I didn’t become veg for spiritual reasons.
I became veg out of compassion for animals and, later, the undeniable health benefits.
But if you make the decision to go veg, you do a lot of reading and you do a lot of learning.
And – WHOA – I learned! Did I ever learn! About factory farms, about the conditions for workers on factory farms, about food safety issues and the severe health risks associated with eating meat, about the huge impact factory farming has on our environment and the planet, and how we are squandering 2,400 gallons of water and 16 pounds of grain to make one single pound of beef while millions in the world do not have access to clean water and are starving. To death.
The more I learned, the more being veg seemed not only ethical, but the spiritually correct thing to do.
The more I practice being veg – making compassionate food choices, sharing with others a way to eat that will make them much healthier, trying to “live more simply so that others may simply live” – the more I feel being veg is an important part of my spiritual development.
If you don’t know any better, that’s one thing. But I found that once I learned something, I couldn’t “un-learn it.” And while I do not always do this veg thing perfectly, and have stumbles and setbacks – at least I am trying and growing.
John 9:41 – “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (Actually some dude named Jesus said that – you may have heard of him.)
James 4:17 – “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
Which is why I am so often perplexed/dismayed by the views of many of my fellow Christians!
I have been told, so many times, that it is a Christian’s “right” to eat meat and it has even been suggested to me – more than once – that I cannot really be a Christian if I do not eat this “gift from God.”
Most churches in the South center around BBQ, fried chicken dinners, and fish fries. And BBQ. Did I mention BBQ?
I have a friend who is endlessly proclaiming praises to the Lord on her Facebook page, and while I do not doubt her sincerity or her fervor, she also frequently posts about grilling steaks with almost the same level of passion.
I worked at a Christian company once, where meetings ended with a prayer and the ladies had a religious book club during lunch. Yet, I was the only vegetarian, and many of the men there – including the President – were avid hunters who kept taxidermied trophies in their offices. While some men hunted ducks and deer, some of the more exotic trophies could only have been obtained during a “canned” hunt. (“Canned hunt” – where animals are in an enclosure, baited, some wearing blinders. Slightly easier than shooting fish in a barrel. Real Christian. Real manly.)
I know many Christians who are “pro-life,” who proclaim “all life is precious” – and then chow down on hamburgers from McDonalds.
There was the Chik-fil-A fiasco, where Christians turned out to support Chik-fil-A’s freedom of speech and even Billy Graham, as old and sick as he is, showed up to dine on a sub-par factory-farmed chicken sandwich. The accepted line was, “If you’re Christian, you’ll support Chik-fil-A.” My question: If you’re Christian, how can you possibly support factory farming?!
If you’ve read this far, then you’re probably identifying with or agreeing with some of the things I’ve said. And if so, you’d probably be interested in one of the resources I’ve found … The Humane Society Faith Outreach Program. It’s one of those websites that make you feel “whew, I’m NOT alone!”
Here is their mission statement: “The Faith Outreach program of The Humane Society of the United States seeks to engage people and institutions of faith with animal protection issues, on the premise that religious values call upon us all to act in a kind and merciful way towards ALL creatures.“
They have a list of “religious statements on animals” by six major religions (Christianity and its many variations, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Unitarian Universalist … sadly, the Sikh religion, 5th largest in the world, is not represented). They also promote and provide resources for “animal protection ministries” for churches and post thought-provoking articles that merge concern for animals with faith.
If you are active in your church, I would suggest downloading or ordering a copy of “Animal Protection Ministry: A Guide.” It contains a number of very easy steps a church can incorporate to address issues important to animals and our environment. Talk to your pastor about implementing some of these or spearhead the project yourself! Among some examples:
– Collect pet food as well as human food for your church food drives and food banks.
– Organize a group of volunteers to care for pets of congregation members who are elderly, ill, or injured – maybe walking dogs or taking pets to vet or grooming appointments.
– Ask an animal shelter to bring in pets for an adoption event.
– Create a “wildlife sanctuary” on church grounds.
– Perform cleanup for a park, woodland, or other public natural space.
– Educate on factory farming. If you live in Charlotte, the Humane League just opened a Charlotte office and the director, Andrea Gunn, is super-sweet and friendly – and would be willing to do a presentation.
– Encourage the congregation to reduce, refine, and replace their meat consumption – eat more meatless meals, participate in Meatless Mondays, choose more humanely raised animal “products,” and possibly even replace meat, eggs, and dairy with plant-based products – i.e., become vegetarian or vegan.
There are also a number of mostly downloadable videos the church can utilize. Believe it or not, many churches are already implementing these ideas, and it kinda gives me hope.
You can also order or download different “Faith Outreach Booklets” to share with others. My favorite is Matthew Scully’s “A Religious Case for Compassion for Animals.” Matthew is a conservative member of the political right, but is adamantly against both canned hunts and factory farming and pulls no punches.
Some quotes from this booklet:
“How is it possible to look for God and sing his praises while insulting and degrading his creatures? If, as I had thought, all lambs are the Agnus Dei, then to deprive them of light and the field and their joyous frisking and the sky is the worst kind of blasphemy.“ – Malcolm Muggeridge
“Research could prove that cows love Jesus, and the line at the McDonald’s drive-through wouldn’t be one sagging carload shorter the next day … Has any generation in history ever been so ready to cause so much suffering for such a trivial advantage? We deaden our consciences to enjoy – for a few minutes a day – the taste of blood, the feel of our teeth meeting through muscle.” – B.R. Meyers
Says Mr. Scully himself, “If reason and morality are what set human beings apart from animals, then reason and morality must always guide us in how we treat them, or else it’s all just caprice, unbridled appetite with the pretense of piety. When people say that they like their pork chops, veal, or foie gras just too much ever to give them up, reason hears in that the voice of gluttony, willfulness, or at best moral complaisance. What makes a human being human is precisely the ability to understand that the suffering of an animal is more important than the taste of a treat.”