Jul 11, 2009

Why Vegetarianism?

I realized suddenly today, as I was perusing various articles on vegetarianism and the church, that I have never described here why I choose vegetarianism. I can't speak for Skywalker; he has slightly different views that are more ingrained and have evolved since he first swore off meat entirely 10 years ago.

As I write this I have two sets of feelings: a little bit of frustration and a little bit of sadness. I feel like LDS members in the USA as a whole has lost the spirit of this part of the Word of Wisdom:

D&C chapter 89.

12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

This is the first element of why I have become vegetarian. Vegetarian for me, is actually probably a little less extreme than most mean when they call themselves vegetarian. For me, if I'm vegetarian I end up eating meat on occasion. For instance, I eat it on Thanksgiving. I eat it on the odd occasion when I am pregnant or nursing and feel that my energy is depleted. I eat it on the very odd occasion when the ward potluck seems to consist of hotdogs, hamburgers, potato chips and iceburg lettuce salad and that's all there is. So if I declare myself vegetarian and abstain from meat whenever I feel it is within my reasonable means to do so, I end up eating meat "Sparingly, in times of winter or cold or famine."

I enjoy meat when I eat it. I think of the animal that gave up its life. I try to respect the life that was given for the meat I am eating. I'm not always good about this, but I work on it every time I make that decision to eat meat.

Our family also eats fish... this is because right after I got married I read some studies that showed that the only people who tend to be healthier than non-smoking vegetarians are people who eat fish occasionally, and are non-smoking vegetarians. I have convinced skywalker of this; we eat fish very occasionally, more often during the winter.

I think the real issue with the word of wisdom is, what does "eat meat sparingly," mean? To skywalker (I said I wouldn't speak for him, but here I am) it means not eating it when it's not necessary for health. See, skywalker believes that if you have an abundance of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes in their natural and sprouted state, you should not need meat (other than fish) in your diet. Therefore to eat meat sparingly, to him, means not eating it at all unless we find ourselves in a situation of famine or extreme hardship where those easily-obtained proteins and irons and muscle-building nutrients would become necessary.

For instance, I have had discussions with him about feeding our adoptive children a little bit of meat for a while, as they have just come from a situation of famine and low nutrition, and as little children have less room in their stomachs for food (and these girls might have parasites, too) meat might be important element as we try to quickly build up their health, weight, and overall nutrition.

There are scriptures that say that you must not command people to abstain from meats/forbid people to eat meat:

D&C 49

18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from cmeats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;
19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.

Clearly, here the word "forbiddeth" actually means "biddeth" in the context of the scripture.


Timothy chapter 4:

1 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;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 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.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

These two scriptures clearly state that if you preach the abstention from meats or command the abstention of meats, you are not of God, but are preaching false doctrine because they are ordained for the use of man (but note the disclaimer in verse 4 of the Timothy scripture).

We don't command our kids not to eat meat. In fact, at a friend's house or a ward social, if meat is there, and our kids want it, they get it. I don't go around preaching that vegetarianism is a doctrine of the church, either. When people find out I'm vegetarian (in the sense I've defined it above) they will sometimes put this scripture out there, and my response is, I'm not telling you to eat no meat. In fact, my own goal is not to eat no meat, but to eat it sparingly, and I find I can only achieve that in our (hugely meat-eating) culture if I commit to a life of vegetarianism when I'm cooking on my own.

The other element of my vegetarian convictions is about waste, and the life of the animal, and the treatment of the animal by our meat industries. The prophets, while they have declared the preaching of vegetarianism as false doctrine and "extremism" (see Boyd K. Packer's "The Word of Wisdom, Principles and Promises") There are also plenty out there who decry cruelty to animals and "waste" of flesh and blood because of lust.

Brigham Young on May 17 1868 at Bountiful:

If the Latter-day Saints could look at things as they are, they would see that there is a grievous sin upon this people for neglecting their stock and letting them perish; turning their sheep on to the range for a few hours, and [p. 218b] bringing them up and penning them twenty hours out of the twenty-four, until they become diseased and sickly. If the people could see as an angel sees, they would behold a great sin in neglecting the stock which the Lord has given them, for it is the Lord who gives us the increase of cattle and sheep, yet many of the people treat them as a thing of naught.

Heber C Kimball on April 27 of 1862:

Look at the animal creation, they were all created by law, and will fulfill that law by which they were created. But see the feeling and disposition that we have in our hearts to be cruel towards animals, and that same passion that we cultivate towards the brute creation, mankind by-and-by will have towards one another. Reflect upon the experience of the past and you will find it so. I perceive that the older I grow the more com[p. 336b]passion I have upon the brute, but young and unthoughtful men and careless, cruel boys will drive a horse at the rate of sixteen miles an hour, and then whip him all the way up every hill on the journey. Is this the spirit of Christ and of our holy religion to be cruel to animals and beat them in this way? I say no; our religion and the spirit of Christ would teach us to be kind to them, to encourage them by bating and nourishing them.

In an ensign article on kindness to animals, Gerald Jones quotes Joseph Smith. Read that whole article, if you're interested... it has several quotes from prophets and other church leaders on animals, particularly the treatment of them.

I feel that the animals raised and slaughtered by the meat industry are not treated with kindness, good stewardship, or humanely. If you watch harrowing movies of slaughterhouses you will see how cavalierly animals are treated and, quite frankly, it will probably make you feel sick. :( I'm not posting any of those videos here, but they are readily found if you want to search for them.

In particular, the quote above by Brigham young about penning stock for most of the day and this being cruel and an improper use of stewardship, has direct application to how most of the animals in our society are treated. If you eat a hamburger at McDonalds, you must acknowledge the fact that your single hamburger is made up of the meat from at least a hundred different cows, and all of these cows have been treated incorrectly.

Stewardship, to me, is key here. I personally feel that, yes, meat is ordained for the use of man. And beast of the field were meant to serve man (there are vegetarians who would disagree with me.) But I feel that our society grossly misuses and abuses that stewardship that we have been given. If I don't want that sin on my head (see above it was described as sin), then I should not participate in the system at all. And if I do eat a hamburger from McDonalds, I need to do so with the full awareness of what sort of suffering went into the making of that hamburger.

We have become separated from the reality of meat eating.

When I was younger, we raised pigs, sheep and goats and slaughtered them for meat. We got to know the animal, we fed it, we took care of and nurtured it, and we were there to see the end of its life, and see where our meat came from. Today, we are completely divorced from that. A hamburger to us is as convenient as an apple picked from a tree... our meat is cut carefully so that we can't see the relation to the animal it was, it is packaged and lined up on a shelf for the taking. This separation from the life of the animal, the sacrifice that it has made for our consumption, does not entail good stewardship either, in my way of thinking.

If I had it my way, I would raise chickens and cows and sheep myself, so that I would know they were treated well, they got the nutrients and care they needed, and I would be there for the slaughtering so that I could have that connection to the meat I eat. I feel that this is the way God intended our stewardship with animals, particularly as relates to meat eating (or milk drinking, or eggs) to take place.

To go along with this, another couple of scriptures:

back to D&C 49:

19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.
20 But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.
21 And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.

And then there is the JST of Genesis 9:11:

And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.

And an interesting, perhaps more speculative note to end on. This is an excerpt from a discourse given by Orson Pratt on Dec 2 of 1877. You can find it on the website, http://scriptures.byu.edu/ which is a searchable online index of all the talks and discourses from the early prophets and leaders of the church.

"...in those days when 'the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea,' then the 'lion shall eat straw like the ox.' His nature will be so susceptible to the Spirit of God that it will be entirely changed, instead of his preying upon other animals and devouring their flesh, he will feast upon the vegetable kingdom, just as he did in the morning of creation. When the earth was first made, all things were pronounced very good; it issued forth from the hand of the Creator in a very perfect condition, but when man fell, a change came over, not only man, but also the animal creation, and the vegetable kingdom came under the curse, and the power of Satan was exercised upon the earth, enmity was introduced between man and the animals. But the time will come, when the Spirit of God will be poured out upon all flesh and 'The wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them,' etc."

This is not a doctrine widely preached today, but it is something to think about. This is something Skywalker believes in; that during the millennium we will all be vegetarians. I'm not going to plant my flag anywhere, but I will say it's something to consider and think about.


Anonymous said...

I respect your devotion to scripture and eating a healthy diet, but I want to remind you that the movies done about the meat industry are done with the same reasoning as those who create movies about different religions. They are trying to "sell" you something, and use Hollywood tactics to do it. I have not only personally helped harvest our meat from kill to freezer, but I have been on a kill floor of a packing plant and I can tell you that the info and pictures they show you are not industry standard. The animals are humanely killed and there is little to no waste. Now what people do with the product when they buy it, I cannot say how sparingly and respectfully they use meat in their own homes. Like you we have raised our children to understand they need to be respectful and thankful for the animal they are consuming.
-Alison Harwood Jones

NoSurfGirl said...

That's good to know, Allison. I'm betting, though, that it varies from plant to plant. I know that peta put out a lot of those videos, but if it doesn't happen where do they get the footage? I know there are companies that do a good job with the ethical treatment of animals and those that do a poor job... how am I to know how the meat I am eating was treated? That's the dilemma, for me.

Yes, we were in 4-H together... honestly, I think raising animals for meat makes you feel even more compassion for animals and their situations and an even bigger advocate for their ethical treatment.

NoSurfGirl said...

oh, and about the McDonald's claim... I got that info from a law suit made against the company. Here's an article about it.

David L said...

As your husband's former roommate for several years, I've always appreciated the frequent "vegetarian" banter we've both always thrown around. At the same time, I've honestly listened to him talk about his choices and his reasoning, and yes, I agree with him.

I just can't live that lifestyle.

My biggest issue with the "meat industry" and meat consumption in this nation is the incredible amount of energy and resources devoted to each pound of beef or chicken or whatever. I don't know numbers off hand, but I vaguely recall reading somewhere that it took 100 lbs. of grain to "make" 1 lbs. of meat.

I remain convinced that reducing our meat consumption is one of the primary keys to helping alleviate food shortage issues as well as other social ills. As such, my family limits the amount of meat we eat to something we see as "sparingly." In our case, we probably have some kind of meat on our plate two times a week.

NoSurfGirl said...


That is pretty dang sparing compared to the norm. And I've always admired the way you live according to your beliefs. And honestly you're much better than I would be if I weren't married to Skywalker... before marrying him, all I ate were packaged foods. Seriously. That first year was a major detox...

Kelly said...

Great post. I love the info you put on about the Word of Wisdom. This is something that I have read over and over and have pondered. I feel the same way you do. (Sadly my hubby thinks he can't get full without meat. I think it is a bit in his head, but slowly he is changing. Like now he will eat other greens and not just iceberg lettuce like when we were first married.:) Baby steps and patience.

I think PETA clips are of extreme (and possibly outdated) cases. They could be of the 1950's when laws were not as strict. I do believe there are more humane ways to treat animals and I feel that there is much to improve upon, but I personally don't give a lot of weight to those scare tactics. Whenever someone mentions PETA, I have a tendancy to discredit that reference. Like when a born again religion speaks of how awful mormons are. A lot of half truths.

Thanks for making me think. :)

Putz said...

wow, what a long post...some controvery i see, always is some isn't there????????my daughter beck is vegitarian, but not TONY...SUREL NOT TONYY....he is the right to bear arms person you know...go out and KILL that deear and eat it on the spot...and then there is dan who saw one of his dogs kill a deer and cryed for 10 dayss oh well, my fam there is not a dull moment

Tony said...

Putz, I don't even own a gun dude, I respect the rights of people who want to though.(my wife owns one) we try to get our own meat, veggies, fish etc. whenever reasonable. I think we offend God when we don't respect and USE what he has given us.(same goes for our land etc.) I don't even like stepping on bugs, maybe you shouldn't talk for me anymore;)

Tony said...

..my wife'e gun is locked up in a gun safe at her dad's house. Her dad is adamant about being responsible with guns, he's been a cop, he's served in the military etc. The responsibility of a gun is not something to be taken lightly. A few of his experiences are very sobering.

Janell said...

Thank you for writing this! I have wondered about your motivations for being a vegetarian, and I appreciate the source and intensity of your dedication.