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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.
The COP18 Climate Negotiations in Doha resulted in an extremely weak agreement. It becomes more and more evident that the politicians constantly fail to solve the climate crisis – the leaders of the developed countries are out of touch with reality, they are more interested in short-term profit than in saving lives. Since they are the worst polluters and have the most money, this is blocking the whole process.
Christians cannot sit and wait for these slow negotiations to come somewhere, we have to take the initiative. And many churches are indeed talking a lot about climate action and some are even making plans concerning how to reduce their own emissions. This is great, of course. However, my experience that both the church and society as a whole is talking very little about one of the most effective climate actions: becoming vegetarian or vegan.
As the video clip above shows, the current Western meat consumption is wasting resources and destroys the environment. 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production. There is nothing as effective, simple and cheap to save the climate than becoming vegetarian or vegan. This is why the UN is calling for “a global shift towards a vegan diet”, something that would also increase our health and, of course, create better lives for God’s beautiful animals.