I quite like animals. Not in a crazy, dress them up like humans and pretend they’re people kinda way, but I do like them. (Having said that, I definitely officiated at least one wedding between my dogs as a child.)
But animals are great, and despite loving them [and praying that my dogs would go to heaven], I had no problem eating them. Only certain animals of course, like pigs and cows and chickens and goats, though just that one time in India. I never really thought there was any problem with it. I was that person who would joke with vegetarians that I was praying for them to convert back to being an omnivore. (Sorry!)
Eventually though, over a long period of time, I realised that the way we have commoditised animals was problematic for me. Why is it okay to eat the sweet, gentle cow, or the squawking, fluffy chicken but not the dog? Because the dog is cute? Because my pets make me happy? And why is it okay to treat sentient beings, who feel pain, fear and joy, like packages of meat?
I started off by only eating free range meat, because I struggled with the extreme cruelty that animals experienced in the battery farming industry. But eventually, that wasn’t enough. I didn’t need meat to survive. Each animal I ate felt pain, suffered, and died for no other reason than my gustatory pleasure.
(Disclaimer: I realise that the human race ate meat for millennia, in order to survive, but the reality is that I don’t need to. Some people might, and I can say that if I had to eat meat to survive, I would.)
It’s also better for the environment to eat less or no meat. The stats differ slightly depending on the source, but you need approximately 2.5x the amount of land to feed an omnivore than you need to feed a vegetarian. If you go vegan, you use 5x less land. Meat farming uses more water, more land, and creates more waste. I could go on, but this isn’t the place or time, nor is it my primary reason for going veg. It’s worth researching though.
However, most importantly, as a Christian, I was also influenced by the fact that all of creation seemed to matter to God, not just humans. Humans were given responsibility to care for creation, not exploit it for their pleasure. Scripture says that ALL of creation was reconciled to God, and seems to point to a future where ALL of creation will live at peace with itself and with God. I want to be part of bringing that peace now, as much as I can.
I’ve been a vegetarian for a year and half now, and I continue to be surprised by the comments I receive whenever people find out. Most people are respectful and ask loads of questions but some people can be remarkably aggressive in their desire to tell me why I am wrong, which is frustrating when I try so very hard not to do the same. I imagine that people may feel defensive because it’s easy to assume that the vegetarian is judging you as you tuck into your bacon burger. I’m not…well, at least I’m trying not to.
My biggest desire is that people would simply sit down and really consider why they eat meat, and if they are really okay with how the meat they eat is produced. If it’s the norm, like getting married and having children and aspiring to own a house, we rarely stop to question whether or not we really want that for ourselves. Maybe it’s just worth a bit of time, thought and research?