Thursday, January 5, 2017

Christian Ethic for Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism as a Christian value has been an evolving ethic for me. It has been inspired by many books, experiences, and conversations over the years. I began my vegetarian journey in 2010 and have been refusing meat for almost seven years. Really the root of my decision to pursue a vegetarian lifestyle is based in my belief in Christian non-violence.
Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and came to overturn imperialistic oppression, set us free from violence and sin, and show us a third way of living in the world. Jesus taught the love of enemies and the intentional, relational care of the "least of these." Jesus proclaims Good News for the poor and release for the captives and I believe this extends to all of the created world.

Non-violence towards the land. 
In Genesis 2, humanity is born of dust. We are creatures OF the land--creatures created to till and serve the land. Our current agricultural system makes use of the land in an extremely unsustainable way. A way that is destructive, violent and not sustainable for all life on Earth, let alone all human life on Earth. The amount of land, water, and grain to feed to produce meat is astronomical compared to a vegan or even vegetarian based diet.
Around 2,500 gallons of water is consumed in the production of a single pound of beef. If I had a single pound of beef each week 130,000 gallons of water would have been used. In relation to showers and water usage, if I took a 10 minute shower at 5 gallons a minute every single day of the year I would have consumed 18,250. While limiting showers and water usage in our home is important that's a small, small amount compared to the impact that our meat consumption has on creation. Not to mention the pollution of water-ways and ocean dead zones as a result of concentrated agriculture.
A vegan diet uses 1/18th of the land that a meat-eater does in the course of a year. Over 45% of the Earth's landmass is being used for animal agriculture, which is a threat to the rainforest (and their indigenous populations-humans, animals, and plants). We argue about the ability to feed Earth's burgeoning population -- and yet, we possess more than enough land to feed and sustain humanity on a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet.

Non-violence towards other creatures. 
Jesus calls us to care for the least of these. He continually draws attention to societies minorities in the form of women, children, the sick, lonely, imprisoned, and so on. Jesus' Kingdom is radical and upside down from the world around us.
I could not kill an animal myself--how could I ask that of someone else? The act of killing another animals is brutal. The mass production, industrialization of animals means that humans involved in slaughterhouses are killing many, many animals each day. One person's job may be the slit a cows throat over and over again (after a metal bolt has been smashed into it's head). It's a difficult, ugly job to kill something in this way.
I see a connection between the killing of animals and the killing of humans. Often a murder or rape or killing occurs because someone has degraded, or dehumanized another. We can make others into animals justifying a killing because of a belief that they are less than human. A vegetarian ethic could, by extension, hold all human life with a higher value because of a value of other creatures.
Non-Human creatures. 
Our Christian origin story in Genesis 1 and 2 suggests that God's idyllic plan for creation is vegetarianism.
"God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so." - Genesis 1:29-30, NRSV
While we don't live at the beginning of Creation or in the Garden of Eden, our Christian call is to live as if we are in the Kingdom of God for it is surely among us (Luke 17:21). Not only does God prescribe a vegan lifestyle in the book of Genesis, but God proclaims that all of creation is good. We give reasons for not eating our cats and dogs, but the same reasons could apply to pigs, who are much smarter than dogs! Mountains and oceans, birds of the air and the fish of the sea, the flowering plants and creepy crawling land animals are all inherently good in the sight of God. Independent of our reliance on creation for sustenance and our very livelihood--creation has it's own worth independent of us. Who are we to abuse and to kill? 

Do you practice a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle as a Christian? Why or why not?  

© Katie H.
Maira Gall