The following comes from an Oct. 25 posting by Austin Ruse on the website of Crisis magazine.
Is there a religious obligation not to eat meat? Is there an obligation of faithful Catholics to become vegetarians or even vegans? Quite astonishingly, Professor Charles Camosy of Fordham University says yes in his new book For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action.
Genesis, according to Camosy, makes it clear that God intended only for us to eat green and grain because that is what He gave mankind to eat. God did not say we could eat the animals. Camosy argues that recent popes, when they have called for the care of creation, implicitly endorse this view. He also cites the Universal Catechism for his point of view.
Camosy is not the only one making these arguments. The modern granddaddy of these arguments is former Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully who published a book called Dominion that has turned many to vegetarianism. Camosy was deeply affected by Scully’s book, as was my dear friend Mary Eberstadt who has written the foreword to Camosy’s book. And in recent days Weekly Standard writer Jonathan Last has joined their ranks and come out as a campaigning vegetarian.
With the exception of Scully each are religious and each are practicing Catholics and make religious arguments to back their claims. In a recent National Review article, Scully quotes Pope Francis’s first sermon where he called for “respecting each of God’s creatures” and Benedict condemning the “industrial use of animals” and John Paul II asking farmers to “resist the temptations of productivity and profit that work to the detriment of nature.”
They also make a great deal about what is called factory or industrial farming. The accusation is that such farming is profoundly cruel. Sows are boxed so they cannot move, only eat, defecate and grow fat. Chickens, too. They never go outside. Male chicks are immediately ground into nothing because they cannot lay eggs and take too long to grow for meat. After suffering their whole lives these animals are led to slaughter with at least some kind of knowledge of what is about to happen to them.
One thing Camosy et al have in common is that they are pro-life. You would understand this to mean the protection of unborn children from abortion, the protection of human embryos from experimentation, and the protection of the elderly from euthanasia. They would include animals in this. In fact, Camosy says he became a vegetarian in order to be more “authentically pro-life.”
There is a practical political aspect to vegetarianism. Mary Eberstadt, whom I have praised to the high heavens in these pages and will continue to do so, argues that Millennials can be reached more effectively if we speak to them as vegetarians. In fact, the main thrust of this current campaign, which is running almost exclusively in the online pages of National Review, is to convince pro-lifers to be “pro-animal” and that a great bonanza of support for our cause lies among the vegetarian set who think we are hypocrites for protecting unborn babies yet happily eat our cheeseburgers.
And so what of their arguments? First, know that these are very smart and learned people. Most of us would be unequipped to argue with them on many topics including this one. And while I find their arguments interesting, I do not find them ultimately compelling. And some of them I find offensive.
On the question of factory farming, there is the charge of wanton, unspeakable cruelty. Take pens used to confine nursing hogs, for instance. It sounds awful. The pens hold them tight so they cannot turn around. Perhaps the most interesting writer in defense of modern farming is Missouri farmer Blake Hurst who began writing for the American Enterprise Institute when Michael Pollan’s anti-meat and much else Omnivore’s Dilemma came out a few years ago. Hurst runs not a “factory” farm but a family one. He says such pens are necessary because mother sows have a nasty tendency to lie down and crush their young. Sometimes they eat their young. Even so such pens are outlawed in some states.
Hurst goes on at great length defending the practices condemned by Camosy et al. He describes a turkey farmer who wanted to raise them “free range” but who did not know that turkeys do not come in out of the rain and can drown beaks up open wide. He lost 4,000 turkeys in one storm. He now raises them in a more confined space, where they won’t drown or be eaten by other animals. But Camosy et al are not simply against factory farming of livestock. This is their hard-case argument. In fact, they oppose the eating of any animal no matter how they are raised.
The religious question is not as complicated as the factory farm question. There simply is no demand by the Church that we not eat meat. The Catechism is quite plain and says we may use animals for food. Camosy points this but then emphasizes the Catechism says we cannot do it “needlessly.” Strictly speaking you can live your whole life without eating meat and therefore the only time Camosy would allow us to eat meat is traveling through Death Valley by horseback with no choice but to eat the horse. But the Church does not teach that. The Church asks for a meatless fast on Fridays—still does by the way—which implies we may eat meat every other day. What’s more the Bible is chock full of meat eating. Where Genesis 1 gives us green and grain to eat, Genesis 9 gives us all the animals to eat. Jesus ate fish, gave fish for others to eat, and being a faithful Jew there is little question that he ate the lamb at Passover.
It is perfectly fine for Scully and the others not to eat meat. It is perfectly fine for them to campaign for their point of view. And I must say their description of “factory farming” has given me pause. But to cast this as religiously required is deeply offensive, particularly for someone like Camosy who teaches at a Catholic school. Sure, recent Popes have called for care of creation including animals but none of them have said we cannot eat meat. I have been blessed to spend time in the residence where Pope Francis now lives and recall enjoying some delicious cuts of dead calf. The Church clearly does not teach what Scully and Camosy says it does.
Finally, to suggest that being a vegetarian makes you “authentically pro-life” is a kind mischief making that all pro-lifers ought to reject. Pro-life does not mean raising the minimum wage or easing immigration restriction or not eating meat. The seamless garment has done a great deal of harm already. Let’s not allow it to stretch any further.
To read the original article, click here.
We have run into such false moralities at several points in Western history, most recently in the case of American Prohibition. Belloc proposed somewhere that they seem a matter of psychological displacement by elites who refuse the demands of real morality. Let’s be nice to animals, then we can ignore the sufferings of our underpaid workers; or let’s blame the despair of the poor on alcohol rather than unjust wages; or (today) let’s spare critters so we can ignore abortion.
When the angels visited Abraham, Abraham didn’t serve them salad, but a fatted calf. Those angels did, however, go on to destroy Sodom. That’s God’s morality.
Your own Archbishop is a vegan, Tom… :)
But he does not make a personal preference into a moral teaching binding on the faithful. His preference is fine. To absolutize one’s preferences is to impose a false morality, as Christ told the Pharisees.
That comment does nothing to address Toms very good point. Whether or not his archbishop is vegan does not negate the scriptural evidence that eating and sacrificing animals is acceptable and even encouraged. It just means The Archbishop has decided to be vegan.
More silliness from PETA. If God intended us to eat no meat, why did he give us the teeth we have. He should have given us the dentition of grass and grain eaters, like taht of cows and sheep. This may be a teleology, but it works for me! And this guy teaches college?
Hmmm …..First, I’ve been a Catholic for 38 years and I’ve never heard anyone say we had to be vegetarians, only that we abstain from meat sometimes, as a sacrifice. As a caterer. I do vegetarian for clients who specify it. Most do not do so for religious reasons, but rather for ethical and sometimes health ones. I sometimes cater at a reform synagogue. Their kitchen is not kosher, but they prohibit such specfically “tref” foods such as pork and shellfish. I had one client who added kosher meat only to the synagogue’s rules. My kosher caterer friends have taught me that one of the reasons for kosher meat is that it is slaughtered in a manner which is considered more humane. If I were to screen my meat to avoid all the horrible things talked about in the article, my costs would go up and I’d lose business, maybe a lot. I makes sense to me that if someone is a vegetarian for ethical or religious reasons, logicly, they ought to be pro-life, however, most of us who are pro -life are meat eaters.
1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered.
3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.
4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
5 For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.
Read more: https://www.ewtn.com/ewtn/bible/search_bible.asp#ixzz2izImAzyG
Catholics and others can benefit greatly from eating a diet largely consisting of fruits, vegetables and nuts. We eat too much protein in the USA anyway and could get plenty of protein primarily from plants, minimizing eating white meat, chicken and fish without having to be so scrupulous as to avoid eating soups with chicken, beef or fish stock, eggs, dairy and such as desired. Grains are more questionable even though they are plant food, of course and can offer fiber and other nutrients if handled properly and selected with informed discretion.
Learn all you can and then make informed, reasonable choices based on health, nutrition, finances, and available time for shopping, cooking, and cleaning up, and remember to drink plenty of water. Do this and you’ll be plenty healthy enough to live a good Catholic life and leave this world a better place than you found it. Catholics should be schooled enough to make good, informed and sensible choices without engaging in endless debates regarding the morality of eating like an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan. The Catholic Church has long since examined these questions from a Biblical perspective and has offered sensible dietary guidance for anyone who will listen.
My doctors says, “If the animal would eat you, it is without scruples or discretion in such matters, my friend; best not to eat it as you never know to what even more shocking depths of depravity it may have sunk previously in a selfish effort to stay alive.”
Your advice is fine, just don’t add “Thus says the Lord” to your admonitions, because the Lord does not forbid meat. Maybe some of us should for our own good health alter our diet, and maybe a few of us need to leave out meat as others need to leave out alcohol. Vegetarianism is not a divine command in either the Old or the New Testament. Indeed: the Torah says specifically that the Israelites may eat flesh (of clean animals) “to your heart’s content”. Christ declared all foods clean.
Your comments may have to do with physical health, but please do not confuse them with leading a good Catholic life. If Jesus ate meat, then your claims are confusing to say the least. A steak eating Catholic is no problem, spiritualy. Meat is cheap these days and does not undermine a commitment to a modest lifestyle.
Wonderful quotation from Genesis that says it all.
No, Catholics do NOT have to be vegetarians. It is NOT a sin to eat meat. Our Lord said that nothing is unclean when we eat it, it is only when it is removed from our body that it is unclean (basically saying that we can eat pork and shell fish). Some orders of monks and nuns give up meat, but it is up to the individual if he wants to abstain from certain kinds of foods. Penance is indeed recommended, so if one wishes to give up a certain food, that is spiritually very beneficial.
More liberal nonsense from demented modernist minds
“Most of us would be unequipped to argue with them on many topics including this one.” Surely you jest, Austin. A few references to sacred scripture sends their arguments to the ground in flames.
Just follow the teachings of the Catholic Church for your moral guidance, use the head the Good Lord gave you to acquire solid, in-depth information about food, and call upon the Holy Spirit to help guide you in employing wisdom in your daily food choices. Eating fruits and vegetables in abundance, making well-selected protein choices, and enjoying other foods in moderation is likely to lead to physical health and spiritual peace with your rightful place in the order of things on God’s green earth.
It seems silly to me to spend time debating whether or not we can eat meat when the subject has been addressed more than adequately centuries ago by the Church from a Biblical perspective, scientists are discovering more and more about food and nutrition on a weekly basis, and we Catholics have so much more important work to do on this earth during the short time we are here.
The most important thing you can do at your table is to pray to God before and after your meal, which, after all, is a gift from God to you, as is the table, any companions you may have, and your very life itself.
The phenomenal abundance we enjoy, certainly not enjoyed by all of our fellow human beings now or ever, is so great that we take for granted not only the food itself but the self-indulgent luxury of debating the fine points of food choices so extensively that we can lose our perspective about what is of primary importance. Getting sidetracked by this topic is a perfect example of losing one’s focus on matters of far higher priority.
Eat well, give thanks, and get to work – there is so much still to be done!