"Get up, Peter, kill and eat!" What's your take on Biblical Food Ethics?

I would like to hear from the community on their views on what they eat and don’t eat and why.

Veganism, Vegitarianism, Paleo, Pescatarian, Meat-Eaters, etc.

This is an area where my Biblical worldview makes me uncomfortable. The more we learn about animal cognition, emotion, contemplation of a future, desire to live, avoidance of pain, the mourning of kin, etc. and our shared relationship in the evolutionary saga makes me feel like it is hard to love my neighbor by systematically killing and eating them. Yet, God seems fine with an omnivorous diet; even our Risen Lord ate broiled fish with the Disciples and sent Peter a vision (although I am aware that the goal of the vision was to rid Peter of xenophobic prejudices) to kill and eat.

Let me know what you think (or should I say eat?!) and why!

P.S. there are even some interesting new studies on intelligence and communication in some plants!

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That’s a great question. I think that the poor, in particular, depend greatly on animal protein to supplement what they can get. Many herders, as well, live with animals and depend on them for their livelihood. However, in the developed world, we both have the ability to commit wholesale slaughter and waste, and can afford to find other options. It’s part of stewardship to try to treat animals so as to minimize the amount of suffering we inflict. I agree I need to minimize meat, as I live in the US currently (it was a different case in Niger, West Africa, where I grew up as a missionary kid; the inhabitants were desperately poor frequently, and unable to get much food of any kind).

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Makes me think. I live in a culture that not only serves a lot of meat, but hunting and fishing are celebrated. Most hunters and fishermen interestingly are probably far more concerned with environmental preservation and wildlife care than the average non-hunter/fisherman so it is not a simple question.
Also, it is interesting that low carb diets are popular, which almost by necessity are high in animal products.
Personally, I have no moral qualms about eating meat, but do feel that humane practices should be followed. It is interesting how even though Peter was shown all foods were good, there remained a prohibition from blood- meat from strangled animals improperly slaughtered and drained of blood.

I would observe that eating meat was a concession on God’s part, but not part of original creation order.

In the garden, Adam and Eve (and all the other animals for that matter) were allowed to eat any plant.

Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.

Animals were allowed to be killed for sacrifice purposes, and presumably God killed the first animals to provide garments of skin for Adam and Eve.

It was not until after the flood that God gave authorization to eat animals (presumably, at least in part, since it would have destroyed so much vegetation).

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

Thus I suspect that this temporary provision will cease when all things are made new, and there will be no more death. Until that time, we operate in the present word where death is a reality.

I’d ask 2 questions back at you, if I may.

  1. Your concern seems to be with honoring animals and them avoiding pain, etc. just to understand your position, would you object to a system where we ate the same animals we do now, so long as we only collected and processed the meat of said animals after they died of natural causes?

  2. if you are embracing an evolutionary perspective on these things… We got to where we are through being carnivores. Why stop now? I would think “our shared relationship in the evolutionary saga” makes killing another animal for food simply a continuation and participation in the same thing life has been doing for eons, no? It still seems to work for lions and tigers, why stop now?

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These dietary restrictions are in the area of personal morality, much like pacifism, anti-abortion, teetotalism, and many aspects of religion. There is no objective justification for any of it, but morality isn’t a purely objective matter anyway.

As for mankind… we are omnivores, getting our sustenance wherever we can. We find new sources of food when what we have been surviving on becomes unavailable. Changing to adapt, we are hunters, gatherers, scavengers, herders, farmers, and fishermen as needed. We are the primates that left the trees and learned to run down prey and this is part of our uniqueness among all the species on the planet. This adaptability is also closely allied with the development of our intelligence as well as many aspects of our physiology, so I find all this talk of us supposed to have been something else to be completely ludicrous and fundamentally disconnected from reality.

BUT… this doesn’t mean that all diets are equally healthy… and apparently the same diets are not healthy for all people. Some cannot eat meat and others can only eat meat.

How would you deal with the fact that humans are called to subdue/conquer the earth, and rule over the animals? Considering how this is coupled with a blessing allowing the eating of plants, it is very likely that the author of Genesis 1 had eating meat in mind.

There’s lots about subduing animals one can do without eating them, consider horses, dogs, cats, oxen, sheep… Many farms even in today’s world use animals for many purposes besides food.


You misread my post. The subjugation of animals is coupled with the granting of plants ‘for food’.

As biological beings humans are omnivores. I don’t think there is anything unethical about eating meat. But there are ethical and unethical ways to practice agriculture and animal slaughter. I think we should all eat less meat because moving to more plant-based diets would be a better use of the world’s food resources and would do less damage to the environment. I also think many Christians ignore the sin of gluttony and most Americans could do better with the whole “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” thing. Especially if they make a big deal about cigarettes and alcohol.

However, I think if eating meat violates your conscience, you should refrain.


Let us also consider that chickens are really dinosaurs, and God doesn’t like dinosaurs as evidenced by sending an asteroid to destroy them, so Chik-fil-A is doing God’s work.

Seriously though, there seems something to the spiritual aspect of eating. Many cultures appreciate the sacrifice of the animal to give nourishment. Ritual slaughter reflects this, and Kosher practices continue its observance. In Christianity, communion is also a reflection of sacrifice and spirituality when taking a meal, though the blood once forbidden is made wine freely taken by all.
Perhaps commercial meat production is offensive on some level not just because of the yuck factor and cruelty, but because it denies any spiritual aspect.


I don’t follow. “Coupled” in what way? They were both part of the same guidance, sure. They were perhaps even part of the same sentence. I don’t see how one entails the other.

If I had someone house-sitting for me, and I said, “take care of my dog and keep him under control, and you can eat anything growing in the garden…” I’m not sure how that could be in any way be understood as granting permission to eat my dog.

(Not only humans there in genesis, but His command also limited the animals to eating only plants. I’m afraid I’m simply not seeing in the text what you seem to be seeing.)

Yes, I would be cool with that as long as the meat wasn’t harmful.

I think there are a lot of evolutionarily advantageous (promiscuity, theft, etc.) activities that God asks us to abstain from.


Are there any ethical/philosophical arguments for the killing of animals for meat that you can think of? It seems like all of the ethical/philosophical arguments are in favor of some sort of vegetarianism or veganism.

This is one of the few places that I feel like the only argument is “the Bible tells me so.” All throughout the Biblical narrative, God is, directly and indirectly, killing animals. Humans I can understand, because of their moral standing God has the right to have them killed or kill them directly (think conquest and plagues). Yet, animals (at least as far as I know) can not sin, because they are amoral beings. Therefore, the killing of animals seems hard to justify.
I believe capital punishment can be justifiable.

I would consider myself to be an omnivore but yet I feel the issue of being vegan or vegetarian or any other type of diet is based on moral choice and a personal conviction between them and God, such as my choice to not drink any liquors or alcoholic drink for religious or holiness reasons and being pacifis in order to perfectly follow the 10 Commandments.

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Precisely the point I have been stressing: God has gifted us with mind and conscience so that we can rise above our animal heritage.
Al Leo

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Do you think it’s wrong for animals to eat other animals? We are, in a biological sense, animals and I’m not convinced that veganism is optimally nutritious for humans.

My sister-in-law is vegan for ethical reasons. But she finds it hard to get enough protein, so she sometimes eats fish and shellfish, which she says does not have the nervous system to suffer the way mammals or birds would.

I wouldn’t base an ethical argument on what was permitted in the Old Testament. Slavery, polygamy, and women as chattel were also practiced by the Israelites. But, Jesus ate fish, and presumably lamb at Passover in the Bible, so I think you’d have a hard time convincing Christians meat is sinful. Maybe not ethically ideal. The strongest arguments I have heard though have not been based on animal rights but on conservation. The amount of meat, especially beef, that developed countries consume is unsustainable. We maybe should switch to guinea pig.

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I do not think animals are doing anything wrong when killing and eating other animals, or just killing them in general. However, I don’t know if I am JUST an animal or am called to be more mindful than following my physical urges to their logical conclusions.

Could a supplemented Vegan diet work? I have also heard that a vegan diet is not sustainable and also results in a lot of animal death due to habitat loss and pest control on farms.

Good point, and I think most people are far removed from where their food comes from so they don’t think much about it. I have killed chickens for food in the recent past, and our neighbor occasionally butchers a pig in their yard (I live in rural Mexico). It is a messy, unpleasant affair that is quite far removed from a McChicken or McRib sandwich.

Yes, issues we don’t think much about. A while back I posted an article I read about the importance of diversifying our diets. I also think buying local and in season is an underestimated good. So, I’ve been trying to move that direction. I could live without meat, but I would suffer without dairy and eggs.

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Another question: How do we understand the apparent Veganism suggested in God’s food provisions for the animals and Adam and Eve under the following considerations:

  1. Veganism has been shown to lack vital macronutrients required for the Human body to function.

  2. The Human body evolved prior to the point in which Adam could be called to be our federal priest in God’s garden temple.

  3. The food provisions for the animals are plants, so what about all the carnivores?

Are we to discount the Eden story as mere idealism or was it (and its diets for humans and animals) a real possible and sustainable future forfeited by rebellion?

We were talking about this here a while back and Brad asked some Bible scholars about it and they didn’t shed much light on the matter, but the conversation was interesting. I tend to look at that Genesis passage not as a prohibition against meat, but rather God pointing out the bounty available in the sacred space he prepared for humanity. He did plant a garden after all.

God’s covenant promise to Abraham/Israel was a land flowing with milk and honey, which doesn’t cut it for vegans. :wink: He also provided ravens when the Israelites didn’t want to survive on manna. There are passages in Job where God seems to take delight in the predatory capabilities of some of the carnivores he created, so if he claims credit for their apex predator status, I don’t know how we can insist that they were originally created herbivores.