I am not Christian, nor am I vegan. Yet from an outside perspective there seems to be a clear ethical inconsistency at play here which would indicate the former should prescribe to the latter. Having attended Sunday school and church throughout my childhood, what I remember most prominently is that Christianity is about love, and freedom, and equality between all things. If this is truly the case I do not understand why Christians find it acceptable to eat the flesh of living, feeling, breathing, creatures?
While I would not align myself with the abolitionist work of scholars such as Gary Francione, working with animals in the field of conservation I have seen first-hand the complexities of the non-human mind. I have seen what appeared to be ‘love’ in the eyes of a seal; I have held and calmed a ‘frightened’ lizard as I felt it’s heart beat quickly in apparent ‘panic’; and I have released a baby bird from my hands which has quickly flown away into the safety of a dense undergrowth in what can be interpreted as ‘fear’. Though some may argue that these are purely survival instincts I see no difference between these interactions and the interactions I view between people on a daily basis. When a school child runs from a bully; when one lover looks into the eyes of another; and when someone is embraced by a caring parent, the same interaction takes place. Further, it only takes a simple search on Netflix or BBC iPlayer to find documentaries which show these feelings and intelligent thought-processes in action. When watching ‘Planet Earth’ or ‘The Ivory Game’ for example, the bonds formed between elephants – which last even once one animal has passed on – are clear. Thus, if Christians truly believe in equality these not-so-distant creatures should surely be protected.
Having discussed this issue and apparent inconsistency with a close Christian friend she informed me that in her interpretation of the Bible, following the Fall (the banishment of people from the Garden of Eden), the world exists in a broken state. Humanity has a broken relationship with God; humanity has a broken relationship with itself; humanity has a broken relationship with one another; and, most importantly in this case, humanity has a broken relationship with the natural world.
This interpretation has two important implications. Firstly, it means that despite the fact that prior to the fall we would not eat animals, since this monumental disaster we can, as the connection between species is gone. What this also means however, is since said monumental catastrophe, the Christians mission has been to fix these shattered bonds. These are incompatible implications, both simply cannot be done. By consuming meat a Christian is actively rejecting the possibility of reconciliation. If peace and justice are desired, should Christians not all accept the vegan lifestyle?
A Christian may respond to this claim with justifications of their own. I do not reject these thoughts, as everyone is entitled to interpret the good book in whatever way they wish, however I believe many of these arguments to be flawed.
One such claim is that, perhaps, as God has stocked this ‘larder’ for us, we should be free to use it as we desire. Following the story of Noah and his colossal Ark, in Genesis 9:2-3, God does give us this permission. While this may be true, this does not remove the fact that these are complex, feeling beings, which in the preceding epic our heavenly Father had Noah protect. Thus I would suggest that, as with the more obvious sins, it is a Christians duty to resist the temptation and to avoid the slaughter of the innocent.
“The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.“
A further claim may come in the form of the privileged argument that since humanity is made in the image of God we are inherently superior, and thus entitled to do with animals as we wish. In what world is that ok? Is this not an argument that could be used to justify the persecution of minority groups? To justify racism, sexism, and homophobia? To believe that, based on your interpretation of an ancient text, you are inherently superior is egotistical and wrong. Just because something is not human, or what you would consider to be “special”, does not make it worth any less. While this seems like an escalation from previous statements, it is not an illogical step, and therefore an argument which puts ‘we are in the image of god’ forward as a justification to kill and consume is one I will always question.
The ‘image of God’ claims also seem inconsistent when science is considered. If one gazes upon the tree of life it is clear that we are not as distant in our relation to other species as some would like. The Great Apes such as chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas are but a biological stones through away. Should these animals also be entitled to do what they want with the world? Or would they have to face some kind of retribution if they were to consume human flesh? It is clear, the selfish anthropocentrism of the Christian view simply does not function when put under scientific pressures.
A final issue to address is that I will not tolerate the “the Bible says this so it must be correct” rebuttals to my questioning regarding animal. The Bible is full of logical inconsistencies. For example, while some may point to the preceding arguments and take them as gospel as they are in the Bible, on several occasions the same book also states that God is not indifferent to anything within his creation (Psalm 145:9-10; Proverbs 12:10). If god is not indifferent to his creation, it is wrong that people harm it, is it not? Thus I ask you not to try and undermine my argument with claims of interpretation, as the Bible says a lot and it can be interpreted to mean almost anything.
“The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you!” Psalm 145:9-10
Given this line of questioning, I cannot understand how Christians justify the logic behind their consumption of meat. Animals feel and think and experience the world in a way similar to us. They share bonds with other creatures and have families, just like us. If Christians truly cared about ‘equality’ or fixing the broken bond between humanity and nature, all things bright and beautiful would be off of the menu, would they not?