Christian vegetarianism

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Jesus' message is about love and compassion, but there is nothing loving or compassionate at factory farms and slaughterhouses, where billions of animals endure miserable lives and die violent deaths. ~ Bruce Friedrich

Christian vegetarianism is a Christian practice based on effecting the compassionate teachings of Jesus, the twelve apostles and the early church to all sentient or living beings through vegetarianism or, ideally, veganism. Alternatively, Christians may be vegetarian for ethical, environmental, nutritional or other spiritual reasons.


Alphabetized by author or source
  • Vegetarianism is a way of life that we should all move toward for economic survival, physical well-being and spiritual integrity.
  • While we resist violence, injustice, and war, and while we practice nonviolence, seek peace, and struggle for justice for the poor, we are also invited to break down the species barrier, extending our belief in Christian compassion to the animal kingdom by, among other things, adopting a vegetarian diet. … Vegetarianism proves that we’re serious about our belief in compassion and justice, that we’re mindful of our commitment, day in and day out, every time we eat. We are reminded of our belief in mercy, and we remind others. We begin to live the nonviolent vision, right here and now. … Many Christians who agree that harming a dog or cat is wrong think nothing of harming cows, pigs, chickens, fish and other creatures. We need to understand that if we’re eating meat, we are paying people to be cruel to animals. For the simple reasons that all animals are creatures beloved by God and that God created them with a capacity for pain and suffering, we should adopt a vegetarian diet.
  • Our appetite for meat leads to widespread, horrific cruelty to animals—chickens pressed wing-to-wing into filthy sheds and debeaked, for example. And since I've always espoused creative nonviolence as the fundamental gospel value, my vegetarianism helps me not to participate in the vicious torture and destruction of billions of cows, chickens, and so many other creatures. These chickens never raise families, root in the soil, build nests, or do anything natural. … Animals have feelings, they suffer; they have needs and desires. They were created by God to breathe fresh air, raise their families, peck in the grass, or root in the soil. Today's farms don't let them do anything God designed them to do. Animal scientists attest that farm animals have personalities and interests, that chickens and pigs can be smarter than dogs and cats. I like that even Jesus identified himself as “a mother hen who longs to gather us under her wings.”
    • Father John Dear, They Will Inherit the Earth: Peace and Nonviolence in a Time of Climate Change (New York: Orbis Books, 2018 ebook edition), pp. 110-111.
  • I believe my dear Master has been pleased to try my faith and obedience, by teaching me that I ought no longer to partake of any thing that had life.
  • Therefore, in the light of the Truth that God is love, and that Jesus came to make his love manifest in the world, we cannot believe it is his will for men to eat meat, or to do anything else that would cause suffering to the innocent and helpless.
  • Jesus' message is about love and compassion, but there is nothing loving or compassionate at factory farms and slaughterhouses, where billions of animals endure miserable lives and die violent deaths. Jesus mandates kindness and mercy for all God's creatures. He'd be appalled by the suffering that we inflict on animals today to indulge our acquired taste for their flesh. Catholics, and all Christians, have a choice. When we sit down to eat, we can add to the violence, misery and death in the world, or we can respect God's creatures with a vegetarian diet. I believe we're obligated to make choices that are as merciful as possible, and we can all do that at the dinner table with a vegetarian diet. There won't be any factory farms and slaughterhouses in heaven.
  • Esaias says: “The wolf also shall feed with the lamb, and the leopard shall take his rest with the kid; the calf also, and the bull, and the lion shall eat together; and a little boy shall lead them. …” I am quite aware that some persons endeavour to refer these words to the case of savage men, both of different nations and various habits, who come to believe, and when they have believed, act in harmony with the righteous. But although this is [true] now with regard to some men coming from various nations to the harmony of the faith, nevertheless in the resurrection of the just [the words shall also apply] to those animals mentioned. For God is rich in all things. And it is right that when the creation is restored, all the animals should … revert to the food originally given by God … that is, the productions of the earth.
  • Just as divorce according to the Saviour's word was not permitted from the beginning, but on account of the hardness of our heart was a concession of Moses to the human race, so too the eating of flesh was unknown until the deluge. But after the deluge, like the quails given in the desert to the murmuring people, the poison of flesh-meat was offered to our teeth. … At the beginning of the human race we neither ate flesh, nor gave bills of divorce, nor suffered circumcision for a sign. Thus we reached the deluge. But after the deluge, together with the giving of the law which no one could fulfil, flesh was given for food, and divorce was allowed to hard-hearted men, and the knife of circumcision was applied, as though the hand of God had fashioned us with something superfluous. But once Christ has come in the end of time, and Omega passed into Alpha and turned the end into the beginning, we are no longer allowed divorce, nor are we circumcised, nor do we eat flesh.
    • Jerome, Against Jovinianus (trans. W.H. Fremantle, G. Lewis and W.G. Martley), Book I, 18.
  • The biblical case for vegetarianism does not rest on the view that killing may never be allowable in the eyes of God, rather on the view that killing is always a grave matter. When we have to kill to live we may do so, but when we do not, we should live otherwise. It is vital to appreciate the force of this argument. In past ages many – including undoubtedly the biblical writers themselves – have thought that killing for food was essential in order to live. But … we now know that – at least for those now living in the rich West – it is perfectly possible to sustain a healthy diet without any recourse to flesh products. … Those individuals who opt for vegetarianism can do so in the knowledge that they are living closer to the biblical ideal of peaceableness than their carnivorous contemporaries. The point should not be minimized. In many ways it is difficult to know how we can live more peaceably in a world striven by violence and greed and consumerism. Individuals often feel powerless in the face of great social forces beyond even democratic control. To opt for a vegetarian life-style is to take one practical step towards living in peace with the rest of creation. One step towards reducing the rate of institutionalized killing in the world today.
    • Andrew Linzey, Animal Theology (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995), pp. 131-132.
  • In early times of Christianity, even those who used animal food themselves came to think of the vegetarian as one who lived a higher life, and approached more nearly to Christian perfection.
    • George Salmon, A Historical Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament (4th ed. London: John Murray, 1889), p. 203.
  • A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.
    • Leo Tolstoy, Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence (1886).
  • Men think it right to eat animals, because they are led to believe that God sanctions it. This is untrue. No matter in what books it may be written that it is not sinful to slay animals and to eat them, it is more clearly written in the heart of man than in any books that animals are to be pitied and should not be slain any more than human beings. We all know this if we do not choke the voice of our conscience.
    • Leo Tolstoy, The Pathway of Life: Teaching Love and Wisdom Vol 1 (1919), p. 68.
  • A mystery enwrapped Pythagoras, the preacher of vegetarianism … Silent fellowships were founded, remote from turmoil of the world, to carry out this doctrine as a sanctification from sin and misery. Among the poorest and most distant from the world appeared the Saviour, no more to teach redemption's path by precept, but example; his own flesh and blood he gave as last and highest expiation for all the sin of outpoured blood and slaughtered flesh, and offered his disciples wine and bread for each day's meal:—"Taste such alone, in memory of me." … Perhaps the one impossibility, of getting all professors to continually observe this ordinance of the Redeemer's, and abstain entirely from animal food, may be taken for the essential cause of the early decay of the Christian religion as Christian Church. But to admit that impossibility, is as much as to confess the uncontrollable downfall of the human race itself.
  • Those who eat flesh are but eating grains and vegetables at second hand; for the animal receives from these things the nutrition that produces growth. The life that was in the grains and the vegetables passes into the eater. We receive it by eating the flesh of the animal. How much better to get it direct by eating the food that God provided for our use!
  • The effects of a flesh diet may not be immediately realized; but this is no evidence that it is not harmful. Few can be made to believe that it is the meat they have eaten which has poisoned their blood and caused their suffering. Many die of diseases wholly due to meat eating, while the real cause is not suspected by themselves or by others.
    The moral evils of a flesh diet are not less marked than are the physical ills. Flesh food is injurious to health, and whatever affects the body has a corresponding effect on the mind and the soul. Think of the cruelty to animals that meat eating involves, and its effect on those who inflict and those who behold it. How it destroys the tenderness with which we should regard these creatures of God!
  • God gave our first parents the food he designed that the race should eat. It was contrary to his plan to have the life of any creature taken. There was to be no death in Eden. The fruit of the trees in the garden, was the food man's wants required.

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