At the end of last year, noted evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, made an announcement on his Facebook page: despite his love of steaks, cheeseburgers, and other meat products, his New Year’s resolution was to go vegan. It’s a shocking thing. It’s a pretty drastic change, which Graham fully admits. As a spiritual leader, many people look up to the man and want to follow his example. Does that mean all Christians should go vegan too? There are good cases to be made both for and against it.
The Case for Eating Meat
According to the book of Genesis, when the world was created, everyone was vegan. No one consumed any meat or animal products at all, until after the flood, when God said that eating animals, birds, fish, etc. was now allowed, just as eating plants was. He later gave the Israelites certain restrictions when it came to eating meat, but this was mainly done for issues of health and cleanliness.
All throughout both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible refers to consuming meat, milk, cheese, and other animal products, and doesn’t condemn the practice at all. In fact, many times, it’s encouraged. If, as a Christian, you’re worried about the morality of consuming other living creatures, know that God has given you the OK. Still, there are other reasons why you might consider a vegan diet.
The Case for Veganism
If you’re considering going vegan in order to follow the spiritual example of Franklin Graham, then note that, according to his Facebook post, his decision wasn’t a moral or a spiritual one at all. It was a health-related issue, done in an attempt to lose weight. Bill Clinton, who in the early years of his presidency was mocked by the press for his love of McDonald’s hamburgers, also went vegan a few years ago, for the same reason.
In many ways, as far as nutrition goes, eating vegetables is healthier than eating meat. And all the nutrients that are found in animal products can also be derived from various plants, legumes, etc. Graham himself even made a lighthearted reference to Daniel in the Bible, who went on a vegetarian diet in Babylon, and after 10 days looked healthier and stronger than anyone else in the king’s court.
Finally, even though it is condoned in the Bible, there may still be some moral issues with eating animal products. In those days, animals were kept in wide open pastures, treated with care and respect, and slaughtered as humanely as possible. Today, they’re packed together in cages as tightly as possible and force fed to make them fatter and produce more meat. In many cases, the animals can’t turn around or lie down and are stuck living in their own filth.
The Bible commands human beings to be stewards over the earth. Treating animals in this way doesn’t display good stewardship. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger) once condemned the practice of treating animals like commodities, rather than as God’s creatures. As a Christian, you may decide that you can’t abide these atrocities and choose to go vegan, rather than support this cruelty.
The Bible doesn’t order you to go vegan or condemn the practice of eating animals, but there are still plenty of moral, spiritual, and healthful reasons to do so anyway. In the end, the decision is up to you. Your faith and your food are both no one’s business but your own. Don’t let anyone else tell you what they should be.