I try not to talk too much about religion here, but in the last couple of days, I got two pretty dissimilar comments that I wanted to highlight. The first one (well, three) came from a young (I assume) girl named Jessica who is a recent vegetarian. This section is what caught my eye (emphasis mine):
I am not against eating meat- I am a Christian and I am fully aware of the reason animals were put on this earth- to eat. I know. But if you DID SOME RESEARCH you would realize the way these animals are treated when they are ALIVE. It’s horrific and although God put these animals on this Earth for us to eat I can bet that he also intended for them to be RESPECTED. Similar to the way animals are treated in India- In India, people there respect the animals they kill, kill them in just ways, eat every part of the animal, and use every part of the animal. [...]
Religion should probably not be brought into this but for a Christian- how can it not be brought into this- for me, it is my sole reason for my decision to not participate in the abuse of animals.
Yes God wants us to eat animals but can you honestly think that he would be happy with the way people treat the animals he made?
I think most of us are pretty well tired of the “respect the animal before you kill it” argument. This argument doesn’t work for any other form of abuse, murder, or violence and it doesn’t work with animals. But, she also highlights common assumptions made by many: “I am fully aware of the reason animals were put on this earth- to eat” and “Yes God wants us to eat animals…” These statements are just taken as valid assumptions, self-evident truths.
If there’s a God, it’s awfully presumptive of us to assume we know what she’s thinking. Pointing to the Bible is, of course, troublesome for all the standard reasons (fallacy of man, text changed by those in power throughout time, translation issues, etc.). I realize that challenging one’s religious teachings can be difficult, but if you’re going to challenge society’s assumptions about how animals are viewed, why not go all the way since religion (or lack thereof) is key shaping many societies’ views.
On the other side of the spectrum was a great comment from someone who challenged everything they’d thought the Qu’ran said about our use of animals (emphasis, again, mine):
I had many questions about the killing of animals, poultry and fish when I was a young child. I always felt sorry and guilty when they had to be killed. Many years ago, on Eid ul Azha day we were at a farm outside of Toronto (women are not generally welcome to be around when the killing occurs) and of course the bull was fighting against being slaughtered. The animal was fighting for its life and then the farmer who was doing the killing took a gun and shot the animal in its head and then they proceeded to cut its throat with a sharp knife to ensure that the meat was halal. That killing shook me up inside. The farmer told me that the animal was just stunned.
After I saw that happening I was a bit troubled in my heart and soul. I started having doubts in my mind about my religion. I was practicing my religion more as a habitual, ritualistic manner, not asking questions, not seeking the TRUTH. What was the truth?
But Islam is not to blame, it is us who misinterpret the Quran and disobey the Mosaic Law of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not Kill”. The Quran explicitly forbids Muslims from eating the flesh of dead animals and ingesting the blood of animals. If you kill a sentient being(animals, fowl, fish, etc.), then it is dead. How can you proceed to eat the flesh of dead animals?
I am a logical person and I asked myself those questions and many more. I re-read the Quran and once I became aware of what I was doing, I was deeply troubled, aware that the spiritual leaders, including my parents and family, would not have the answers for me. Anyway, I continued eating meat because my religion and Muslims were doing this. It was how I was brought up.
Eventually, one thing led to another and thank God, I have finally given up the practice of meat eating. I had lost my compassionate nature when I was eating a lot of animal flesh. I was a changed being. Now, I am more compassionate again to all sentient beings, happier, but still a bit troubled that many Muslims still butt heads with me and rationalize meat eating to this day. As I told my Mom, the Quran also says, “Eat of the good things of the earth, Eat of the garlic, the cucumber and the lentils.” But when I go to the mosque, there is never any lentil dishes and cucumbers.
So, for my religious readers that may still be eating meat and using religion to justify doing so: take a closer look. Is your reasoning sound or are you basing your judgements on assumptions? Are you accepting these assumptions because they support what you are currently doing? Are you cherry picking tiny bits of scripture and weighing them more heavily than the overall theme of the rest of the text? Does it really come down to you just not wanting to give up meat?
If all else fails, ask yourself this: “Will my God(s) punish me if I abstain from eating meat/dairy/eggs? Will s/he damn me for opting out of the killing of other sentient beings for my own pleasure?”
The answer to both: probably not.