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.

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Islam encourages meat eating as pleasing to Allah. The Qur'an says in verse 5:1: "… Lawful to you is [the flesh of] every beast that feeds on plants, save what is mentioned to you [hereinafter]: but you are not allowed to hunt while you are in a state of pilgrimage... ." And in verse 6:145: "Say: 'In all that has been revealed unto me, I do not find anything forbidden to eat, if one wants to eat thereof, unless it be carrion, or blood poured forth, or the flesh of swine for that, behold, is loathsome.’” Yet Islam has its counterpart to Hebrew kosher laws: Halal, the permissible. Eating pork or an unhealthy animal or any meat tainted with blood is not Halal. Additionally, Islam recognizes meat eating as a privilege bestowed by Allah, one that must be shared with those who cannot afford this blessing. At least twice a year, the faithful must give a portion of their meat to the needy.

Orthodox Christianity

Monks in the Orthodox Church do not eat meat for reasons that apparently go back to 4th C Egypt but have since been forgotten. Yet from the beginning, the Church insisted vegetarianism is not its dogmatic tenet but a personal choice for lay members. Nevertheless meat eating is subject to dictates that are similar to Jewish Kashruth and Islamic Halal in that they forbid eating blood. Not just in blood sausages. Scriptures (Acts 15) condemn anyone who eats an animal not immediately bled at slaughter, or an animal that has been strangled. This also means: think twice about eating your meat rare. The French word for that is sanglant that means “bloody.”


Roman Catholicism

Jesus and the Gospels are silent on this subject, but the Church recognizes that eating meat breaks the First Commandment to not kill, and this sin requires repentance. The prescribed atonement is to stop, at least from time to time. This is the origin of meatless Fridays, meatless Ash Wednesday and meat’s absence during Lent. Abstaining, at least at these times, is thought to propel the soul toward what is truly important: not dinner but divinity. This reminds us how easily we ignore the Holy Spirit. It has been said the Church chooses to focus on meat eating because people feel giving it up is a terrible inconvenience, and the annoyance of this sacrifice serves to emphasize the priority of the demands that God and his Commandments make.

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