Religion and VeganismAn argument often used against veganism is that “God put animals here for us to eat” and then a random holy verse is referred to, without the context or understanding that many things even included in holy books in current days have been translated and had the words of various human authors added to suit their purpose. What I do know for certain is that over 74 billion land animals are slaughtered worldwide every year for the meat industry. Keep in mind that does not include the hundreds of billions of marine animals slaughtered, as their numbers are so large they have to be measured in tons. Poultry like chickens are killed in such massive quantities that they are measured in 1,000 x head.

What God who is All Merciful and All Loving would condone such horrific numbers of His creatures to be killed in such barbaric ways when He provided plenty of plant foods that give humans the sustenance we need? If you believe in religion, then it seems like a given that you believe religion is supposed to promote unity, peace, and love on this planet and in the eternal life you no doubt believe occurs when your soul leaves this physical plane. Given that, how does the needless slaughter of all of these animals possibly reconcile with any religious beliefs? Below is a small sample of conflicting quotes from some of the major religions, just to give you an idea of how unreliable these religious texts are on the topic. Aside from some of these religions though, there are others that support a vegan lifestyle, such as Buddhism. And I am not trying to question your religious beliefs. What I am trying to do is point out to you that obviously your religious text is either

a) meant to be taken as figurative language and not literal,
b) people along the way have added in their own ideas that were never intended to be a part of the religion, or
c) the translations were not up to par and your religious text as you are reading it in your language might be filled with poor translations that don’t convey the original intended message.

Those really are the only three options that seem to make sense. Okay, let’s jump into this.

Christianity

Promotes eating animals in these verses:

  1. Romans 14:1-23 – “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind…”
  2. Leviticus 11:1-47 – “And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you…”
  3. Matthew 15:11 – “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Promotes eating a vegan diet in these verses:

  1. Leviticus 19:26 – “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.”
  2. Genesis 1:29 – “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.'”
  3. Proverbs 23:20-21 – “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”

Islam

Promotes eating animals in these verses:

  1. The Qur’an 005:003 – “Forbidden to you (for food) are: Al-Maitah (the dead animals – cattle – beast not slaughtered), blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which Allâh’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering (that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allâh, or has been slaughtered for idols) and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns – and that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal – unless you are able to slaughter it (before its death) – and that which is sacrificed (slaughtered) on An-Nusub (stone-altars). (Forbidden) also is to use arrows seeking luck or decision; (all) that is Fisqun (disobedience of Allâh and sin). This day, those who disbelieved have given up all hope of your religion; so fear them not, but fear Me. This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islâm as your religion. But as for him who is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination to sin (such can eat these above mentioned meats), then surely, Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
  2. The Qur’an 2:173 – “He exclusively forbade you the carrion, the blood, pork meat, as well as what has been dedicated to other than God. But whoever is forced without being disobedient, and without any desire to transgress, then, there is no sin upon him. In truth, God is Forgiver, Merciful.”
  3. The Qur’an 22:34 – “And to each nation, we have prescribed a ritual [of sacrifice], so that the name of God be mentioned on the cattle He granted them; your god is one god, so submit to Him, and give good news to the humble ones.”

Promotes eating a vegan diet in these verses:

  1. The Prophet Muhammad – “Whoever is kind to the creatures of God, is kind to himself.”
  2. The Qur’an 6:38 – “There is not an animal that lives on the Earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but forms part of communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.”
  3. Prophet Muhammad, Hadith – “Do not allow your stomachs to become graveyards.”

Judaism

Promotes eating animals in these verses:

  1. Genesis 9:2-5 – “The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.”
  2. Deuteronomy 14:20-21 – “You may eat any clean bird. You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. You may give it to the alien who is in your town, so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
  3. Deuteronomy 12:21 – “It might happen that the designated place of worship–the place the LORD your God chooses for his name to be honored–is a long way from your home. If so, you may butcher any of the cattle, sheep, or goats the LORD has given you, and you may freely eat the meat in your hometown, as I have commanded you.”

Promotes eating a vegan diet in these verses:

  1. Genesis 1:29-30 – “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit — to you it shall be for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, [I have given] every green herb for food.”
  2. Genesis 2:16 – “of every tree of the garden, thou mayest freely eat…”
  3. Isaiah 11:6-9 – “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, And the leopard shall lie down with the kid; And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them And the cow and the bear shall feed; Their young ones shall lie down together, And the lion shall eat straw like the ox…. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain.”

Ok, this seems like enough of a basis to continue the discussion of veganism or living without cruelty to animals as stated in major religions. Now to be clear, in spending hours over the course of a few days doing this research, there was A LOT MORE that could have been included for each religion I looked at, but I didn’t want it to get way out of hand, especially because there is a lot that can be inferred when reading between the lines with a lot of these verses. As you probably noticed in some of the verses as well, they could support veganism or eating meat, depending on one’s point of view.

Within the Jewish Torah for instance, it is stated very early on that God gave us fruits and vegetables to eat and we were not to eat meat. Later on, God made it acceptable for us to eat meat because He saw that we were too weak to avoid it. When I read this kind of thing and think about this story from a logical perspective, it makes absolutely zero sense. I have studied ancient religions, paganism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Baha’i Faith, Jainism, Confucianism, Islam, and Taoism. What I have found is that in every religion that believes in one Supreme God, He is portrayed as All-Knowing. If God is All-Knowing, then when He created mankind in the likeness of His image, how did He fail to know that we would not be able to resist the temptation of eating animals? It doesn’t make sense to me that this would be amended later on to help give humans a crutch for a weakness. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter because if the original purpose was that humans would survive off of the plants that He gave us, then this not only proves it is acceptable and preferred based on that religion, but also that God created us in a way that our bodies would thrive on those foods.

In looking deeper though, even in the concessions supposedly made that we could now eat meat, reading the limitations makes it seem that we still shouldn’t eat it. The reason I say this is because of lines like this – “I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal.” Meat will always contain traces of the animal’s blood; therefore, eating any meat is still going against this command if we want to get technical. The discussion of demanding an accounting from humans also leads one to believe that this is still seen as a sinful behavior that is not looked upon as the preferred way to live.

In looking at the Qur’an, it also seems as though even the verses supposedly supporting the eating of meat are trying to deter a follower from eating meat. Diving into this one quote from the Qur’an about being forbidden to eat the meat of an animal who was killed with a “violent blow,” I have to ask the obvious question: How exactly does one kill an animal who doesn’t want to die without a violent blow? I have close friends who have witnessed halal slaughter firsthand while standing within feet of the animal being killed and I can tell you that the most accurate word that comes to mind from their descriptions is “violent.”

In looking at the verses from Christianity, I just have this to say: As I read all of the verses that support the killing of animals for food, I couldn’t help but feel like these were not the words or the thoughts of an enlightened man, let alone a Prophet of God. They seem like phrases and commandments put together by someone who simply wanted to impose their own will on others. And that being said, one of the ways in which rulers would enforce their agenda in the past was to use religion, or God’s law, as a way to control people. As discussed in Steven Rosen’s 1987 book, Food for the Spirit, it was not until the time of Emperor Constantine that Christianity seemed to part ways with its vegetarian roots. This also explains the contradictory viewpoints between the earlier Bible verses and those added later on. It is said that Constantine hated vegetarianism so much that vegetarians kept private and when they were discovered, he would have molten lead poured down their throats. It is easy to see how someone’s views such as this could find their way into added religious text that changed the way future generations would interpret the religion and it would also explain why there is so much contradiction within the Bible itself.

After discussing all of these various verses and the relation between them, I want to ask you to completely forget everything we just talked about for a minute. All religions focus on virtue and behaving in a way that pleases a Higher Supreme Power. Does it make more sense that this Higher Power would want us to be violent towards other living beings and kill them for food or does it make more sense and seem more in line that He/She would want us to live as peaceful a life as possible and show mercy to other living beings? To me, the answer is very clear, but I hope you will come to the same conclusion.