I am a vegetarian (not a Vegan; I eat some fish). There are many reasons that I am a vegetarian, one being that I have suffered two heart attacks and need to live and eat as healthy as possible.
It is quite possible to live a very healthy lifestyle eating almost entirely animal products. The Inuit and the Masai come immediately to mind but there are other groups as well. And it quite possible to suffer heart attacks on a vegan or vegetarian diet. It happens all the time. Your post assumes meat was the cause of your heart attacks. How do you know?
But I also find good Christian and biblical arguments to support the vegetarian lifestyle.
I think this is a stretch. Whatever value there may be in a particular style of eating, whether it is all meat or all vegetables or somewhere in between, I think the NT goes out of its way not to make the substance (i.e. clean versus unclean) of food and drink a matter of concern. That doesn't mean there are not concerns about food but they generally don't fall into the vegetarian versus meat eating argument.
Besides the vegetarian arguments versus meat eating arguments are basically bogus from a scientific standpoint regarding health. There are only two groups of people in this world, those who eat animal products and those who do not. That is vegans versus animal food eaters. Vegetarians and meat eaters are actually shades of distinctions within the larger group of animal eaters. That is vegetarians and meat eaters differ only in degree not in kind. Vegans however represent a qualitative difference in what they eat nutritionally speaking. In other words there are a number of necessary nutritional items needed in our diets that a vegan can't get without adding some kind of animal product (or supplementation) to his diet.
Here are a few points to consider:
1. Man was originally created to thrive on a non-meat diet. Meat eating involves death, and prior to the Fall there was no death.
But after the fall many things changed, although gradually. According to a number of the Fathers, there was no sex before the Fall either. The fall was all encompassing and included our food supply. Most of us simply cannot obtain in an adequate manner all the nutrients we need from an exclusively vegan diet. As it is within the Orthodox Church we spend roughly half the year eating a diet that hearkens back to paradise. There might come a day once again where we are all vegans, depending on how you understand certain biblical passages, but that day has yet to arrive.
2. After the flood meat eating was allowed because all the vegetation had been destroyed. But this was not the ideal diet for man.
Exactly where did you get this interpretation of the relative passages from Genesis?
3. The Levitical laws give explicit guidelines for what animals could be eaten and how they were to be killed and cooked. (Leviticus 11) During the time of the Law, animal sacrifices were made and portions of the meat were consumed by the people. But again, this was not the ideal diet and life under the Law was not the ideal spiritual condition for man.
4. God in His grace provided a remedy for sin so that man could be restored to perfection and live eternally in an ideal spiritual condition. Since Christ was the final and complete sacrifice for sin (the spotless Lamb), then animals no longer have to be sacrificially slaughtered. Through faith in Him and the redemption of baptism, we can begin to be restored to the ideal spiritual state that Adam and Eve enjoyed prior to the Fall.
We already hearken back to paradise during the numerous fasting times that appear on the calendar. But it is not complete nor physiologically is such a thing possible for most people. What is interesting from a scientific standpoint is that no healthy society has ever been discovered that was exclusively vegan.
5. In this age of Grace killing animals is not necessary for our atonement, and eating meat is not necessary for our survival. We can (and I would argue should) try as much as possible to return to the lifestyle and diet of man in his pre-fallen state.
Your first point is demonstrably false in terms of physical survival for some people, and at any rate eating meat does not encompass the totality of eating animal foods. And in agricultural production many
animals are killed. So whether you eat plants only or eat meat or insects or whathaveyou, many animals died for your sustenance.
Your last point assumes the veracity of your first point. The Church does have us return to the diet of paradise periodically, but in a wise and spiritual manner, not in a way that does not account for our basic physical needs. Vegetarianism is a diet of animal foods. We err when we look at it as if it was a variation of veganism. It is not, it is a variation of animal food eating. The strict fast is the diet of paradise. Any regimen that includes fish, dairy, eggs, etc. is not - no matter if the dietary name suggests something otherwise.
6. The eating of meat has moral and social ramifications as well as physical ramifications. The amount of feed and grain that it takes to feed one cow could sustain a thousand people, while the beef that the cow will provide might feed a hundred or so. (I can't give the exact stats on this, but I have read them and it is very interesting. I'm sure you can find these stats easily on line.) The point is that meat eating can be a selfish indulgence that actually contributes to the starvation of millions of people around the world. As Christians, we should consider our all of our actions and the effect that they have on our fellow man.
This argument, while seemingly plausible on the surface, is wrong on many levels. First it is simply untrue that by lessening our dependence on livestock that more food would be available to people. 2/3 of the earth's dry surface is not suitable for agriculture and many livestock feed in these areas. Second, the use of livestock, as much a renewable resource as plants, provide many functions well beyond meat. Third, given some of the necessary nutrients that cannot be obtained from a vegan diet, and the many anti-nutrients that are contained in a plant food diet, it is not at all clear that switching to a plant food diet would not further "the starvation of millions..." Fourth, your last statement is simply economically false.
This is already a long post, so I won't flesh out the above or add even further reasons, but I would be happy to do so in subsequent posts.
7. Although animals are not created in the image of God like human beings, they still deserve compassion and respect. Animals feel pain and suffer, and they should not have to do so unnecessarily. As Christians, we should never abuse animals or cause them to suffer simply to satisfy our indulgences. Chickens, cattle, and pigs often exist in tortuous conditions for the duration of their lives and are then killed in a merciless and painful manner. Even if we choose to eat meat, we should abhor and oppose the cruel and unnecessary treatment of these creatures. Let's remember that they are creatures, and therefore they point to the Creator.
Yes I agree, but with the exception of your last sentence, this is an argument against factory farming, not eating meat per se.
8. As Christians we should promote peace and refrain from killing. I do not consider hunting or meat eating to be murder. I think that's ridiculous. But I do know that since I have become a vegetarian I have been less easily agitated and felt more at peace with myself. I think that a vegetarian lifestyle will help to promote peace in society, although I would never advocate the legislation of such a diet. It's a personal choice that I encourage others to make themsleves.
I don't know why you are feeling less agitated as a result of your new diet. Maybe it is because you were making poor food choices when you were eating meat and now less so since becoming a vegetarian. Some of the greatest killers to walk this earth have been vegetarians. This is a very poor argument to make from either side of the debate. Peace will be a feature of all societies when the Prince of Peace reigns in every man's heart, no matter what the makeup of their diet.
Oh yeah, some may wonder why I eat fish. Well, Jesus ate fish so I won't try to be holier than Him. Also, fish (no shellfish or catfish) is very good for one's health if it is properly prepared. And fish are not treated cruelly like the cattle, chickens, and pigs that are raised for massive consumption.
Meat can also be very good for one's health if properly raised and prepared. So can shellfish by the way. Fish may not be treated cruelly, but land animals don't need to be treated cruelly either. Again, this is not an argument of real import in terms of a vegetarian diet since one can easily switch to eating animals that are humanely raised.
My Priest told me that according to Church Tradition Jesus did in fact eat meat other than fish.
Of course, all faithful Jews would have eaten meat at the Passover among other feasts.
So I am aware that Orthodoxy does not compel one to be a vegetarian. These are my own personal opinions, and I think they in no way contradict Orthodox teaching. We must also remember that animals in Jesus' day were raised and slaughtered in a humane fashion. I don't think Our Lord would condone how these creatures are being unnecessarily brutalized today.
Again, this is not an argument to stop eating meat, only an argument to stop eating factory farmed meat. But more importantly, there is simply no argument available to an Orthodox Christian to advocate not eating meat per se. It just isn't a place we should go. The Tradition of the Church makes that clear over and over again.