Note: This article continues a series of studies about animal liberation and the Bible. If you have not read the previous articles, then please click here to start at the beginning.
"PETA operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat..." - PETA web site. How far does this go?
They oppose killing, not only cows and pigs to eat, but also fish or fowl (chickens, turkeys, etc.).
They support the "Commando Chicks" (women wearing "sexy" "Vegas-style" costumes) who are "fighting the slaughter of their feathered friends ... trying to stop the year-round killing of 9 billion birds who are sensitive, feeling beings, just like dogs and cats" (PETA web site).
Further, animal liberators not only oppose killing animals to eat them, they also oppose keeping chickens for eggs and even dairy cows for milk, even though this does not kill the animals. (PETA web site)
Hunters often argue that, if animals are not hunted they will overpopulate and die of starvation. Animal rights activists do not deny this argument. They simply claim that the fact nature causes death does not justify people in deliberately killing animals (PETA web site).
Regarding the argument, "I didn't kill the animal," they respond, "No, but you hired the killer. Whenever you purchase meat, that means that the killing was done for you and you paid for it." (PETA web site)
Note that these are the kind of arguments that would be made against the murder of humans.
"...we've all accidentally stepped on ants or breathed in gnats, but that doesn't mean we should intentionally cause unnecessary harm" - PETA web site.
Peter Singer said: "I wouldn't kill a spider if I can avoid killing a spider" - CultureFacts, 7/19/02.
So even insects - ants, gnats, and spiders - should not be intentionally killed. How about mosquitoes and roaches?
"No matter how one views God's original intent, the complete disdain afforded animals who are turned into food is absolutely heretical ... Humans are playing God with animals, and ethical people should have no part in it." Why? Because the animals' "natural desires [are] totally thwarted, and their every need and desire entirely ignored..." (PETA web site). See, we must respect their desires and needs like we would those of other humans, otherwise, we are "playing God" and that is "heretical."
Remember that they argue that animals have the same rights as a retarded human child. And clearly one should not eat a child. Such would clearly be murder. So, killing any animal to provide food for people is morally wrong, equivalent to murder. But even confining an animal against its wishes would also be wrong.
They usually try to defend their view by emphasizing the cruelest forms of animal abuse they can think of. But their real position argues that killing and eating any animal is wrong like killing and eating another human being. And even confining an animal (like a dairy cow) to get food from it is wrong, no matter how humanely it is done, because it violates the animals' freedom. That is the consequence of animal rights.
The Bible is filled with numerous specific examples of faithful servants of God eating meat with no implication that they did wrong.
Genesis 25:27,28; 27:1-4 - Esau was a skillful hunter. His father Isaac loved Esau because he ate what Esau killed.
Genesis 43:16 - Joseph had an animal slaughtered for his brothers to eat with him.
1 Samuel 25:18 - Abigail brought sheep dressed to eat as a gift to David and his men.
1 Kings 4:22,23 - Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, ate oxen, sheep, deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fowl.
1 Kings 19:21 - Elisha slaughtered oxen to feed people.
1 Chronicles 12:39,40 - David and the people ate oxen and sheep when he was named king.
Nehemiah 5:17,18 - Nehemiah provided for those who ate with him oxen, sheep, and fowl.
Matthew 3:4 - John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey.
Note that many of the people ate, not just fish or birds, but "red meat": cattle, sheep, oxen, etc.
If eating meat is immoral, then all these people were immoral and sinned in eating meat. Yet the Bible presents them as good people and never once implies they did anything wrong in these cases.
[1 Sam. 16:20; 17:18; Gen. 10:9; Prov. 9:2; 2 Sam. 17:29]
Consider passages where God either approves of eating meat and animal products or even provides it for people to eat.
After the flood God gave animals into the hand of man (v2) and said that "every moving thing" is food for us, just like plants are food (v3). Killing man is forbidden because man is in God's image, but killing animals for food is authorized since they are not in God's image. This passage expressly states, both that God permits man to eat animal meat, and that God's rules against killing people do not apply to animals.
Some claim this was just a temporary provision till plants grew on earth after the flood. But the passage nowhere says this. God had put both animals and people on the ark to save them alive (6:19). He had provided sufficient food for people and animals on the ark (6:21) till the earth was able to provide for them (clearly the dove did not return because there was food for it elsewhere - 8:12,13). If there were no plants so people had to eat animals, then what did the animals eat and how did they live to repopulate the earth?
Others say that, as with divorce, God simply tolerated people's desire to eat meat under the Old Testament, but never really approved it. However, we know this is what God did regarding divorce because the Bible clearly says so (Matt. 19:3-9). Where does it clearly say this is what He did regarding eating meat? Furthermore, Jesus clearly stated that the New Testament would return to God's original teaching regarding divorce. Where does He clearly say that He does not want us to eat meat? We will see that He says just the opposite.
Genesis 18:2,7,8 - Abraham showed hospitality to visitors by feeding them butter, milk, and a calf he had killed. Note that Abraham offered them - and they ate - not just dairy products (butter and milk), but also red meat (beef - veal) which he had killed.
These visitors were actually angels, one of whom is called "the Lord" (vv 16-19). He praised Abraham as a righteous and just man. If killing and eating meat is immoral, would a righteous and just man provide people meat to eat, and would the Lord eat it? Hebrews 13:2 commands us to show similar hospitality.
Exodus 12:3,6,8,46 - God commanded each family in Israel to kill and eat a lamb for the Passover feast.
Deuteronomy 12:15,20-22 - When Israelites offered animal sacrifices, they and/or the priests ate much of the meat. This was God's blessing to them. [15:19-23; 14:26; Num. 18:9,10; Ex. 29:32; Lev. 7:15; 8:31]
Leviticus 11:2,3,9,21,46,47 - Under the law God forbade eating unclean animals, yet He expressly authorized the eating of many clean animals: mammals, fish, birds, and insects. [Deut. 14:4,6,9,11,20]
Leviticus 17:13,14 - Blood of an animal must be poured out before the animal was eaten. But with this provision, animals and birds may be hunted, caught, and eaten.
1 Kings 17:4,6 - God nourished Elijah by providing him bread and meat. Did God provide food that would be immoral to eat?
Proverbs 27:23-27 - Flocks were not only a legitimate source of riches and clothing, they also provide milk for food (v27).
Exodus 3:8,17; 13:5; 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Deuteronomy 27:3; Jeremiah 32:22 - God blessed Israel by bringing them to the promised land of "milk and honey." The Bible views drinking milk as a great blessing from God, yet animal liberation says it is immoral! Does God bless people by promoting evil? [Even taking honey would be "stealing" from bees, if animals have rights!] [Deut. 32:14]
Acts 10:9-16; 11:5-10 - In a vision God commanded Peter to eat unclean animals. When Peter refused, God explained that he should not consider as unclean things that God had cleansed.
This was primarily a symbol that Gentiles could receive the gospel; but would God have commanded Peter to eat, if he would have sinned by doing so? How would an immoral act serve as a proper symbol of something that Peter ought to do? This serves as a fitting illustration only if the animals that were unclean under the Old Testament may now be eaten.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 - Some people forbid the eating of "meats" (KJV, ASV) or "foods" (NKJV). This is a doctrine of those who depart from the faith and follow doctrines of demons.
Some claim this refers, not to meat, but to forbidding "foods" in general. But no one forbids humans to eat all kinds of food, so the verse must refer to people who forbid certain kinds of foods. The fact this includes eating meat is confirmed by v4: Every creature of God is good and not to be refused if we are thankful for it. So the doctrine that forbids eating meat (God's creatures) is a false doctrine taught by those who have departed from the faith!
1 Corinthians 8:8,10,13; 10:25; (Romans 14:1,2,15,21) - As a matter of personal conscience, some Christians would not eat meats that had been offered to idols. People are not required to eat meat - a vegetarian diet is not wrong. But the truth is that eating meat is not wrong of itself. If we eat we are no worse, and if we do not we are no better (v8). It is wrong only if it violates someone's conscience (v10; Rom. 14:14). So those who did not eat were "weak" - (Rom. 14:2).
But meat bought in a meat market, should just be eaten with no questions asked - 10:25. So clearly eating meat is not inherently wrong. And people sinned if, as with modern animals liberators, they viewed eating meat as inherently wrong a matter of morality and condemned those who ate meat - Rom. 14:3. Remember, to forbid eating meats is false doctrine.
Colossians 2:16 - Since the Old Law has been removed (v14), no one should judge us regarding old laws of food and drink, such as clean and unclean animals. Clean animals could always be eaten, and under the gospel we may eat even those that were formerly unclean. Those who would judge us for so doing are wrong.
[2 Peter 2:12; 1 Cor. 3:2; 9:7; Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:2]
Some people actually claim that Jesus was a vegetarian. But consider:
Luke 5:1-10 - The event that specifically motivated the apostles to follow Jesus was a miracle in which He enabled them to make a huge catch of fish (vv 4-9). If catching fish is immoral, why did Jesus instruct and enable them to do it, especially when they had not been able to catch anything previously?
Luke 11:11-13 - Jesus said a father gives good gifts to his children, including bread, fish, and eggs. The parallel to the bread shows that the children would eat the fish and eggs (what other use would they be?). Jesus here justifies eating fish and eggs, and He says that those who provide these for food are doing good, not evil! Note that, not only is eating fish good, so also is eating eggs.
Mark 7:18,19 - Jesus taught that a man is not defiled (i.e., does not sin - vv 20-23) because of the foods he eats. In saying this, he purified all foods - i.e., He removed the Old Testament prohibitions against eating unclean animals. So whereas the Old Testament justified much eating of meat, the New Testament allows even more than did the Old Testament!
Mark 6:35-44; 8:1-9 - Jesus fed the 5000 and later the 4000 by feeding them bread and fish (note 6:41; 8:7). [John 6:9,11]
Matthew 22:4 - Jesus told a parable of a king who killed oxen and fatted cattle for a wedding feast. Here eating meat is a symbol of partaking of the blessings of God's kingdom. Would God use something immoral to symbolize the blessings of the kingdom?
Luke 15:23,27 - When the prodigal son returned, the father had the servants rejoice by killing and eating the fatted calf. This illustrates God's joy when people repent of sin.
Mark 14:12,18 - Jesus ate the Passover with His disciples. We earlier learned that the Passover involved killing and eating a lamb. Therefore, Jesus ate meat. Did Jesus do something immoral?
Luke 24:36-43 - After His resurrection (and after the Old Law had been removed), Jesus ate fish to prove to His disciples that He really had been raised from the dead.
John 21:3,6,8-13 - After His resurrection the apostles again went fishing. Jesus repeated the miracle of providing the apostles with fish to catch. This time He also cooked fish and gave fish to them to eat.
Note that, in many of these cases Jesus ate fish or provided fish for others to eat. But in some of them He ate or approved of eating "red meat": calves, and lamb.
Some argue that Jesus did not eat meat at the Passover.
They say that Jesus cast the people who sold animals out of the temple, so there were no animals left to eat at the Passover. But no one ate the Passover at the temple anyway; they ate it in their houses (Ex. 12:6,7). And Jesus never objected to people selling animals outside the temple for eating the Passover.
The Bible plainly commanded the Jews to kill and eat the lamb. In fact, they were to eat it all, so none remained till morning (see the Scriptures cited above). To refuse to eat would have been simple disobedience. Animal Rights argues that may Jews, including Jesus, simply rebelled against God's law!
Mark's account (14:12ff) expressly says that they "killed" the Passover lamb. Jesus' disciples prepared for the meal and Jesus ate it with them (vv 12,14,18). Eating the Passover included eating the lamb, as the Old Testament and the gospel accounts affirm. God commanded it and Jesus obeyed. Therefore, eating meat cannot possibly be inherently immoral.
Some argue that the miracles involving meat were symbols to prove Jesus' power, to teach disciples to share with others, or to spread the gospel, etc.
No doubt Jesus' miracles did teach His power and other lessons, but the fact remains that He still did the physical acts. To deny this is to deny the Scriptures as Divine revelation. What other miracles did Jesus do that involved Him in practicing immorality? Did Jesus practice immorality in order to prove His power and teach lessons about goodness?
The fact is that Jesus provided fish for fishermen, provided fish for people to eat, and He Himself ate fish. All of these are things PETA says are immoral. If fishing and eating fish are immoral, then Jesus practiced immorality and had fellowship in immorality, rather than rebuking it (Eph. 5:11; 2 John 9-11).
Furthermore, several examples we used did not involve miracles: Luke 11:11-13; Mark 7:18,19; Matthew 22:4; Luke 15:23,27; Mark 14:12,18.
Others point out that Jesus did not kill any fish but took what was already dead and miraculously multiplied it or produced it.
However, the fact remains that He provided fish knowing that others would kill and eat them, so His conduct and example encouraged people to physically catch and eat fish. If this is inherently immoral, then He encouraged immorality (see Eph. 5:11; etc.).
When people today claim that they themselves do not kill what they eat, PETA argues that they are still responsible for the killing if they eat the meat (see their arguments above). If PETA folks had been present, would they have participated with Jesus in eating the meat He provided?
And Jesus Himself ate the Passover Lamb.
Others claim the disciples did not kill the fish Jesus helped them catch: there were so many fish they could not get them in the boat, so they left them in the sea!
But the Bible clearly says they filled the boats with fish (Luke 5:7) and brought the fish to shore and even counted them (John 21:8-12). Then Jesus had them eat some fish - John 21:9,10,12,13.
Worse yet, some effectively deny the inspiration of pertinent New Testament Scriptures.
They say that the accounts of Jesus' eating fish in Luke 24 and John 21 were not in the original, and the original accounts of feeding the multitudes did not mention fish. These were all added later by uninspired men!
Further, they say the four gospel records of Jesus' life were written generations after Jesus' death by men who never personally met Jesus! And Paul never wrote 1 Timothy, with its rebuke of those who forbid eating meat - that was written by someone else at least 60 years after Paul died! (JesusVeg FAQ)
Of course, no ancient Bible texts are produced to prove any of these claims. It is simply an unfounded claim by people desperate to avoid the force of Bible truth.
Immediately after recording the account in John 21, the writer affirms that he was present when these things happened and his testimony is true - John 21:24. Was he there, is his record true, or did he lie? Matthew also was an apostle. And Luke claims to have carefully researched his record with eyewitnesses - Luke 1:1-4. More important, the authors claim to have been inspired by God to write as the basis of our faith (John 20:30,31; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2:10-13; Ephesians 3:3-5; John 16:13; Matthew 10:19,20; Galatians 1:8-12; 2 Peter 1:20,21; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Luke 10:16).
If despite these claims people reject the record because it does not agree with their belief, why do they claim to believe any of it? How do they know what is or is not true? Why bother to try to use Scripture to prove their case, if they simply reject it when it contradicts their position?
But you had to know it would happen. Time and again, when all else fails, we see unbelievers prove they are unbelievers by finding fault with Scripture. Moslems do it. Mormons do it. Modernists of all stripes do it. We showed from the outset that animal rights leaders did not base their views on Scripture. Why should we be surprised to see them reject Scripture whenever it contradicts their view?
And when all else fails, simply deny that we should follow Jesus!
"However, whether Jesus was or wasn't a vegetarian, Christians today should be" - JesusVeg FAQ.
So if they can fool us into thinking that the Bible and Jesus' example defend their view, they argue that we should follow Jesus and the Bible. But when we prove that the Bible and Jesus' example contradict their view, then they throw out the Bible and argue that we should not follow Jesus' example! So the bottom line is that followers of Jesus should not follow Him if He does not accept the views of Animal Liberation!
The fact is that, regardless of their claims, animal liberators do not believe what Jesus believed, do not teach what Jesus taught, do not practice what Jesus practiced, and are not really following Jesus!
Jesus ate meat. Jesus provided meat for others to eat, and Jesus enabled people to catch meat to eat. All this would be wrong if eating meat is immoral. But Jesus never sinned - Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21. Therefore, none of these things were wrong for Him to do. And since followers of Jesus are supposed to imitate His example, none of these things are wrong for us to do - Luke 6:40; 1 Peter 2:21,22; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Matthew 16:24; 1 John 2:6; John 13:15. The teaching of all the Old Testament and, even more so the New Testament, repeatedly justifies eating meat.
Nothing here requires people to eat animals. Some choose not to do so for health or other personal reasons. That is a personal choice. But those who so choose must not believe or teach that others who do eat animal flesh are immoral or have violated God's laws.
And most important, none of this proves that it is inherently immoral to kill animals for food. On the contrary, killing animals for food is clearly authorized by God. It is a legitimate part of our stewardship as we use the animals for our good - the very purpose for which the animals were created. Any other view perverts God's plan both for the animals and for the people.
A secondary point: No doubt different people are affected differently by different foods due to allergies and other personal health issues. And no doubt foods can be prepared in various different ways. But if eating meat is generally bad for health, as some claim, why did Jesus and God repeatedly justify, promote, and encourage it? Does God encourage people to do unhealthy things? Does He not know best what is or is not healthy? How do you harmonize all these passages that justify eating meat as a blessing from God, if in fact it is generally bad for health?
Most arguments against eating meat have already been answered.
Before sin entered the world, men and animals ate only plants. God's creation then was "very good." There was no death and no eating of animals. This was God's ideal. Death and eating animals began only after man sinned. We today should seek the ideal and should not kill or eat animals.
Answer: Yes, the world has been cursed by sin, which led to death. But we must live in the world as it is, not as it was in the past. When sin and its curse came into the world, God changed the rules by which man must live.
For example, in the garden when everything was "very good," Adam and Eve did not wear clothes (2:25). Should we "seek the ideal" and go naked as they did? Immediately after the sin, God used animal skins to solve their nakedness (3:21). He approved of killing animals for sacrifices (4:3-5). So the rules that applied in the garden do not apply now. God Himself changed the rules after sin entered.
We have abundantly proved by the Scriptures that God approves of man's use of animals for work, for clothing, and for food. This is God's law for today, rather than the laws He gave Adam and Eve in the garden. Those who say otherwise are the ones rebelling against God's laws.
Note: For evidence that God exists, the Bible is God's Divine revelation, and Jesus is God's Son, please consider our extensive articles of evidences. Click on this link: Evidences for God, Jesus, & the Bible
Copyright 2003, David E. Pratte
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