Catholicism and vegetarianism. Not two words that many believe can be connected and until I became both more involved my faith and more aware of the issues surrounding vegetarianism, I also thought that the two ideologies had no connection. I hope in this blog post to show you why I believe Catholics in particular, should consider switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet. For the sake of this post I will use the words vegetarian/vegetarianism to refer to both vegetarian and vegan diets.
After researching vegetarianism, it is clear that it is a better diet for the environment, it is arguably the most ethical diet, and it is a diet that can promote better health. When examining each of these areas, it is easy to see how a vegetarian diet is a way to live out Catholic values.
Environment: The USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) names as one of the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching “Care for God’s Creation”. Also, in Genesis, God gives humanity the responsibility of caring for the Earth and all of its creatures. So, even in our modern world, we are called to protect the planet, and take steps to ensure that our lifestyle respects God’s creation. Vegetarianism is one of the ways that Catholics can ensure they are acting as stewards of creation.
Ethics: God told Adam “I have provided all kinds of grain and all kinds of fruit for you to eat” (Genesis 1: 29). God has provided humans with plant-based foods for humans to consume and thrive on. While the Catechism does say we are permitted to eat meat, it also says that animals must be treated humanely to the furthest extent possible. The current abusive factory farming system in place for meat production is a misuse of the responsibility God gave us to care for animals, so Catholics can avoid contributing to this inhumane system by not consuming meat.
Health: In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul says “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Because of this, we must care for our bodies with exercise and a clean diet. With vegetarianism, I know that I am providing my body with pure food, given to me by God, that will help me to thrive to the fullest of my potential.
Social Justice: In a broader sense, vegetarianism can also promote social justice to humans in addition to the kindness it shows animals. Much of the land used to grow feed (grain or soy) for the animals in the factory farming system could instead be used to grow food for the poor and hungry in our world. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus calls his followers to care for those in our society who are unable to provide for themselves. By switching to a vegetarian diet, we can help promote fair use of land to grow crops for those living in poverty, rather than to feed the billions of animals part of the factory farming system.
Especially in this Lenten season, when we are called to live in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable and sacrifice our own desires, adopting a vegetarian diet can be a stepping stone to a more compassionate lifestyle. The small sacrifice of giving up meat makes a tremendous difference and can give us the strength we need to live Christ-centered lives.
In closing, I highly recommend that everyone consider a vegetarian lifestyle, regardless of faith background, but especially for Catholics and Christians as a way to help live out the teachings of the Gospel. I will be praying for everyone who reads this post and if you want to chat more about Catholicism or vegetarianism, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! God Bless!
Susan is a sophomore in the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences program at Sargent College. She has been a vegetarian for almost four years.