Halloween has passed and the real horror story is approaching: Thanksgiving. We will enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, watch the Vikings beat the Lions and cut coupons for Black Friday sales. Meanwhile, behind the scenes on this holiday, 46 million turkeys will die. Thanksgiving is becoming a gluttonous day that stuffed and tortured flesh essentially becomes our own.
Most people I interact with admit that eating meat provokes at least slight cognitive dissonance. No one wants to watch the sad factory-farming documentary, because it makes them feel guilty. Sir Paul McCartney, vegetarian of 30 years said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians.”
Photo via rtfitchauthor.com.
Our human nature wants to correct this cognitive dissonance by changing either thinking or behavior. Most will justify it in their minds with excuses (“I don’t have time to prepare all those vegetables.”) or humor (“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t eat bacon!”) and consequently detach themselves and make no personal sacrifice. Vegetarians are simply those who have chosen to change their behavior based on this cognitive dissonance.
Instead of asking why someone would possibly be a vegetarian, ask yourself, “Why am I eating meat?”
It tastes good. I crave Cane’s chicken fingers, but there are other foods without a face that are just as deliciously deep-fried and battered. It’s no secret that you must stop a beating heart to produce a juicy steak. You also have to roast, boil, sauté, grill or season that chunk of flesh, and it’s still a chunk of flesh. I can’t rationally justify stopping a beating heart for a non-essential “indulgence.”
It helps me reach my daily protein quota. Consumers are positioned now more than ever to purchase meat-free, protein-rich foods. Plant-based products like quinoa, soy, chia or hempseed have all the essential amino acids one needs. Plant-based foods also have antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, while animal proteins come with the baggage of hormones, antibiotics and saturated fat. Again the question arises: Is meat really necessary for our diet?
The government recommends eating meat. With friends in high places, America’s meat industry is one powerful political bear no one wants to poke. The industry has cozied up to the United States Department of Agriculture. Despite studies from Harvard, American Institution for Cancer Research and World Health Organization that prove the correlation between meat and chronic disease, the USDA still remains silent on the issue. The government has a track record for surrendering to the special interests of the meat industry.
The animals die quick and painlessly. A man working in a pig slaughterhouse once described his workday like this: As the pigs are tied up by their back legs, they screech out in pain before the life leaves their wiggling bodies. Outside, fainting pigs—afraid for their lives—thwart the flow of traffic. Aware of the inevitability of what is coming, they can’t stay conscious enough to take their last steps. This is their final memory before their throats are slit, which is the quickest, most “humane” way to kill.
One person won’t make that much of a difference. On average, a vegetarian diet saves 95 animals per year. Additionally, if every American participated in Meatless Monday, 1.4 billion animals would be saved from factory farming in one day. Over a lifetime, one vegetarian makes a huge difference for the environment and animal life.
There is no moral or ethical case. Sure, humans and animals are on a different cognitive capacity or moral standard. But if you physically abuse a dog in America, you will be shamed or jailed. There is no cognitive or moral difference in a dog or turkey. There is no reason to dress one in a sweater and dress the other with stuffing; there is no reason to love one and exploit the other.
God gave us dominion over animals. Perhaps you see no ethical or religious argument for vegetarianism. God granting humans dominion over animals in Genesis 9 is not a hall pass for abuse. In fact, God addresses his originally intended diet plan in the first chapter of the first book:
“I give you all plants that bear seed everywhere on Earth, and every tree bearing fruit which yields seed: they shall be yours for food. All green plants I give for food to the wild animals, to all the birds of heaven, and to all reptiles on Earth, every living creature, it shall be theirs for food.” (Genesis 1:29-31)
According to this verse, God intended the first humans to eat plants and herbs. We see this change in Genesis 9:3-4:
“Every creature that lives and moves shall be food for you; I give you them all, as once I gave you all green plants. But now you must not eat the flesh with the life, which is the blood, still in it. For the blood is the life.”
This verse makes the most sense in its post-flood context. All vegetation has just been destroyed and countless animal corpses are left behind. God gave Noah and his family the approval to eat meat, but the only living animals are the ones Noah saved, which is only two of every kind. It doesn’t make sense to eat the animals they need to repopulate the earth. Perhaps God was referring to the animal corpses. Meat-eating may have been just a temporary solution to the vegetation problem. It is also interesting that people started living shorter lives after the flood.
In conclusion, Proverbs 12:10 says a righteous man respects the life of his animal. God intended us to love and care for the living beings he breathed into life. The meat industry is not exemplary of God’s intentions.