Are Vegetarians Holier than Thou?

By Wayne Jackson

An organization known as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) toured the country this past summer protesting the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. They carried signs claiming: “Pigs Are Friends—Not Food.” [When someone starts attacking “hot dogs,” they are very close to getting on my nerves!] On a more serious note, my real complaint is this. The PETA group launched an ad campaign recently which made the claim: “Jesus Was a Vegetarian.”

Let’s put this matter into focus. I have no quarrel with anyone, who, for personal reasons, elects not to eat meat. That is entirely a matter of choice. It is altogether a different situation, however, when: (a) folks attempt to bind this notion upon others; and, (b) they attempt to buttress their opinions by misrepresenting the Son of God.

Let us reflect upon the following.

  1. Jesus once warned his disciples of the dangers associated with a corrupt mind. In that connection he noted that it is not what goes into a man which defiles him, but that which issues from his heart. Mark, one of the Gospel writers, commented that an incidental truth associated with the Lord’ s statement is this: all meats are clean (Mark 7:19).
  2. Christ, on two occasions, fed vast multitudes with bread and fish (see Matthew 14:15-21; 15:32-39). It is rather unreasonable to argue that Jesus provided fish for these thousands, and yet ate none of the fare himself. Moreover, if it is sinful to eat meat, would it be any less evil to provide such for others?
  3. In Acts 10 the apostle Peter, by means of a heavenly vision, was instructed that God had “cleansed” meats—even those considered ceremonially unclean under the Mosaic regime (v. 15). Granted, the ultimate application had to do with the reception of the Gentiles; be that as it may, the symbolism would have served no purpose if those animals were to be viewed as prohibited still.
  4. The apostle Paul stated that meat was created by God to be received with thanksgiving, and that to forbid such is an expression of apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

No animal ever should be tormented or needlessly hurt. Sometimes, though, pest animals must be destroyed (e.g., rats, roaches, etc.). It certainly is permissible to kill animals for both food and clothing (cf. Genesis 3:21). It is not wrong to utilize animals, in a reasonable way, for medical research. Many health advances have been achieved in this fashion.

Animals were placed upon this planet by the Creator to be used by men—in a responsible manner, yes; but used nonetheless. There is no evidence that Jesus was a vegetarian, or that God views vegetarianism as a practice that is “holier” than eating meat.

Finally, who imposed the rule which says we may not eat meat, but we may eat plants? Are not both living organisms? Are pigs our friends, but turnips our enemies? Some people are so desperate for a “cause” to provide their dreary lives with meaning, they resort to anything.

Pass the mustard, please!

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.