Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Veganism, from a Catholic perspective

During some study of the Catholic faith earlier today, I was going over something we had discussed a few days ago in our study group. I just wanted to share my reasoning behind being a vegan, and to allow those who are Catholic to attempt to see it from my perspective and using the Catechism to hopefully at least allow them to see that their vegan brothers and sisters are indeed Catholic as well. (I don't know how many times I've been confronted specifically with 'Isn't it a slap in the face of God to not eat meat?' 'God put animals here for us to eat!' etc.)

This is something that I am currently flushing out in my mind, so it may not be a complete defense but one that I think should be used.

The Catechism indicates that every act consists of three moral elements:
objective act (what we do)
subjective goal (intention, why we do it)
concrete situations or cicrumstances (when, where, how, with whom, etc)
Objective Act

The act itself must be an act of good. We cannot do something evil in order to bring good about, as much as we want to. Killing someone to prevent them from killing animals for instance. Kidnapping someone and locking them in your basement to keep them from stealing etc. We must do good things to bring about good, and in order for it to be a truly good act.

Subjective Goal

Why are we doing it? If I am giving a homeless man money not because I want him to have food but in order to get him to leave so he doesn't hurt my business, then it's an act of evil. My heart is hardened and the act itself is not out of mercy and love, but out of hate. Hate is a word that describes an absence of love, and we as Christians are 'known for our love.' That is our defining characteristics and one of the many elements necessary in the fruit that we produce.

Concrete Situation

Where are we? What is going on? For instance, shoving someone might indeed be a bad act. But there is a difference in shoving someone just standing in a room, or shoving someone who is standing before a bus. Shoving becomes part of the concrete situation when evaluating morality, and becomes an act of Good because of where you are, what is going on, is someone in danger etc. Situation really changes the reality of your actions.

Now, we also know that: Matt 15:11 - What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'"

Math 15:18 - But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'

We see that Jesus very clearly told us that the reason behind our actions, that's what makes us unclean. So we cannot defend veganism based on "it makes you unclean." BUT we can defend veganism on the status of a persons heart necessary to eat meat. If their heart is in the wrong place, then it does become a sin.

What do I mean by this? First let's look at the objective act, what are we doing? We are eating. Eating in and of itself is not an evil, we need to eat to feed our bodies. So objectively, eating to feed your body is not a morally reprehesnable act. We cannot defend veganism on the objective act itself.

How about from the perspective of a subjective goal? Why are we eating? We are eating to nourish our bodies and keep us healthy. We know from scientific data that meat is not necessary for human health, as a matter of fact meat proteins are linked to cancer promotion. Consumption of meat is directly proportionate to the increase in heart disease, renal failure, strokes, diabetes and even obesity. So we are not eating meat for health. We are not eating meat because it's good for us. We could say we are eating meat for the nutrition? However, when analyzed the human diet does not need animal protein at all for nutrition. We thrive off plant based protein but have trouble breaking down animal based proteins. We also do not need the extra cholesterol, fatty acidic acids, or even in the case of body builders the protein. All of the protein we need can be gotten directly from fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. We also hear the argument that we eat meat for B12. However, B12 doesn't come from meat directly but from bacteria. The bacteria already present in the soil (though often destroyed by our cleaning processes and chemical treatment of the soil) is the actual source of B12 production. We can also get B12 from different versions of blue green algae, so we cannot say we 'need' meat for B12. So we cannot say we eat meat for nutrition.

Why then do we eat meat? Personal pleasure. We eat meat for the taste. The texture and taste are the top reason for consumption of meat, and why many say 'I just love my meat', or "I couldn't give it up, it tastes too good.' Our subjective goal then becomes personal pleasure.

Now, personal pleasure is of itself not a bad thing. I truly believe God wants us to have personal pleasure, but for the right reasons. This goes back to where is your heart in order to get that person pleasure. First, let's go over the final component of the decision to eat meat.

What is our concrete situation? First we have to look at our society. We are not hunters, but consumers. It is not necessary for us to hunt for animals in order to feed our families. We are also not starving. I do not think it's a sin to consume an animal (though thanks must be truly given in my eyes), when your family is starving and you have no other food available. We live in a land of plenty where massive amount of grains are avialble, fresh fruit, and fresh vegetables in almost every market.

Next, a very important part of our concrete situation is, what does meat production do to our world, our bodies, our families, and the animals themselves. We live in a world where the actual reality of raising animals has become a very 'factory' like situation. These are called CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. The animals are kept in as small an area as possible, fed the most concentrated feed possible, and gotten to 'market' weight as fast as possible. Using any means necessary including genetic manipulation, and force feeding.

Next, CAFO's produce the most pollution of anything in the world at present. Giving up just 10% of meat from a SAD (standard american diet) will reduce a persons carbon footprint as much as selling a SUV and getting a hybrid car. We are literally destroying our world, our forests, jungles (80% of all the destruction of the Amazon rain forest is for cattle land), and our bodies. We are polluting our water ways, our atmosphere, and feeding our children meat filled with antibotics, super bacteria, and heart clogging cholesterol.

The big factor for me is 'consequences'. In order to eat meat as an educated individual we must decide specifically, "My taste and personal pleasure is more important to me than the environment, the health of my own body, the health of those I feed meat to, and the life of an animal." Now, with that being said. Can anyone who is educated (knows that animals suffer, knows that raising animals creates pollution, knows that animals are being mistreated and killed, knows that they are destroying health in their body and creating disease, and knows that they can feed themselves and their families without meat and still be perfectly healthy) be able to say with a clear conscience, that eating meat is not a sin?

(TLDR)A short recap -
Objective act - Eating is not a sin. Eating meat out of ignorance in and of itself is not a sin either.
Subjective Goal - Personal pleasure. In and of itself also not a sin. God wants us to be happy, and enjoy things but only for the right reasons.
Concrete Situation - Creates pollution, destroys health, animals are killed and mistreated

Can we truly defend meat eating as a Catholic/Christian person and have our hearts in the right place? Is not eating meat after being informed and educated, in and of itself putting our own personal pleasure AHEAD of all other concerns, including the health of our children, our world, and the animals themselves.

"The ends do not justify the means." (see CCC nos 1749-1761)