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Christian rationale for being a vegetarian

by
16 October 2015

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From the Revd Kathy Colwell

Sir, — It seems to me that Canon Angela Tilby has missed the point (Comment, 2 October). While she admits that the biblical record can be used to support vegetarianism as much as meat-eating, she nevertheless concludes, with G. K. Chesterton, that “Christianity is a full-blooded faith; wine and festival cry out for meat.” I beg to disagree.

The reason many Christians today, including me, do not eat meat is not that the Bible convinces us not to, nor because we are killjoys and prefer not to celebrate a “full-blooded faith”.

Rather, our vegetarianism is an ethical choice made in the light of what we now understand about the sentient nature of animals, the rise of factory farming, which treats animals simply as commodities rather than living creatures with distinct needs; inhumane practices in slaughter (for example, in the Lebanese slaughterhouse that was finally closed after an international outcry); the undue emphasis on meat-eating in a world in which we could feed a growing population more healthily and more efficiently with other sources of protein; and the detrimental environmental impact of meat production worldwide.

I find it astonishing that some intelligent and thoughtful Christians of all traditions seem to have a blind spot when it comes to applying their sense of compassion and care for creation to the food that they eat, and don’t seem to mind how it is produced and at what cost to the animals reared for slaughter.

Jesus may or may not have eaten meat; that is not the point. The point is that God calls us all to live lives of love and compassion for all creatures, and to live responsibly on the planet that we share with the rest of the created order. We have to work out for ourselves what that means in practice for us, in the 21st century.

For some of us, it means a commitment to vegetarianism. And we believe that this affirms rather than denies the full-blooded nature of our faith.



KATHY COLWELL
St Andrew’s Vicarage
South Cliff Road
Kirton in Lindsey
Lincs DN21 4NR

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