Genesis Chapter 1: God made animals, and told Adam it was OK to eat them.
I teach Sunday School, and I don’t want anyone to accuse me of being sacrilegious, but in my mind, that’s the ultimate reason that animals were created--for the benefit of man. I think all Christians feel that way, that God made man to be superior to the animals.
So when I first heard about the strategy to make people think they’re going to hell if they eat meat, I was incredulous. But the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is crafty enough to make people consider it, even if they don’t whole-heartedly believe it.
The group is using tactics to make urban and suburban pet owners feel guilty—and hypocritical--for treating their pets like members of the family while they eat another animal at dinner.
They are reframing the debate on an agriculture by insisting that it is morally wrong to produce and eat animals. Make animal welfare a religious debate and you can throw science, logic, and economics out the window.
The group asks spiritual people to consider the impact of meat production and consumption on human health, world hunger, environmental sustainability, worker safety, and animal suffering. It also asks members to contemplate whether or not meat consumption reflects God's ideal for creation. Check out their faith outreach page.
A basic message is that “factory farms” are against God’s will and evil. Another message is self-denial and that animals suffer for consumers’ gluttony and luxury. They’ve poured resources into religious outreach adding staff including those who have attended the Seminary.
And it’s not just the HSUS. A number of authors are echoing this moral message with books bearing the titles: “Dominion The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call to Mercy,” “The Face on your Plate”, “Making a Killing” and “The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The emotional World of Farm Animals.”
The head of the HSUS faith-based division, Christine Gutleben, says the group isn’t really using religion, but is “building on longstanding religious tradition," she said.
They obviously read Genesis a little different than I do. And when take the time every year to blast churches that have live nativity scenes I wonder how much traction can they really get?
But they are reaching religious leaders and their congregations. A number have issued statements on the use of animals. Check to see if your church is one of them. These are not fringe religious groups.
Over 15,000 people subscribe to the society's faith-based newsletter.
Joel Osteen, who is pastor of the 43,500-member Lakewood Church in Houston, telling his members not to eat pork due to the Old Testament. This is a Christian congregation.
Why target religious folks?
Church goers give more money. And many people are open to this message because they don’t attend church very often, and are looking for easy ways to feel like they’ve done something to fulfill their obligation to God.
For a while they’ve been chipping away at large operations—the ones they call “factory farms”. But their followers can’t define the difference between the little guys and the “factories.”
This new tactic goes to show again that they aren’t looking to improve the lives of farming animals as much as they are out to make the whole world go vegan.
But this appears to be an area where we can beat them. Consumers like eating meat and research shows they won’t shy away from it as long as we continue to give them permission to keep eating it. They can be persuaded that their dog isn’t the same as a cow. They can be reassured that they really aren’t being hypocrites when they eat dinner.
And when it comes down to it, I believe most Christians--even those who are pro-choice--would side on saving a human life over that of an animal. So we have to be able to demonstrate that people die if livestock is taken out of the food chain. Those are calories that can't immediately be replaced by advances in biotech or ripping up pasture and planting vegetables where cattle once roamed.
Want to learn more on the tactics used by the HSUS? Look up the work of Wes Jamison an associate professor of communications at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Jamison has been making the rounds at some of the recent farm organization meetings. If you have the chance to hear Jamison. Go, it will be an eye-opening experience for you.
Ten years later: the rest of the story - This morning I found myself in a reflective mood thinking back to mid-July 2008 and one of the most hectic weekends of my life. I blogged about it at the t...