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Is It Fair To Use Religion In The Animal Rights Debate?

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When vegan zealots use the Bible to preach why we shouldn’t eat meat, I respond in similar fashion.

A few days ago, someone rang my doorbell. I’m always a little hesitant to answer the door when I’m home alone on the ranch, but the woman looked nice enough. I opened the door and she passed me a book, urging me to read it. I politely took it and thanked her for stopping by. That evening, I started flipping through the pages. Hours later, I was engrossed in passages of theology and Biblical verses explaining why we should abstain from eating meat.

This isn’t the first time someone has used religion in a debate with me about my profession in beef production. In fact, a recent tactic of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) is to appeal to Christians. According to HumaneWatch.org, “HSUS launched a religion department about five years ago to churn out anti-farmer and animal rights propaganda with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other religious tints to it. The department is run by CEO Wayne Pacelle’s former live-in girlfriend. (We wonder how Wayne’s fiancée feels about him and his ex still working together.) The entire purpose is to repackage animal liberation – meaning the idea that using animals for just about any reason is wrong – by cloaking it in religious language. Show mercy for animals, HSUS says. Show mercy for animals by not eating cheese, is what HSUS means.”

Furthermore, HSUS even has its own religious manual, “The HSUS Bible -- The Revised PETA Version,” which tries to appeal to Christian’s practice of self-denial through fasting. But instead of fasting on Fridays through Lent, HSUS would prefer if we abstained from eating meat and dairy on a regular basis, to further our Christianity, of course.

If the aforementioned woman ever comes to my door again, I might read her this Biblical verse about animal care:

Genesis 1:26 reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

As a rancher, I’m not senselessly killing God’s creatures. When I harvest a beef animal, I know that I’m not only providing steaks and burgers, but by-products, too, including insulin for diabetics, stearic acid for roadways, makeup, deodorants, crayons, paint brushes, leather, and the list goes on and on. One of my favorite quotes on this topic is from Nebraska rancher Trent Loos, who says, “Everything lives and everything dies, but death with a purpose gives full meaning to life.”

This is a topic I often ponder while doing chores. The other day, we lost a 16-year-old cow after a tough calving. She should have been on the cull list last year, but you know how it is with a good one that produces good calves -- she always has “one more year” in her. As the snow pelted down on me and the tears flowed from the loss of my cow, I wondered, do cattle go to heaven? If so, she sure deserves to be there. I hope I see her one day in that grassy pasture in the sky.

Were the tears and thoughts of heaven just irrational emotions based on the loss of a beloved animal in a tough calving season? Sure. But, this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about life after death in regard to my animals. Every time we harvest a show steer after the state fair, or a calf doesn’t make it, I think the same thing. I was reminded of this train of thought when I read a blog post titled, “Till We Meet Again,” by Emily Moore.

 

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After Moore lost one of her old show heifers she wrote, “No matter how old I get, losing a show heifer or a favorite animal will never get any easier for me. It is just something about that special bond between a person and their livestock that grips my heartstrings in a special way. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the circle of life and how things work, but it still leaves a little mark on my heart. My girls have lived a long life, and I get by hoping there is a cow heaven. So here is to my show heifers past and those soon to pass a tribute to each of you.”

I’m a regular church-goer, though I certainly am not an expert on the church’s teachings. I can, however, certainly wax poetic about my life experiences with these beef animals. Some might ask that, if I love them so much, how can I eat them? Cattle are not pets. I know that each time I harvest one of these creatures, I’m nourishing others, including my family. It’s the circle of life -- one of the first lessons I learned as a kid on the ranch.

This is a tough topic of discussion, but it’s important that you all realize that the religious focus from animal rights activists is certainly growing. The push to convert our society to a vegetarian one is great, and the biggest obstacle for its proponents is the conservative middle and right, where steak and potatoes is center of the dinner plate, and taking care of the land and the animals is just a part of daily life. Needless to say, I’m proud to be in that category, and at the end of my life, I hope I make it to heaven. I picture God waiting for me with green grass and old show heifers grazing in a pasture in the clouds.

What is your take on this topic? How would you respond to the anti-meat folks’ contentions about the Bible and vegetarianism? Share your thoughts, philosophies, concerns, arguments, etc., in the comments section below.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 26

Katlyn Rumbold (not verified)
on May 1, 2013

I think animal rights activists will use anything to their advantage, even the Bible. I'm also a church-goer and honestly, I think it's wrong they use religion to get people against animal agriculture because the Bible also says to love your neighbor as yourself and when they attack those of us in animal agriculture, what kind of message are they sending then?

Denise (not verified)
on May 1, 2013

Great post. It is so sad the low levels the HSUS stoop to to get people on their side. This post also really resonates with me because my Dad just recently culled my 4-H cow that I showed for my last few years in 4-H. I am 30 years old and still raised a stink about it because she was the just the best cow ever. Unfortunately, her age caught up to her and she didn't get bred. I miss seeing her out on the pasture a lot, but that's the ups and downs that go with living on a farm.

Swcol47 (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

Well done, Amanda. I too have on occasion had people try to use the Bible to prove we shouldn't use animals for the good of humankind. My favorite two verses are Gen. 9:2-3 and Acts 10:12-13. Both (one OT and one NT) show GOD's plan for man to use animals for food.

Tim Anderson (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

Do cows go to heaven? Not all of them.

Kurt Stallwitz (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

Another great quote is from the story of Noah. When the ark was resting on Mt Ararat and the waters receded, Noah came out of the ark, and God told his sons to be fruitful and multiply. God tells Noah in Gen 9:2-3, "The fear and dread of you will fall upon the beasts of the earth, and the birds of the air, and on every creature that moves on the ground, and the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you green plants, I now give you everything." To my knowledge, God has not rescended that command. When Peter was taken up to heaven and was surrounded by different animals in Acts 10, Jesus told him "to kill and eat." HSUS is pretty foolish to use the Scripture to when support. There is plenty of reference to show God's intentions.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

I sympathize With this beef farmer. He obviously does care about his animals. I think giving up meat is a personal matter. And it should not be shoved down someone's mouth. We are all on our Unique path to God. And that is why Apostlizing should be done very cautiously.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

I believe that using religion is the only way to have a serious discussion about animal rights issues. It is our faith from which we obtain the values that guide our decision making. The Christian faith clearly states that man is the highest creature in all of God's creation. Any attempt to elevate animals to the level of humans is clearly contradictory to what the Bible states. While it is clear that the Bible teaches that it is permissible to eat meat, it is just as true that it admonishes us to be good stewards of all of God's creation, including taking care of animals. I think it is also interesting that those opposed to eating meat overlook the fact that these animals would not exist if they were not raised to be eaten. Farmers and ranchers may love their animals, but I don't think they would continue to raise them if they did not get paid to do it.

Penny (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

And, one could also argue that it's bad to eat vegetables...after all, the corn, beans and peas, wheat, etc. that we consume are seeds...the 'children' of the parent plant!!

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

Genesis 9:2-3, Deut 14:4-21, Proverbs 12:10, Acts 10:9-16
Animals were given for man's use, man has the responsibility to treat them well. Restrictions were for the Jews, for hygiene and identification as a chosen people. When the Holy Spirit was given to all people, the dietary restrictions were lifted; all animals are created by God, and all are to be considered as clean food.

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

I do struggle with this issue yet remain in the meat business for over 40 years. There are plenty of days when I'm involved in an internal tug of war. Seeing a loaded livestock trailer headed in the direction of the industrialized slaughter house automatically says to myself, "Somebody's in for a bad hair day." The Bible's Old Testament helps me a lot, especially the story about Isaac. For me it's always tough to lose an animal. I've had to witness and hold pets humanely put down. The vet, just like Dr, Jack Kavorkian, will say, "...has gone to heaven." Is that true? I don't know. However, I certainly know how much love and pleasure the animal gave me during their life. What I would like to see from folks like you is more respect shown to both sides of the animal rights issue. One day a farm tenant told me he should shoot the dog chained up to a building. Asking the guy why the pet was chained up, the reply came, "So he won't run away." I told my farm manager who also heard the statement, "If that guy shoots that dog he's off the property by sundown." I wasn't kidding. Stories of fact like the one's involving Michael Vick and Hallmark Packing Company, Chino, CA.,aren't easily forgotten. In my opinion, books such as "Every Twelve Seconds," Timothy Pachirat, and "Omnivore's Dilemma," Michael Pollan, are difficult to overlook for a thoughtful person. Thank you for the discussion opportunity.

Nate (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

What a great topic. I have a special interest in this issue as I was raised in a cattle ranching family but am foremost saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Ultimately, we do not know exactly what heaven or the new earth (that I believe is after heaven) will be like but I anxiously await to find out!

I thought about two things with this post. First, the greater question at hand is not about animals in heaven but will you as a person go to heaven? If you don't know, have doubts or questions about salvation, start by reading the rest of Ephesians perhaps or better yet, start at Genesis 1:1. Or ask someone you know to profess Christ as their savior and what a personal relationship with this guy named Jesus is all about.

Second and lesser, in my opinion, the question of "Do cows go to heaven?" is answered (in part) by Gen. 1:26 itself. God made me in His image, nothing else. Because of that I do not believe animals have souls and will not be raised again. For a great perspective on the use of religion in the AR movement I suggest your readers check out this article from Truth In Food's Kevin Murphy (http://www.truthinfood.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=...)

Matt (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

In the Bible Paul describes the latter day apostasy in 1 Timothy Chapter 4 verses 1-6 we read, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanks giving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained."

Those who teach that we should abstain from meat are not teaching good doctrine as stated above.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

I guess they figure if you're gullible enough to believe in a benevolent creator and supreme being, you'll fall for their bullshit too.

Mike Prine (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

I guess if someone is gullible enough to believe that something other than a supreme God created the intricate details of a human or bovine body, they will probably not be to interested in this post. Do cows go to heaven? I personally believe that heaven is going to be different for each of us. Heaven is going to be the greatest experience we have ever seen and if it takes a cow to make you happy, you will have a cow. I don't think it is about the cow, it is about you. So, I agree that not all of them will. But then again, not all of us humans will either. Just the opinion of a poor old rancher!

on May 2, 2013

Even God killed animals for clothing for Adam, and Eve. I think I will follow his example, and eat some beef.

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

You invite us to roll over 200 pictures which celebrate Cowgirls and Cattle women, Calves and Cowboys and Ranch Work. These shots clearly portray a love affair between human beings and animals-- part of God's creation. Will animals be waiting for us in heaven? The literal story of Noah's Ark says animals were preserved from drowning and extinction. Why don't all of us try to get to heaven to learn if there is a welcome surprise.

on May 2, 2013

Psalm 84:3 Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself where she may have her young- a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God
So I do believe animals are in Heaven, however I don't think that's a reason to not eat them. God gave us everything we need to sustain life, meat, vegtables etc etc. The veterinarians are running out of things to complain about.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

Go to the HSUS website, type in Faith Outreach, click on your religion, click on your church. You may learn something.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 2, 2013

This is an extremely difficult subject that I as a cattle producer struggle with. It is impossible to not develop a relationship with the cattle which we work with, especially those which we handle closely such as our show cattle. So when death occurs either though our decision or God's hand there is a breakage in the relationship which causes pain and sorrow. Death is our enemy and is the result of our sin (Romans 5:12). Before Adam and Eve sinned there was no killing and eating of flesh -- either by people or animals. After sin entered the world God killed the first animal and he then gave them to people to eat and use. So it is not wrong to consume animals but we must remember that it is not the ideal and was not a part of the perfect world which God first created nor will it be a part of the new heaven and new earth because God will restore His creation to perfection. I think that this explains our struggle with the subject -- we know deep within that although permissible, it is not good.
So whether cows go to heaven? I do not know but I do know that they are God's creation and that He will take care of them. An excellent book on the subject of animals going to heaven is: "Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates" by Gary Kurz. Although focused on pets it is applicable to cattle also.
A more important question is will you go to heaven? You do not need to hope that you make it, you can know for sure. If you believe that Jesus died and shed His blood for your sin and ask Him to come into your life you will be saved (Romans 3:23-28). We cannot be saved by our own good works but only through faith in Jesus.

Joe Moyer (not verified)
on May 3, 2013

No one has cited I Corinthians. To me , Paul says (Ch. 8, and again at the end of 10) that we shouldn't let beliefs about food be an issue, but always be sensitive to others' conscience.

on May 3, 2013

I received a great email from a reader named Mark. Here is what he shared on this topic:

I had to respond to your Beef Daily posting about HSUS making the claim that it was un-Christian to eat meat. I'm surprised it has taken those despicable, self-important degenerate, control freaks this long to go down that road. I say that because it was shortly after becoming Chancellor of Germany, that Hitler basically claimed that he was doing the work of God by persecuting the Jews as a payback for them crucifying Jesus. As a side note, I think the fact that Hitler and many of the other leading members of the Third Reich were vegetarians does not get near enough "air time".

A verse that I've seen the vegans/vegetarians immediately point to is Genesis 1:29 - 30 (Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, and all the creatures that move on the ground - everything that has the breath of life in it - I give every green plant for food," and it was so). Since the Bible ends after Genesis chapter 1, this is obviously the final word on the subject of what is appropriate to include in our diets (sorry - the string of blizzards we've been through have me a little punchy and I tend to be overly sarcastic when I get in that mood).

Followng the Flood, God makes the following announcement to Noah, "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." (Genesis (9:3). Furthermore, Deuteronomy 14:3-21 details what God considered to be clean and unclean foods, with the Israelite people only being allowed to eat clean foods. However, in a vision that Peter has following Jesus' Ascencion described in Acts 10:9-16, the restrictions detailed in Deuteronomy also seem to be rescinded. Of course, because Jacob sustained an injury to a tendon in his hip while he was wrestling with God, (Genesis 32:22-32), it is also a custom of the Jewish people to only eat meat from the front quarter of an animal, and discarding all those "awful" cuts from the hind quarter to us Gentiles but this would also seem to be rescinded by Peter's vision.

A long time ago various vegetarian groups (and maybe also PETA) had a campaign that tagged on to the WWJD? movement that was occurring, and employed the term WWJE? (What would Jesus eat?). I'm pretty sure the verse they went to was the one I already listed from Genesis 1, and then went on to basically explain that since Jesus was enlightened and compassionate, and they as vegetarians were the most enlightened and compassionate members of our society, as vegetarians through the ages always have been (see point above about Hitler), they were the ones most closely following the example set by Jesus. Obviously, this was a claim made in the absence of a thorough study of the Bible.

In addition to the points raised above, in Genesis 18:1-15 describes the meeting between Abraham and the the Holy Trinity where they tell him that Sarah will give birth to a son. Contained in the details of this meeting is the fact that Abraham selects a choice calf from his herd which was prepared and served (vv. 7-8). In the section of Isaiah which is described as the Apocalypse of Isaiah, this verse is found, "On this mountain, the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine - the best of meats and the finest of wines" (Isaiah 25:6). That doesn't exactly sound like a feast of tofu burgers and soy milk if you ask me. Not only is the feast prepared in heaven going to be one which contains meat, I can't help but think that to supply this meat, there are also going to need to be cattle though we may not get meat from them by slaughtering them like we do here on earth and instead they may get steaks from them like we currently get eggs from chickens. While I'm not worried about the mechanics of how God is going to provide meat for us when we get to heaven, I'm really exicted about that fact. Following along with that, those of us that are beef cattle producers are probably the only people that will be doing the same job in heaven that we do here on earth which is just fine with me because I expect there won't have to contend with any blizzards during calving season.

Cattle are designed by God to turn fibrous plant materials and other feedstuffs which are not useable by humans, into a high-quality source of protein, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins that we can use. Furthermore, everyone that raises cattle and then slaughters that animal to eat understands that that animal died so that we could live. Yeah, absolutely no Christian themes located anywhere in there (sorry about the sarcasm).

I would love for HSUS, PETA, and whoever else wants to make the claim that eating meat is an unChristian activity because when they are confronted with the white-hot purifying power of the truth contained in Scripture, will be sent slithering back under the rocks from which they emerged.

W.E. (not verified)
on May 4, 2013

Sooner or later, Christians and believers will realize that diversity and adaptation over time are the means by which God created and sustained the fertility of the world, and the means by which we as stewards of this finite planet should preserve life, both on earth and for eternity. In a world where human population has soared well above 7 billion, the only way people can possibly allow and maintain the existence of wildlife is to call in the service of well-managed domesticated grazing ruminant livestock to serve as quality protein, to replace the role that vast herds of wild ruminants—from antelope, bison, and elk, to wildebeests and zebras—and their predators once played in restoring life to grasslands.
Human selection of our best-adapted livestock as breeding animals is a matter of good stewardship, which we American farmers have not taken seriously since World War II. Modern man tends instead to select for global uniformity, single-use animals and monocultures, eliminating as much variation as possible, and thereby making the ongoing creation of life dysfunctional.
For decades before we saw the light and allowed humility to change our paradigm, we made those mistakes. Collectively and individually, every choice we humans make, every bite we take, every good creature we forsake in favor of a clone or a test-tube or a chemical, has a multitude of practical, social, and economic consequences. Holistic management is the only way to sustain life on this earth with so many people crowding it; view Allan Savory’s TED talk on the subject for more details.
As a believer, if you would like to read some touching and thought-provoking accounts of one Christian's view of the place of animals in the Kingdom of God, try C. S. Lewis's imaginative books. Nothing in scripture denies creatures of the animal kingdom a place in that Kingdom.
Life eternal demands that we be caretakers and stewards, not exploiters of life. To let short-term personal profit continue to over-rule all other systems of morality and selection will have dangerous consequences in the long term.
Human overpopulation has always altered weather patterns. Plagues and extremes of weather have killed us by the millions over the millennia. The hubris and cynicism of disbelief and denial offers nothing to save mankind from our own historic generational greed, which has brought plagues, droughts, and desertification to local microclimates since the days of Moses and Egypt’s Pharaohs.

on May 5, 2013

Posting this email message with permission:

Is it fair to use religion in the debate? It’s more than a matter of fairness; it’s a matter of correctness. There are many Biblical references that show that meat from livestock is an approved food, as a quick Bible search will show. Check me out on this. Livestock have always been measures of prosperity and blessings, and not just to keep the grass short. For openers, have a look at Psalm 104:14, which says of God: “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;..” So Abraham, “the father of the faithful”, took advantage of that principle that cattle were to provide food, when he was visited by messengers from God, according to Genesis 18:7-8: “And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.” God’s messengers obviously did not disapprove, and they then gave Abraham and his wife Sarah the promise of progeny more numerous than the sand on the seashore, and sure enough, look what happened. Hey, if it was O.K. with Abraham and God's messengers, who am I to argue? And Acts 10:11-15 is pretty clear too, when, in a symbolic vision, God rebuked Peter for objecting to the command for him to "kill and eat" of a variety of critters. So party on, Amanda, and enjoy your steak.
--Bob Callihan

Laura Slitt (not verified)
on May 11, 2013
Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 2, 2013

Numbers 18:17-18 PLAINLY gives meat to the priesthood...who wants to argue with GOD?

Nancy P. (not verified)
on Aug 15, 2014

Hello All, I am an animal rights activist and vegetarian. I am interested in learning more about how cows are raised for beef and other products. I am not against eating meat, just against any kind of inhumane treatment of animals. Based upon what I've read on this website so far, your care and treatment of animals is encouraging news. Thanks.

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A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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