Should I Eat Meat?

Nobody disagrees that meat is tasty, filling, nourishing and strong sustenance for cold weather. But it is the flesh of a living creature, so there has always been disagreement about the morality of eating it.

Rosemary Pork

MEAT: TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT

HOW SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS ANSWER THAT QUESTION

Now that it’s chillier, we cook heartier, heavier food. Tomatoes turn from salad stars to ingredients of a stew that likely stars meat, the heartiest, heaviest food of all. And as the months get colder, we eat meat in larger portions. Stews become roasts so we can proudly pile plates with great slabs of beef, lamb or ham to celebrate holidays, birthdays and other milestones. Nobody disagrees that meat is tasty, filling, nourishing and strong sustenance for cold weather. But it is the flesh of a living creature, so there has always been disagreement about the morality of eating it. Getting meat to the table means somebody committed murder, breaking every religious commandment to not kill. So carnivores sin every time they slice into steak or spoon up chicken curry. That’s why the most vexing spiritual question since the start of history has always been: meat, to eat or not to eat? There is no definite answer. Our spiritual guidance systems can only offer ways to help us understand and manage the dilemma. Here are some of the best known.

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Judaism

Judaism has kosher laws, Kashruth, to instill self-awareness and self-control over our most primal and base instinct: to feed ourselves. Kosher means proper or legitimate, and its dictates are intended to elevate human eating from the beastly. Kashruth prohibits eating unhealthy animals, those not slaughtered swiftly by humane throat slitting, or flesh tainted by any hint of blood (life). Approved meat must not be cooked or served with milk. Ostensibly this is to prevent an animal from being stewed or served in its mother’s milk, which the Torah calls abomination. (This reasoning makes milk with fish okay.) A more likely rationale is how this separation heightens awareness that meat is a dead mammal. Kosher laws require special plates and utensils for meat, a way to compel respect for that sacrificed mammal. The laws of Kashruth are supposed to make eating a religious ritual, one that specifically reminds a Jew of being Jewish, which means obedient to the dictates of God.

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