"World Peace Thru Vegetarianism" - so said a popular T-shirt in my hippie dorm at the University of Connecticut. The blue-collar boys would taunt back, "World War Carnivore!" More recently I was window shopping, in Killarney, Ireland of all places and saw another T-shirt. It wasn't the "Irish Blessing", but rather "Vegetarian - Indian Word Meaning Bad Hunter". And so it goes, back and forth, those touting a veggie diet as healthier for our bodies and kinder to our fellow creatures versus those passionate lovers of a perfectly grilled, juicy, medium-rare filet mignon (seasoned with garlic and lemon pepper).
I must say that although it seems intuitive that vegans would be healthier it is not so clear on digging deeper. It has been the experience in my medical practice that vegetarians tend to be on the skinny and not so healthy side. (But then who am I to throw T-bones at that glass house?) I also have a number of Indian and Pakistani patients, many who are thin vegetarians that disproportionately suffer from high blood sugars and bad cholesterol ratios. On the meaty side, my next-door neighbor, a gastroenterologist, who is also a celiac-disease guru, finds promise for health in the Paleolithic diet. It is also known as the "caveman diet", consisting mostly of lean meat and fish, along with some veggies and nuts.
A doctor is certainly not going to argue against a healthy eating plan. It can give both longevity and quality to life. On the other hand, I know for beyond reasonable doubt that those who eat the best diet, take the most perfectly balanced supplements, exercise daily and don’t use any questionable substances are going to die. So the question isn’t immortality. The question regarding our diet is what is the right and ethical thing to do? How does the taking the life of other creatures measure up against the standard? And as usual, I look to Scripture as the arbiter of all ethical concerns.
Vegans shoot a three-pointer their first time down the court in Genesis 1:29: “Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” Seems like that is the ideal diet. Aaargh, then corruption enters the scene, but after the Fall we see God showing mercy (in many ways) to his rebellious creatures by killing some animal (a Lamb?) and providing clothes for the naked couple.
Fast forward to just post-Flood and Noah’s family jams it for two when they are given permission to eat of both plant and animal kingdoms: “The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” Genesis 9:2-3
The contest tightens up a bit in Leviticus and Deuteronomy when the Israelites have their diet restricted, one to set them apart from the surrounding riff-raff, and two for health benefits. Kosher is the word for a long time until a not-so-excited-about-raw-oysters Peter is instructed in a vision that the menu was open again. Why the change? Most likely to reverse the separation that the Jews had grown to cherish and open up the Gospel to the whole world. No more the sign of circumcision, no more ceremonial laws, no more Court of the Gentiles and women, for “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
The end game however is found in the prophet Isaiah where he predicts the state of things as God’s Kingdom is made manifest:
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." Isaiah 11:6-9
So as much as I delight in the glory of the chase, matching my skills and endurance against wild game, as much as I enjoy the sizzle and aroma of red meat on a hot grill, I do not foresee this current state where we may take the lives of other creatures for our sustenance to continue forever. There’s a big wedding bash planned and we won’t miss the animal protein…
Doe and two fawns cross the Imnaha