Five years ago I became a vegetarian. I had read about how extremely bad meat is for the climate and global environment: meat and diary production accounts for 1.5% of global GDP but 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the United Nations Environmental Programme recommends a transition to more vegetarian and vegan diets in order to prevent huge environmental disasters. I also knew that producing meat requires much more resources than it takes to produce other foods – instead of eating crops ourselves we have to give it to animals for several years and then eat them – and since God had called me to live simply and help the poor by fighting global hunger, it was easy for me to become a vegetarian.
I have several Christian brothers and sisters who have made the same decision, but as you probably can tell yourself most Christians are meat-eaters. Which in one way isn’t very strange – even though Adam and Eve were vegans and the prophets tell us about how animals and men will live in peaceful harmony in Heaven, there is no clear-cut command to be a vegetarian in the New Testament. Peter was told to “kill and eat” in Acts 10:13, and Paul says “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” (Rom 14:2) Most vegetarian Christians have heard these Bible verses a few times, I reckon.
I believe that meat-eating Christians are fully correct when they point out that Jesus ate meat and that the apostles didn’t teach that you have to be a vegetarian to be a Christian. However, I would like them to reflect on how much meat Jesus and the apostles eat, how much we eat today and whether meat was the environmental disaster then as it is today. Seriously, in Sweden where I live, most Christians and non-Christians alike eat meat three times a day, all year round. I’ve been to a couple of Christian conferences this summer and boy, it wasn’t easy to be a vegetarian. There was some massive meat-eating going on there.
If you go back 200 years though, an average Swede didn’t eat meat more than once or possibly twice a week. Go back even further and they didn’t eat it more than once a month. This is still true today in poorer countries: most people eat vegetarian food most of the time because meat is expensive and hard to get.
Eating meat three times a day is extreme and hurts the global environment massively. It requires industrial meat production and massive crop areas used to grow food for the animals. As growing economies get richer more people will eat meat, and climate change will continue to speed up and kill thousands. Christians are just following the stream, quoting Rom 14:2 they eat a massive amount of meat unheard of in all of world history.
The reason I abstain from meat completely is because I want to compensate for the catastrophic consequences my meat-eating brothers and sisters cause through their diet. And I pray that more will join me. Becoming vegetarians is the easiest and most effective way we can reduce our environment a footprint. When Paul said that vegetarians had weak faith he didn’t mean those who abstained from meat due to environmental reasons or even animal rights, but ritual reasons, believing that you need to stay away from meat to be saved. In his time, meat wasn’t causing global warming and world hunger. Now it is, and therefore Christians should dramatically increase their vegetarian diet.