The Abomination of Desolation

Chapter 3: Thou Shalt Not Kill

 

 

 

Then יהושע said to him, “Return your sword to its place, for all who take the sword shall die by the sword.” Matthew 26:52

 

Ultimately, we must realize that the kingdom of heaven ideal does not boil down to a few instances in Scripture of promises of a better world for a few of us to live in, whether this is understood as happening when we as individuals die, or some far-flung utopian future society. What it all comes down to is the expectation which God has for us that we will obey his commands, and that if we do, we will be given everlasting life, but if we do not, the life that has been given to us will be taken away. The commandment, therefore, that speaks directly to this outcome, is that which is most important to it. Indeed, the greatest sin we can commit is the one that destroys God’s work, and we have been warned repetitively that this offense will not go unpunished. Perhaps God thought it reasonable to let men misbehave, make poor choices, have bad priorities, and even kill each other, but to commit rampant, systematic atrocities against the rest of the creatures of Earth, over whom Man had been given stewardship, is obviously unacceptable if the ecosystem is to be preserved at all. It would be far better to remove Man from the equation altogether, thereby preserving the rest of the ecosystem.

Mainstream Christianity has been more responsible than any other paradigm for creating and fostering the view that humans are the center of all creation, which exists merely to sustain, impress, entertain and gratify humans. The natural conclusion of such thinking is that it is perfectly reasonable that we be allowed to do whatever we want, as if the sum of existence constitutes only so many grapes to be plucked from the vine for the satisfaction of fleshly desires. The Bible, on the other hand, tells us than Man was brought forth to serve the purposes of Elohim (Genesis 2:5,15). Therefore, Man is not free to dispose of Earth’s resources however he so pleases, for, thousands of years later, he still has not even demonstrated the bare minimum concern for the harmonious balance of all God’s creation to be trusted with even the most trivial of jobs to that end.

Christians have further obscured a true understanding of the state of affairs on Earth by promoting their particular image of God. In the minds of most Christians, this planet and all that inhabits it (and, indeed, the entire physical universe) was created by Almighty God over the course of merely six days. (Many even get this number wrong, and it is no wonder, as they do not honor the Sabbath.) By this reasoning, given the ease with which our omnipotent Creator made all that we see, there is no real need for humans to care for it with any sense of responsibility. Despite the biblical command to be stewards of the planet (Genesis 1:28), it is thought no great loss if we humans destroy our own habitat, for God can (and will) simply erase all our mistakes with a snap of his fingers, making everything whole again. According to this logic, which is taken on blind faith, nothing could stop God from accomplishing this. So all concern for the well-being of any nonhuman creature is therefore futile, and all environmentalist initiatives are a complete waste of time and effort.

In order to rebut this absurd and exceedingly malevolent world view, it must first be pointed out that it was not Almighty God (אלשדי, or el-shaddai in Hebrew) who was directly responsible for the creation depicted in Genesis 1, but the gods (אלהים, or elohim in Hebrew—you may think of them as “angels,” aliens or super-beings, rather than mythological figures). As these “mighty ones” have set our destiny into motion, and preside over it even now, if we want to understand the teachings of the kingdom of heaven (which is their kingdom), then we need to put ourselves in their shoes and see things from their perspective, not ours. This should not be very difficult, either, as they are conscious creatures in whose image we have been made, and therefore are just like us in many (if not all) respects.

Consider, then, that most people have experienced the great anger and frustration that comes from having their property destroyed, even if it was not a work of their own hands. We might imagine what an outcry might arise worldwide were a criminal to deface the Mona Lisa, which is, ultimately, nothing more than a small canvas with some oil on it. Yet every inch of soil has more beauty and complexity in it than any work of art intended to imitate nature, whether we are intelligent enough to see it or not. We are even told that God knows the numbers of the hairs on our heads, in the context of the observation that he takes care of every living creature (Luke 12:7), which indicates more concern for the smallest living thing than we have even for ourselves. (Do you know how many hairs, or even follicles, are on your head? God does, because each one had to be put there in your DNA, and that information can be extracted and read as well as written and reprogrammed.) What, then, could suitably convey the rage of the gods to see their creation slowly and systematically destroyed over thousands of years, without so much as a superficial apology or admission of wrongdoing on behalf of the culprits?

It is true that the Bible says our planet (but not the universe as a whole) was created in only six days. Rather than conclude, then, that such a process must have been easy and simple, we might marvel at what an incredible amount of work went into this process. The construction process took all of six days, but the planning and technological invention that enabled the gods to reach the point that this project could be completed so quickly surely took many thousands (probably billions) of years. After all, it took the humans of Earth five millennia to reach the point that automobiles could roll off an assembly line with comparative ease and efficiency. How much more effort must have gone into being able to manufacture an entire planet, complete with its complex ecosystem and biosphere? Truly, it is an unfathomably rich and beautiful work of art. Contemplate this for a moment; then you might begin to grasp what measure of wrath the gods have stored up for those who have disobeyed their rather simple and self-rewarding commandments time and time again, insisting instead upon destroying their magnificent creation.

“And when the Son of Aḏam comes in His esteem, and all the set-apart messengers with Him, then He shall sit on the throne of His esteem. And all the nations shall be gathered before Him, and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats. And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the Sovereign shall say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the reign prepared for you from the foundation of the world—for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous shall answer Him, saying, ‘Master, when did we see You hungry and we fed You, or thirsty and gave You to drink? And when did we see You a stranger and took You in, or naked and clothed You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and we came to You?’ And the Sovereign shall answer and say to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in so far as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’ He shall then also say to those on the left hand, ‘Go away from Me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his messengers—for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, was naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also shall answer Him, saying, ‘Master, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not serve You?’ Then He shall answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, in so far as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.” Matthew 25:31-46

“And if those days were not shortened, no flesh would be saved, but for the sake of the chosen ones those days shall be shortened.” Matthew 24:22

What does it mean to be a “chosen one,” you may ask? Well, the short answer is that it means your interests are aligned with God’s. (The long answer will be provided later, and as far as it is evident in Scripture, throughout the rest of the present book.) With this in mind, let us expand on the teachings of Matthew 25 and how they relate to our interactions with the “lower” species.

Regarding “in so far as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me,” it is evident in Yahshuah’s choice of words that this is intended to apply either to nonhuman animals specifically, or else to the other members of his sect, because that is the only context in which he is ever recorded as having used the phrase ‘my brothers.’ If it is understood that John the Baptist was lesser than any of the other members of his sect (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28), then that effectively rules them out, and therefore all humans. This ought to make sense; when humans act ignobly, we tend to regard them as “animals,” but we still take thought of them. It is the nonhuman animals which always get overlooked (hence the continued existence of animal farming after other forms of slavery and abuse other than those of a fiscal or monetary nature have been largely outlawed or abolished from most societies). So it makes sense that he would be speaking of animals, as the men in this parable do not take much thought of them, but would understand clearly that they had done well if they were being praised for serving humans.

Those who would scoff at such an application might consider that Joel 2:28 states that Yahweh shall pour out his spirit on “all flesh,” and this remarkable notion pertains to the spirit of prophecy, rather than merely the breath of life. You may ask, then, what a porcine or bovine prophet might look like, but this is an objection rooted in disbelief, not in belief: Yahweh spoke through the mouth of a donkey in Numbers 22:21-30 when a human prophet failed to be obedient to him. This is, after all, God, that we are talking about—the Creator of the universe. Causing a human to learn about love or obedience from a donkey or a dog is a rather simple feat for him, especially considering that it ought to come naturally when any significant amount of time is spent with one. If God indeed values all of his creations, and not just humans, or if we even reasonably suspect that he might, then we, being mere creatures ourselves (and mortal, at that), are obligated to immediately cease thinking and acting with such arrogance as to believe that we can treat all the rest of creation however we see fit.

Regarding “I was hungry and you gave me food,” consider the normal conditions on a typical animal farm. Most livestock are pumped full of antibiotics to make them grow more quickly, so as to cut back on feeding costs. Chickens have been bred to reach full maturity within just a few weeks, which makes them so frail that they can barely move. Even then, they are practically always starved, and then debeaked (meaning their beaks are burned off without any anesthetic) so they do not peck at each other, due to their desperation for food. Newly hatched chicks among the males are either stuck in a grinder to become waste or chicken nuggets (as if there is even a difference) or simply put in the trash where they will starve to death if they do not die of dehydration or suffocation first.

In one recent case, 50,000 egg-laying hens were locked in a storehouse for two weeks without food; when they were found, only 2000 were in stable enough conditions to be rescued, and the rest were euthanized.367 So even when there is an incentive to take care of the animals, obviously that only extends so far as it will allow for the maximum amount of profit to be squeezed out of each. When it is no longer profitable to care for them, they are simply abandoned, because it is not worth the trouble to murder them. That is exactly what happened in this case: “in the face of mounting feed costs,” the owner chose to starve them to death rather than sink another cent into them.368

Now consider the diet fed to animals on feedlots. A cow’s diet is about 95% grain. (Cows are meant to eat grass.) This causes them to get diseases, so they are injected with antibiotics. They are fed diets that are dense in food energy in order to encourage the deposition of fat in muscle tissues, i.e. to fatten them up (which is very unhealthy), because consumers want the fat for flavor and tenderness.369

In other words, they are fed what they are not designed to eat because it results in tastier meat, and is therefore more economically viable for the producers. In light of the frequent comments from defenders of meat consumption that their acts are ethical because these animals are being raised and taken care of, their species guarded and perpetuated by humans who have a vested interest in doing so, we think it is abundantly clear how hypocritical such statements are, when obviously the only motivations for caring for these creatures at all are the money and belly gods. Even then, this is like putting a bowl of macaroni and cheese in the microwave when your daughter asks for a salad because you are too lazy to prepare one, and then saying that you are “taking care” of her.

“And what father among you whose son asks for bread shall give him a stone, or if he asks for a fish shall give him a snake instead of a fish, or if he asks for an egg shall give him a scorpion?” Luke 11:11-12

Really, it would be more honorable to honestly state that you do not care about the welfare of these animals, rather than perpetuating this obvious masquerade. Anyone who naïvely thinks that all choices made with regards to what and how much animals raised for slaughter are fed are not exclusively driven by a profit motive really ought to spend some time educating himself as to just how closely the typical farm analyzes every last financially relevant detail of its operations. It is not as though this is different from any other business. Just look at the statistics gathered in a beef cow business record report to see how fine-tuned it gets.370

Regarding “I was thirsty and you gave me drink,” how about preventing a newborn calf from drinking the milk of its own mother because it is more economical to give it a “milk replacer” instead? Milk replacers have been around since the 1950s, and they are popular because they reduce the cost of feeding.371 However, there is a problem: “But with milk replacer costs [now] exceeding $60 per bag for standard products containing 20% protein, 20% fat and all-milk protein, the cost advantage is quickly eroding.”372 What is the profit-conscious farmer to do? According to Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, “If you currently wean calves at any age over 5 to 6 weeks, you are spending more money on milk replacer than is required.”373 Meanwhile, according to the National Department of Agriculture in South Africa, calves are ideally weaned at 7-8 months of age.374

Beyond that, there is also the issue of how to keep producing affordable, economical milk replacer (i.e. nourishing the calf as little as possible) balanced against protecting the farmer’s investment (i.e. keeping the calf alive). “Milk replacer cost is highly dependent on the ingredients used, especially the sources of protein. Milk proteins can be replaced by a variety of non-milk proteins such as soy, wheat, egg, blood plasma, and potato. These non-milk proteins are less expensive than milk protein, but it is important to understand that they are not equivalent to milk protein … Non-milk proteins are not acceptable for feeding calves less than 3 weeks of age. These calves do not digest non-milk proteins efficiently.”375 Needless to say, only a scumbag that barely passes for a human being would believe the same proteins which are “not acceptable” for calves under 3 weeks are fine for calves over 3 weeks.

Then there is also the option of just giving the calves the leftover milk that is unfit for humans even by human standards. Apparently this is a last resort, and the only time a dairy calf is ever likely to drink its own species’ milk after the first 48 hours of its life. “Of course, waste milk from treated or recently fresh cows that cannot be sold is another potential option to reduce your milk replacer cost. There are several management issues that must be addressed to take best advantage of this milk. First, it is strongly recommended that waste milk be pasteurized. This milk is more likely than whole, salable milk to contain large populations of infectious organisms, and proper pasteurization is very effective in reducing bacterial numbers. In addition, feeding waste milk often exposes calves to more antibiotics and increases the risk of antibiotic residues in market calves.”376

Regarding “I was a stranger and you took me in,” human subjugation and slaughter of animals, either directly as a food source or indirectly as incidental extinctions caused by humanity’s consumption of more of the planet’s land and resources with little regard for the needs and survival of other species, is virtually entirely predicated on the facts that 1) they are not the same species as we are, and we look out for our own species before we do theirs (if at all) and 2) they are weaker than we are, which means we have the right to do with and to them whatever we please. Far from taking them in to our homes, we venture into theirs in order to rape and pillage them in their own abodes. Prairie dogs were already going extinct before the US government planned to wipe them out because we have built cities on their lands without leaving any space for them, while amateur hunters shoot them for sport; we probe the oceans in search of new fishing grounds because we have depleted the old ones; we travel all the way from North America to Antarctica just to find killer whales to bring back and put into captivity for our amusement, and so on. As Achilles says in the Iliad, “We men are wretched things.”

Regarding “I was naked and you did not clothe me,” animals actually have virtually no need for us to clothe them, except when we take them out of their natural habitats (where they are suited to the climates) and then abandon them in our cities. So we go much further than this: we even steal the clothing off the backs of these animals—which we have absolutely no need for—in the form of wool and “fur.” We even rape them, anally or vaginally, to electrocute them, because their skins are more precious to us than their lives, or just forego the killing altogether and bang their heads on the concrete ground repeatedly if they move while they are being flayed, in order to dull their senses, because we lack the decency to kill them first. Or, we could just cut straight to the point; as of the date of this writing, the biggest pop music star on the planet, otherwise known for her fashionable ornamentation, is literally wearing red meat for her on-stage performances, and posing otherwise naked on the cover of a popular magazine.

Who, knowing this, can take any pride at all in being human, as the Christians do? Seeing how cotton, flax and hemp, among others, are perfectly suitable for fashioning all manner of human clothing, and how even these have been made largely obsolete by new technologies, such practices are absolutely unconscionable. Anyone who can bring himself to watch videos of the barbaric manner in which animals are literally stripped of their fur, still breathing, and left for dead, will appreciate this parable/prophecy in an entirely new light. We daresay he might even learn to have compassion on his fellow man, when he sees what real suffering looks like.

Regarding “I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me,” while this statement can well be said to encompass the entire life cycle of all farm animals, it is hard to imagine a more accurate description of the euphemistically termed “gestation crates” in which female breeding pigs are forced to spend the entirety of their adult lives, unable to so much as even turn around, or of the “battery cages” in which tens of thousands of hens cannot even stand or spread their wings. But hey, at least more eggs are produced at lowered costs, right? To be fair, though, the industry does not use only euphemisms to describe its violations of animals’ natural rights. Some sound like they come from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum.” For instance, one popular device designed to induce clinical depression in research animals at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was called the “pit of despair” by its designer. The same psychologist who designed it also designed the self-explanatory “rape rack” for artificial insemination purposes, which the dairy industry adopted and now uses everywhere, without having changed the name. So horrible is this device that it was actually condemned by his colleagues, though in principle all means of forced captivity should be condemned if any one is to be, as all cause psychological suffering, and the difference between one cruelty and another is just degree.

You get the point, so we will stop there. If you honestly think that Yahshuah would condone these practices, and that God has no concern for what you are personally responsible for but loves you in spite of it, then you may as well just stop reading this now: you are beyond redemption. If you were simply unaware that the violence is so out of control (and you have to see it for yourself to understand just how bad it is), then you should really be asking yourself why that is. Children do not have this problem; children do not compartmentalize suffering the way schizophrenic adults do simply in order to feel okay about something which is obviously not okay. They see animals for what they are, and what Yahshuah and all the prophets of the Bible in total proclaimed them to be: living, breathing extensions of themselves.377 You, too, were once a child. Have you, like most people, forgotten?

At that time the taught ones came to יהושע, saying, “Who, then, is greatest in the reign of the heavens?” And יהושע called a little child to Him, set him in their midst, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become as little children, you shall by no means enter into the reign of the heavens. Whoever then humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the reign of the heavens. And whoever receives one little child like this in My Name receives Me.” Matthew 18:1-5

Then young children were brought to Him to lay His hands on them and pray, and the taught ones rebuked them. But יהושע said, “Allow the young children and do not stop them from coming to Me, for of such is the reign of the heavens.” Matthew 19:13-14

The idea that violence against nonhuman animals is wrong according to the Bible (or just according to God’s moral law) is not as novel as it might sound. Many great Christian thinkers and activists have adopted this view from a lifetime devoted to bringing peace just to humanity. St. Francis of Assisi in particular had such great love for animals that it was said in his own time that his presence tamed the wildest beasts. Yet the only real change that took place in his life was his gradual and sometimes punctuated return to the innocence of his youth, whereas most of the ascetics of the Middle Ages joined one of the established orders, where such innocence was actively suppressed in favor of ecclesiastical discipline (or because it was considered heresy in its non-sanctioned forms).

The official biographers proclaim that Francis is a new spirit reviving the hallowed ancient beliefs and practices of Christianity. The Sacrum Commercium, the tale of a spiritual romance between Francis and Lady Poverty that Celano may have written in 1227, asserts that Francis has recovered the ascetic life of poverty followed in Eden and by the apostles. Celano’s Via Prima, written in 1228, declares:

For when the teachings of the Gospel, not indeed in every respect, but taken generally, had everywhere failed to be put into practise, this man was sent by God to bear witness of the truth throughout the whole world in accordance with the example of the Apostles. … For in this last time [novissimo tempore] this new evangelist, like one of the rivers that flowed out of paradise, diffused the waters of the Gospel over the whole world by his tender watering. … Accordingly, in him and through him there arose throughout the world an unlooked for happiness and a holy newness and a shoot of the ancient religion suddenly brought a great renewal to those who had grown calloused and to the very old. A new spirit was born in the hearts of the elect. … Through him the miracles of ancient times [antiqua miracula] were renewed, while there was planted in the desert [deserto] of this world, by a new order but in an ancient way, a fruitful vine bearing flowers of sweetness. … (VP 89)

As we have seen, the “miracles of ancient times” were indeed renewed. And since Celano and Bonaventure consciously interpret Francis as the incarnation of ancient Christian traditions, many of their statements reveal, in a way not found before, the traditional assumptions behind a saint’s unusual interactions with creation. The fervency and power of the new Franciscan movement spur more trenchant proclamations that Francis had achieved what ascetics in the past had sought. Old ascetic conceptions live again, in a new context. Thaumaturgic control over creation is strongly associated with a return to primordial, paradisal innocence. When Francis submitted to Brother Fire and was not harmed by him, Celano asserted, “I believe that he had returned to primitive innocence [ad innocentiam primam], for whom, when he wished it, cruel things were made gentle” (VS 166). Armstrong recognizes the ideal of harmony expressed here, but cannot accept that in fact Francis’ thaumaturgy is inseparable from it. Yet to a medieval observer … thaumaturgical control over creation was just as sure a sign of the return to original harmony as much “milder” expressions as having pets.

Bonaventure expresses similar sentiments. “So it was,” he says, “that by God’s divine power the brute beasts felt drawn towards him and inanimate creation obeyed his will. It seemed as if he had returned to the state of primeval innocence, he was so good, so holy” (MNL 3:6). Several passages in Bonaventure’s writings demonstrate he believed that Francis’ unusual affectionate interactions with animals symbolized his return to the perfect relationship humankind had attained with creatures in Eden. Bonaventure postulates a link between Francis’ possession of the virtue of compassion or sympathy and the restoration of cordial respect from animals.

We should have the greatest reverence, therefore, for St. Francis’ loving compassion which had such wonderful charm that it could bring savage animals into subjection and tame the beasts of the forest, training those which were tame already and claiming obedience from those which had rebelled against fallen mankind. (ML 8:11)

In one place Bonaventure used Francis to illustrate quite a detailed picture of how humans originally related to animals in paradise and reattained this ability with their increase in saintliness.

If you ask what is the virtue which makes a person love creatures, because they come from God and exist for him, I reply that it is compassion and a sort of natural affection. For example, we see that even now a person can be very fond of a dog because it obeys him faithfully. In the same way, man in his original state had a natural inclination to love animals and even irrational creatures. Therefore, the greater the progress a man makes and the nearer he approaches to the state of innocence the more docile these creatures become toward him, and the greater the affection he feels for them. We see this in the case of St. Francis; he overflowed with tender compassion even for animals, because to some extent he had returned to the state of innocence. This was made clear by the way irrational creatures obeyed him.

This is probably the most elaborate statement of the ascetic ideas intertwined around thaumaturgy involving animals and the significance of a saint’s pets, as one will ever find. It was synthesized by a philosopher who could “intellectualize” them due to his Franciscan and ascetic ideals meeting and fertilizing his scholastic training in approaching this problem. Francis’ kindness to animals is seen in a typical medieval manner, as a remaining vestige of humankind’s paradisal state of innocence. Humanity’s original relationships with animals are partially restored when the saint progresses toward greater purity and innocence before God, and God shows the saint’s achievement by giving the saint thaumaturgical control over irrational creatures as a model of the primeval relationship between humans and other creatures. Not that simple domination alone characterized this relationship—a mutual love and respect were involved also. Francis’ accomplishment culminated in “restoring man’s harmony with the whole of creation” (ML 8:1). Roger Sorrell378

Francis is perhaps best known as the patron saint of animals and of the environment. It is no wonder, too, for he alone of the many mystics revered in the Catholic religion called them his brothers and sisters, and actually considered it his vocation to preach to them the way that Paul styled himself the apostle to the nations/tribes. Anecdotal stories tell how he saved fish and animals hunted by humans whenever he had the opportunity, warning them not to get caught again. This compassionate attitude developed not when he became a monk, as one might suppose, but rather when he became enlightened (by God’s grace, or so it has been said) through his interaction with them, which caused him to realize that every member of every nonhuman species is a lot more in line with God’s will than is every member of his own.

But the blessed father went his way with his companions, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, whom all creatures venerate with humble acknowledgement. But now that he had become simple by grace, not by nature, he began to blame himself for negligence in not having preached to the birds before, seeing that they had listened to the word of God with such great reverence. And so it happened that, from that day on, he solicitously admonished all birds, all animals and reptiles, and even creatures that have no feeling, to praise and love their Creator, for daily, when the name of the Savior had been invoked, he saw their obedience by personal experience. Celano379

The common themes in discussions about the life of Francis largely revolve around his position on nonviolence, which says a lot, considering that before donning the monk’s robe he tried his hand at soldiering. His biographers mourned his death, blaming the wars and famines that ensued in 1227 on the passing of the saint the previous year and on the return to apostasy of those who had been under his influence. Celano’s narrative of his death implies that the apostasy, among other things, included cannibalism of infants during famine, or at least that parents did not mourn them (that it was better that they died), and it reads like the narratives in the book of Judges which declare that upon the passing of each of the Judges, Israel’s apostasy was even worse than it had been before.

As we might expect from the immediate return to apostasy after his death, there has been a great deficiency of animal lovers since the time of Francis, whose influence has caused them to be regarded by history as a significant force behind religious or civil reform. However, it is easy to point to figures in modern history to show the type of ideal or ethical standard that has caused many to return to a state of innocence, to some extent or another, though certainly not to the extent of Francis. We all know, for instance, that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a major influence on the civil rights reforms of his time. We also know that the positions he held on racial equality and nonviolence which got him killed are now widely accepted, defended and even celebrated. What most people do not know is that the revolution which he almost singularly led was carried on by his family after his death, and that he left behind a widow and a son who became vegans, owing specifically to the nonviolence ideal which he preached (as discussed in the previous chapter).380

Who has not heard (or at least heard a sound byte from) King’s famous speech where he said he dreamed of a future where children of different racial backgrounds could play together, without the bias of racial bigotry? Is this not the clearest representation of the aspiration which caused the last vestiges of institutional racially-motivated slavery to be erased from American society? Yet the myriad voices of animal rights activists are still unheard by the overall population, because while Blacks in America were able to speak for themselves, the suffering animals cannot, because they are still perfectly enslaved and therefore have no voice. Does this not bode ill for us humans, who are as far from the epitome of God’s creation as any species could theoretically get?

Imagine aliens visit our planet and decide to stay. They are bigger, stronger, smarter and faster than we are in every way. If they aren’t naturally more advanced, their technology is. The aliens can live without doing harm to us, but they can choose to do great harm. There is no way for us to protect ourselves from them, let alone over-power them. All we can hope for is their mercy.

Under this scenario, do you think an aliens’ empathy, compassion and altruism should be based solely on how they treat other aliens? Or you do think how an alien treats humans needs to be taken into consideration?

This story line is make-believe to us humans, but it is not to other animals. We are the omnipotent life-force. We do with them what we will. We bring babies into this world so we can kill and eat them. We kill them for their fur. We take them from their homes and from their families. We use them for our entertainment, in rodeos, zoos, movies, and theme parks like Sea World. We steal their babies, milk and eggs. We mutilate them. We hunt them. We trap them. We genetically engineer them to grow bigger so we can slaughter them within weeks or to produce more eggs than is natural. We deny other animals everything that makes their life worth living. We objectify and commodify other sentient beings, which … requires zero degrees of empathy.

Empathy is about crossing boundaries between “self” and “other.” If we restrict our empathy to humans only, we are drawing a line between “us” and “them,” just as in any form of discrimination. The process of prejudice and violence is the same whether between human and nonhuman animals, whites and blacks, men and women … how we treat nonhuman animals is directly connected to how we treat each other.

When left to our innate predisposition, we include other beings in our circle of compassion. Research shows that children have an innate empathy for and desire to protect other animals and that society teaches them to go against their natural compassion, particularly as it relates to food animals … If we’re addressing our capacity for empathy, compassion and altruism, wouldn’t we want to help children retain their innate capacity of kindness for all sentient beings and help adults return to their natural roots of compassion?

As you are aware, compassion begets compassion. Brain scans show that vegetarians and vegans have a greater empathic response to both human and animal suffering. It is unclear how much of the greater degree of empathy is due to genes, hormones, early experiences or culture. I would hypothesize that culture plays a significant role and that once a person steps outside the cultural mores of objectifying nonhuman animals, his empathy grows for all sentient beings.

There will be no Martin Luther King, Jr. to rise from and speak for the oppressed nonhuman animals. As members of the dominant group, we play an imperative role in dismantling this system of violence. Beth Levine381

Truly, even if it could not be shown that the decision of St. Francis or of the Kings to become vegans was according to the letter of the Law, because we suppose that the Law is only applicable when the victims of the violence are human, then it would certainly at least be in keeping with the spirit, which is far more important, anyway. After all, it is having the right spirit which motivates and enables us to obey the Law. That this spirit is innate within us, and that it has to be overcome in order for us to give in to the sin of murder, means that we must overcome the societal programming and return to the innocence of our youth before we can possibly have any hope of entering the kingdom of heaven. Thus it is said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these, and that their spirits are closer to God than most.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in the heavens their messengers always see the face of My Father who is in the heavens. For the Son of Aḏam has come to save what was lost.” Matthew 18:10-11

Consider the perspective of these “messengers” (or “angels”) and what it must be like for them to watch over us and constantly witness how very far we have deviated from God’s plan. For one thing, even with the technological capability of creating a planet, it is not reasonable to assume that refurbishing one that has been wrecked is a simple process, so it is equally unreasonable to suppose that they do not mind that we are actively destroying their work. One important undercurrent of the Bible, and one that is expressly and implicitly denied in virtually every doctrine of mainstream Christianity, is that humans are always made to take responsibility for their mistakes. While most Christians, if they have taken note of it at all, envision the Millennium described in Revelation 20 as nothing more than a supernatural celebration that God and Jesus (if there is a difference) hold for the saints, the reality is that this period of time will be largely spent by a small group of people restoring and repairing the earth from all the damage brought about by the rest of the human population.

It is true that the gods could create the “renewed heaven” and “renewed earth” themselves (where “renewed” connotes ‘fixed up,’ not ‘newly created after the previous one was utterly destroyed’), but why would they? To do so would be to grossly violate their own rule (natural law). We created the mess we are in; we have to clean it up. If this were not the case, then surely they would have intervened by now. (In fact, they do, regularly, but not in such a way as to come to the knowledge of most people, or to end the destructive processes.) This is exactly why there needs to be a millennial kingdom on Earth with an “iron rule” prior to our full admission into the universal system which we call the kingdom of heaven. The alternative is to blindly believe without any kind of substantiation, as the ignorant, superstitious masses of Christians do, that it will happen by way of some unknown magic, and that there is no reason for any of it, save God’s arbitrary will. Though they typically justify their lack of concern about this planet with references to 2 Peter’s testimony that the earth and all its works shall be burned up, they neglect to consider that the reason even for the necessity of such a thing is to rid the planet of the very things that Christians themselves allow to be built and transpire through their very lack of concern in the first place.

At best, the Christians’ attitude is indifferent to wholesale suffering, sin, death and destruction. At worst, it is the origin and cause of them. The idea that we are to just sit around and wait until the kingdom of heaven is established by someone else is one more lazy justification from apathy and ignorance in a long list of hedonistic vices meant to cater to and absolve them of the guilt of their eternal quest for worldly comforts and carnal pleasures. It is predicated on the notion that the animals and ecosystems under our dominion will be discarded in the same manner as are the leftover bones from their chicken dinners.

Christians ought to consider that in the same context where Yahweh speaks of redeeming a remnant of Israel, he pledges that peace and compassion shall reign in peace over the rest of the planet’s inhabitants, as well. The context does not indicate lack of concern for the rest of the Earth aside from humans, as Christians would suppose, but goes out of its way to indicate that we are only a part of God’s total creation and suzerainty. The word ‘covenant’ conveys that they will not hurt us, that we will not hurt them, and even that we have equal rights, including equal redress of wrongs and infractions against such rights.

“And in that day I shall make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the birds of the heavens, and with the creeping creatures of the ground, when bow, and sword, and battle I break from the earth. And I shall make them lie down in safety. And I shall take you as a bride unto Me forever, and take you as a bride unto Me in righteousness, and in right-ruling, and kindness and compassion.” Hosea 2:18-19

Furthermore, many Christians throughout the centuries have read the Bible and familiarized themselves with God’s will, so it is not as though there is no precedent whatsoever in Christian theology and literature for recognizing that God loves his nonhuman creations as well as his human ones. The notion that he does not comes not from established Christian doctrine, but from individual laziness and apathy. Granted, it is usually an afterthought to the concerns of the egocentric human, but it is still there.

Until old age You shall provide for me, for my father did not know me, and my mother abandoned me to You. For You are a father to all the children of Your truth, and You rejoice over them as a loving mother over her nursing child. As a guardian with his embrace, You provide for all Your creatures.Thanksgiving Hymns (1QH) 17:34-36

Praise יהוה from the earth,
You great sea creatures and all the depths,
Fire and hail, snow and clouds,
Stormy wind that does His word,
The mountains and all hills,
Fruit tree and all cedars,
Wild beasts and all cattle,
Creeping creatures and flying birds,
Sovereigns of the earth and all peoples,
Rulers and all judges of the earth,
Both young men and maidens,
Old men and children.
Let them praise the Name of יהוה,
For His Name alone is exalted,
His splendour is above the earth and heavens.
Psalm 148:7-13

As far as what God’s will actually consists of, nothing could put it as succinctly as the Sixth Commandment, which really should be enough to silence all opposition to the argument for vegetarianism from the Bible:

Thou shalt not kill. Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17 (KJV)

Keep in mind that Christians and Jews both universally accept the Ten Commandments as relevant moral precepts, applicable to everyone on the planet. The Ten Commandments fall under what the Christians call “moral law,” rather than the Law of Moses, which means they hold themselves bound to them, without exception. (Even though Christians flatly reject the commandment to honor the Sabbath, they still regard Sunday fellowship and worship services as in keeping with the custom, as some sort of replacement for resting on Saturday, without explanation.) According to the Christians (and this is one of the few matters we agree with them on), if it is one of the Ten Commandments, it must be obeyed; there is no gray area.

The commandment proscribing killing speaks for itself. Nevertheless, its absoluteness has come under attack over the last several hundred years, to such an extent that most Christians now understand it to mean, and usually express it as, “Thou shalt not murder.” So before we proceed, the difference between killing and murder must be made clear.

To kill is “to cause the death of (a person, animal, or other living thing).”382 To murder is “to kill (someone) unlawfully and with premeditation.”383 Thus, murder is a type of killing, distinguished specifically by premeditation and illegality, whereas killing is an all-encompassing term. The very idea that God, through Moses, meant to say “You shall not murder” rather than “You shall not kill,” supposes that there was already a legal framework for determining what constituted an illegal killing before there was even a law!

Precisely what constitutes an illegal killing can vary widely according to the collective will of the community of humans in which it occurs. Legal codes in the United States even distinguish between murder and manslaughter based on whether the killer acted with “malice aforethought,” therefore attempting to judge the blameworthiness of the killer’s intentions.384 To consider murder in a more generalized sense, we will assume that the law being violated here is God’s, as embodied in the Old Testament by the Mosaic law. Generally speaking, every society has some recognition of this natural law called “common law,” which amounts to the idea that it is not okay to inflict harm upon other beings, especially human beings. Even though nonhuman animals are generally not accounted for or protected under common law (differentiated from other legal systems in that there is a victim), common law systems still bear the mark of this association; the word ‘victim’ comes from the Latin victima, which only and always refers to a sacrificial animal.

Putting the Sixth Commandment in its context certainly conveys the idea that we are not speaking of manslaughter, but rather premeditated killing. The major difference between the use of râtsach (רצח, H7523) and our use of ‘kill’ or ‘murder’ is therefore not a question of semantics, but of the subject of the killing. That is, whether it should read and be understood as ‘You shall not kill’ or ‘You shall not murder’ is the wrong question; the question is whether or not it should read ‘You shall not kill humans.’

The change to ‘murder’ has been deliberately initiated in order to retrofit the doctrine with the idea that it is okay to kill non-humans, thereby bypassing the commandment in all cases except premeditated homicide. This was done by people who wanted to invest in themselves the power to commit murder with no adverse repercussions, which even King James, who already claimed divine right to rule, had the sense to avoid. In fact, every English monarch since Henry VIII (including James) has claimed the title Fidei Defensor (‘Defender of the Faith’), originally awarded by the Pope, which serves the purpose of giving the monarch a casus belli or legal justification for declaring war (i.e., murder) on anyone who does not belong to, or has been excommunicated from, the Catholic sect—and this in spite of the fact that every English monarch since Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I has been formally excommunicated from that sect by English law! (Catholics, and those who marry them, are formally barred from the line of succession in Britain.)

War is still judicial murder, and judicial murder is still murder, however one looks at it. A student of history will be very hard pressed to find a single instance of a just war that was ever fought by any belligerent party on either side, whether according to theological standards or international convention. The theological sentiment was articulated well when Martin Luther declared that “War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity; it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it.” Yet even Luther himself is notorious for his role in the decision of the German princes to exterminate the peasants he helped incite to rebellion. In the end, these justifications by way of changing the legal definitions of words in the Bible do nothing to detract from God’s intent, and serve only to justify what is already taking place, thereby perpetuating sin and preventing the kingdom of heaven.

Most advocates of the “Thou shalt not murder” rendering begin this justification by insisting that translating the Hebrew word in question here, רצח (râtsach), as “murder” is warranted by a study of all the texts in which it occurs. While this word appears forty-seven times in the Old Testament, only thirteen of these are in verbal form, which, being the form present in Exodus 20:13, is most pertinent to the question at hand.

It is true that some of these thirteen passages support translating רצח as “murder”: Deuteronomy 22:26, Psalms 94:6 and Hosea 6:9, specifically. However, it must be remembered that what is under consideration is an argument for a narrow definition for רצח, understood only as a killing that is both illegal and premeditated. Therefore, all that is necessary to disprove the validity of this definition is to find a single instance in which the term is not used in this manner. We can do even better than that, as there are actually four.

The type of killing described in this passage is without premeditation, and thus cannot be classified as murder:

Then Mosheh separated three cities beyond the Yardĕn, toward the rising of the sun, for him who killed [רצח] someone to flee there, he who kills [רצח] his neighbour unintentionally, without having hated him in time past, and might flee to one of these cities and live. Deuteronomy 4:41-42

This statute of the Mosaic law explicitly states that the type of killing described is perfectly acceptable and does not constitute murder (“blood”):

“But if the one who killed someone at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled, and the revenger of blood finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge, and the revenger of blood kills [רצח] him who killed someone, he is not guilty of blood.” Numbers 35:26-27

This statute of the Mosaic law commands death as the penalty for the act described, so unless one wishes to argue that a practice commanded by the Law itself was illegal and thus constitutes murder, this verse also demands that רצח be understood in a much broader context than accepted Christian doctrine professes:

“Whoever kills someone has to be put to death [רצח] as a murderer by the mouth of witnesses, but only one witness does not bear witness against someone to die.” Numbers 35:30

Finally, no reasonable person would claim that a lion can commit murder; such an act would always be described as “killing”:

The lazy one says, “There is a lion outside! I am going to be killed [רצח] in the streets!” Proverbs 22:13

As these passages demonstrate, râtsach clearly has a semantic range that is far too broad to fit into an English translation of “murder.” Nevertheless, one could rightly object that translating this term as “kill” leads to troubling contradictions. How is one to reconcile the Sixth Commandment, which seemingly prohibits killing of any kind, with Numbers 35:30, where the Law demands that such a person be executed? Indeed, there is no shortage of verses in the Pentateuch which proclaim that individuals guilty of various crimes ought to be executed. Furthermore, and more to the point, if the Sixth Commandment outlaws killing, then how can God’s declaration of war against the Canaanites be explained? And if the purview of this commandment extends even to animals, as we assert (and the conquest of Canaan even mandated the killing of the Canaanites’ livestock), then how can this be reconciled with the sacrificial system erected by Moses?

It is natural and laudable that Christians would wish to defend Scripture against contradiction, especially in an instance seemingly as flagrant as this (though, truth be told, this was certainly not the true impetus for their support of a translation of “murder”). However, it is the Christians who allow for and create contradiction by accepting the “moral law” (their own invention) and rejecting the Law of Moses, with the supposition that the Law of Moses is more concise or demanding than God’s, when in fact the opposite is true. This case only seems to be a contradiction, and it is resolved not by altering the original meaning, but by understanding the commandment in its proper context.

It would be absurd to argue that there is no such thing as justifiable killing in God’s eyes. For instance, Christians can hardly argue that God would hold Yahshuah guilty of “murder” or even genocide, yet wide-scale killing is precisely what he is prophesied to commit (Luke 19:27, Revelation 19:11-21). Nor can it be said that the prophet Samuel was guilty of murder in God’s eyes when he killed the king of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:32-33). How, then, are we to resolve this apparent contradiction?

The answer comes by realizing that the Sixth Commandment was a general command given to the Israelites at large. As they had already shown themselves to be flamboyantly sinful and rebellious, it was proper for God and Moses to give them laws that were as restrictive as possible—for their own sake. As we have already seen, it is undeniable that each and every creation in existence is the work of God alone, as the very idea and defining quality of God is as the Creator. This is key to understanding the legitimacy of the sacrificial system, and therefore must be kept in mind. If God orders that a creature be killed, it cannot be said that the creature’s death is premature. Our dilemma does not lie in convincing Christians that God’s orders need to be obeyed, but in convincing them what they are, and especially that the order to sacrifice a lamb, given to the Israelites, does not apply any more to us (much less justify animal farming) than the orders to kill Canaanites apply to us.

God is the origin and sustainer of all life. As such, he has sole authority to determine the bounds of each creature’s life. Humans have no authority to take life into their own hands and end it prematurely. Therefore, it is paramount to assert this prohibition in the strongest terms possible, which is precisely what is communicated in the phrase “Thou shalt not kill.” Altering the translation to read “murder” instead is a sinister means of usurping God’s authority and reinforcing the ever-popular notion that humans have the right to enforce their own will upon that which they do not even have any inherent rights over—even the Law and the Word of God. Jews and Christians profess the sanctity and inviolability of both, yet transgress and rewrite their most fundamental commands, even going so far as to write the Torah scrolls on sheepskins and binding Bibles with leather. This is so commonplace that if one types the word ‘Bible’ into an Internet search engine, it will direct him to biblegateway.com, where he will be bombarded with paid advertisements for leather-bound Bibles in whatever horrendously adulterous translation he has selected.

Psychologically speaking, allowing humans in general a foot in the door to consider their own worthiness to make life-or-death decisions over other creatures is precisely what God and Moses would never do. Rather, it would have been imperative to emphasize God’s sovereignty over his creation, especially in terms of when a creature dies. This is also part of the key to understanding the legitimacy of the sacrificial system, because it reinforces the explanation as to why God would institute it in the first place. By making it a solemn religious/ceremonial affair, pious people would be strongly dissuaded from ever doing it on their own. That is to say that the command “Thou shalt not kill” was intended not for every single member of the Israelite nation in all circumstances, but for every member who was not a priest or dutifully appointed prophet (a judge) performing the action with certain restrictions.

For instance, can you imagine baptizing your kids every time they take a bath? Even just celebrating the Eucharist in your home would be extremely controversial, and if you asked any Christian, you would be told in no uncertain terms that this practice is illegitimate and that you need to go to church. Yet the ancient Christians who did these things would have avoided going to church at all costs, as we will show later.

These sacraments did not even exist during Moses’ time. The whole ceremonial function of most priesthoods back then was the performance of sacrificial rites—roughly equivalent, especially in terms of how the laity would view them, to baptism and communion. The law therefore amounts to a divine prohibition of practicing it on one’s own, without going to the priests. While this may sound like a post hoc justification for our point of view, it is not like an omniscient God would not factor it into his reasons for instituting the practice, where any kind of description of any other reason seems to be sorely lacking, and we are assuming that all such reasons ultimately pertain to the achievement of the highest possible good for the universe as a whole, which the routine killing of animals otherwise does not serve.

This is reconciled with passages in the Bible that do allow for and even command killing precisely because God, as the Creator, has sole and absolute authority for determining when to bring any creature’s life to an end—authority which extends to his priests, prophets and judges, so long as they act according to his will and are indeed his. Scripture makes it clear that some humans (albeit a very small number of adepts—the “chosen” ones) do have authority to likewise end life, but this is only ever because such a person has already submitted himself to God’s will (the first step in becoming a prophet of Yahweh), in which case it could rightly be said that such a person is only causing God’s will to be effected, and that there is no difference between the will of God and the will of his agent (i.e., that they are “one,” so to speak). The vast majority of humans cannot claim to be anything but hostilely opposed to God’s will, and as such would never be told that they have any right, under any circumstance, to bring a life to an end, nor would they be chosen to act as God’s agents via some sort of process of divine inspiration or hypnotic manipulation. Evidently, God chooses donkeys over sinners to speak through.

This, essentially, is the origin of the eternal feud between the prophet (or judge) and the priest: the one, as his representative, seeks to establish his will, while the other, as his enemy and usurper, seeks to abolish it. It is an absolute travesty, not just for the earth, but for all mankind, that humans lack the sense to allow the prophet to have his place, and continually throw their weight behind the priest without thinking. (The modern priesthood includes mainstream media and other propaganda outlets, such as public education, which are the exact equivalents of the “scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law” of the New Testament era.) A prophet is only going to kill, or advocate killing, when it is God’s will, as it is otherwise understood that God wills life. However, sometimes killing is exactly what is needed to prevent the total collapse of justice, as we can easily infer from the righteousness of the Judges (who killed), or even of God’s regrettable decision to wipe out the human race when its evil had run amok.

Again, violence is not merely justified in the case of righteous judgment; it is a necessity of justice. Unlike man’s laws, wherein “might makes right,” according to God’s law of righteous judgment, the one with the authority to mete justice (i.e. to kill or otherwise act violently) is also the one who preaches mercy and advocates peace. Samson was forbidden to go near a corpse, yet slew 1000 Philistines (many if not all of them armed men, no doubt) in a single day—not quite the same thing as 1 per day over 1000 days, which is basically what meat-eaters do. Clearly he had a goal in mind.

As judges like Gideon and Deborah can only act outside the bounds of the manmade rules which are theoretically supposed to uphold God’s law and only actually tend to work against it in open rebellion, the short-sighted mob holds these prophets as public enemies and openly persecutes them, which has the effect of preserving the very thing which God has sent his agents to denounce and abolish. (The violence which is mandated in the Bible is clearly aimed at protecting the innocent, whereas the violence that is condemned is that which harms the innocent.) Without these checks in place, this inevitably leads to the degradation of society, to the point that law enforcement officers in America have been filmed shooting unarmed, subdued men in their custody in the back of the head just because they feel like it,385 while a single crime lab chemist can deliberately fabricate evidence to lead to as many as 40,000 criminal convictions in less than ten years, leading to a ridiculously easy sentence for her,386 and a judge can literally sell kids to prisons for cash—yet the public still fails to recognize that this kind of violence and oppression is neither what God intended, nor what is in its own best interest. Clearly, justice is not served under Man’s rebellion, wherein injustice is enforced by violence, because Man himself is violent.387

Having established all this, then, the reader should have sufficient context to grasp precisely how grave is the sin which humanity has fallen into in regards to its treatment of animals. As it is obvious that we have no right to destroy God’s creations, and as we have been commanded to not do so, to nevertheless fashion food and exploitation systems in which his creations are utilized, in assembly line fashion, toward the end of supporting mankind’s egregious rebellion against his authority, constitutes precisely the level of sin that merits an abrupt end to the dominion of our species, and of the species itself. For if God has not granted permission to humans to feed upon his other creations—and clearly he has not, save in extreme circumstances, the likes of which are described in various Bible passages—then we are defying one of his most serious and important commands, and the one which constitutes, more than anything else, our very reason for existing. Indeed, most people are doing so many times a day. It is no wonder, then, that the world is in as fallen a state as it is.

Ultimately, the words ‘kill’ and ‘murder’ are synonymous when applied to unprovoked, premeditated, illegal killing. Just because Man’s law allows the killing of animals, that does not mean that God’s does, and the fact that it does not makes the killing murder in every instance. To eat meat even once is to murder a helpless, innocent victim.

We are not talking about swatting at flies here. We are talking about breeding conscious animals for slaughter, and keeping them in cages their whole lives where they cannot move, or are malnourished, tortured, beaten, raped, and discarded like they do not even matter, or otherwise treated like their only value is in the profit that can be gained from people paying to eat their carcasses. In no sense whatsoever is this what God had in mind either for us or for his creation.

The wholesale breeding and murder of animals for human consumption is undeniably and by far the greatest atrocity in the world today. Anyone with a conscience must at least realize that the state of affairs that has arisen out of an ever-increasing demand for animal-based food products is morally reprehensible, regardless of whether they even attempt to make an unreasonable justification for it. But to suggest that God changed his mind about what a proper human diet ought to consist of after the Garden of Eden is to pin one’s own sins on God. Scripture, on the other hand, tells us that God, upon viewing his creation and observing that it was “good,” held his crowning achievement—Man—in higher esteem before the notorious incident (eating the proscribed food, according to the legend) had him banished from Paradise. Now that we are in this fallen state, are we supposed to wait until, as Isaiah prophesied, the lion would lie down with the lamb? Or are we supposed to, as Christ commanded, be perfect, even as our heavenly Father is perfect, and to seek his truth and righteousness in order to establish the kingdom of heaven here and now?

That Christians are, as a rule, content to wait until the peaceful coexistence of all creatures becomes the explicit and enforced law of the land demonstrates that their ideology is a major obstacle to the establishment of the kingdom of heaven, and begs the question of precisely how said kingdom can even be established without their forcible removal from their position at the head of the world’s ecclesiastical government, presiding as the supreme authority on moral issues. This is not a matter of personal preferences, or of lifestyle choices, or of dietary restrictions. It is a matter of laying down the Law, of demanding justice and mercy for the billions of innocent victims whose voices are not even heard, and of divine wrath aimed at those who refuse to desist. It is God who makes the demands, and the atheists who tell us to mind our own business because morality is relative and a personal matter. Christians should be the ones on the front lines advocating mercy and compassion, as they are on so many other issues, such as the “right to life” being extended to unborn humans. They have the numbers, therefore they have the power and the responsibility to create the kingdom of heaven here and now. Consider the vegan’s view, as articulated by the founder of the animal rescue and advocacy organization Free From Harm:

I would agree that, in many cases, morality is a personal matter. The choice of faith or secular belief is one’s personal business. In fact, any belief or action that does not deny others their basic freedoms is generally respected as a personal one. A personal belief does not harm others, at least directly. That’s what makes it personal. However, when it comes to eating animals, there are no neutral actions. We have only two options: either 1. we eat animal products and are directly responsible for sending animals to the slaughterhouse or 2. we don’t eat animal products and thus spare animals a slaughterhouse end. There are no gray choices in between these two actions that could render a less definitive outcome.

In other words, there is no moral gray area between life and death, slavery and freedom, violence and nonviolence, killing and not killing. We’ve already applied this moral certainty to our own kind. At least in principle, we do not argue that slavery, rape, or murder is justifiable for some races, but not for others. We believe, in principle, that certain rights and freedoms apply to all humans, because we all have an interest in not being enslaved, raped, or murdered.

So on what grounds do some people think it is okay to abandon this fundamental moral principle when the victim belongs to another species? Why do these people maintain that a sentient being is not worthy of the same protection from slavery, rape, gratuitous violence, and killing simply because he is a member of a nonhuman species? If we say we believe in justice for all, why don’t we extend that principle of universal justice, fairness, and equal consideration to all sentient beings?

These are questions that we must raise, repeatedly, when confronted with the moral relativist position that seeks to dismiss the idea that animals count morally. Those who argue that this is a matter of personal belief deny animals a voice in the public discourse and sabotage any attempt to accord them justice. This tactic has been used by opponents of all other social justice movements. It is self-serving, irresponsible, flimsy, and cowardly.

To be fair, some of the moral relativism surrounding this discussion is based on a misunderstanding of sentience. According to scientists, a sentient being has subjective awareness, a sense of self-worth, and an interest in avoiding pain and death—in staying alive. Under that definition, animals in our food system (as well as many other animals exploited for other reasons) are clearly sentient. Thus, there is no escaping the fact that our moral treatment of these animals cannot be based on mere opinions, cultural mores, or personal beliefs and choices.

This misunderstanding of sentience shows itself when people ask us questions like, Where do you draw the line? Do insects have an interest in not being killed? How about plants? Do they care if they are killed? Actually, what these questions imply is that the intelligence (as defined by humans) of a species determines our moral obligations to its members. But we need to remember that the issue is not intelligence, it is sentience. This is where we ought to draw the line—at sentience. And the sentience of the animals we exploit for our food is highly developed and irrefutable.388

Personal food choices had never been discussed at the dinner table until a growing number of vegans and vegetarians—by their very presence at the table—question the legitimacy of eating animals. A person who tells you that their meat eating is a personal choice is really telling you “stay away.” They don’t want you to question their highly-coveted moral beliefs or perhaps they object to exposing their unexamined moral quandary over how one can justify using and killing animals for food in an age when it is completely unnecessary. In other words, they have made this issue personal precisely in response to you making it public.

The irony is that while meat eaters defend their choice to eat meat as a personal one, they will nonetheless go to great lengths to defend it publicly when confronted with a vegan or vegetarian.

As activist Twyla Francois so aptly puts it: “All animals have the same capacity for suffering, but how we see them differs and that determines what we’ll tolerate happening to them. In the western world, we feel it wrong to torture and eat cats and dogs, but perfectly acceptable to do the same to animals equally as sentient and capable of suffering. No being who prides himself on rationality can continue to support such behaviour.”

In the spirit of justice, we live in a society where our actions and choices are governed by what society deems acceptable. We can make a personal choice to maim, rape or kill someone, but these actions will have consequences that serve as a deterrent. It is generally accepted in a democratic society that we are free to do what we want as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else or infringe on the same rights and freedoms of others.

Yet, for the meat eater, the choice of eating animals is completely disconnected from this concept of justice since justice does not, in their eyes, apply to other species, only to humans (how convenient). In other words, there are no visible, negative consequences to eating meat. The victims remain invisible and silent to those who eat them, and that is perhaps the greatest deception of all.

In reality, the choice to eat meat negates the very meaning of choice because the animal that had to be killed to procure the meat had no choice in the matter at all. And the notion of characterizing such a choice as a personal one is even more problematic since the choice required the taking of another’s life, not a personal sacrifice. Nothing could be more public than the taking of a sentient life who cares about his own life, particularly when that act is neither necessary nor therefore morally defensible. Robert Grillo389

You know when you see an adult hitting or beating a child, you feel compelled to step in and say something? You know when you see an aggressive man accosting a woman, you feel compelled to step in and say something? That’s how vegans feel when they see people using and eating animals. Gary Smith390

Remember that next time you read Matthew 25:31-46, or eat a chicken sandwich.

 

 

 

 


367 “50,000 Egg Laying Hens Found Emaciated and Starving on California Farm,” Free From Harm, 24 Feb 2012, http://freefromharm.org/animals-and-the-law/50000-egg-laying-hens-found-emaciated-and-starving-on-california-factory-farm.

368 “Sign Petition to Prosecute Owner of A&L Poultry for Willful Neglect and Starvation of 50,000 Hens,” Free From Harm, 19 Mar 2012, http://freefromharm.org/animals-and-the-law/sign-petition-to-prosecute-owner-of-al-poultry-for-willful-neglect-and-starvation-of-50000-hens.

369 “Feedlot,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feedlot#Scheduling_and_diet.

370 “2000-2004 Summary: Beef Cow Business Record Final Report,” Iowa Beef Center, http://www.iowabeefcenter.org/Docs_econ/SPA2000-2004SummaryBeefCowBizRecordFinalReport.pdf.

371-373 “Milk Replacer Costs and Your Options,” Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, May 2007, http://extension.psu.edu/animals/dairy/health/nutrition/calves/feeding/das-07-116.

374-375 Directorate Communication, “Beef cattle: weaning of calves,” National Department of Agriculture, South Africa, 2000, http://www.nda.agric.za/docs/weaning/weaning.htm.

376 http://extension.psu.edu/animals/dairy/health/nutrition/calves/feeding/das-07-116.

377 Sara Crolick, “Are Children Natural Vegans?” Elephant Journal, 31 May 2013, http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/05/are-children-natural-vegans-video-sara-crolick/.

378 Roger D. Sorrell, St. Francis of Assisi and Nature: Tradition and Innovation in Western Christian Attitudes toward the Environment, Oxford, 1988, pp. 51-53; retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=9xwzmblHJmwC.

379 Ibid., p. 67.

380-381 Beth Levine, “Why Compassion Should Be Species-Blind,” Free From Harm, 24 Jun 2013, http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-psychology/a-powerful-plea-to-widen-our-anthropocentric-compassion/.

382 “Definition of kill,” Oxford Dictionaries, http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/kill.

383 “Definition of murder,” Oxford Dictionaries, http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/murder.

384 Sara J. Berman, “Homicide: Murder and Manslaughter,” NOLO, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/homicide-murder-manslaughter-32637.html.

385 Joe Hamilton, “Cops shoot unarmed man in the head,” KTVU News, 5 Jan 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV6e_L99SAY.

386 “Corrupt crime lab chemist faces light sentence after ruining countless lives with falsified evidence,” Police State USA, 25 Nov 2013, http://www.policestateusa.com/2013/annie-dookhan-crime-lab-chemist-falsified-evidence/.

387 “Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced For 28 Years For Selling Kids to the Prison System,” govtslaves.info, 1 Dec 2013, http://govtslaves.info/pennsylvania-judge-sentenced-28-years-selling-kids-prison-system/.

388 “When Moral Relativism Becomes a Justification to Exploit Animals,” Free From Harm, 24 Dec 2012, http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-ethics/when-moral-relativism-becomes-a-justification-to-exploit-animals/.

389 Robert Grillo, “Five Reasons Why Eating Animals Isn’t a ‘Personal’ Choice,” Free From Harm, 15 Aug 2012, http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-psychology/five-reasons-why-meat-eating-cannot-be-considered-a-personal-choice/.

Please note that this article has been rewritten since we cited it.

390 “You know when you see an adult hitting or beating …” planet-dont-panic, 20 Jul 2012, http://planet-dont-panic.tumblr.com/post/27668242895/you-know-when-you-see-an-adult-hitting-or-beating.