On Christianity, eating meat, and the true spirit of Christmas.
I, for one, am all but refusing to believe that Christmas is only days away.
Growing up in Michigan, that bastard Father Winter reminded me to buy presents and hang holly very early on in the season with dumps of slushy snow and biting wind chills, but now as a resident Virginian, the 60 degree December has taken some getting used to (in the loveliest sense).
As an overall holiday enthusiast, Christmastime always excites me. And as a practicing Christian, it also gives me the opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ messages, all of which seem to lead back to love and peace in one way or another. But one thing I never understood is how dedicated Christians could worship Jesus and his message and still bare hate and prejudice for those different than themselves. Like, “Oh, that Love Thy Neighbor thing is so true … except for gay people, Jesus definitely meant to exclude them, I’m sure of it.” Please. That hypocritical attitude sickens me to my core.
But, as this column focuses on vegan living (come on, you knew I was gonna go there), I feel that my religion plays a strong part in my choice to practice veganism as well. I personally believe that God pushes people to love, not to cause suffering. If you believe that God created animals, then you must recognize that he created every animal with the capacity to suffer. When we make choices at meal time, it’s important to reflect on the fact that all animals, including those on factory farms, feel pain and fear, and you can choose to add to the level of violence and suffering in the world, or choose to work for peace. And working for peace can be as simple as leaving the bacon bits out of your potatoes this holiday, or choosing a delectable vegan main course at your table instead of ham or turkey (click here for great vegan holiday recipes). Don’t forget, Jesus is the one who challenged the practice of animal sacrifice and instituted baptism in its place, saying that God “requires mercy, not sacrifice.”
I think that factory farming is something a lot of folks choose not to think about or educate themselves on. Meat, to most Americans, is just something that appears in the grocery store in neatly wrapped packages. I think people believe that animals raised for food live on lush, green farms with plenty of roaming room and happiness until one day they are quickly killed and never know the difference. But that is far, far, far from the truth. Most animals raised for food have never seen sunlight or felt soil beneath their feat. In order to make more money, these farms cram as many animals into tiny spaces as they can, and the animals can barely even turn around. They are subjected to violent, painful procedures such as dehorning, debeaking, and castration, all of which are inflicted without anesthetics. When they have finally reached the end of their growth cycles (artificially accelerated by drugs of course), they are transported without food or water and through all weather extremes to a frightening and hellish death.
I know this column is taking a little more of a soap box approach than I usually do, but Christmas is around the corner, and I always have a hard time when thinking of Christian families celebrating the joyous holiday over a meat-focused meal. My hope is that every vegetarian or vegan reading this will pass this imperative information on to loved ones who eat meat and maybe haven’t considered this option before. If you’re reading this and you do still eat meat, my hope is that it’s given you something to consider this year. Perhaps it would be a good New Year’s resolution? And for those readers who aren’t Christian but practice a different religion, maybe think about your God and consider if you think he or she would support the factory farming industry? If you’re not religious at all, I think this message can still ring true, because even if you don’t believe in God, working for peace is something we can all recognize as a good thing for humanity.
I think people can get overwhelmed when they’re asked to “work for peace” as they feel like that means giving money or volunteering exuberant amounts of time, etc. While those things are great in their own ways, it can be the easiest thing in the world, too … just sit down at your holiday dinner this year and choose compassion over cruelty. Choose respect over violence. And you’ll be doing yourself, the environment, and animals everywhere a beautiful Christmas gift.