Yes, I am a vegetarian, and I soon want to be vegan. This may come as a shock to many of my Christian friends, especially you Americans who cannot live without meat, but it was actually easy for me to give up meat at the beginning of this year, because I don’t like to eat it anyway. My family knows this about me. I always tell them I don’t cook meat for myself; that I only previously ate it when I came home and they cooked it. Even then, I knew it was ethically treated because it was home-raised. I don’t claim to be as animal rights activist, an environmentalist, or anything of the sort, but I don’t think it was God’s initial plan for us to eat meat, or anything that was once breathing. I haven’t completely given up eating dairy and eggs yet, but I am on my way there, because I think it will be healthier. I am not quite sure where I stand on that yet.
I grew up in an agricultural area, and my family raised most of our own meat and bought fresh milk off friends’ dairy cows and ate eggs from our own chickens. I raised dairy heifers 4 months out of each year. I have seen animals grow up, I have played with them, and I have witnessed and helped butcher them. I know where my meat comes from. But I never liked it. I never liked plucking or gutting a chicken. I love seafood, but I can’t eat shrimp that have heads on them or anything that still has eyes staring up at me.
Farm-style butchering is just as wretched as factory farming slaughter houses for the animals, although we know they had a good life up to that point. Need I mention the chemicals and preservatives and who-knows-what the meat packing industry puts in your meat on the grocery store shelves… I used to cry when mom would take the rabbits to be butchered. To kill them they knock their neck with a mallet. I’ve watched as a knife is jammed up a chicken’s throat to scramble its brain. It may be the fastest way to kill them apart from cutting their head off, but it still makes me retch. Maybe I’m just not the farm and ranch kind of girl my parents thought they raised me to be. My brother and sister have raised market lambs, pigs, goats, and steers. I used to raise market rabbits in 4-H when I was young; however, I loved the rabbits for the white furry creatures they were, not for how good their white meat tasted.
I didn’t know I had a decision to not eat meat until after I had moved out when I was 17. While I still lived at home during high school, I rebelled against my family’s eating meat in my own way, by trying to control what I ate, mostly avoiding high-fat foods, which included a lot of meat. But I was not concerned with meat then, so much as maintaining a thin physique for ballet. I will not blame my obsession with food on my family’s carnivorousness. In fact, my mom provided us three kids with very healthful eating regime from the time we were young, filled with home-made bread and canned goods, lots of produce, and few processed foods. My mom taught me to cook. She also taught me to love vegetables and fruits, whole-grains, organic gardening, health food stores, red wine, organic beauty products and tooth paste. I cannot blame my eating disorder on my family, or meat, nor will I; I admit that was mostly a product of my determination for my ballet career. This post however, is not the place to discuss it, and I can assure you that through prayer and professional help I am free from it.
In that light, many would worry that my extremism, wanting to be restrictive in what I can eat as a vegetarian, is a dangerous line to tread for someone with a past eating disorder. Although I do want to lose weight now, after gaining weight from so long a leave from the dance world, it could only aid my health now, even my doctor said. Not only do I feel better on a vegan diet, but I don’t have to worry about watching my cholesterol as my Dad does, and worry about heart disease that is so prevalent in my family. I would like to focus on cutting down or out sugar, which is my weakness, to lower my risk of getting diabetes, which also runs in my family and I have been warned to watch out for. Dairy doesn’t always do good for my digestive system, apart from yogurt, which I love, but the soy kind tastes just as good. There have been studies lately that link milk consumption to cancer as well, and vegetarians are advised not to drink milk because it inhibits your body’s iron absorption. Mind you, this is coming from the same little girl who won best dairy heifer showmanship at the County Fair back in the day. I like milk. But fortunately for me, I like the taste of soy milk even more. I used to drink mom’s soy milk that she bought because she was lactose-intolerant. If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense for us humans to be drinking milk that was created for calves. How many of us still drink our mother’s milk? I won’t even go into the horrors of the way dairy cows are treated and forced to lactate 4 times the amount of milk they would normally produce in a year just so we can have it by the gallon in the grocery store aisle. (Yes, there are dangers to eating too much soy products as well, and I plan to look into that.)With each sentence I jot down, I am becoming increasingly more convinced I am ready to go vegan. I haven’t even started laying out my biblical grounds for doing so yet.
God created us to be vegetarians in his perfect world, before the fall. In Genesis 1:29-30 God gives Adam and Eve ‘every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.’ He also intended the animals to be herbivores, in verse 30, ‘to every beast of the field and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ Romans 14:17-21 talks about the kingdom of God not being a kingdom of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy. Paul tells the Romans to avoid dissension in their arguments over what foods to eat:
‘Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.’
There are Daniel and his friends, who asked the Babylonians only to give them vegetables and fruit and water (also known as the Daniel fast) and after ten days they were found to be healthier and better in appearance than the Babylonians who ate rich food.
I don’t think it is wrong for Christians to eat meat. I think that since it bothers me I should look into it myself and not try to impose my convictions on others.
I suppose I am writing this to lay out my reasons for myself, but also so that you my friends will know why I decided to do this. I am prepared for everyone to think I am crazy, even my own family, but after all, it is just food. With my student and young working person budget, this may prove difficult and inconvenient at times, but I am prepared to give it a go. I’ll keep you updated with tried-and-true veggie recipes! Don’t worry; my blog will never be taken over by an environmental foodie, but I think we were given a charge to take care of God’s earth and his creatures placed under our care from the beginning, and that has not changed.
Another wordpress blog article on being Vegan Christians: http://joyfulvegan.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/christian-vegan-%E2%80%93-not-an-oxymoron/
Another blog article about a recent book about the horrors of factory farming: http://laboriousliving.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/eating-animals/
Michael Pollan’s books give adequately researched evidence for vegetarianism and simple rules for avoiding processed foods that have made our country fat and given over to “Western diseases”. I have read In Defense of Food and would like to read Food Rules. I have heard high recommendations for the Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Cheers and God bless you all!