What About the Animals?

I became a vegetarian 11 years ago after reading a book and realizing I could no longer hide behind ignorance. Going off in the woods and shooting your own turkey is one thing (still not for me); buying a package at the grocery store that results from a brief, miserable life of suffering is something else entirely.

As I’ve worked on this blog over the past year and a half, I’ve wanted to see more on how Christianity sees the plight of animals. Today I found Laura Hobgood-Oster’s piece:

Yes, once we open our eyes to see them, animals are everywhere in the history of Christianity. But at least in recent memory, animals have been ignored and even demeaned by Christians and Christianity. Humans became the sole focus of most forms of Christianity and, as a result, cultures influenced by Christianity have not been kind places for most animals.

In the U.S., where approximately 75 percent of adults identify as Christian, the lives of many animals are miserable and short. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2010 almost 10 billion animals were killed for food in the U.S. alone. That is the equivalent of almost thirty animals per person. Thirty animals per person! The vast majority of these animals live in cramped, filthy conditions. They are forcibly removed from their mothers, who are treated as breeding machines not as living, breathing beings. In the Bible God is compared to a mother hen who protects her young under her wings. In the U.S. a mother hen is kept in a battery breeding cage, she is never allowed to protect herself or her young.

Several years ago I was honored to be part of a documentary produced by the Humane Society of the United States entitled “Eating Mercifully.” We examined the history of Christianity and asked how beliefs intersect with practices of eating. Christianity, which not only focuses on justice for humans but also has a rich tradition of thoughtful eating, is no longer living up to its own calls for compassion. Numerous saints chose diets that caused the least amount of pain and suffering to others. Fridays were traditionally a day of fasting or, at the very least, of not eating meat. Christians seem to have forgotten that what we eat is a reflection of what we believe.

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