meant for these creatures to be treated in the cruel ways we do in this day and age.
When we purchase animals that have lived horrible lives and died torturous deaths, we are not being good stewards of God’s creation.
How do you avoid being part of this cruel way of life?
God bless!

etr May 7, 2012 at 11:02 am

Tess,
The question here is not how animals are treated on factory farms. I personally only buy my meat from farmers that pasture raise their animals. If animals are raised as they are supposed to, on pasture, the meat is healthy and is doesn’t negatively impact the environment.

Amanda May 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Tess, our family buys animals that were raised on pastured and cared for very well by local farmers. From what I have gathered, this is what God intended.

We could look at your argument from another direction as well. In addition to CAFOs there are also thousands of gigantic pesticide ridden farms growing fruits and vegetables that people buy at the local grocery store and consume – which then fills there body with poisons and numerous cancer causing agents. Does this mean that we shouldn’t eat vegetables? By your argument you would have to say yes. However, the real solution is to grow and raise things the way that God intended – well, clean, and organic.

Warren Allen May 7, 2012 at 8:08 am

Some good stuff here….
I think the morality of how animals are treated is the crux of the matter as has been mentioned. I doubt many who have commented pro-meat would have the stomach to raise and slaughter their own livestock. Will eating at McDonalds daily prevent your salvation? Probably not but I feel it reflects our bigger life choices and our attention to detail about love and compassion. Would you be willing to give up a desire or pleasure for another’s good? Even if that other is an animal? Also there are plenty “saintly” behaviors associated with kindness to animals and vegetarianism. I can not recall one virtue or one saint who prided themselves on the consumption of meat. I doubt the Church will be banning the comsumption of meat so you can relax as this is a personal choice. It is a cultural thing as well and Amercan’s pride themselves of beef. So ask yourself how much of this is by choice or by habit cultural influence?

Amanda May 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm

You could also look at the science behind how our teeth are built and what type of foods are made for our teeth. Additionally, you should consider the diet of our ancestors, and how many untouched by western culture were free from all of our modern degenerative diseases. What were their diets composed of? I think many on here would be surprised by the answer. Dr. Weston A. Price did a thorough study of this in the early 1900s and you can read his research in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

Warren Allen May 7, 2012 at 8:20 am

Could I request some of the meat eaters spend a few minutes viewing some slaughter house videos on Youtube and report back to us?

I’ve been a vegetarian for over 30 years as the result of such an experience, but perhaps I am a wimp….

Warren

Amanda May 7, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Warren, you are right. What goes on in a typical slaughterhouse is terribly horrific. But that’s not the issue here. Today’s CAFOs are just that, a horrible result of capitalism and modern society. I believe you are bringing up two separate issues here. First we have being a vegetarian vs. an omnivore, and then you have the ethics of CAFO/conventional farming. There are ways to be an omnivore without partaking in the business of CAFOs, just like there are ways of being a vegetarian without partaking in giant agri-business with chemical-ridden, nutrient-deprived produce.

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 8:52 am

Let’s also remember that if we defend killing animals for their meat we have no reason to disapprove of killing dogs and cats for the same purpose in many non-European cultures. Are you ready for that? Because you have no choice.

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 9:16 am

A pertinent quote from a recent blog:
“Do you, as a Catholic, abstain from meat on Fridays? If not, you would probably tell me that practice was abandoned by Vatican II. Indeed, but I would say that your reply is a half truth. Before Vatican II, Catholics abstained from meat, and ate fish instead, as a very slight penance, to remember the day of the Lord’s Passion. After Vatican II, Catholics are still supposed to do penance on Friday and remember the Passion, only the specific penance need not be fish.

So, I rephrase my question: Do you, as a Catholic, observe on Friday a penance which is at least as significant as eating fish instead of meat? If not, then, alas, you are faithful to neither pre- nor post-Vatican Catholicism.

Actually, the norm for Catholics in the U.S. is even stronger than I have implied: “Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday …,” the U.S. bishops teach, “we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.”

But I think we all know the bishops’ hope has so far been a flop — which may be ascribed to a continuing legalistic mentality among Catholics: as the practice is no longer strictly required by law, so it is no longer observed. The remedy, of course, is not to reinstitute a law, but for Catholics to do from love what they used to do from obedience.”
http://www.thebostonpilot.com/articleprint.asp?id=14646

The same applies to Christian vegetarianism – just do it out of love and charity. “The letter kills but the spirit gives love” (2 Cor. 3:6)

Vasu Murti May 7, 2012 at 9:36 am

Pro-life and pro-animal groups emerged during the 1990s. Rachel MacNair, a Quaker pacifist, vegan, pro-life and past president of Feminists For Life was put off by the idea of vegetarianism as penance…as asceticism. Those of us who have embraced vegetarianism and especially veganism see it as life-affirming — like being pro-life!

I like what you wrote elsewhere:

“Funny how many pro-life people are against life when it comes to animal life…”

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 11:17 am

Thank you, Vasu Murti. Sadly, it is true. Many Christians who call themselves “pro-life” are really only “pro-soul”.

Amanda May 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Killing an animal is not sinful. Killing a human is sinful (not done in self-defense). I agree that we should be good stewards of creation and take care of the creation that God has given us (plants and animals, etc.), but that does not translate to mean that we can’t kill animals to eat their meat. There are ways of killing animals that are way different from what they do in the CAFOs.

etr May 7, 2012 at 11:10 am

The practice of doing a penance on Friday is still in full force. To neglect this habitually is a grave sin.

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 11:22 am

The last word should, of course, read “life”. My bad.

Amanda May 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Mariusz, I’m confused as to why you are posting about abstaining from meat on Fridays. I will agree with you. I think many people do not know that Church Law actually does require them to continue to abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year or to do a different penance, but what does this really at all have to do with the conversation at hand?

BillyHW May 7, 2012 at 10:04 am

This website lists the patron saints of butchers:

http://www.catholicapologetics.info/library/saints/index.htm

They are:

St. Anthony the Great
St. Bartholomew
St. Luke the Evangelist

Our Church is so cool.

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 11:16 am

And do you know why these saints are patrons of butchers? For purely mechanistic reasons: St. Anthony is usually depicted with a pig, St. Bartholomew carries a butcher’s knife that have been used to skin him alive, and the symbol of St. Luke is an ox. Our Church is sometimes too literal and unimaginative…

Vasu Murti May 7, 2012 at 11:43 am

Should Christians be vegetarian?

Anglican priest Reverend Andrew Linzey notes that “humans are made in the image of God, given dominion, and then told to follow a vegetarian diet (Genesis 1:29). Herb-eating dominion is not despotism.”

However, Linzey acknowledges the need for a new theology, an animal liberation theology, which would revolutionize our understanding of humanity’s place in creation and relationship to other species, just as the Copernican picture of a sun-centered universe replaced the earth-centered picture.

“We need a concept of ourselves in the universe not as the master species but as the servant species–as the one given responsibility for the whole and the good of the whole. We must move from the idea that animals were given to us and made for us, to the idea that we were made for creation, to serve it and ensure its continuance. This actually is little more than the theology of Genesis chapter two. The Garden is made beautiful and abounds with life: humans are created specifically to ‘take care of it.’ (Genesis 2:15)

“A great wickedness of the Christian tradition,” observes Reverend Linzey, “is that, at this very point, where it could have been a source of great blessing and life; it has turned out to be a source of cursing and death. I refer here to the way Christian theology has allowed itself to promulgate notions that animals have no rights; that they are put here for our use; that animals have no more moral status than sticks and stones.

“Animal rights in this sense is a religious problem. It is about how the Christian tradition in particular has failed to realize the God-given rights of God-given life. Animal rights remains an urgent question of theology.

“Every year,” says Dr. Linzey, “I receive hundreds of anguished letters from Christians who are so distressed by the insensitivity to animals shown by mainstream churches that they have left them or on the verge of doing so. Of course, I understand why they have left the churches and in this matter, as in all else, conscience can be the only guide. But if all the Christians committed to animal rights leave the church, where will that leave the churches?

“The time is long overdue to take the issue of animal rights to the churches with renewed vigor. I don’t pretend it’s easy but I do think it’s essential–not, I add, because the churches are some of the best institutions in society but rather because they are some of the worst. The more the churches are allowed to be left to one side in the struggle for animal rights, the more they will remain forever on the other side.

“I derive hope from the Gospel preaching,” Linzey concludes, “that the same God who draws us to such affinity and intimacy with suffering creatures declared that reality on a Cross in Calvary. Unless all Christian preaching has been utterly mistaken, the God who becomes incarnate and crucified is the one who has taken the side of the oppressed and the suffering of the world–however the churches may actually behave.”

The Bible teaches God’s love and compassion for humans, animals and all creation; beginning and ending in a vegetarian paradise. Christianity teaches not just the redemption of man, but that of the entire creation.

Jesus taught nonviolence and performed acts of mercy and self-sacrifice. Jesus opposed the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice in the Temple. He substituted a sacrament of bread and drink offered to God in place of such a ritual, and finally offered himself as a divine sacrifice before God. Christ is the savior of all flesh-and-blood creatures. All flesh shall be redeemed, and the entire creation awaits resurrection.

According to Church history, the first apostles, including Jesus’ very own brother, were vegetarian. The New Testament teaches compassion, mercy, repentance, faith in God, baptism, rejoicing, refraining from gratifying fleshly cravings (Romans 13:14), and not being a slave to one’s bodily appetites (Philippians 3:19).

Some of the most distinguished figures in the history of Christianity have been vegetarian or at least sympathetic to animal rights. Many Christian thinkers are beginning to seriously address the moral issue of animal rights. The Catholic periodical America has run articles on animal rights, as has the Protestant publication Christian Century. Compassion towards animals–to the point of not killing and eating them merely to satisfy one’s taste buds–is consistent with Christian teaching.

Perhaps the real question true believers should be asking themselves on issues such as animal rights and vegetarianism is not, “Why should Christians abstain from certain foods?” but rather, “Why should Christians want to unnecessarily harm or kill God’s innocent creatures in the first place?”

kamiller42 May 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Vasu, Mariusz, & Warren, Thank you for inspiring me to have steak tonight. Yesterday’s BBQ brisket was mmm, mmm good.

Save a vegetative soul… don’t eat plants.

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Yeah, typical – all the meat-eaters can do to justify their murderous gluttony is poor jokes and pathetic quips. Enjoy your piece of a once living creatrure of God.

Fr. Basil May 7, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Since I have no molars and almost no other teeth, I can eat almost no vegetables other than baked potatoes.

Lent is therefore a great hardship for me, even with the mitigations of eggs and dairy.

Most of the time I eat shaved turkey sandwiches, as I can chew them.

As St. Paul on this very subject said, the man of weak faith eats only vegetables.

And if you want to know what animals think of the rights of other creatures, watch any nature show. What will you see? Animals eating other animals.

Mariusz May 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm

“And if you want to know what animals think of the rights of other creatures, watch any nature show. What will you see? Animals eating other animals.”

So what you’re really saying is that man is just another animal. A strange statement for a Christian.

Vasu Murti May 7, 2012 at 3:48 pm

A famous quote attributed to Leonardo Da VInci: “The time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.”

I would like to see organized religion join secular organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in the struggle for animal rights, condemning the killing of animals with the same moral fervor now reserved for serious human rights issues, like abortion.

Religion has been wrong before. It has been said that on issues such as women’s rights and human slavery, religion has impeded social and moral progress.

It was a Spanish Catholic priest, Bartolome de las Casas, who first proposed enslaving black Africans in place of the Native Americans who were dying off in great numbers.

The church of the past never considered human slavery to be a moral evil. The Protestant churches of Virginia, South Carolina, and other southern states actually passed resolutions in favor of the human slave traffic.

Human slavery was called “by Divine Appointment,” “a Divine institution,” “a moral relation,” “God’s institution,” “not immoral,” but “founded in right.”

The slave trade was called “legal,” “licit,” “in accordance with humane principles” and “the laws of revealed religion.”

New Testament verses calling for obedience and subservience on the part of slaves (Titus 2:9-10; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25; I Peter 2:18-25) and respect for the master (I Timothy 6:1-2; Ephesians 6:5-9) were often cited in order to justify human slavery.

Some of Jesus’ parables refer to human slaves. Paul’s epistle to Philemon concerns a runaway slave returned to his master.

The Quakers were one of the earliest religious denominations to condemn human slavery.

“Paul’s outright endorsement of slavery should be an undying embarrassment to Christianity as long as they hold the entire New Testament to be the word of God,” wrote Quaker physician Dr. Charles P. Vaclavik in his 1986 book, The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ: The Pacifism, Communalism and Vegetarianism of Primitive Christianity.

“Without a doubt, the American slaveholders quoted Paul again and again to substantiate their right to hold slaves. The moralist movement to abolish slavery had to go to non-biblical sources to demonstrate the immoral nature of slavery.

“The abolitionists could not turn to Christian sources to condemn slavery, for Christianity had become the bastion of the evil practice through its endorsement by the Apostle Paul.

“Only the Old Testament gave the abolitionist any Biblical support in his efforts to free the slaves. ‘You shall not surrender to his master a slave who has taken refuge with you.’ (Deuteronomy 23:15) What a pittance of material opposing slavery from a book supposedly representing the word of God.”

In 1852, Josiah Priest wrote Bible Defense of Slavery. Others claimed blacks were subhuman. Buckner H. Payne, calling himself “Ariel,” wrote in 1867: “the tempter in the Garden of Eden… was a beast, a talking beast… the negro.” Ariel argued that since the negro was not part of Noah’s family, he must have been a beast.

“Eight souls were saved on the ark, therefore, the negro must be a beast, and “consequently, he has no soul to be saved.”

The status of animals in contemporary human society is like that of human slaves in centuries past. Quoting Luke 4:18, Colossians 3:11, Galatians 3:28 or any other biblical passages merely suggesting liberty, equality and an end to human slavery in the 18th or 19th century would have been met with the kind of response animal activists receive today if they quote Bible verses in favor of ethical vegetarianism and compassion towards animals.

Some of the worst crimes in history were committed in the name of religion. There’s a great song along these lines from 1992 by Rage Against the Machine, entitled “Killing in the Name.”

Someone once pointed out that while Hitler may have claimed to be a Christian, he imprisoned Christian clergy who opposed the Nazi regime, and even Christian churches were subject to the terror of the Nazis.

Thinking along these lines, I realize that while I would like to see organized religion support animal liberation (e.g., as was the case with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement) rather than simply remain an obstacle to social and moral progress (e.g., 19th century southern churches in the U.S. upheld human slavery on biblical grounds), this support must come freely and voluntarily (e.g., “The Liberation of All Life” resolution issued by the World Council of Churches in 1988).

Religious institutions can’t be coerced into rewriting their holy books or teaching a convoluted doctrine to suit the whims or the secular political ideology of a particular demagogue.

Liberals argue that principle of the separation of church and state gives us freedom FROM religious tyranny and theocracy. Conservatives argue (the other side of the coin!) that one of the reasons America’s founding fathers established the separation of church and state was to prevent non-parishioners from intruding into ecclesiastical affairs.

I agree with Reverend Marc Wessels, Executive Director of the International Network for Religion and Animals (INRA), who said 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.”

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