Category Archives: Vegetarianism / Veganism

A vegetarian eats only plant foods, with or without the addition of dairy products, eggs, and honey. A vegan doesn’t eat any animal products and avoids the use of animal products for any other purposes; the exact definition is debated.

Was Jesus a vegetarian?

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

Was Jesus a vegetarian? The long answer is to investigate both Jesus and the movement that he was part of, something I’ve done in my books The Lost Religion of Jesus and Disciples. This post will give a shorter answer that briefly discusses three key points: the controversy over vegetarianism in the early church, the later history of Jewish Christianity, and Jesus’ attack on animal sacrifice.

The dispute over vegetarianism in the early church shows that the leadership of the Jerusalem church was vegetarian. Continue reading

The End of Captivity? (review)

The End of Captivity?The End of Captivity? A Primate’s Reflections on Zoos, Conservation, and Christian Ethics. Tripp York. Cascade Books, 2015. 135 pages.

The End of Captivity? is a short, open-ended Christian meditation on humans and their effects on wild animals. The book is both challenging and infuriating at the same time. It is challenging because it asks us to question the basic logic that puts animals in zoos. But it is sometimes infuriating because, as the author points out, human dominion over the planet is so complete that there isn’t very much space around for wild animals. Where, exactly, can we send them? Continue reading

Sometimes words matter

This was delicious.

This was delicious.

A lot of people, reading my previous two posts on defining veganism — including some people who commented on them — reacted by saying: “it’s all semantics.” Who cares about the precise definition of veganism? This will never matter.

Actually, yes, words do matter, and here’s a major case in point — the history of Buddhism. The first precept of Buddhism is expressed in various ways, often as “not to take life” or “not to kill any sentient creature.” The Detroit Zen Center gives the precept as “Do not harm, but cherish all life.” That is very close to a vegan commandment. Continue reading

Is veganism ambiguous?

This was delicious.

This was delicious (at “Modern Love”)

Veganism could be an ambiguous concept. Is this a problem?

The original basic idea of veganism is the principle of ahimsa, or not harming sentient creatures. In the overwhelming majority of cases it is perfectly obvious (both to vegans and nonvegans) what is, or is not, vegan. But at the edges of the concept, there are ambiguities, and sometimes disagreements; different people use the term “vegan” in slightly different ways. Why do these and other ambiguities arise, how important are they, and what (if anything) should we do? Continue reading

Talk on “Environmental Destruction and Livestock Agriculture”

Keith AkersIn case you’re in Denver this Tuesday (September 29), I’ll be giving a talk at the University of Denver on “Environmental Destruction and Livestock Agriculture,” sponsored by the DU Environmental Team. It will be at 8 p. m. in room 253 of Sturm Hall (2000 E. Asbury Ave, Denver, Colorado). There will be a quick overview of basic environmental issues relating to the livestock industry, such as climate change, resource depletion, and mass extinctions. It’s free and there will be vegan goodies served. For more details, check out the Denver Vegans Meetup site.

Kate Lawrence on vegetarianism

Kate Lawrence, author of The Practical Peacemaker: How Simple Living Makes Peace Possible (Lantern Books) was interviewed as part of the “Authors @ Douglas County Libraries” series. I have recently uploaded the following short excerpt on vegetarianism from the interview to YouTube. For more about the book see Kate’s blog.

Whole Foods to stop selling rabbit meat

Nutmeg Sprinkles IMGP0537 rabbitsThe Rabbit Advocacy Network, the House Rabbit Society, and SaveABunny, released a statement on Tuesday (September 15) saying that they were “thrilled to announce the end of rabbit meat sales at Whole Foods Market.” A House Rabbit Society member, who was also a long-time Whole Foods shareholder, traveled 800 miles to attend the annual Whole Foods Market Shareholders Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, and made a plea to the Whole Foods leadership team on behalf of the rabbits. Continue reading

Lisa Levinson and Vegan Spirituality

Lisa LevinsonLisa Levinson organizes Vegan Spirituality groups, retreats, and online gatherings across the country as part of In Defense of Animals’ Sustainable Activism Campaign, offering emotional and spiritual resources for animal activists. We recently discussed Vegan Spirituality and this is what she said.

Question: How did you get started down the idea of “vegan spirituality”? What is your religious / spiritual background? Continue reading

What does the Decline of Christianity Mean?

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

The latest data on Christianity comes from a recent report from the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. It sounds as if Christianity is on track to disappear as the dominant religion in America within a generation or two. In fact, it’s possible that Christianity might eventually disappear from American life altogether. Is this good news or bad news? The answer might seem to depend on whether you identify with Christianity. If you’re some religion other than Christianity, or atheist or agnostic, it’s great news; otherwise, not so much.

I’d like to ask a slightly different question — what does this mean for vegans? Even Christian vegans hold a perspective which is so different from that of other Christians, that the decline of Christianity does not clearly have a good or a bad implication. Continue reading

Livestock and atmospheric carbon dioxide

A key cause of climate change

A key cause of climate change

There is now more megafauna biomass (the total biomass of all large animals that are heavier than about 100 pounds) than there has been in recent earth history — indeed possibly in all of earth’s history. It seemed to be fairly constant at 200 million tons for literally hundreds of thousands of years. Then, starting with the industrial revolution and the huge surge in human population and the population of domestic livestock, megafauna biomass has exploded. It is currently about 1500 million tons, over seven times as much. And almost all of this increase has happened just since the industrial revolution.

Whoa! How did this happen? And do you think that all this extra animal biomass would affect carbon dioxide levels? Continue reading

Degrowth and Veganism

"Degrowth" is something natural and beautiful

“Degrowth” is something natural and beautiful

How can we deal with climate change, let alone peak oil, water shortages, deforestation, and everything else — given that truly effective environmental action would probably stop the economy from growing and totally change everyone’s lifestyle?

Our whole economy depends on fossil fuels, and our livestock-centered agricultural system is pillaging the earth’s biosphere. Veganism is surely part of the needed approach here. Continue reading

The Drought in California

The California drought is not going away anytime soon. And guess what uses more water than anything else in California? Livestock agriculture.

The environmental reasons for veganism suddenly are getting more credibility and attention. The recent film Cowspiracy, and the San Diego based group Truth or Drought, have drawn needed attention to the environmental destructiveness of livestock agriculture.

The solution seems to be obvious. Some people get it, while others don’t. Still other people almost get it, but not quite. Continue reading

This Changes Everything — Review

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, by Naomi Klein. Simon & Schuster, 2014.

For Naomi Klein, the climate change issue changes everything: the only way to deal with climate change is to change capitalism. We need fundamentally to alter our economic system if we hope to save the planet. Her analysis is spot on and I hope that climate change activists and vegans will study and benefit from this book. The only criticism I would have is not that it is too radical, but that it isn’t radical enough. Continue reading

“Animals in Earliest Christianity”

I will be giving a talk on “Animals in Earliest Christianity” to the Animal Rights Academy in Toronto this Tuesday. Alas, I will not be there physically, but I’ll Skype in via computer, and I understand that the conversation can go in both directions and we’ll have questions and answers.

The talk will be at University College, 15 Kings College Circle, room 256, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from 7 pm until 9 pm EST on Tuesday, February 3. There is a Facebook page for the event here.

The talk is free, so if you’re in the area, I hope you can make it and we can talk about such questions as: what was the attitude of the earliest Christians towards animals? Was Jesus, or anyone else, a vegetarian? Is animal rights compatible with Christianity? And perhaps the most puzzling question of all, should we care?