I would very much like to reiterate what Kathy has said about our site not being here to judge or condemn anyone for their choice to eat animals, wear animals, or in anything else; but rather to share Christ’s love for all that He has created.
I’d also like to thank Joan and Kathy for sharing their interesting conversation; and to add a few thoughts that came to me after reading it, as I felt I could identify with Joan and those in a similar dilemma.
Our younger daughter has a severe peanut and soya allergy and for the last two years has also struggled with chronic painful digestive problems. Following endless diets, tests and consultations, it appears she has developed an intolerance to gluten, wheat, corn, maize, oats and also to fructose (natural sugar in all fruit and vegetables) and lactose (natural sugar in all dairy). Apart from allowing herself tiny amounts of certain fruit and vegetables and gluten-free rice, this virtually rules out eating anything other than eggs, fish, poultry and meat. Like Joan, she also gets multiple well-intentioned suggestions regarding her diet, but has already done a lot of research into these – sadly to no avail.
Some people I know who have tried a vegan diet have not remained well, including a friend with a nut allergy who found that, since soya beans have been genetically modified with ground nut genes, she now also has problems with soya.
Yet the first chapter of the Bible tells us that the world was created to be non-predatory, “And God said, ‘Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed: to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat:’ and it was so” (Genesis 1 v 29-30).
As we know though, the result of mankind’s Fall from God’s will was an end to Peace in the Garden of Eden and the beginning of a hostile world where nothing now actually works as God originally intended. “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Genesis 3 v 17). Adam and Eve (or humans, if you take this metaphorically) were responsible for the damage caused to the earth and had failed as stewards of God’s creation.
In this new, harsh environment, it would have been difficult to survive without animal protein and, after the flood, God permitted the eating of flesh. He also made a covenant with Noah (mankind) regarding the future of the earth; a covenant which was to include, “every living creature of all flesh” (Genesis 9 v 1-17).
However, God shows us throughout the scriptures, that He plans to re-establish Peace in His Creation. In God’s new creation, which He describes through Isaiah (Ch 11):
Ancient enemies will live together in harmony – “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb”; predators will become vegetarian – “the lion shall eat straw like the ox”; all will be domesticated – “a little child shall lead them”; and all will be enfolded in a single Peace – “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain”.
And even in a fallen world, He gives us rules about how to treat farm animals, “Six days shalt thou do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest, that thine ox and thine ass may rest” (Exodus 23) and, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast” (Proverbs 12).
Vegetarianism has always been a controversial issue. So many are understandably filled with grief, anger and confusion about the suffering and slaughter of animals used for food. It is vital that the Church recognises that God’s original perfect will for His creation is vegan harmony (Genesis 1 v 29-30). The bloodiness of a predatory creation can surely never be part of God who is Love, “God is light and there is no darkness at all in Him” (1 John 1 v 5).
When God did make a concession on the eating of flesh, “Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything” (Genesis 9 v 1-17), it was a concession to a people gone wrong, to a fallen people in need of redemption, as a parent might accept the faults of a wayward child; and it gave them a choice. But, as Paul pointed out in his letter to the Romans (Ch 14), there can be a catch in abstinence from meat, if being a vegetarian becomes a religion in itself, if it makes us proud and if it makes us think that we are not fallen. Because all of us are, and we are all dependent upon the saving grace of Christ Jesus.
We only need look at modern day factory farming with its chemicals, pesticides, pollution, genetic engineering, growth promoting drugs, disease and antibiotics, to see how our food, whether it be cereals, fruit ,vegetables, dairy, eggs, fish, poultry or meat, becomes tainted. Now we can see that the, “bondage to decay” that Paul talks of in Romans (Ch 8 v 18-25), includes us, as our abuse of creation is rebounding upon us all.
When we come to believe in Jesus, His Spirit comes to live in us. The special duties which God had planned for us from the very beginning to care for His creation, at which Adam and Eve failed, become opportunities for us once more.
I would say for now though, that there are many who, because of the fallenness of the world and the fallenness of our bodies, are unable to adapt to a vegetarian diet; and it is still in order for them to choose to eat meat. Those who need to do so to survive should not be made to feel guilty in any way.
But, for those of us who can, at least avoiding products of poultry and pig, unless known to be free range; choosing free range eggs, meats and sea fish; or even cutting down on meat and dairy; would be a significant way of protesting against some of the worst methods of factory farming and against the appalling conditions under which vast numbers of farm animals live and die. (See our “Resources” page for help and ideas to make life-style changes to help bring about the Peaceable Kingdom and help animals)
We can all publicise the hidden horrors that go on in factory farms and slaughterhouses, rather than turning a ‘blind eye’ because we don’t want to know, so that people can make informed choices about whether they wish to continue supporting such systems. We must all be careful to spare animals from suffering, whether or not we choose to eat them.
Isaiah 11 tells us that when by Jesus, the love of God reigns all over the earth, then the whole creation will live as God first planned, in perfect harmony. We have a responsibility to help create that Peaceable Kingdom foreseen by Isaiah. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians (Ch 1 v 9-10), says that God’s plan is to bring all creation together with Christ Himself as head. Meanwhile, as he says in his letter to the Romans (Ch 8 v 18-25), animals are waiting for mankind’s transformation into the knowledge and love of God in Jesus, before this can happen. Waiting for us to, by word and by deed, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16 v 15).
The link below is the song ‘Come Back Soon’ by Andrew Peterson, which is quite relevant to this blog post.