Frequently Asked Questions
Why be vegan?
Animals products are unnecessary for a healthy diets. We can get all vital nutrients from plant based foods. We, in the developed world, consume meat, dairy, and eggs merely for pleasure or convenience reasons.
Production of meat (always), dairy (almost always), and eggs (almost always) causes immense suffering and death to animals who are sentient creatures capable of experiencing pain and suffering.
Therefore, consuming animal products involves the participation in and incentivizing of unnecessary harm to sentient beings. This violates the teaching of the Catholic Church (CCC 2418) which states that "It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly."
Is veganism opposed to the Catholic Church?
Veganism is defined by The Vegan Society as "a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."
Based on the definition above, nothing in veganism opposes the teachings of the Church.
Did Jesus eat meat?
The Bible talks about Jesus consuming fish. I think we can eat meat when there are limited sources of protein, as was the case in Jesus' time. As for whether Jesus ate lamb, the answer is unclear as it is not explicitly mentioned that He ate lamb at the last supper.
For more on this, please read chapter 4 in the book For Love of Animals by Charles Camosy.
Did God create animals for human consumption?
According to Genesis chapters 1 and 2, God created animals to be companions to humans. He gave humans plants and seeds to eat.
Are human bodies designed to eat animal flesh?
Not exactly. That is why we have to cook our meat because we do not have teeth that can tear into raw flesh. Furthermore, the human digestive system resembles that of herbivores more than that of carnivores. And, unlike carnivores, we can get all our nutrition from plant-based foods.
Besides, moral reasoning triumphs over evolutionary capacities. As long as we can live healthy lives without doing a certain evil action, we should avoid that evil action even if we are capable of that evil action.
Have the saints over the ages been wrong?
Many saints have spoken about care for animals. Others may have not known about ways of avoiding animal products or may not have thought about it.
Besides, excessive cruelty to animals is a fairly new phenomenon. Factory farms came into existence about 60-70 years back. Also, for the first time in our history, we can safely say that we have sufficient plant-based foods to supply all our dietary needs.
Why is the Catholic Church silent on the cruelty to animals?
She has not been completely silent, nor has she been vocal. A few recent Popes have spoken on the topic. Pope Francis talked about how "all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another" (Laudato Si, 42) and how "we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures." (LS 67)
When asked about cruelty to animals in a 2002 interview, Benedict XVI said, “That is a very serious question. At any rate, we can see that they are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them. Animals, too, are God’s creatures. ... Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.”
Additionally, the Catechism states that we must not allow animals to suffer or die needlessly. The uncomfortable truth is that meat is needless in our diet today.
Is vegan food expensive and inaccessible to the poor?
There are many ways to answer this question. The short answer is no. If you eat simple vegan food such as beans, grains, tofu, peanut butter, vegetables, oatmeal, etc., it is cheaper than meat and dairy. If you eat expensive meat substitutes, vegan food may be more expensive than the cheapest ground beef on the shelves.
Furthermore, there are two hidden costs in animal-based diets that are generally not accounted for. One, the billions of dollars given by the government in agricultural subsidies to factory farms that keep the prices of animal-based foods artificially low. Your tax dollars are going towards paying for your meat and dairy costs. Two, the negative health outcomes from eating animal products. People with animal-based diets have higher incidences of certain cancers and heart disease. Poor health means high medical bills and lowered productivity, both of which can be counted as costs of animal-based diets.
Do vegans force others to adhere to their beliefs?
Vegans believe that animals have a right to a life free from intentional and avoidable harm. There are many moral beliefs that we impose on others because we care for those who are oppressed and voiceless. It is illegal to enslave someone, for instance. Similarly, we do not accept a you-do-you approach if we see someone assaulting a child. In fact, Catholic Social Teaching exhorts us to stand up for those who are voiceless and powerless against oppression.
Besides, vegans talking about their beliefs is an act of love. If you know the truth, and the truth points to goodness, then you would want to tell others about that truth. If I knew something good, I would want to share it with the world, especially with those that I love. Love is willing the good of the other, and so telling the truth is an act of love because it wishes to bring others closer to moral excellence.
Why are vegans self-righteous?
Vegans stand up for the lives of animals who are voiceless. They preach what (hopefully) they practice and hold to be true. If they preached care for animals while eating meat, they would be hypocrites. Vegans do not claim to be free from all sin. There are plenty of vegans who do other bad things. That does not make the vegan message wrong. Vegans are only pointing out a flawed aspect of our lifestyle that causes unnecessary suffering in animals. They are not claiming to be saints.
Would it be sufficient to be vegetarian?
Turning vegetarian would be good step as meat production necessarily requires the death of animals. Consumption of eggs and milk could be acceptable if the animals are treated respectfully during their lives, especially after they stop producing eggs and milk. This is a grey area among vegans, and I am on the fence about this issue.
However, most dairy cows and egg laying hens are killed after they stop producing what we need from them. Male chicks of the egg laying bread are killed right after they are born. Furthermore, factory farming creates brutal conditions for these animals during their entire lifetime. For more information on the brutality in the dairy and egg industry, please watch the documentary Dominion (2018).
Besides preventing animal cruelty, what are the other reasons for going vegan?
A vegan diet is better for your health than meat and dairy based diets. We can honor God by caring for our bodies, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, vegan food production is kinder to farm workers. It is known that slaughterhouse employees often suffer from PTSD after years of directly engaging in animal slaughter. Thirdly, vegan food is cheaper, and does not rely on government subsidies to keep prices artificially low. We could use that money for other useful projects that care for the poor. Fourthly, vegan food is lighter on the environment as summarized in this page on Wikipedia. In answering our call to care for creation, going vegan is the first step you can take today.
When one thinks about the common good of humanity and care for God's creation, turning vegan is the easiest and biggest step one can take today.