Wednesday, January 31, 2007

animals have souls

One widespread rationalization in Christian circles, often used to justify humanity’s mistreatment of animals, is the erroneous belief that humans alone possess immortal souls, and only humans, therefore, are worthy of moral consideration. The 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, condemned such a philosophy in his On the Basis of Morality.

“Because Christian morality leaves animals out of account,” wrote Schopenhauer, “they are at once outlawed in philosophical morals; they are mere ‘things,’ mere means to any ends whatsoever. They can therefore be used for vivisection, hunting, coursing, bullfights, and horse racing, and can be whipped to death as they struggle along with heavy carts of stone. Shame on such a morality that is worthy of pariahs, and that fails to recognize the eternal essence that exists in every living thing, and shines forth with inscrutable significance from all eyes that see the sun!”

According to the Bible, animals have souls. Texts such as Genesis 1:21,24 are often mistranslated to read “living creatures.” The exact Hebrew used in reference to animals throughout the Bible is “nephesh chayah,” or “living soul.” This is how the phrase has been translated in Genesis 2:7 and in four hundred other places in the Old Testament. Thus, Genesis 1:30 should more accurately read: “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, I have given every green herb for meat.”

God breathed the “breath of life” into man, and caused him to become a living soul. (Genesis 2:7) Animals have the same “breath of life” as do humans. (Genesis 7:15, 22) Numbers 16:22 refers to the Lord as “the God of spirits of all flesh.” In Numbers 31:28, God commands Moses to divide up among the people the cattle, sheep, asses and human prisoners captured in battle and to give to the Lord “one soul of five hundred” of both humans and animals alike. Psalm 104 says God provides for animals and their ensoulment.

“O Lord, how innumerable are Thy works; in
wisdom Thou hast made them all! The earth is
full of Thy well-made creations. All these look to
Thee to furnish their timely feed. When Thou
providest for them, they gather it. Thou openest
Thy hand, and they are satisfied with good things.
When Thou hidest Thy face, they are struck with
despair. When Thou cuttest off their breath, in
death they return to their dust. Thou sendest
Thy Spirit and more are created, and Thou dost
replenish the surface of the earth.”

Similarly, the apocryphal Book of Judith praises God, saying, “Let every creature serve You, for You spoke and they were made. You sent forth Your Spirit and they were created.” Job 12:10 teaches that in God’s hand “is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.”

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 says humans have no advantage over animals: “They all draw the same breath...all came from the dust, and to dust all return.”

The verse that immediately follows asks, “Who knows if the spirit of man goes upward, and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth?” The exact Hebrew word for “spirit,” “ruach,” is used in connection with animals as well as humans. Ecclesiastes 12:7 concludes that “the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”

This position was taken by Paul, who called himself an apostle to the gentiles. Paul spoke of God as the “giver of life and breath and all things to everyone.” (Acts 17:25) In his epistle to the Romans 8:18-25, Paul wrote that the entire creation, and not just mankind, is awaiting redemption.

Revelations 16:3 also refers to the souls of animals: “The second angel poured out his bowl upon the sea, so that it turned to blood as of a corpse, and every living soul that was in the sea died.” The exact Greek word for soul, “psyche,” was used in the original texts.

English theologian Joseph Butler (1692-1752), a contemporary of John Wesley’s, was born in a Presbyterian family, joined the Church of England, and eventually became a bishop and dean of St. Paul’s. In his 1736 work, The Analogy of Religion, Bishop Butler became one of the first clergymen to teach the immortality of animal souls. “Neither can we find anything in the whole analogy of Nature to afford even the slightest presumption that animals ever lose their living powers, much less that they lose them by death,” he wrote.

The Reverend John George Wood (1827-89) was an eloquent and prolific writer on the subject of animals. A popular lecturer on the subject of natural history, he wrote several books as well, such as My Feathered Friends and Man and Beast—Here and Hereafter. Wood believed most people were cruel to animals because they were unaware that the creatures possessed immortal souls and would enjoy eternal life.

One of the most scholarly studies on the issue of animal souls was undertaken by Elijah D. Buckner in his 1903 book The Immortality of Animals. He concluded: “...The Bible, without the shadow of a doubt, recognizes that animals have living souls the same as man. Most of the quotations given are represented as having been spoken by the Creator Himself, and he certainly knows whether or not He gave to man and lower animals alike a living soul, which of course means an immortal soul.”

Influenced by Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, the Church of Rome maintains that animals lack souls or divinity, even though such a doctrine contradicts many biblical passages. Previously, during the Synod of Macon (585 AD), the Church had debated whether or not women have souls! Women in the Western world (and in the East the situation is much worse) are finally being recognized as persons in every sense of the word—social, political and spiritual. Animals have yet to be given the same kind of moral consideration.

Pope Innocent VIII of the Renaissance required that when witches were burned, their cats be burned with them; Pope Pius IX of the 19th century forbade the formation of an SPCA in Rome, declaring humans had no duty to animals; Pope Pius XII of World War II stated that when animals are killed in slaughterhouses or laboratories, “...their cries should not arouse unreasonable compassion any more than do red-hot metals undergoing the blows of the hammer;” and Pope Paul VI in 1972, by blessing a batallion of Spanish bullfighters, became the first Pope to bestow his benediction upon one cruelty even the Church had condemned.

In Christianity and the Rights of Animals, the Reverend Andrew Linzey responds to the widespread Christian misconception that animals have no souls by taking it to its logical conclusion:

“But let us suppose for a moment that it could be shown that animals lack immortal souls, does it follow that their moral status is correspondingly weakened? It is difficult to see in what sense it could be. If animals are not to be recompensated with an eternal life, how much more difficult must it be to justify their temporal sufferings?

“If, for an animal, this life is all that he can have, the moral gravity of any premature termination is thereby increased rather than lessened...In short, if we invoke the traditional argument against animals based on soullessness, we are not exonerated from the need for proper moral justification.

“Indeed, if the traditional view is upheld, the question has to be: How far can any proposed aim justify to the animal concerned what would seem to be a greater deprivation or injury than if the same were inflicted on a human being?”

“Mark Twain remarked long ago that human beings have a lot to learn from the Higher Animals,” writes Unitarian minister Gary Kowalski, in his 1991 book, The Souls of Animals. “Just because they haven’t invented static cling, ICBM’s, or television evangelists doesn’t mean they aren’t spiritually evolved.”

Kowalski’s definition of “spiritually evolved” includes “the development of a moral sense, the appreciation of beauty, the capacity for creativity, and the awareness of one’s self within a larger universe as well as a sense of mystery and wonder about it all. These are the most precious gifts we possess...

“I am a parish minister by vocation,” Kowalski explains. “My work involves the intangible and perhaps undefinable realm of spirit. I pray with the dying and counsel the bereaved. I take part in the joy of parents christening their newborns and welcoming fresh life into the world.

“I occasionally help people think through moral quandaries and make ethical decisions, and I also share a responsibility for educating the young, helping them realize their inborn potential for reverence and compassion. Week after week I stand before my congregation and try to talk about the greatest riddles of human existence. In recent years, however, I have become aware that human beings are not the only animals on this planet that participate in affairs of the spirit.”

Kowalski notes that animals are aware of death. They have a sense of their own mortality, and grieve at the loss of companions. Animals possess language, musical abilities, a sense of the mysterious, creativity and playfulness. Animals possess a sense of right and wrong; they are capable of fidelity, altruism, and even self-sacrifice.

“Animals, like us, are microcosms,” says Kowalski. “They too care and have feelings; they too dream and create; they too are adventuresome and curious about their world. They too reflect the glory of the whole.

“Can we open our hearts to the animals? Can we greet them as our soul mates, beings like ourselves who possess dignity and depth? To do so, we must learn to revere and respect the creatures, who, like us, are a part of God’s beloved creation, and to cherish the amazing planet that sustains our mutual existence.

“Animals,” Kowalski concludes, “are living souls. They are not things. They are not objects. Neither are they human. Yet they mourn. They love. They dance. They suffer. They know the peaks and chasms of being.”

Sunday, January 28, 2007

animal liberation theology, part 4

In a sermon preached in York Minster, September 28, 1986, John Austin Baker, the Bishop of Salisbury, England, attacked “factory farming”--the overcrowded confinement methods of raising and killing animals for food, choosing as his example, the treatment of chickens.

“Is there any credit balance for the battery hen, denied almost all natural functioning, all normal environment, lapsing steadily into deformity and disease, for the whole of her existence?” he asked. “It is in the battery shed and the broiler house, not in the wild, that we find the true parallel to Auschwitz. Auschwitz is a purely human invention.”

On another occasion, Bishop Baker taught: “By far the most important duty of all Christians in the cause of animal welfare is to cultivate this capacity to see; to see things with the heart of God, and so to suffer with other creatures.”

On World Prayer Day for Animals, October 4, 1986, Bishop Baker preached against indifference to animal pain and lauded the animal welfare movement: “To shut your mind, heart, imagination to the sufferings of others is to begin slowly but inexorably to die. It is to cease by inches from being human, to become in the end capable of nothing generous or unselfish—or sometimes capable of anything, however terrible. You in the animal welfare movement are among those who may yet save our society from becoming spiritually deaf, blind and dead, and so from the doom that will justly follow...”

According to Bishop Baker: “...Rights, whether animal or human, have only one sure foundation: that God loves us all and rejoices in us all. We humans are called to share with God in fulfilling the work of love toward all creatures...the true glory of the strong is to give themselves for the cherishing of the weak.”

In a 1989 article entitled, “Re-examining the Christian Scriptures,” Rick Dunkerly of Christ Lutheran Church notes that, “Beginning with the Old Testament, animals are mentioned and included everywhere...and in significant areas.”

According to Dunkerly, God’s solution to the problem of human loneliness “was to bring the animals to the man for personalized naming and for a restorative, unconditional, and loving relationship with them all. Animals are specifically included in the covenant given by God to Noah in the aftermath of the Flood, with God as the sole contracting party.

“Animals portray Jesus Christ in the covenant with Abraham: Three animals are included as the intermediary. Each animal is a willing servant of man and each was to be three years old; the same duration as the earthly ministry of the Messiah.”

Dunkerly cites Romans 8:18-25, which describes the entire creation awaiting redemption:

“What Saint Paul is saying in the Romans 8 passage is that the death of Jesus upon the cross not only redeems every human being who willingly appropriates it unto him/herself, it also redeemed the entire creation as well, including the animals who were subjugated to the Adamic curse without choice on their part...each element of the ancient Curse would be reversed...Satan would be denied all aspects of victory.

“In light of this,” he concludes, “...the Bible-believing Christian, should, of all people, be on the frontline in the struggle for animal welfare and rights. We who are Christians should be treating the animal creation now as it will be treated then, at Christ’s second coming. It will not now be perfect, but it must be substantial, otherwise we have missed our calling, and we grieve the One we call ‘Lord,’ who was born in a stable surrounded by animals simply because He chose it that way.” Dunkerly teaches Bible studies at his home church and is actively involved in animal rescue projects.

In a 1991 article entitled “Hunting: What Scripture Says,” Rick Dunkerly observes:

“There are four hunters mentioned in the Bible: three in Genesis and one in Revelation. The first hunter is named Nimrod in Genesis 10:8-9. He is the son of Cush and founder of the Babylonian Empire, the empire that opposes God throughout Scripture and is destroyed in the Book of Revelation. In Micah 5:6, God’s enemies are said to dwell in the land of Nimrod. Many highly reputable evangelical scholars such as Barnhouse, Pink and Scofield regard Nimrod as a prototype of the anti-Christ.

“The second hunter is Ishmael, Abraham’s ‘son of the flesh’ by the handmaiden, Hagar. His birth is covered in Genesis 16 and his occupation in 21:20. Ishmael’s unfavorable standing in Scripture is amplified by Paul in Galatians 4:22-31.

“The third hunter, Esau, is also mentioned in the New Testament. His occupation is contrasted with his brother (Jacob) in Genesis 25:27. In Hebrews 12:16 he is equated with a ‘profane person’ (KJV). He is a model of a person without faith in God. Again, Paul elucidates upon this model unfavorably in Romans 9:8-13, ending with the paraphrase of Malachi 1:2-3: ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’

“The fourth hunter is found in Revelation 6:2, the rider of the white horse with the hunting bow. Scholars have also identified him as the so-called anti-Christ. Taken as a group, then, hunters fare poorly in the Bible. Two model God’s adversary and two model the person who lives his life without God.

“In Scripture,” notes Dunkerly, “the contrast of the hunter is the shepherd, the man who gently tends his animals and knows them fully. The shepherds of the Bible are Abel, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and David. Beginning in the 23rd Psalm, Jesus is identified as ‘the Good Shepherd.’

“As for hunting itself, both the Psalms and Proverbs frequently identify it with the hunter of souls, Satan. His devices are often called ‘traps’ and ‘snares,’ his victims ‘prey.’ Thus, in examining a biblical stance on the issue of hunting, we see the context is always negative, always dark in contrast to light...premeditated killing, death, harm, destruction. All of these are ramifications of the Fall. When Christ returns, all of these things will be ended...

“Of all people,” Dunkerly concludes, “Christians should not be the destroyers. We should be the healers and reconcilers. We must show NOW how it will be THEN in the Peaceable Kingdom of Isaiah 11:6 where ‘the wolf shall lie down with the lamb...and a little child shall lead them.’ We can begin now within our homes and churches by teaching our children respect and love for all of God’s creation...”

Friday, January 26, 2007

animal liberation theology, part 3

1991 marked the publication (in England) of Using the Bible Today, a collection of essays by distinguished clergy, theologians, and Christian writers on the relevance of the Bible to contemporary issues such as ecology, human suffering, animal rights, the inner city, war and psychology. An essay by the Reverend Andrew Linzey, “The Bible and Killing for Food” makes the following observations:

“...we have first of all to appreciate that those who made up the community whose spokesperson wrote Genesis 1 were not themselves vegetarian. Few appreciate that Genesis 1 and 2 are themselves the products of much later reflection by the biblical writers themselves. How is it then that the very people who were not themselves vegetarian imagined a beginning of time when all who lived were vegetarian by divine command?

“To appreciate this perspective we need to recall the major elements of the first creation saga. God creates a world of great diversity and fertility. Every living creature is given life and space (Genesis 1:9-10, 24-25). Earth to live on and blessing to enable life itself (1:22). Living creatures are pronounced good (1:25). Humans are made in God’s image (1:27) given dominion (1:26-29), and then prescribed a vegetarian diet (1:29-30). God then pronounces that everything was ‘very good’ (1:31). Together the whole creation rests on the Sabbath with God (2:2-3).

“When examined in this way, we should see immediately that Genesis 1 describes a state of paradisal existence. There is no hint of violence between or among different species. Dominion, so often interpreted as justifying killing, actually precedes the command to be vegetarian. Herb-eating dominion is hardly a license for tyranny. The answer seems to be that even though the early Hebrews were neither pacifists nor vegetarians, they were deeply convinced of the view that violence between humans and animals, and indeed between animal species themselves, was not God’s original will for creation.

“But if this is true, how are we to reconcile Genesis 1 with Genesis 9, the vision of original peacefulness with the apparent legitimacy of killing for food? The answer seems to be that as the Hebrews began to construct the story of early human beginnings, they were struck by the prevalence and enormity of human wickedness.

“The stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and his descendants are all testimonies to the inability of humankind to fulfill the providential purposes of God in creation. The issue is made explicit in the story of Noah: Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘ I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them.’” (Genesis 6:11-14)

“The radical message of the Noah story (so often overlooked by commentators) is that God would rather not have us be at all if we must be violent. It is violence itself within every part of creation that is the pre-eminent mark of corruption and sinfulness. It is not for nothing that God concludes: ‘I am sorry that I have made them.’ (Genesis 6:7)

“It is in this context—subsequent to the Fall and the Flood—that we need to understand the permission to kill for food in Genesis 9. It reflects entirely the situation of the biblical writers at the time they were writing. Killing—of both humans as well as animals—was simply inevitable given the world as it is and human nature as it is. Corruption and wickedness had made a mess of God’s highest hopes for creation. There just had to be some accommodation to human sinfulness...

“For many students of the Bible this seems to have settled the matter of whether humans can be justified in killing animals for food. In the end, it has been thought, God allows it. And there can be no doubt that throughout the centuries this view has prevailed. Meat eating has become the norm. Vegetarians, especially Christian vegetarians, have survived from century to century to find themselves a rather beleaguered minority.”

Reverend Linzey explains, however, that the permission to kill for food given in Genesis 9 is far from unconditional or absolute—it carries with it the prohibition against consuming the blood of a slain creature.

“At first sight these qualificatory lines might be seen as obliterating the permission itself. After all, who can take animal life without the shedding of blood? Who can kill without the taking of blood, that is the life itself? In asking these questions we move to the heart of the problem. For the early Hebrews life was symbolized by, and even constituted by, blood itself. To kill was to take blood. And yet it is precisely this permission which is denied.

“...Rereading these verses in the light of their original context should go rather like this: The world in which you live has been corrupted. And yet God has not given up on you. God has signified a new relationship—a covenant with you—despite all your violence and unworthiness...What was previously forbidden can now—in the present circumstances—be allowed. You may kill for food. But you may kill only on the understanding that you remember that the life you kill is not your own—it belongs to God. You must not misappropriate what is not your own. As you kill what is not your own—either animal or human life—so you need to remember that for every life you kill you are personally accountable to God.”

Linzey studies the messianic prophecies concerning the future Kingdom of Peace: “It seems...while the early Hebrews were neither vegetarians nor pacifists, the ideal of the peaceable kingdom was never lost sight of. In the end, it was believed, the world would one day be restored according to God’s original will for all creation...we have no biblical warrant for claiming killing as God’s will. God’s will is for peace.

“We need to remember that even though Genesis 9 gives permission to kill for food it does so only on the basis that we do not misappropriate God-given life. Genesis 9 posits divine reckoning for the life of every beast taken under this new dispensation (9:5).”

Linzey concludes his essay by examining the current trends in vegetarianism and animal rights in contemporary society: “ often comes as a surprise for Christians to realize that the modern vegetarian movement was strongly biblical in origin. Inspired by the original command in Genesis 1, an Anglican priest...founded the Bible Christian Church in 1809 and made vegetarianism compulsory among its members. The founding of this Church in the United Kingdom and its sister Church in the United States by William Metcalfe, effectively heralded the beginning of the modern vegetarian movement.”

Reverend Linzey further elaborates upon themes discussed in Christianity and the Rights of Animals in his 1991 paper “The Moral Priority of the Weak: The Theological Basis of Animal Liberation.”

Linzey agrees with Australian philosopher Peter Singer that there are no morally relevant differences between humans and animals, and asks: “What is the theological insight that makes Christians claim humans as superior or as possessing special status? In what does this specific value of humans consist?

“...any decent theological insight must be grounded in God and in particular God’s attitude towards creation. And that insight can properly be summed up in one word: generosity. The special value of humankind consists wholly and exclusively in the generosity of God, Creator, Reconciler and Redeemer. This idea is of course a perennial theme throughout the Old and New Testaments, is found consistently in the work of the Fathers, and reaches its richest expression in the theology of Karl Barth.”

Linzey observes that “here is a God supreme above all who in Christ humbles himself to identify with and suffer for the weakly and frail creature...if it is true that this paradigm of generous costly service is at the heart of the Christian proclamation then it must also be the paradigm for the exercise of human dominion over the animal world. We do well to remind ourselves of that ethical imperative arising from early Christian reflection upon the work and person of Jesus:

“Take to heart among yourselves what you find in
Christ Jesus: He was in the form of God; yet he
laid no claim to equality with God, but made
himself nothing, assuming the form of a slave.

“Bearing the human likeness, sharing the human
lot, he humbled himself, and was obedient even
to the point of death, death on a cross.”

---Philippians 2:5-9

“If we ‘take to heart’ this paradigm of generosity we can perceive moral meaning in our relationship of power over the nonhuman creation...The obligation is always and everywhere on the ‘higher’ to sacrifice for the ‘lower’; for the strong, powerful and rich to give to those who are vulnerable, poor or powerless. This is not some by-theme of the moral example of Jesus, it is rather central to the demands of the kingdom, indeed those who minister to the needs of the vulnerable and the weak minister to Christ himself:

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I
was thirsty and you gave me drink, I
was naked and you clothed me, I was
sick and you visited me. I was in
prison and you came to me.”

---Matthew 25:35-37

“In this respect, it is the sheer vulnerability and powerlessness of animals, and correspondingly our absolute power over them which strengthens and compels the response of moral generosity. I suggest that we are to be present to creation as Christ is present to us. When we speak of human superiority, we speak of such a thing properly only and insofar as we speak of not only Christlike lordship but also Christlike service. There can be no lordship without service and no service without lordship. Our special value in creation consists in being of special value to others.”

“We do not know how to celebrate, rejoice, and give thanks for the beautiful world God has made,” wrote the Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey in 1992. “If we treat it as trash it is because so many of us still imagine the world as just that. For too long Christian churches have colluded in a doctrine that the earth is half-evil, or unworthy, or—most ludicrous of all—‘unspiritual.’

“The Church needs to teach reverence for life as a major aspect of Christian ethics...So much of Christian ethics is pathetically narrow and absurdly individualistic... One of the major problems with St. that the Church has not taken any practical notice of him. St. Francis preached a doctrine of self-renunciation, whereas the Church today remains concerned with its own respectability. St. Francis lived a life of poverty, whereas the modern Church is as ever concerned about money. St. Francis, like Jesus, associated with the outcasts and the lepers, whereas the Church today consists predominately of the middle class.”

Linzey cites Paul’s epistle to the Romans, which describes the creation itself in a state of childbirth. “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” According to the Christian scheme of things, Linzey explains, “the world is going somewhere. It is not destined for eternal, endless suffering and pain. It has a destiny. Like us, it is not born to die eternally.

“The fundamental thing to grasp,” Linzey declares, “is that we have responsibility to cooperate with God in the creation of a new world.” Linzey quotes St. Isaac the Syrian’s response to the question, “What is a charitable heart?”

“It is a heart which is burning with love
for the whole creation, for men, for the
birds, for the animals...for all creatures.

“He who has such a heart cannot see, or call
to mind, a creature without his eyes being
filled with tears by reason of the immense
compassion which seizes his heart; a heart
which is softened and can no longer bear
to see or learn from others of any suffering,
even the smallest pain, being inflicted upon
any creature.

“That is why such a man never ceases to pray
also for the animals...He will pray even for
the reptiles, moved by an infinite pity which
reigns in the hearts of those who are becoming
united with God.”

“I believe then that the Church must wake up to a new kind of ministry,” Linzey concludes, “not just to Christians or to human beings, but to the whole world of suffering creatures. It must be our human, Christian task to heal the suffering in the world.”

Linzey notes that “humans are made in the image of God, given dominion, and then told to follow a vegetarian diet (Genesis 1:29). Herb-eating dominion is not despotism.” However, Linzey acknowledges the need for a new theology, an animal liberation theology, which would revolutionize our understanding of humanity’s place in creation and relationship to other species, just as the Copernican picture of a sun-centered universe replaced the earth-centered picture.

“We need a concept of ourselves in the universe not as the master species but as the servant species—as the one given responsibility for the whole and the good of the whole. We must move from the idea that animals were given to us and made for us, to the idea that we were made for creation, to serve it and ensure its continuance. This actually is little more than the theology of Genesis chapter two. The Garden is made beautiful and abounds with life: humans are created specifically to ‘take care of it.’ (Genesis 2:15)

“A great wickedness of the Christian tradition,” observes Reverend Linzey, “is that, at this very point, where it could have been a source of great blessing and life; it has turned out to be a source of cursing and death. I refer here to the way Christian theology has allowed itself to promulgate notions that animals have no rights; that they are put here for our use; that animals have no more moral status than sticks and stones.

“Animal rights in this sense is a religious problem. It is about how the Christian tradition in particular has failed to realize the God-given rights of God-given life. Animal rights remains an urgent question of theology.

“Every year,” says Dr. Linzey, “I receive hundreds of anguished letters from Christians who are so distressed by the insensitivity to animals shown by mainstream churches that they have left them or on the verge of doing so. Of course, I understand why they have left the churches and in this matter, as in all else, conscience can be the only guide. But if all the Christians committed to animal rights leave the church, where will that leave the churches?

“The time is long overdue to take the issue of animal rights to the churches with renewed vigor. I don’t pretend it’s easy but I do think it’s essential—not, I add, because the churches are some of the best institutions in society but rather because they are some of the worst. The more the churches are allowed to be left to one side in the struggle for animal rights, the more they will remain forever on the other side.

“I derive hope from the Gospel preaching,” Linzey concludes, “that the same God who draws us to such affinity and intimacy with suffering creatures declared that reality on a Cross in Calvary. Unless all Christian preaching has been utterly mistaken, the God who becomes incarnate and crucified is the one who has taken the side of the oppressed and the suffering of the world—however the churches may actually behave.”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Vegetarianism is the New Prius, by Kathy Freston

Check the full piece out at

Vegetarian is the New Prius
by Kathy Freston

President Herbert Hoover promised "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." With warnings about global warming reaching feverish levels, many are having second thoughts about all those cars. It seems they should instead be worrying about the chickens.

Last month, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.

That's right, global warming. You've probably heard the story: emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are changing our climate, and scientists warn of more extreme weather, coastal flooding, spreading disease, and mass extinctions. It seems that when you step outside and wonder what happened to winter, you might want to think about what you had for dinner last night. The U.N. report says almost a fifth of global warming emissions come from livestock (i.e., those chickens Hoover was talking about, plus pigs, cattle, and others)--that's more emissions than from all of the world's transportation combined.

Visit for the entire post.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

animal liberation theology, part 2

“Honourable men may honourably disagree about some details of human treatment of the non-human,” wrote Stephen Clark in his 1977 book, The Moral Status of Animals, “but vegetarianism is now as necessary a pledge of moral devotion as was the refusal of emperor-worship in the early church.” According to Clark, eating animal flesh is “gluttony,” and “Those who still eat flesh when they could do otherwise have no claim to be serious moralists.”

“Clark’s conclusion has real force and its power has yet to be sufficiently appreciated by fellow Christians,” says the Reverend Andrew Linzey. “Far from seeing the possibility of widespread vegetarianism as a threat to Old Testament norms, Christians should rather welcome the fact that the Spirit is enabling us to make decisions so that we may more properly conform to the original Genesis picture of living in peace with creation.”

In a 1985 paper entitled “The Status of Animals in the Christian Tradition” (based on a September 1984 talk at a Quaker study center entitled “Non-violence: Extending the Concept to Animals”), the Reverend Andrew Linzey redefined the traditional understanding of human “dominion” over the animal kingdom:

“...scholarly research in the modern period interprets the notion of dominion in terms of early kingship theology in which man is to act as God’s vice-regent in creation, that is with authority, but under divine moral rule. We are therefore not given absolute or arbitrary power over animals but entrusted with God-like power which must be exercised with responsibility and restraint.

“...for centuries Christians have misinterpreted their own scripture and have read into it implications that were simply not there. The idea that human beings have absolute rights over creation is therefore eclipsed. The vital issue that now confronts moral theologians is how far and to what extent we may use animal life and for what purposes.”

After citing Scripture and many positive instances of concern for animals in the Christian tradition, Reverend Linzey concludes that the Christian basis for animal rights includes the following points:

1) Animals are fellow creatures with us and belong to God.
2) Animals have value to God independently of their value or use to us.
3) Animals exist in a covenant relationship with God and mankind and
therefore there is a moral bond between us.
4) Human beings are set in a position of responsibility to animals.
5) Jesus Christ is our moral exemplar in his sacrifice of love for creation.
6) God’s redeeming love extends to all creation.
7) We have duties to animals derived from our relationship of responsibility
to them.

The Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey’s 1987 book, Christianity and the Rights of Animals, may be regarded as a landmark in Christian theology as well as in the animal rights movement. Linzey responds to criticism from many of the intellectual leaders of the animal rights and environmental movements—Peter Singer, Richard Ryder, Maureen Duffy, Lynn White, Jr.—that Christianity has excluded nonhumans from moral concern, that Christian churches are consequently agents of oppression, and that Christian doctrines are thus responsible for the roots of the current ecological crisis.

“We do not have books devoted to a consideration of animals,” he acknowledges. “We do not have clearly worked-out systematic views on animals. These are signs of the problem. The thinking, or at least the vast bulk of it, has yet to be done.”

Dr. Tom Regan calls Reverend Linzey, an Anglican clergyman, “the foremost theologian working in the field of animal/human relations.” Christianity and the Rights of Animals, a must-read for all Christians, certainly clears the ground.

According to Reverend Linzey:

“It does seem somewhat disingenuous for Christians to speak so solidly for human rights and then query the appropriateness of rights language when it comes to animals...the Christian basis for animal rights is bound to be different in crucial respects from that of secular philosophy. But because Christians (as we see it) have a good, even superior, basis for animal rights, that in no way precludes others from utilizing the terminology.”

Linzey acknowledges that the gospel is ambiguous on ethical questions such as animal rights. “When it comes to wanting to know the attitude that Jesus may have taken to a range of pressing moral issues today, we are often at a loss to know precise answers. But we can at least be clear about the contours. The lordship of Christ is expressed in service. He is the one who washes dirty feet, heals the sick, releases individuals from oppression, both spiritual and physical, feeds the hungry, and teaches his followers the way of costly loving...”

Linzey justifies compassion for animals through the example of Christ. “If God’s self-revealed life in Jesus is the model of how Christians should behave and if, crucially, divine power is expressed in service, how can we disregard even ‘the least among us’? It may be that in the light of Christ we are bound to say that the weakest have in fact the greater claim upon us.

“In some ways,” Linzey continues, “Christian thinking is already oriented in this direction. What is it that so appalls us about cruelty to children or oppression of the vulnerable, but that these things are betrayals of relationships of special care and special trust? Likewise, and even more so, in the case of animals who are mostly defenceless before us.

“Slowly but surely,” Linzey explains, “having grasped the notion of dominion means stewardship, we are now for the first time seeing how demanding our lordship over creation is really meant to be. Where once we thought we had the cheapest ride, we are now beginning to see that we have the costliest responsibilities...Lordship without service is indeed tyranny.”

Discussing the finer points between human “dominion” over animals, versus humane stewardship, Linzey says, “the whole point about stewardship is that the stewards should value what God has given as highly as they value themselves. To be placed in a relationship of special care and special protection is hardly a license for tyranny or even... ‘benevolent despotism.’ If we fail to grasp the necessarily sacrificial nature of lordship as revealed in Christ, we shall hardly begin to make good stewards, even of those beings we regard as ‘inferior.’”

Linzey sees divine reconciliation through Christ. The “hidden purpose” of God in Christ was “determined beforehand,” and consists of bringing “all in heaven and on earth” into a “unity in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:9-11) Linzey notes that in Ephesians, as in Colossians and Romans, the creation is “foreordained in Christ.”

“Since it is through man’s curse that the creation has become estranged from its Creator,” Linzey asserts, “it is only right that one important step along the road to recovery is that man himself should be redeemed. The salvation of human beings is in this way a pointer to the salvation of all creation...For it must be the special role of humans within God’s creation to hasten the very process of redemption, by the power of the Spirit for which God has destined it.

“Human beings must be healed,” Linzey insists, “because it is their violence and disorder which has been let loose on the world. Through humans, liberated for God, we can glimpse the possibility of world redemption. Can it really be so difficult to grasp that the God who performs the demanding and costly task of redeeming sinful man will not also be able to restore the involuntary animal creation, which groans under the weight of another’s burden?”

Linzey thus sees Jesus Christ as the only hope for animal liberation. “In Christ, God has borne our sufferings, actually entered into them in the flesh so that we may be liberated from them (and all pain and all death) and secure, by his grace, eternal redemption.

“In principle the question of how an almighty, loving God can allow suffering in a mouse is no different to the same question that may be posed about man. Of course there are important differences between men and mice, but there are no morally relevant ones when it comes to pain and suffering. It is for this reason alone that we need to hold fast to those cosmic strands of the biblical material which speak of the inclusive nature of Christ’s sacrifice and redeeming work.”

Linzey finds two justifications for a Christian case for vegetarianism:

“The first is that killing is a morally significant matter. While justifiable in principle, it can only be practically justified where there is real need for human nourishment. Christian vegetarians do not have to claim that it is always and absolutely wrong to kill in order to eat. It could well be that there were, and are, some situations in which meat-eating was and is essential in order to survive. Geographical considerations alone make it difficult to envisiage life in Palestine at the time of Christ without some primitive fishing industry. But the crucial point is that where we are free to do otherwise the killing of Spirit-filled individuals requires moral justification. It may be justifiable, but only when human nourishment clearly requires it, and even then it remains an inevitable consequence of sin.

“The second point,” Linzey explains, “is that misappropriation occurs when humans do not recognize that the life of an animal belongs to God, not to them. Here it seems to me that Christian vegetarianism is well-founded. For while it may have been possible in the past to rear animals with personal care and consideration for their well-being and to dispatch them with the humble and scrupulous recognition that their life should only be taken in times of necessity, such conditions are abnormal today.”

In Christianity and the Rights of Animals, the Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey not only makes a very sound Christian theological case for animal rights, but states further that animal slavery may be abolished on the same grounds that were used in biblical times to abolish human sacrifice and infanticide:

“ may be argued that humans have a right to their culture and their way of life. What would we be, it may be questioned, without our land and history and ways of life? In general, culture is valuable. But it is also the case that there can be evil cultures, or at least cherished traditions which perpetuate injustice or tyranny.

“The Greeks, for example, despite all their outstanding contributions to learning did not appear to recognize the immorality of (human) slavery. There can be elements within every culture that are simply not worth defending, not only slavery, but also infanticide and human sacrifice.”

“With God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27) Linzey urges Christian readers to think in terms of future possibilities. “For to be committed to Jesus involves being committed not only to his earthly ministry in the past but also to his living Spirit in whose power new possibilities are continually opened up for us in the present. All things have yet to be made new in Christ and we have yet to become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Making peace is a dynamic possibility through the Spirit.”

In a 1989 interview, Reverend Linzey insisted, “ primary loyalty is to God, and not to the church. You see, I don’t think the claims of the church and the claims of God are identical...The church is a very human institution, a frail human institution, and it often gets things wrong. Indeed, it’s worse than that. It’s often a stumbling block and often a scandal.”

Linzey expressed optimism from a study of history: “Let’s take your issue of slavery. If you go back in history, say 200 years, you’ll find intelligent, conscientious, loving Christians defending slavery, because they hardly gave it two thoughts. If they were pressed, they might have said, ‘Slavery is part of progress, part of the Christianization of the dark races.’

“A hundred or perhaps as little as 50 years later, what you suddenly find is that the very same Christian community that provided one of the major ideological defenses of slavery had begun to change its is a classic example of where the Christian tradition has been a force for slavery and a force for liberation.

“Now, just think of the difficulties that those early Christian abolitionists had to face. Scripture defended slavery. For instance, in Leviticus 25, you’re commanded to take the child of a stranger as a slave...St. Paul simply said that those who were Christian slaves should be better Christians. Almost unanimously, apart from St. Gregory, the church fathers defended slavery, and for almost 1800 years, Christians defended and supported slavery. So, in other words, the change that took place within the Christian community on slavery is not just significant, it is historically astounding.

“Now, I give that example because I believe the case of animals is in many ways entirely analogous. We treat animals today precisely as we treated slaves, and the theological arguments are often entirely the same or have the same root. I believe the movement for animal rights is the most significant movement in Christianity, morally, since the emancipation of the slaves. And it provides just as many difficulties for the institutional church...”

Christians have found themselves unable to agree upon many pressing moral issues—including abortion. Exodus 21:22-24 says if two men are fighting and one injures a pregnant woman and the child is killed, he shall repay her according to the degree of injury inflicted upon her, and not the fetus. On the other hand, the Didache (Apostolic Church teaching) forbade abortion.

“There has to be a frank recognition that the Christian church is divided on every moral issue under the sun: nuclear weapons, divorce, homosexuality, capital punishment, animals, etc.,” says Reverend Linzey. “I don’t think it’s desirable or possible for Christians to agree upon every moral issue. And, therefore, I think within the church we have no alternative but to work within diversity.”

Sunday, January 14, 2007

animal liberation theology

In the winter of 1990, the Executive Director of the International Network for Religion and Animals (INRA), the Reverend Dr. Marc A. Wessels wrote: "As a Christian clergyman who speaks of having compassion for other creatures and who actively declares the need for humans to develop an ethic that gives reverence for all of life, I hope that others will open their eyes, hearts and minds to the responsibility of loving care for God's creatures."

In a pamphlet entitled "The Spiritual Link Between Humans and Animals," Reverend Wessels writes: "We recognize that many animal rights activists and ecologists are highly critical of Christians because of our relative failure thus far to adequately defend animals and to preserve the natural environment. Yet there are positive signs of a growing movement of Christian activists and theologians who are committed to the process of ecological stewardship and animal liberation.

"Individual Christians and groups on a variety of levels, including denominational, ecumenical, national and international, have begun the delayed process of seriously considering and practically addressing the question of Christian responsibility for animals. Because of the debate surrounding the 'rights' of animals, some Christians are considering the tenets of their faith in search for an appropriate ethical response."

According to Reverend Wessels, "The most important teaching which Jesus shared was the need for people to love God with their whole self and to love their neighbor as they loved themselves. Jesus expanded the concept of neighbor to include those who were normally excluded, and it is therefore not too farfetched for us to consider the animals as our neighbors.

"To think about animals as our brothers and sisters is not a new or radical idea. By extending the idea of neighbor, the love of neighbor includes love of, compassion for, and advocacy of animals. There are many historical examples of Christians who thought along those lines, besides the familiar illustration of St. Francis. An abbreviated listing of some of those individuals worthy of study and emulation includes Saint Blaise, Saint Comgall, Saint Cuthbert, Saint Gerasimus, Saint Giles, and Saint Jerome, to name but a few."

Reverend Wessels notes that: "In the Bible, which we understand as the divine revelation of God, there is ample evidence of the vastness and goodness of God toward animals. The Scriptures announce God as the creator of all life, the One responsible for calling life into being and placing it in an ordered fashion which reflects God's glory. Humans and animals are a part of this arrangement. Humanity has a special relationship with particular duties to God's created order, a connection to the animals by which they are morally bound by God's covenant with them.

"According to the Scriptures, Christians are called to respect the life of animals and to be ethically engaged in protecting the life and liberty of all sentient creatures. As that is the case, human needs and rights do not usurp an animal's intrinsic rights, nor should they deny the basic liberty of either individual animals or specific species. If the Christian call can be understood as being a command to be righteous, then Christians must have a higher regard for the lives of animals.

"Jesus' life was one of compassion and liberation;" concludes Reverend Wessels, "his ministry was one which understood and expressed the needs of the oppressed. Especially in the past decade, Christians have been reminded that their faith requires them to take seriously the cries of the oppressed.

"Theologicans such as Gutierrez, Miranda, and Hinkelammert have defined the Christian message as one which liberates lives and transforms social patterns of oppression. That concept of Christianity which sees God as the creator of the universe and the One who seeks justice is not exclusive; immunity from cruelty and injustice is not only a human desire or need--the animal kingdom also needs liberation."

A growing number of Christian theologians, clergy and activists are beginning to take a stand in favor of animal rights. In a pamphlet entitled "Christian Considerations on Laboratory Animals," Reverend Marc Wessels notes that in laboratories animals cease to be persons and become "tools of research." He cites William French of Loyola University as having made the same observation at a gathering of Christian ethicists at Duke University--a conference entitled "Good News for Animals?"

On Earth Day, 1990, Reverend Wessels observed: "It is a fact that no significant social reform has yet taken place in this country without the voice of the religious community being heard. The endeavors of the abolition of slavery; the women's suffrage movement; the emergence of the pacifist tradition during World War I; the struggles to support civil rights, labor unions, and migrant farm workers; and the anti-nuclear and peace movements have all succeeded in part because of the power and support of organized religion. Such authority and energy is required by individual Christians and the institutional church today if the liberation of animals is to become a reality."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Jesus came to abolish animal sacrifice--not the Law

Steve Kaufman wrote:

> I don't have such disregard for Paul.
> I think he offers some excellent
> insights into problems of human
> community and ways to generate
> peaceful, loving communities. I think
> a problem is that many Christians conflate
> Paul with Jesus, and I find Jesus' teachings
> generally more insightful and helpful. In my
> ongoing essay series Christianity and the
> Problem of Human Violence (distributed
> weekly to the Christian Vegetarian Association
> e-newsletter list), I cite Paul's writings
> extensively.

In Broken Thread, Keith Akers writes: "Paul's letters are moving documents for many Christians. They make an impression today on us and on anyone raised as a Christian who seeks to make sense out of the religion they have come to know. They also made a deep impression on those who read them in the early church the consequences of which we live with even today.

"No one can read the synoptic gospels and the letters of Paul without becoming aware of great differences in their pictures of Jesus. For Paul, Jesus is the Son of God raised from the dead as a sign of God's grace; faith in Jesus replaces the Law of Judaism and transforms us into spiritual beings. For the gospels, Jesus is a miracle-worker and preacher urging the people to repentance; living in accordance with the Law is the path to life. The preponderance of what the Jesus of the gospels talks about has very little to do with the preponderance of what Paul talks about. Jesus seems to be interested in purifying and intensifying what Paul considers 'so much garbage.' "

Keith writes: "There are passages in the Old Testament which are clearly against animal sacrifice--not against this or that aspect of animal sacrifice, or against the way it is offered, or even against the people making the offerings, but against the practice itself. This is strange because apparently the Old Testament also mandates, or at the very least allows, animal sacrifice. Those wishing to defend the consistency of the sacrificial legislation with Isaiah, might say that Isaiah's objection is not to the practice of animal sacrifice itself, but to the sins of the Israelites, and that in view of these sins, the sacrifice was still rejected by God. However, such an interpretation is clearly contrary to the text.

" 'I have no desire for the blood of bulls' is stated without qualification; God (quoted by Isaiah) does not say 'Because your sins are so great, or because you still have a hard heart, I have no desire for the blood of *these* bulls you are offering Me,' but simply, 'I have no desire for the blood of bulls.'

"No qualification is offered, either for the statement 'The reek of sacrifice is abhorrent to Me.' It is not 'Your sins are abhorrent to Me,' or 'Your hypocrisy is abhorrent to Me'; the objection is to the stench of slaughter itself. Further, the question which is asked 'Whenever you come to enter My presence--who asked you for this?' does not make sense unless it is the sacrificial cult itself which is in question. If one accepts Leviticus as commanding animal sacrifice, the answer to the question 'who asked you for this?' is that it is precisely God Himself who asked for the bloody sacrifices. In this case the question becomes meaningless or we have to suppose that God is suffering from some sort of memory lapse. That God is asking this question clearly implies that (for Isaiah) God never asked for these sacrifices.

"Finally, we have the question of what 'this' is in the question, 'Who asked you for this?' 'This' is precisely the behavior cited in the previous verse--namely, the multitude of sacrifices of the people, which God through Isaiah views as 'trampling My courts.' The Temple is God's court, and it is thus not the sinful behavior of the people generally which is being objected to (though there is probably enough of that as well), but rather some *specific* sinful behavior performed in the Temple--namely, the animal sacrifices."

Keith cites Amos 5:25, which quotes God as asking, "Did you bring to Me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?" He writes, "The text is initially puzzling because something has been left out--the answer to the rhetorical question. Were sacrifices and offerings made to God in the wilderness? The context suggests that the answer must be 'no!' Otherwise, the denunciation of sacrifice makes no sense, since Israel was supposed to be in an especially holy and pure state in the wilderness."

Abba Hillel Silver, in his 1961 book, Moses and the Original Torah, similarly observes that when the prophet Amos quoted God as asking, "Did you bring to Me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?" he was clearly expecting a negative answer. But he couldn't have made such a statement, unless there was an earlier tradition, an earlier Torah, which did not call for animal sacrifice. According to Silver, the sacrificial system was a pagan practice which became incorporated into Mosaic Law.

Sometimes Christians cite the word "full" in the phrase "I am full of burnt offerings" found in Isaiah 1:11,15, where sacrifices are denounced, as proof that God accepted the sacrifices. However, in Isaiah 43:23-24, Isaiah quotes God as saying, "You have not honored Me with your sacrifices...rather you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities." This suggests, as Moses Maimonides taught, that "the sacrifices were a concession to barbarism."

In his excellent A Guide to the Misled, Rabbi Shmuel Golding explains the orthodox Jewish position concerning animal sacrifices: "When G-d gave our ancestors permission to make sacrifices to Him, it was a concession, just as when He allowed us to have a king (I Samuel 8), but He gave us a whole set of rules and regulations concerning sacrifice that, when followed, would be superior to and distinct from the sacrificial system of the heathens."

There is nothing in the synoptic gospels of Jesus to suggest a fundamental break with Judaism. Jesus was called Rabbi meaning Master or Teacher 42 times in the gospels. The ministry of Jesus was a rabbinic one. Jesus related Scripture and God's laws to everyday life, teaching by personal example. He engaged in healing and acts of mercy. He told stories or parables--a rabbinic method of teaching. He went to the synagogue (Matthew 12:9), taught in the synagogues (Matthew 4:23, 13:54; Mark 1:39), expressed concern for Jairus, "one of the rulers of the synagogue" (Mark 5:36) and it "was his custom" to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16).

Jesus blessed the meek, repeating Psalm 37:11, saying they would inherit the earth. Here Jesus refers to Isaiah's vision (11:6-9) of the future Kingdom of Peace, where the earth is restored to a vegetarian paradise (Genesis 1:29-31). Jesus taught his followers to pray for the coming of this Kingdom and to do God's will "on earth as it is in heaven." The synoptic gospels suggest that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but instead made it more severe. Although the Ten Commandments teach "thou shalt not kill", Jesus extended this morality to the point where one must never get angry without cause. Although the Ten Commandments teach "thou shalt not commit adultery," Jesus taught that "whoever looks upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

The Bible limits compensation to "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth", but Jesus taught his followers not to defend themselves against attack or aggression. "All who take up the sword must perish by the sword," Jesus warned. Instead of teaching men to love their neighbors and hate their enemies, Jesus taught them to love their enemies and bless and pray for their persecutors. (Matthew 5:38-44; Luke 6:27-29) Jesus forbade divorce, except for unfaithfulness. When asked why Moses permitted divorce, Jesus replied that it was a concession to the hardness of the heart. He insisted upon the moral standards given by God at the beginning. (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18)

"Do not suppose I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets," insisted Jesus. "I did not come to destroy but to fulfill...till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle pass from the Law till all is fulfilled. Whoever, therefore, breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven...unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20) Jesus also upheld Mosaic Law in Luke 16:17: "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid."

Nor do these texts refer merely to the Ten Commandments: Jesus meant the entire Law; 613 commandments. When a man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied, "You know the commandments." He then quoted not just the Ten Commandments, but a commandment from Leviticus 19:13 as well, "Do not defraud." (Mark 10:17-22) When Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath with his disciples, he tried to illustrate how his actions were consistent with the Torah. (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5) Jesus' disciples were once accused by the scribes and Pharisees of violating rabbinical tradition (Matthew 15:1-2; Mark 7:5), but not biblical law. At no place in the entire New Testament does Jesus ever proclaim Mosaic Law to be abolished; this was the theology of Paul, a former Pharisee who never knew Jesus, but who used to persecute his followers.

When a scribe asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus began with "Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is One Lord." This is the Shema, which is still heard in every synagogue service to this day. "And you shall love the Lord with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...And you shall love your neighbor as yourself," Jesus concluded. When the scribe agreed that God is one and that to love Him completely and also love one's neighbor as oneself is "more important than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices," Jesus replied, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-34; Luke 10:25-28)

Jesus' words in Matthew 7:12, "Accordingly, whatever you would have people do for you, do the same for them; for this covers the Law and the Prophets", are sometimes taken to mean the Law has been abolished, one need only "do unto others". However, Jesus' response to the scribe proves otherwise. To believe in one God and love Him with all one's heart, soul and mind is not "covered" by "do unto others", which is merely a secular humanist moral philosophy. Nor is it a new teaching. Jesus was merely repeating in the positive what Rabbi Hillel had stated a generation earlier. Hillel's words were never taken to mean the Law was abolished, why should we assume this of Jesus?

If Jesus really did come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, Peter would not have resisted a divine command to kill and eat both "clean" and "unclean" animals (Acts 10), nor would there have been a dispute in the early church regarding to what extent the gentiles were to observe Mosaic Law (Acts 15). When Paul visited the church at Jerusalem, James and the elders told him all its members were "zealous for the Law," and were worried, because they heard rumors that Paul was preaching against the Law (Acts 21).

Jesus began his ministry by teaching the multitudes not to "give what is sacred to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine." (Matthew 7:6) Dogs, like swine, were considered foul and unclean by the Hebrew people. (Deuteronomy 23:18; I Samuel 24:14; II Kings 8:13; Psalm 22:16,20; Matthew 7:6; Luke 16:21; Revelations 22:15) These words were used by the children of Israel to describe the neighboring heathen populations. When sending his disciples out to preach, Jesus instructed them not to go to the gentiles, but to "go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5-6) When a Canaanite woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter, he replied, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel...It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (Matthew 15:22-28) Jesus regarded the gentiles as "dogs". His gospel was intended for the Jewish people.

While teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman who had been ill for eighteen years. He justified his healing work on the Sabbath by referring to biblical passages calling for the humane treatment of animals as well as their rest on the Sabbath. "So ought not this woman, being a daughter of loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" Jesus asked. (Luke 13:10-16) On yet another occasion, Jesus again referred to Torah teaching on compassion for animals to justify healing on the Sabbath. "Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?" (Luke 14:1-5) Jesus compared saving sinners who had gone astray to rescuing lost sheep. He recalled a Jewish legend about Moses' compassion as a shepherd for his flock. (Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:3-7,10)

"Mercy and not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:10-13, 12:6-7; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32) is the phrase best describing Jesus' ministry. The prophets before Jesus had indicated God is more pleased by acts of mercy and righteousness than with burnt offerings. There are also many verses throughout the Bible indicating that animal sacrifices and bloodshed are abhorrent to a God whose compassion extends to all living creatures. When Jesus entered Jerusalem with his disciples, he went directly into the Temple and drove out all who bought and sold in the Temple. Here he attacked the institution of animal sacrifice. The merchants were selling animals for sacrifice. Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves, sheep and oxen. He did not allow anyone to carry goods through the Temple.

He justified his actions by telling them: "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" Jesus was quoting a passage from the prophet Jeremiah, which begins at verse 7:11, and concludes at verses 21-22: "Add whole-offerings to sacrifices and eat the flesh if you will. But when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt, I gave them no commands about sacrifices. I said not a word about them." This verse, like others in the prophetic literature, suggests Mosaic Law never condoned animal sacrifice to begin with.

In the January/February 1998 issue of Humane Religion, Reverend J.R. Hyland notes that in some Bible translations, the word "just" was added to Jeremiah 7:21-22, changing the meaning entirely: "For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not [JUST] give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices." She writes: "Obviously the addition of the word 'just' entirely changes the meaning of the text. It was deliberately inserted, with no pretense by scholars that the Hebrew supported such an addition...It is the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible that altered the text, and this is the most popular translation since the publication of the King James Version in the 17th century. It is widely used by both scholars and laypersons and is the only translation of the seven leading versions of the Bible that has changed the meaning of Jeremiah 7:22."

Jesus healed the blind and the lame in Temple--acts of "mercy and not sacrifice." (Matthew 21:12-14; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-4; John 2:14-17)

In the (updated) 1986 edition of A Vegetarian Sourcebook, Keith Akers notes that there was a link in Judaism between meat-eating and animal sacrifices, that the prophetic tradition to which Jesus belonged attacked animal sacrifices, and that Jesus attacked the practice of animal sacrifice by driving the money-changers out of the Temple. He concludes, "The evidence indicates that for those who first heard the message of Jesus...the rejection of animal sacrifices had directly vegetarian implications."

Otto Pfleiderer, in his 1906 work, Christian Origins, observed: "When he (Jesus) saw the busy activities of the dealers in sacrificial animals and Jewish coins overrunning the outer court he drove them out with their wares. This business was connected with the sacrifice service and therefore Jesus' reformatory action seemed to be an attack on the sacrificial system itself and indirecty on the hierarchs who derived their income from and based their social position of power on the sacrificial service."

Jesus explained that celibacy is not something everyone can practice; it is meant only for those whom God has ordained it. He used the euphemism "eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven," recalling his euphemism about denying or dismembering bodily urges rather than having the entire body destroyed by sin. (Matthew 5:29-30, 18:8-9, 19:10-12) The apparent celibacy of Jesus is unusual by ancient Hebrew standards. The Bible does call for temporary abstinences, under certain circumstances. According to the Talmud, Moses voluntarily chose to give up sexual relations with his wife after he received his call from God. He reasoned that if the Israelites, to whom the Lord spoke only once and briefly, were ordered to abstain from sexual relations temporarily (Exodus 19:10,13), then he--being in continual dialogue with God--should remain celibate.

Philo of Alexandria tells us that to sanctify himself, Moses cleansed himself of "all the mortal calls of nature, food and drink and intercourse with women. This last he had disdained for many a day, almost from the time when, possessed by the Spirit, he entred on his work as a prophet, since he held it fitting to hold himself always in readiness to receive the oracular messages." Given this information, Jesus' apparent voluntary embrace of celibacy, from the time of his baptism and reception of the Spirit of God, becomes meaningful to Jews and Christians alike.

Aside from the Pharisees, the gospels and Book of Acts mention the Sadducees as the only other major school of Judaic thought. The Sadducees tended to be rich, nationalist and secularist. The Jewish historian Josephus, who lived during the time of Jesus, wrote that there were only three sects: the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essenes. (Antiquities G.13,1,2; Atiquities B.13,5,9; Wars of the Jews B.2,8,2) Josephus wrote that the "Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances...which are not written into the laws of Moses and" which "the Sadducees reject," but they "are able to persuade none but the rich," whereas "the Pharisees have the multitude on their side." Thus, Jesus never rejected Mosaic Law (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17); only its Pharisaic excesses.

Paul repeatedly attacked idolatry. (Romans 1:23; I Corinthians 6:9-10; II Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 5:19-21) He recognized the immorality of accepting food offered to idols and pagan gods: "...that which they are sacrifice they are offering to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons." (I Corinthians 10:30) Yet Paul then proceeded to give his followers permission to eat food offered to pagan idols! "You may eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions for conscience: for the earth is the Lord's and everything in it." (I Corinthians 10:14-33)

Paul told his followers they need only abstain from such foods if it offends their "weaker" brethren: "For if someone sees you...sitting at the table in an idol temple,, will not his conscience, weak as it is, encourage him to eat food offered to idols?...If my eating causes my brother to stumble, I shall eat o meat for ever, so that my brother will not be made to fall into sin." (I Corinthians 8:1-13)

Not only does this contradict the Apostles' decree concerning gentile converts (Acts 15), it contradicts the teachings of Jesus himself. In Revelations 2:14-16,20, the resurrected Jesus specificaly instructs John to write to two churches that they not eat food offered to idols. Secular historian Dr. Martin A. Larson writes in The Story of Christian Origins, that the seven Asian churches Jesus wrote to (Revelation 1:4) were Jewish Christian churches that had repudiated Paul. (II Timothy 1:15)

Paul, who once persecuted the brethren, openly identified himself as a Roman (Acts 22:25-26) and an apostate from Judaism (Philippians 3:4-8). Jesus, on the other hand, insisted that even seemingly insignificant demands from the Laws of Moses could not be set aside (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17). Jesus taught that God desires "mercy and not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13, 12:7) and he opposed the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice (Matthew 21:12-14; Mark 11:15; John 2:14-15) Christian doctrine implicitly teaches that Jesus came to do away with animal sacrifice (Hebrews 10:5-10), and the gentile world, beginning with Paul, mistook this for a rejection of the entire Law of Moses.

It's hard to tell if Paul was rejecting the entire Law of Moses, or merely its Pharisaic excesses, since he quoted the Law as spiritual authority (e.g., I Corinthians 14:21,34). On at least one occasion, he acknowledged the Law to be spiritual, but admitted his own inability to observe it. (Romans 7:12,14-25) On another occasion, Paul stated that laws are laid down for the lawless; morality is meant for those who would otherwise lack morals. (I Timothy 1:8-11) Many of Paul's statements are not against the Law itself, but against the hypocrisy with which it was being enforced or observed (Galatians 2:1-14), and the fact that the gentiles were not obliged to follow all of Mosaic Law. (Acts 15)

The Reverend J. Todd Ferrier, founder of the Order of the Cross, wrote in "On Behalf of the Creatures":

"But Paul, great and noble man as he was, never was one of the recognized heads at Jerusalem. He had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees...He strove to be all things to all men that he might gain some. And we admire him for his strenuous endeavors to win the world for Christ. But no one could be all things to all men without running the great risks of most disastrous results...

"But here as a further thought in connection with the teaching of the great Apostle an important question is forced upon our attention, which one of these days must receive the due consideration from biblical scholars that it deserves. It is this:

"How is it that the gospel of Paul is more to many people than the gospel of those privileged souls who sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His secrets in the Upper Room?"

Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing also says, "With all due respect for the integrity of Paul, he was not one of the Twelve Apostles...Paul never knew Jesus in life. He never walked and prayed with Him as He went from place to place, teaching the word of God."

Paul told his gentile followers that it is best to abstain from meat and wine or from food offered to pagan idols so as not fo offend the "weaker" brethren. (Romans 14; I Corinthians 8:1-13) Paul's use of the word "weak" has been debated. Dr. Upton Clary Ewing beleves Paul used the word "weak" with a positive connotation. According to Paul, "God has chosen the weak things in the world to shame the strong." (I Corinthians 1:27)

Describing his tribulations for the cause of Christ, being caught up in the heavenly spheres, and a revelation from Jesus, Paul wrote:

"If I must boast, I shall boast of matters that show my weakness....I will boast, but not about myself--unless it be about my weakness...the Lord...he told me, ' strength comes to perfection where there is weakness.' Therefore," Paul concludes, "I am happy to boast in my weaknesses...I delight, then, in weaknesses...for when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 11:30, 12:1-10)

Paul wrote further that Jesus "was crucified out of weakness, yet he lives through divine power, and we, too, are weak in him; but we shall live with him for your benefit through the power of God...We are happy to be weak when you are strong." (II Corinthians 13:4,9)

Taken in this context, the word "weak" suggests complete dependence upon God. Since Paul refers not only to Christians who abstain from meat and wine as "weak" (Romans 14), but also Christians who abstain from food offered to pagan idols (I Corinthians 8:1-13), he must have used the word "weak" with a positive connotation, or he was a false prophet who contradicted the resurrected Jesus (Revelations 2:14-16,20) and the other apostles (Acts 15).

Paul says if anyone has any confidence in Mosaic Law, "I am ahead of him." Would that include Jesus, who not only upheld Mosaic Law (Matthew 5:17-19), but said following its commandments is the way to eternal life (Mark 10:17-22), and said it is easier for heaven and earth to pass than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid (Luke 16:17) ?

Sometimes Christians cite II Corinthians 12:8-9, where Paul quotes Jesus as having said to him three times, "My grace is sufficient for thee," misinterpreting this to mean they're free to do whatever they want, ignoring Jesus' and Paul's other teachings. Paul gave all kinds of moral instructions elsewhere in his letters:

Paul taught his followers to bless their persecutors and not curse them (Romans 12:14), to care for their enemies by providing them with food and drink (12:20), and to pay their taxes and obey all earthly governments (13:1-7). He mentioned giving all his belongings to feed the hungry (I Corinthians 13:3), and taught giving to the person in need (Ephesians 4:28). He told his followers it was wrong to take their conflicts before non-Christian courts rather than before the saints. (I Corinthians 6:1)

Paul taught that "it is good for a man not to touch a woman," i.e., it is best to be celibate, but because of prevailing immoralities, marriage is acceptable. Divorce, however, is not permissible, except in the case of an unbeliever demanding separation. (I Corinthians 7) Paul repeatedly attacked sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:15,18) "This is God's will--your sanctification, that you keep yourselves from sexual immorality, that each of you learn how to take his own wife in purity and honor, not in lustful passion, like the gentiles who have no knowledge of God." (I Thessalonians 4:3-5) He told his followers not to associate with sexually immoral people (I Corinthians 5:9-12). He condemned homosexuality (Romans 1:24-27) and incest (I Corinthians 5:1). He taught that profligates, idolaters, adulterers and robbers willnot inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9-10)

Paul condemned wickedness, immorality, depravity, greed, envy, murder, quarreling, deceit, malignity, gossip, slander, insolence, pride (Romans 1:29-30), drunkenness, carousing, debauchery, jealousy (Romans 13:13), sensuality, magic arts, animosities, bad temper, selfishness, dissensions, envy (Galatians 5:19-21); greediness (Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:5), foul speech, anger, clamor, abusive language, malice (Ephesians 4:29-32), dishonesty (Colossians 3:13), materialism (I Timothy 6:6-11), conceit, avarice, boasting and treachery (II Timothy 3:2-4).

Paul told the gentiles to train themselves for godliness, to practice self-control and lead upright, godly lives (Galatians 5:23; I Timothy 4:7; II Timothy 1:7; Titus 2:11-12). He instructed them to ALWAYS pray constantly. (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Paul praised love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, fidelity and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). He told his followers to conduct themselves with humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4:2), to speak to one another in psalms and hymns; to sing heartily and make music to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

Paul wrote further that women should cover their heads while worshipping, and that long hair on males is dishonorable. (II Corinthians 11:5-14) According to Paul, Christian women are to dress modestly and prudently, and are not to be adorned with braided hair, gold or pearls or expensive clothes. (I Timothy 2:9)

Paul never told the gentiles they're free to do whatever they want--in fact, he specifically warned them:

"Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 6:9-10 NEB)

Yet there are Christians in name only who ignore the New Testament as a whole, and focus on only one of Paul's statements to justify their hedonism. Reverend Hyland says they're taking Paul out of context. Paul, she notes, was very strict with himself:

"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (I Corinthians 9:27)

(Reverend Hyland says this verse also indicates it's possible for one to lose one's salvation.)

My friend Ruth Enero also says they're quoting Paul out of context. Paul, she says, had a "thorn" in his side, and asked the Lord what to do about it. The response was simple: "My grace is sufficient for thee." This was a response to a specific problem, not a license to do as one pleases, or why else would Paul himself have given so many other moral instructions?

They MUST be quoting Paul out of context, because otherwise it doesn't make any sense: on the one hand, Paul is warning that drunkards, thieves, homosexuals, etc. will not inherit the kingdom of God, and on the other, he's saying if you call on Jesus three times you can do whatever you want?!

My argument against "three grace is sufficient for thee" is that if Christians interpret this to mean they're free to do anything they want, ignoring Jesus' and Paul's other teachings, the what about MURDER?

I've found it impossible to engage Christians in serious discussion about animals and their rights, because they think if they call on Jesus three times, they can do whatever they want. So I respond likewise: "Abortion. Abortion. Abortion." Namely, if these people aren't going to take my issue (animal rights) seriously, why should I with theirs?

Reverend Hyland, in one of her other books, Sexism is a Sin, quotes Bertrand Russell as having referred to Paul as the "inventor" of Christianity. I don't think it's possible to reconcile Paul to vegetarianism, and Christianity without Paul would be Judaism. A.F., who is on the SERV e-list, is working on a vegetarian interpretation of Paul. We should invite him to post some of the findings from his research on this e-list.

Best wishes!


Many animal tests are badly flawed, say scientists

Many animal tests are badly flawed, say scientists
Source: Guardian Unlimited

The real value of animal experiments is questioned today by a team of senior scientists who found that many are flawed and do not predict how well a prototype medicine will work in humans.

The new paper, published by the British Medical Journal, is likely to be seized on by the animal rights lobby as substantiation for their case to stop all experiments. Their case was bolstered by the disaster of the Northwick Park clinical trial, where a drug that had been safe in animals had catastrophic side-effects in the human volunteers.

But the BMJ authors say the jury is out - it is not yet possible to determine how useful animal trials are because at present the methodological standards are poor.

"Sadly you can't say anything in this area without it being used politically by one or other interest group," said Professor Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of the authors. "But this paper is neither saying they are good nor that they are bad." That judgement could not be made, because of the poor standard of much of the work.
The British public has consistently said in polling that it supports animal tests if they help human healthcare, there is no alternative and no unnecessary suffering to the animals, he said.

The first question was one for scientists to answer - and this was the first attempt to take a rational look at the results of animal trials to see whether they predicted how well different drugs would work in humans.

The team looked at six drugs - two for stroke, and one each for head injury, haemorrhage, neonatal distress and brittle bones. They looked at results of the human clinical trials and then at the animal trials that had been carried out first.

They found that the results of the animal and the human trials were often different. Animals given corticosteroids after a head injury appeared to benefit, but when the drug was tried in humans, it did not help their recovery. Professor Roberts pointed to a major methodological flaw, however - rats were given corticosteroids just five minutes after their head injury.

The animal results for a drug called tirilazad for stroke were positive, but when the drug went into human trials, doctors found it actually increased the numbers who became dependent or who died. The paper, by Pablo Perel and colleagues, all from the London school, says of the 18 animal trials that "the quality of the experiments was poor".

Some of the animal studies were inconclusive, but in two cases, in osteoporosis (brittle bones) and neonatal respiratory distress, where babies struggle to breathe, they came up with the same result as the human trials.

The authors call for more systematic reviews like this one, where the results of a number of animal trials are pooled so that researchers can get a clearer idea of the effects of drugs.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Washington Jungle Revisited

This year marks the 100th anniversary of passage of the first food safety law in America. It was enacted just one year after the publication of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle," the landmark book that exposed the horrific conditions of America's meat-packing industry at the turn of the last century. The novel was so shocking that it prompted a government investigation and the passage of the Federal Food and Drug Act.

What is shocking today is how little conditions have changed. In 1906, Sinclair wrote: "They had chains which they fastened about the leg of the nearest hog .... [O]ne by one they hooked up the hogs, and one by one with a swift stroke they slit their throats. There was a long line of hogs, with squeals and lifeblood ebbing away together; until at last each started again and vanished with a splash into a huge vat of boiling water."

The Washington Post's 2001 series of articles about slaughterhouses showed steers dismembered while conscious. Other investigations, often by PETA staffers who have swallowed hard, steeled themselves and "gone in," have documented similar violations of law. In her exposé of the slaughter industry, investigative journalist Gail Eisnitz described routine abuse of all farmed animal species in slaughterhouses. She heard U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors' eyewitness testimony that completely conscious pigs are beaten over the head with lead pipes, stabbed in order to be bled out and then dunked into 140 degree water for hair removal. One slaughterhouse worker said, "There's no way these animals can bleed out in the few minutes it takes to get up the ramp. By the time they hit the scalding tank, they're still fully conscious and squealing. Happens all the time."

Sinclair's stomach-churning discussions of rotting, diseased meat that's packaged and sold to unsuspecting customers isn't just a relic of a less sanitary era. Today, contaminated meat from federally inspected slaughterhouses is routinely recalled in million-pound quantities. Foodborne illness has quadrupled in the last 15 years. There are 75 million cases of food poisoning in the United States annually, and 5,000 of them are fatal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 70 percent of food poisoning is caused by contaminated animal flesh.

Laws passed to rectify these problems are as disappointing today as they were then. Sinclair lamented that the Food and Drug Act was weakened, or as he put it, "deprived of all its sharpest teeth," after the meat industry lobbied government officials and waged a media campaign to discredit "The Jungle."

Today's meat industry wields tremendous power in Washington. In the last five years alone, agribusiness funneled more than $140 million to politicians, who earned their money by ensuring that laws to protect consumers and animals didn't pass. How can the people we count on to regulate the factory farming industry be so easily influenced? Perhaps they act this way because they are often the very same people who were employed by the meat industry before being hired by the government. Just two of many examples are former Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, who served on the board of the massive agricorporation Calgene, and her chief of staff, Dale Moore, who worked for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Eric Schlosser, author of the best-selling book "Fast Food Nation," writes: "[T]he [USDA] today offers a fine example of a government agency that has been thoroughly captured and corrupted. ... As a result, ordinary Americans, both Republican and Democrat, are paying the price with their health and, sometimes, their lives."

One of the Bush administration's first gifts to the meat industry, which donated more than $600,000 to his 2000 campaign, was a move to end the testing of meat for deadly salmonella bacteria before it is sold to school lunch programs.

So in 2007, just as in 1906, neither farmed animals nor consumers (nor, for that matter slaughterhouse employees who today, as then, are largely made up of immigrants) are protected from the avarice of the meat and slaughter industries. This, too, is still true: Each animal slaughtered is an individual. As Sinclair wrote, "Each one of these hogs was a separate creature. ... And each of them had an individuality of his own, a will of his own, a hope and a heart's desire; each was full of self-confidence, of self-importance, and a sense of dignity."

A century seems to have made little difference. Personal responsibility for what, or who, we eat and feed our children can, however, make a world of difference.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Top 10 Reasons to Go Vegetarian in 2007

Top 10 Reasons to Go Vegetarian in 2007

Many people's New Year's resolutions include losing weight, eating better, getting healthier, and doing more to make the world a better place. You can accomplish all these goals by switching to a vegetarian diet, and you'll enjoy delicious, satisfying meals as well. Here are our top 10 reasons to go vegetarian in 2007:

1. Slim Down While Feeling Good
Is shedding some extra pounds first on your list of goals for the new year? Vegetarians are, on average, up to 20 pounds lighter than meat-eaters. And unlike unhealthy fad diets, which leave you feeling tired (and gaining all the weight back eventually), going vegetarian is the healthy way to keep the excess fat off for good while feeling full of energy.

2. It's the Best Way to Help Animals
Every vegetarian saves more than 100 animals a year from horrible abuse. There is simply no other way that you can easily help so many animals and prevent so much suffering than by choosing vegetarian foods over meat, eggs, and dairy products.

3. A Healthier, Happier You
A vegetarian diet is great for your health! According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians are less likely to develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure than meat-eaters. Vegetarians get all the nutrients they need to be healthy (e.g., plant protein, fiber, minerals, etc.) without all the nasty stuff in meat that slows you down and makes you sick, like cholesterol and saturated animal fat.

4. Vegetarian Food Is Delicious
So you're worried that if you go vegetarian, you'll have to give up hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and ice cream? You won't. As the demand for vegetarian food skyrockets, companies are coming out with more and more delicious meat and dairy product alternatives that taste like the real thing but are much healthier and don't hurt any animals. Plus, we have thousands of tasty kitchen-tested recipes to help you get started!

5. Meat Is Gross
It's disgusting but true: Meat is often contaminated with feces, blood, and other bodily fluids, all of which make animal products the top source of food poisoning in the United States. Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tested supermarket chicken flesh and found that 96 percent of Tyson chicken was contaminated with campylobacter, a dangerous bacteria that causes 2.4 million cases of food poisoning each year, resulting in diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Learn more.

6. Help Feed the World
Eating meat doesn't just hurt animals; it hurts people too. It takes tons of crops and water to raise farmed animals-in fact, it takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of animal flesh! All that plant food could be used much more efficiently if it was fed to people directly. The more people who go vegetarian, the more we can feed the hungry.

7. Save the Planet
Eating meat is one of the worst things that you can do for the Earth; it's wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution, and the meat industry is one of the biggest causes of global warming. Adopting a vegetarian diet is more important than switching to a "greener" car in the fight against global warming.

8. All the Cool Kids Are Doing It
The list of stars who shun animal flesh is basically a "who's who" of today's hottest celebs. Joaquin Phoenix, Natalie Portman, Tobey McGuire, Shania Twain, Alicia Silverstone, Anthony Kiedis, Casey Affleck, Kristen Bell, INXS lead singer J.D. Fortune, Benji Madden, Alyssa Milano, Common, Joss Stone, and Carrie Underwood are just a handful of the super-sexy vegetarians who regularly appear in People magazine. Check out our recent "World's Sexiest Vegetarians" poll for more hot, compassionate celebs.

9. Look Sexy and Be Sexy
Vegetarians tend to be thinner than meat-eaters and have more energy, which is perfect for late-night romps with your special someone. (Guys: The cholesterol and saturated animal fat in meat, eggs, and dairy products don't just clog the arteries to your heart; over time, they impede blood flow to other vital organs as well.) Plus, what's sexier than someone who is not only mega-hot, but also compassionate?

10. Pigs Are Smarter Than Your Dog
While most people are less familiar with pigs, chickens, fish, and cows than they are with dogs and cats, animals used for food are every bit as intelligent and able to suffer as the animals who share our homes are. Pigs can learn to play video games, and chickens are so smart that their intelligence has been compared by scientists to that of monkeys. Read more about these amazing animals.

Ready to get started? Take the 30-Day Veg Pledge and we'll help you every step of the way. Have a happy, healthy, and humane new year!