Fattening beef, commercial "farming" (photo from Animal farm Life)
I was recently asked about the ethics of animal testing. While I’m aware that it is a very contentious issue for “animal rights activists” it is not one I have thought much about. Though, since I grow animals to eat, I am closer existentially to that related issue than someone who gets their meat from the supermarket.
It seems to me there are some simple principles that provide guidance:
God made animals so we have a general responsibility to care for them like for the rest of creation (see Gen 1)
God explicitly allowed the use of animals for human benefit including killing them to eat (see Gen 9:3) n.b. I’d see this extending to the next line…
Research and testing which is of other great benefit for humans should also therefore be considered within God’s will.
We have a duty to care for God's creation - including other creatures we use for food.
This leads to the tentative conclusions:
We have the right to use animals for our benefit. (This is an extension, but a small one of the permission to eat them in Gen 9:3. Testing products for safety would (to my mind) fall under this category.
We have a responsibility to care for them, and so the testing should not be cruel nor unnecessary.
I suspect that in NZ the Government and the SPCA ensure testing is not cruel and is “necessary”. So, cautiously, I am in favour of animal testing.
OTOH, especially now that I am involved in rearing animals for meat, it seems to me that much that today goes by the name of “farming” is unnecessarily cruel and therefore ethically indefensible. To keep animals penned up in small areas to make human food cheaper or more tender is wrong. Much pork and chicken and some beef (not so much in NZ where most is free range grass fed) transgresses the criterion of care.
I found this article from a post on Lifehacker, this is the picture they used.
The MSN Money website has an article How to eat when you’re really broke“. Author Liz Weston reckons an average American family should be able to save about $3,000 a year and could save much more.
She offers some simple and easy advice:
Eat mostly at home (a no-brainer if you want to save money ;)
Skip the processing (another no-brainer, processed foods cost more because they cost more to make) but what interests me, and I’ll come back to this, is that she starts the paragraph like this: “Steer away from foods with lots of additives, chemicals and packaging; they’re often not as good for you“
Demote meat (this one will save you less in NZ but even here in the land of cheap meat the cost of protein from beans and such is way less than meat)
Promote veggies – she notes that buying in-season and local produce will save you even more
Go for the grains – noting that “offer more nutrients and fiber“
I’ll hold off mentioning the last suggestion from the front page for a moment and comment more on the ones above. (I’ll return to the remaining suggestion below, don’t worry ;)
What strikes me about the suggestions above is that:
they could only apply to Westerners and the rich in the majority world, no one else could afford to eat other than this way
these suggestions are practically identical with the proposals Western governments are making in order to improve their populations’ health!
So, the long and the short of it is: The way most of us eat is expensive, bad for us, and unsustainable on a global scale. Something is wrong somewhere. (If you want more discussion on this issue, and some great recipes to help you do something about it try, as well as Google, our blog: Repentant Carnivores.)
Oh, yes, that final suggestion:
Watch the waste – “Americans waste up to 40% of our food supply. If that’s the case in your household, you could save hundreds of dollars a year just by patrolling your refrigerator, freezer and pantry each day so you can use stuff before it rots.” Frankly that’s disgusting, if the figure is anything like that high in other countries there is something seriously wrong.
I’m increasingly concerned about the issue of meat-eating among Western Christians. The statistics seem quite clear, on a globe with limited resources, producing a meat diet takes far more of those limited resources than producing a Vegetarian diet, and the difference for Vegan meals are even more pronounced.
A person following a low-fat vegetarian diet, for example, will need less than half (0.44) an acre per person per year to produce their food,” said Christian Peters, M.S. ’02, Ph.D. ’07, a Cornell postdoctoral associate in crop and soil sciences and lead author of the research. “A high-fat diet with a lot of meat, on the other hand, needs 2.11 acres.”
It is as simple as that, the globe cannot sustain the carnivorous lifestyle we Westerners take for granted. No understanding of Christianity that I can recognise can accept that my diet choice and eating pleasure causes others to starve.
Now, at this point I need to clarify a few things:
When I talk about unrepentant carnivores I do not mean merely people who sometimes eat meat, by carnivore I mean people who eat meat more than 7 times a week on average. (But yes, some ham or meat paste, or tuna in a sandwich at lunch does count!)
By Repentant Carnivore I mean someone who recognises that the carnivorous lifestyle of most Westerners is sinful and who is seeking to change.
I am not a Vegetarian – I eat meat of all kinds (almost, horse is a delicacy, rat is pretty tasty, croc delicious, but I’m not over fond of tripe ;)
But Jesus ate meat! Of course he did, and fish. Peter was a fisherman, and Jesus apparently a better one, though he may have had supernatural help ;) But Jesus, Peter and even most relatively affluent people in the Ancient world did not eat meat more than once a day, most of them only ate meat and fish on high-days and holidays, or when someone in the whanau (approximately extended family) or village had killed a beast.
Even though a moderate-fat plant-based diet with a little meat and dairy (red footprint) uses more land than the all-vegetarian diet (far left footprint), it feeds more people (is more efficient) because it uses more pasture land, which is widely available. (Credit: Illustration by Steve Rokitka/University Communications)
That sort of diet (occasional meat eating) is not unsustainable, it makes good use of land that is good for pasture but less good for crops and may have lower demands on scarce resources than Vegetarian or Vegan ones do (see Diet With A Little Meat Uses Less Land Than Many Vegetarian Diets from which the quote above and the graphic are taken).
Western Christians must become “Repentant Carnivores”, we should reduce our meat (including fish, fowl and even eggs and dairy – for Vegetarians are merely wolves in sheep’s clothing, semi-carnivores) considerably.
Having lived the carnivourous lifestyle for years, with four children who (apart for Nathan for a couple of teenage years) demand meat, and complain when fed beans, I’ve regularly cooked the carnivorous way. I now, the children having left home (except Sarah who can I guess cook the meaty meals ;) am free to repent, and plan over the coming months to work towards a low meat mixed diet, with only a meal or two per day (on average) using meat, fish, fowl, cheese or eggs.