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...
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...
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.