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Augustine
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« on: November 07, 2004, 02:45:53 PM »

While it is quite clear that the "PETA" style argument in favour of vegetarianism (which basically teaches that the consuming of animal flesh is absolutely immoral in every circumstance) is out of the question for a Christian, could not a good ascetical/ecological/humanitarian Christian argument be made in it's favour in our day?

It is true, that after the great deluge and our father Noah made his covenant with the Lord, he and his descendents were given permission to consume animal flesh so long as it had no life in it (which in context probably refers to it being dead before being slaughtered, prepared, and consumed, though I know in later Talmudic/Judaic thought was believed to refer to draining blood completely from said animals) - however, interestingly enough prior to this the Scriptures are quite clear that the normative condition of mankind was to be vegetarian...

Quote
29 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. (Genesis 1:29)

After the flood, for whatever reason, this was modified...

Quote
3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. (Genesis 9:3)

On it's face then, there is nothing objectionable about the typical Christian consuming humanely slaughtered animal flesh.

However...

The reality is, in our day, that there are very few "ma and pa" family farms left.  Most of the meat you can readily obtain now, is the product of factory farms.  Besides being an increasingly unhealthy product (pumped full of hormones and antiobiotics, which are the result of greed and to compensate for the disgusting conditions the animals are often raised in, which "needs" the antibiotics to offset them), there is a lot of brutality involved in the raising and slaughter of animals in modern farming.  Economic pressures have created this situation - first because there is a desire to make farms as profitable as possible no matter the human and ecological costs (greed), and secondly because we live in societies which eat far too much meat in general (gluttony).  I'm sure many here realize, if they looked at the diet of their grandparents and earlier ancestors, that they probably at the best of times never ate as much meat as we do now.

From an Orthodox Christian perspective, it obviously must be maintained (contra the extreme, new-agey "animal rights" types) that there is a qualitative difference between the souls of beasts and those of human beings (so meat is not murder).  However, does not kindness toward all creatures require that if we are to take advantage of our God given right to consume animal flesh, that it be procurred in a sensible, humane manner?

Consider your family dog.  If someone came along and kicked your dog, or if for some reason it had to be put down and it was decided the method of choice would be to off it in some horrible manner, wouldn't you object?  Wouldn't you see a disconnect between such an act, and genuinely Christian values?

Yet the conditions most animals are raised in, and slaughtered in, are anything but humane.  Given this, and the increasing ecological and health problems associated with modern animal farming, could it not be rightly said that vegetarianism is (particularly in our times) a better way for Christians?

This is beside the long, solid ascetical traditions of the Church, which clearly point to the superiority of vegetarianism (in fact, strictly speaking, veganism since on fasting days dairy is not permitted either.)

I'm putting the arguments in favour of this forward, in the hope of solicity other opinions, for or against.  In good conscience, I find the argument to be a very persuasive one for the reasons I have given,  as much as I love my bloody steaks, hamburgers, and fried chicken.

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gphadraig
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« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2004, 03:33:14 PM »

May I respectfully suggest that anyone flirting with the notion of vegetarianism read Alan Morrison's excellent book "The Serpent and the Cross".

Having regard to the origins and welfare of those animals who become the food on our plates is one thing, vegetarianism is another. A christian may in consultation with his confessor modify his or her diet but these 'isms' may detract from the one thing needful, salvation. Many of us, including myself, might in good conscience simply eat less and try to fulfill the Church's rules as regards fasting. This consisting of Abstinence from certain food groups, increased public and private prayer, and the giving of alms. The latter may take the form of monetary donations or time given to others in need.

Studies I have seen, including clinical studies, tell us that non-animal derived foods too may be a concern as regards our health. Soya and the reduced activity of sperm, leading to a world wide decline in male fertility. Organic foods in some studies have been shown to be more contaminated than foods produced intensely.

Personally I would like to see the raising, slaughtering, butchering and sale of meat on a very local basis. Even the raising and slaughtering of the family pig in October; and the excitement that used to accompany the event. Little was wasted and during its life that pig was feted. Instead for many there is at one end a disconnect between the food people eat and its husbandry, and at the other end a romanticism or faddiness which, I believe, is harmful.

But there again what do I know. Save what it is to churn your own butter - in a barrel churn at that, hard work - or getting your own eggs in for breakfast, and preparing your own salad vegetables and herbs taken that day from the garden. Glory to God, truly can a man enjoy the fruits of the earth by the sweat of his brow and God's blessing.
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Jennifer
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« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2004, 04:43:50 PM »

If you're concerned about how the animal was killed, you might try eating kosher meat.
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« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2004, 07:57:37 PM »

In our day and age we are so disconnected from the live animals that the meat in the butcher's shop comes from that we do not associate the animal with the product hardly ever anymore. A slice of beef neatly packaged and wrapped looks certainly harmless. But what if you had to slaughter your own animal to get to the beef, so to speak? An animal looks at you. It is warm to the touch. It makes sounds and it produces offspring. It has reactions to pain infliction and to gentle touch. It has 'a personality', even though it has a different soul than a human being. But humans as well as animals have one thing in common: their Creator.
In Eph.3;9 we read: "God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:"

And Scripture says in Rom.8:19-22 "19.  For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
 20.  For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
 21.  Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
 22.  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now."

Yes, I believe that we owe it to Jesus Christ to treat His creation with all due respect, and that we will be held accountable for all sins of omission.

By the way, I never liked meat and ever since moving out from my parents I have quit eating meat. But I am not fanatic about it and when I get invited I eat what is set before me. But when given a choice, I choose vegetarian over meat. And I do eat eggs but get them from a local farmer who has his hens roaming through the pasture.

I think we need not make a 'religion' out of it but it is certainly proper to consider where and by which means our food comes from.

Shiloah
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« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2004, 08:53:05 PM »

I agree with a lot of this.  I'm sort of a "semi-vegetarian"; I don't choose meat if there's another choice, but if someone makes me meat, I eat it.  There's just so much that's wrong with the way the meat business is operated on the environmental and humanitarian level.
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« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2004, 09:18:40 PM »

I am not sure I comprehend the reference to Kosher meat, forgive me. Perhaps unlike the majority of visitors to this forum I have spent a lot of time around animals and seen then killed variously, including factory style slaughter operations. The sort that produce the meat for Wal-Mart, etc.

Having witnessed everything from small scale to the industrial, and minimum stress and care to bl***y minded rough housing of large terrorised groups of livestock I am well aware of what I find acceptable and unacceptable. It is instructive to see a live cow reduced in a few minutes to a series of vacuum pack joints for the supermarket. Instructive but not comfortable, especially with the crew waiting for you to either run, throw up or faint. I stood my ground but was not a happy man.

Since creation we are stewards of God's creation. God in his great bounty has provided abundant resources for us, if only we act as responsible stewards.

Fadism, and food fascism I have also met aplenty. I was in Britain at a time when there was a great huh hah about live animal exports to continental Europe. The apparent concern was that livestock was being unreasonably stressed by too long journeys, deprivation of water, etc., etc. Staying near one of the ports targetted by animal loving protestors including several well known activists I went to see and perhaps indicate my support.

Oh boy, I found many hundreds of people lining the road into the port. When a livestock truck full of sheep appeared these animal lovers began a piercing banshee wail and some ran screaming up to the vehicles bashing against the body work. Many told me they were against the keeping, killing and eating of animals on grounds of their love for animals. So I asked why the trucking was such an issue? The animals were too stressed, frightened and crowded.

When I asked what was the effect on this same animals to be suddenly met with a wall of piercing sound and have the truck sides struck and reverberate, they did not want to answer and became abusive.

Can we reconcile gluttony, vegetarianism, veganism or any other food philosophy with Christianity? I do not know. But sometimes this feels like a non-issue that enables us to turn away from our real task, that of repentance. Vegetarianism is one of those 'gifts' brought to us by the Hindhu swamis who have so infected much of 'christianity' with a neo-Gnosticism. I feel it is a gift we should decline.........


N.B. All Kosher or Kashrut meat is slaughtered under Rabbinical supervison. As with other Kosher foods a small part of the cost goes to the supervising Jewish authority. My confessor has advised it is not therefore appropriate as a Christian to purchase such foods. The meat is also drained, as far as is possible, of all blood. This in no way helps the animal feel less stressed. The redeeming feature of this approach is they appear to take great care. Halal meat is processed without such attention and supervision. Indeed I here stories of non-Halal slaughtered meat being passed off as Halal. (It earns the retailer a premium price).
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« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2004, 09:27:31 PM »

You could always just stick to fish and crustaceans.  After all, that's all that the monks eat, and isn't the saying something like "The Angels are a light to monks, and monks are a light to mankind"?  The dominos fall where they will, though.  It's God's grand equation, we just dance around things as the fall into place.  I try to stick to a semi-meatless diet, but more for health reasons.  I'm thinking about going monk-style, though, at least after I get out of the army.  I really buy the monks being a light to us thing.  It's like degrees of asceticism.  I see no reason we shouldn't be able to do what we can here.  Of course, not eating meat isn't going to get you into heaven.  It's what comes out of our mouths, after all, and not what goes into them, that defiles us.
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2004, 10:03:15 PM »

God gave man dominion over the animals. Hence I see no problem with eating a nice steak.

Besides, people have no problems with slaughtering babies, but when it comes to animals they throw out all the stops...

Makes you wonder where our priorities are.

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« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2004, 10:10:24 PM »

Organic foods in some studies have been shown to be more contaminated than foods produced intensely.

Yes, naive people are under the notion that "organic" products, especially those in the grocery store with the nationally recognized organic symbol, (The PLU has a '9' in front of the produce code.) are somehow safer or more clean to eat than their non-organic counterpart.

Lab studies have proven this to be the opposite though.  I will dig up a few issues I have of some chemistry periodicals and see if I can scan them.  Definitely worth a read...

Good points have been made here, especially in regards to our food supply and the methods of processing.

Might I remind you that BSE(Bovine Spungiform Encephalopathy aka Mad Cow) was the result of feeding ground up bone meal and neural tissue from dead cows/sheep and feeding it to live cows, all in the name of saving a few bucks.  There are certain rules of nature we most certainly need to follow.  Failure to do so will result in similiar diseases springing up.

Genetic engineering is another hot topic especially in the realm of agriculture.  Where I go to school, NCSU (http://www.ncsu.edu) we have a pretty big agriculture program, and I know for a fact genetic engineering of plants/foods is often times studied.  I don't think there is anything unethical with this, but we are what we eat, and if this genetic engineering product were to enter our body and interact with our DNA, who knows the untold horrors we could even now be wrecking upon our bodies.

R

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« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2004, 10:40:37 PM »

Quote
Besides, people have no problems with slaughtering babies, but when it comes to animals they throw out all the stops...

Makes you wonder where our priorities are.

You got that right.  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2004, 12:02:59 PM »

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Augustine:
However, does not kindness toward all creatures require that if we are to take
advantage of our God given right to consume animal flesh, that it be procurred
in a sensible, humane manner?
I think your argument breaks down at this point.
 
How can one describe a sensible, human manner? From whose perspective? Are you assuming that there is some undefined sin?

I think gphadraig has a pretty good handle on an Orthodox perspective (note "an", not "the" perspective; we have no dogma here).
Every time this vegetarian thing crops up on the various fora I see attempts at stretching an Orthodox approach to cover personal views or controversies du jour.
As an old cradle BigO who attempts to keep ALL of the fasts, properly, I see the Church as providing guidance well enough already. If a person wishes to expand their nutritional preferences in a more strict manner, I see NO problem with that, for any reason.
But trying to ferret for Scripture further rules outside the Church seems un-Orthodox and unnecessary.

I know few real vegetarians - most merely avoid 'red meats' and still consume animal products and meats from other animals. Being a vegetarian, a full version, does not outright qualify to the fasting rules either. Proscriptions of 'other animal products, oils, alcohol, sex must be added along with proper prayer and maintaining the proper preparation of the allowed to foods as well (raw, or simply
prepared).

And, like gphadraig, I too have spent time on the 'kill floor' of commercial packing houses in El Paso, Kansas city, Chicago,and Minneapolis. I don't want to revisit those experiences again.
But also, having seen a large-scale Moslem halal operation, I prefer the commercial product. I saw nothing more 'humane' in halal and assume Kosher would be the same.

Demetri

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« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2004, 12:12:20 PM »

I have been a vegetarian since 1976 and the main motivation has been compassion for animals.  I don't argue this point with people who eat meat because it doesn't change anyone's mind and can sometimes get nasty.  A few points, however.  I have discussed this topic with my priest (also a vegetarian, although for reasons which differ from mine) and he has confirmed what I had believed re: dominion.  The idea of dominion over animals and the earth in general (a philosophy far more dominant in fundamentalist Protestant circles than in Orthodox ones) is really a distortion of man's true role, which is stewardship.  That really puts a different spin on how we treat not only animals, but the earth itself.  Creation belongs to God, not to us, and He's given us the duty to care for it, not exploit it.  The Orthodox understanding of our destiny to live in communion with God, other people, and the whole created order has such beauty in it.  Sometimes I don't think we appreciate how wonderful it will be when God's kingdom is finally realized on earth as in heaven and there will be no separation, no violence, no death and all will be love, harmony, and deep communion.  Why not begin working toward that now?

As for the argument about caring for animals more than babies, I don't understand this line of thinking.  Compassion has no limits, therefore, it should be understood that the two aren't mutually exclusive.
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« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2004, 12:26:54 PM »

YankeeLady,
I agree with your "Why not begin...?" question. I'll start with caring for humanity , both the born and the unborn, first; and know the rest will follow naturally. As I stated, I have no problems with 'vegetarianism'; but, I'll add, unless it becomes its own religion.
Of course, wasteful slaughter is a sin; beyond that, as you state, its personal.

Demetri
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« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2004, 12:46:24 PM »

My mom eates mostly a vegan diet (few exceptions, but that is only maybe some egg in a casserole or butter on the roll).  But for her, it is a health issue - she just feels healthier eating that way.  She even cooks meat for Dad.  Neither of them eat dairy (he's lactose intolerant) except for, again, butter on a roll.
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« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2004, 03:18:45 PM »

The question, it seems to me, is one of motivation.  If one approaches any dietary regime for health benefits, that does not seem to be a spiritual issue to me.  If one approaches vegetarianism or veganism as a dietary regime out of compassion, or a sense of stewardship, again that does not seem to raise any spiritual issues.  When one approaches vegetarianism or veganism out of a sense of a worldview that resembles that of PETA, which relativizes life, I think then there are spiritual concerns ... but I assume that there are few, if any, committed Christians who support the PETA line.

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« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2004, 11:00:56 AM »

gphadraig,

I'm somewhat at a loss of what to make of your replies thus far.  It seems to me your basic problem with adopting a vegetarian lifestyle due to moral/spiritual considerations is rooted in it's association with eastern religions like Hinduism.

However, I think I was pretty clear in my attempt to distance the rationale/argumen I was providing in favour of vegetarianism from such sources.  That Vedantists are vegetarian, does not mitigate the disgusting conditions animals are raised and slaughtered in, nor does does it somehow change the unfortunate truth that livestock are glutted with hormones and often fed upon the flesh of their deceased herdmates (which was the root of recent "mad cow" scares).  Those realities remain for us, as do the unsavory motives for them, regardless of what anyone else says or does.

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« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2004, 11:14:34 AM »

Quote
God gave man dominion over the animals. Hence I see no problem with eating a nice steak.

While it is true that God gave this dominion (though in the Scriptures it has the sense of stewardship, and not some manifest destinarian right to exploit and use God's creation however we see fit, as if this earth was given to us to be used as a latrine), it's interesting that you cite this as necessarily permitting the consumption of animal flesh of itself.  Given that this dominion was granted to Adam, centuries before the great deluge (after which permission was further given to eat animals), I think believing there is an essential link between the two is unfounded.  According to the Scriptures, the permission to eat animals was given long after dominion was handed over to mankind.

Quote
Besides, people have no problems with slaughtering babies, but when it comes to animals they throw out all the stops...

I agree, that those vegetarians who are such out of spirit of gentleness or compassion towards animals but who are also "pro-choice", do have some very twisted priorities.  However, what they choose to do in their wrong-headedness does not have any consequence upon the reasons I've provided for why Christians may want to consider a vegetarian diet.

Quote
Makes you wonder where our priorities are.

Well I am fully aware of where my priorities are (since you speak of the inclusive "our").  I am vehemently against abortion, and I've chosen to spend my grocery dollars in as "cruelty free" a way as I possibly can.  Btw., as part of this I've also gained an increased awareness of the cruelty to human beings which goes into so many of the consumer goods we take for granted in general - perhaps that is another thread in and of itself? Smiley

I do not think it has to be "either/or".

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« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2004, 11:37:29 AM »

Augustine, I am sorry to read you are at a loss. Given I have made clear my own real experiences of both good and exceedingly poor animal husbandry and made the point that horticulture appears too to present its own nightmares and dilemmas, I am unsure what is unclear?

There are lots of faddisms and practices prevalent today which appear to originate from concerns or preoccupations which are non-Christian and anti-Christian, literally a society pre-occupied with 'me', and not with salvation.

My first few years of life occurred during a period of severe food rationing. One was literally grateful for God's mercy and what was available. We ate what was seasonally available, if available.

Today while millions starve and have no access to fresh water we fortunate ones concern ourselves with food faddism. I am a diabetic, one of great many. It requires a certain discipline. I accept that. Others need to exercise great care for other health issues and many because they can afford so very little.

I believe God gave us the animals and fruits of the earth in His bountiful creation. That some abuse aspects of that is not in itself a reason to reject His gift, but the abuse, surely?

Why do I feel so strongly. Simple. I have spent time with those whose concern with what they do and do not eat has become so obsessive they are morbidly ill. Others so wrapped up in their proselytization of particular food fads that any who do not share it are dammed, or are reaping havoc upon Mother Earth, etc., etc.

If we followed the teachings and practices enjoined by Orthodox Tradition of fasting on most Wednesdays and Fridays, and through the Lenten periods together with the avoidance of gluttony we would benefit spiritually and physically, perhaps. Good animal husbandry and horticultural practice plus local food produced, sold and eaten locally would offer real benefits.

If I not clear, dear Sir, then it is not for the want of trying or is it that you simply disagree? In which case fair enough.
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« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2004, 11:56:58 AM »

gphadraig,

What was not clear, is precisely just how it is you are disagreeing with what I'm actually presenting as a "case" for vegegarianism in our day - rather you pointed to issues which have little if anything to do with the reasons I provided.

I do take note though, of a point which is perhaps relevent to what I've been (perhaps poorly) trying to convey - the danger of making a "religion" out of foods.  While I agree that is certainly not a good thing, I do not see how this subject simply being discussed flirts with this danger.  This kind of forced extremism has appeared elsewhere on this thread - an "all or nothing" attitude, as if caring about the welfare of animals requires one care less for human beings (as if compassion has to be rationed - there's only so much to go around!), or that simply considering the subject of vegetarianism on spiritual grounds as a topic of discussion may be symptomatic of wanting to make it an all encompassing obsession...particularly when it was quite clear from the initial post that the grounds for this were explicitly Christian (unless compassion, responsibility, and frugality are no longer essential elements of a Christian life?).

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« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2004, 08:16:17 PM »

Augustine, I have no wish to quarrel or contend. Perhaps both of us have failed to make ourselves or rather the points we advance clear. The juxtaposition of 'Vegetarianism' and 'Christians' is part of what discomforts me. Only recently I and others did debate with one who seemed to adamantly push forward the notion that we were commanded in the New Testament to eat meat, and not to do so was a sin, no less. That seemed a massive misrepresentation. I also feel Vegetarianism is associated with a value system removed from Christianity.

It appears to one of many routes were people pre-suppose they may achieve some sort of perfection in this world. It is not alone. There are many such, a whole plethora of 'isms', socio-political movements, neo-Gnostic groups and the interfaith and ecumenical movements.

As a Christian one might try to follow an ascetical path, including fasting and abstinence for example. However 'Vegetarianism' appears, to me at least, something apart from and possibly contrary to Christianity.

Some ask didn't you prepare me a vegetarian meal the other day? And my honest answer is no, it was Wednesday and we ate accordingly. Another time it was the Great Fast and we sat down to a Lenten meal. Monastics avoid meat not out of some personal choice or attachment to Vegetarianism but out of obedience to their calling.

Augustine, in this world where the spirit of rebellion against God reins and even the concepts and words we so readily accept should be strange to a Christian, my stance is conscious. Just as I refuse to be confused - no matter whether we are fasting or not - with any 'ism', I also refuse to be labelled as following the 'Old calendar'. I know of no 'Old calendar' only the Church Calendar.

We are stewards not observers nor custodians or curators. The God-man Himself feed the multitudes with bread and fish. To eat according to the discipline of the Church or one's physician is to be humble but to determine that one will accept this but not that based on some paradigm we invent, what is this? A temptation or pathway to spiritual harm?
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