A lot of us can probably agree not much compares to a good old-fashioned, all-American bacon burger. Imagine, if you will, savory, seasoned beef wrapped in the salty goodness of crispy pig strips, blanketed by a slice of melty American cheese…maybe with a leaf of lettuce and a slice of tomato, if you’re going for a balanced meal.
While those of us who eat meat can appreciate the effort either we, a family member, or friend at a barbecue or a cook at a restaurant put into making a delicious burger or stake platter, many forget (or try to forget) the sacrifice that was necessary to make it.
I love animals probably more than the next person, but it’s a simple fact we depend on different types of animals for work and for sustenance. And while this relationship is biblical, in recent years, it has been met with increasing resistance.
The veganism movement has seen a lot of growth in this past decade, it seems, and almost every other Facebook friend seems to feel compelled to share another “I am not food” post comparing pigs to dogs. While it actually has been proven these animals are comparable in terms of intelligence and affection to humans, it’s also true they were made by God to fulfill pretty different purposes.
I wrote an essay in college arguing a majority of animals have emotions and intelligence, and are not just mindless creatures shuffling on instinct from one day to another. For instance, I remember learning of herds of cattle somewhere that have been observed deliberately sliding across ice and enjoying themselves in the process. They were having fun, in other words, which is something usually thought of as only a human trait, or at the very least something only more “intelligent” animals like dogs have been known to do.
Among many other things, I also remember learning about empathy and mourning observed in cattle and horses, again something many people think of as only a human trait. There have been numerous accounts of animals taking in the offspring of other species, and birds capable of understanding simple math. The accounts of animal intelligence and emotional capability are numerous and something to behold.
So are we wrong for consuming their meat, eggs, and milk?
Very early on, the bible clearly states humans, made in God’s image, have dominion over all other living things. In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” He also says in Genesis 9:3, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you, even as the green herb have I given you all things.”
However, this does not mean we have license to treat every nonhuman, moving thing as nonliving, disposable objects with no regard to their well-being. Proverbs 12:10 says, “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” Even if the purpose of raising livestock or poultry is ultimately to eat them, it’s commanded of us to treat them with dignity and compassion up until they are sacrificed for our nourishment.
In the past few decades (if not longer) more meat companies have been mass producing their livestock, foul, etc., often to the creatures’ detriment. Animals are packed together in deplorable living conditions and often malnourished yet overgrown for the sake of producing more meat in less time. Companies like Perdue, for example, have come under fire for their abominable treatment of their chickens.
Many vegans make the argument that humans do not need meat, milk, or eggs for protein and this nutrient can be obtained through many vegetables, eliminating the need for animals to be slain or mistreated for food or their products. While the point about protein may technically be accurate (for example, one cup of edamame contains 18 grams of protein, while your average beef patty is going to yield about 15), this still ultimately does not dispute the fact God didn’t intend for man to live off of tempeh alone.
So what can we do? Is there any way for vegans and meat-eaters to get along? It just doesn’t seem likely the two groups will ever see eye-to-eye.
That being said, there are ways we can obtain meat with regard to the beast it came from, and since many of us probably don’t have the means of raising our own cattle, sheep, chickens, etc., it starts at your local grocery store.
Most meats raised on local farms by independent farmers are free-range and treated with more care than their franchised counterparts. They are allowed out into wide open spaces in fresh air and live quite happily until their time comes. Hens whose eggs come in cartons that say free-range or cage-free are more likely to come from farms where they are not stacked on top of each other, but like their hooved counterparts are let out into fields and allowed to happily graze, and thus lay more nutritious eggs.
Like it says in Proverbs 27:23, these smaller scale farmers are more likely to know the condition of their flocks and give better attention to their herds, so the extra dollar or two here and there is made up for by the quality of the meat, eggs, and milk coming from healthier animals than the cheaper brands.
So while we do have dominion over all living things, it’s our duty to look after, appreciate, and cherish them for what God has provided to us through them. And after all, though we were made in His image, they’re God’s creations, too.
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