…until they messed everything up and got kicked out of the Garden. We were meant to be gardeners not farmers. The Garden of Eden is the model of what God originally intended for mankind. He wanted to walk with us in the Garden. People often quote the parts of Genesis where God gives us dominion over the natural world but they ignore the part where we are told:
Here are all the herbs, God told them, that seed on earth, and all the trees, that carry in them the seeds of their own life, to be your food; food for all the beasts of the earth, all that flies in the air, all that creeps along the ground; here all that lives shall find its nourishment.
When God gave us dominion over the natural world He wanted us to be responsible custodians not exploitative tyrants. He gave us everything we needed – water and plants and fruit of the trees – to sustain ourselves and the creatures under our care. There was just one fruit that was off limits. God gave mankind free will and relied on us to make the right decision. However, we failed, and the fallen world can no longer sustain us with ease. God tells Adam:
Thou hast listened to thy wife’s counsel, and hast eaten the fruit I forbade thee to eat; and now, through thy act, the ground is under a curse. All the days of thy life thou shalt win food from it with toil; thorns and thistles it shall yield thee, this ground from which thou dost win thy food. Still thou shalt earn thy bread with the sweat of thy brow; until thou goest back into the ground from which thou wast taken; dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Notice that God still doesn’t say that we will need to eat animals to survive. He doesn’t give permission for us to do that until after the great flood of Noah’s time. I’m not a saint, a theologian or a Bible scholar so I don’t know why He did that. Maybe the earth was just no longer able to support man on a vegan diet at that stage.
Now for those of you who are thinking that surely God didn’t mind people killing animals because He expected sacrifices, in fact, He didn’t actually like them or want them. God tolerates our weaknesses out of love but when He deems that we can do better He asks more from us. For example, in Matthew 19:8 we hear Jesus explaining why divorce was permitted in the past but not under the New Covenant:
It was to suit your hard hearts that Moses allowed you to put your wives away; it was not so at the beginning of things.
It is not a sin to eat meat and animal products; even Christ had to eat the same diet as His contemporaries. But now that we have progressed, the Western world could probably support a vegan lifestyle for us all. God does not require us to be vegan, but given that many of us are now able to do so, I think we should. Vegans have much less of an environmental impact than meat-eaters. For the sake of the animals and the environment that God put into our care, and for the poor who are often exploited for the sake of meat production, we should at least work towards it. I’m not trying to be holier than thou; I know it’s hard. I’ve been vegetarian for over twenty years but, even though I decided it was the right way to live a few years ago, I still struggle with veganism.
If you want information on how to make the switch you could start here, and if you need more convincing you could visit Stacey’s informative blog, Our Compass.