Monday, April 29, 2013

Stewardship, Part 3: Animals

Today we will discuss how to be good stewards of the animals God has created. Recall from the last post about food that God's original design - before sin entered the world - was for humans and animals to live in harmony and to eat a plant-based diet. When sin entered the world, the human diet eventually changed as well. The harmony that once existed was no more. Animals would feast on other animals. Humans would hunt and eat animals. The circle of life and death began.

Now let's look at the state of the world today.

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*Nearly 10 billion land animals are killed every year in the U.S. for food (58 billion worldwide). That's over a million every hour. That means that by the time you finish reading this sentence, over 1,000 land animals in the U.S. have died for the sake of food. This does not include animals killed by hunters or other causes (click here to learn how many animals are killed for scientific experiments, clothing, by hunters, and in animal shelters). (Source)

*Animals raised for slaughter are commonly kept in tight quarters and unsanitary conditions. They are often times given growth hormones to speed their growth process, given antibiotics which transmit to humans that eat their meat, and are mistreated by factory workers...all for the sake of productivity and monetary profit. (Source and to learn more detail about how each type of land animal is typically treated from birth to the dinner plate.)

If you want to learn more about the animal cruelty side of food production, you should watch the documentary movie "Vegucated" (available on Netflix). We personally do not agree with the dietary recommendations that the filmmakers of "Vegucated" make (they promote a vegan diet that includes oils and vegan junk foods), but we do recommend this film if you are interested in learning more about factory farming. The segment about factory farming is graphic, so please use caution as you watch.

Yes, I'm sure PETA and similar groups report the "worst of the worst," but surely you are not naive enough to think that the whole thing is made up entirely. It does happen. Maybe not everywhere, at every farm, with every company, but I would assume it's by far the norm rather than the exception.

Is this the proper way to treat God's creation?

God loves animals. He created them and said it was good. Although He values human life above animal life (Mark 6:25-26 and Luke 12:6-7) and said it was very good, He still values animal life. Although before Christ He called for animal sacrifices to atone for mankind's sins, He still values animal life and had specific instructions on how to spill their blood. He does not condone the torturing of animal life.

Exodus 23:4-5; 19
4 "If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him."
19 "You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother."

Exodus 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21 also quote the young goat verse.

Deuteronomy 22:6-7
6 "If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; 7 you shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days."

Proverbs 12:10
A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal,
But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.

The circle of life is natural and normal now, because we live in a fallen world. But how far do we (mankind) take that? Is it okay to torture animals? Where does God draw the line?

To me, it seems clear that present-day practices of "manufacturing" animals for food is beyond what Scripture would allow. Do you think Jesus would eat present-day factory-farmed fish? I would guess that He would not support the practice of being cruel to animals just to provide food. It's important to point out that Americans don’t have a NEED to eat animals, since even low income families receive government assistance to purchase food, and healthy plant-based foods are much cheaper than purchasing meat. This is particularly relevant in the U.S., where even the impoverished have access to a wide variety of plant-based whole foods, such as potatoes, corn, rice, beans, vegetables, and fruit.

It's simple business. If the demand decreases, eventually the market will stop increasing the supply. Think of every dollar you spend on food as your way of "voting" for that industry. If you purchase meat and dairy products, or packaged foods that use meat and dairy ingredients, then you are supporting these industries.

If you read the above information about factory farming and feel convicted about contributing to that practice (by continuing to fund it by purchasing meat and dairy), then let me challenge you to make a decision about what you're going to do about it. Yes, your sole contribution, or withdrawal of financial contribution is something. It matters. I personally feel so relieved to know that I am not supporting those cruel practices by the food I eat.

I was a former hypocrite with my diet: I used to claim that I loved all animals (to the point of rescuing "mosquito hawks" from inside and releasing them outdoors), yet I blindly continued to consume dairy and meat. I turned the other way, knowing the basics of how animals were treated to make those foods available to me in the store, and continued to eat those things. I avoided thinking too much about where the neatly packaged meat I was purchasing had come from. I wish I could claim that my conviction about this is what led me to change my diet, but I would be lying. I changed my diet for the sake of pursuing health, but realized my hypocrisy in the process, and now I'm thankful to not contribute to that industry anymore.

Michael too has told me that he feels like Paul who was the chief hypocrite and had scales removed from his eyes. He was formerly known as the "meat-eater" by my extended family (click here for the full story). He would easily keep up with his male friends when it came to eating a bunch of meat. He thought a meal wasn't a meal unless there was meat involved. And since he never struggled with gaining weight, he thought he was pretty healthy. As he later learned, he was slowly harming himself from the inside out with consistent high blood pressure and a cholesterol of 208 at age 26. Now he doesn't even miss eating meat and is pleased to not support the meat and dairy industry. He lowered his cholesterol and blood pressure and lost some weight, but is stronger and fitter than he's ever been in his life. Take it from him - if he can make this change, anyone can.

If you decide to no longer support these industries either, you certainly wouldn't be alone:

Celebrities Who Are Vegan:
Woody Harrelson
Anne Hathaway
Jessica Chastain
Bill Clinton (went up several points in my book after learning this)
Natalie Portman
Mike Tyson
Tobey Maguire
Chris Martin
Daryl Hannah
Ellen DeGeneres
Alec Baldwin
Carrie Underwood
Alicia Silverstone
Alanis Morissette
Ashley Judd
Betty White
Casey Affleck
Emily Deschanel
Jared Leto
Jason Mraz
James Cromwell (starred in the sheepdog pig movie "Babe")
Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard

Next we will discuss how we can bring glory to Jesus Christ through our temples, i.e., our bodies.

Next: Stewardship, Part 4: Body

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