When Religion and Animal Rights Collide

When Religion and Animal Rights Collide June 29, 2012

The always outspoken and controversial ethicist, Peter Singer, calls on religions that require ritual slaughter of animals to become vegetarians:

When people are prohibited from practicing their religion – for example, by laws that bar worshiping in certain ways – there can be no doubt that their freedom of religion has been violated. Religious persecution was common in previous centuries, and still occurs in some countries today.

But prohibiting the ritual slaughter of animals does not stop Jews or Muslims from practicing their religion. During the debate on the Party for the Animals’ proposal, Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, told members of parliament: “If we no longer have people who can do ritual slaughter in the Netherlands, we will stop eating meat.” And that, of course, is what one should do, if one adheres to a religion that requires animals to be slaughtered in a manner less humane than can be achieved by modern techniques.

Neither Islam nor Judaism upholds a requirement to eat meat. And I am not calling upon Jews and Muslims to do any more than I have chosen to do myself, for ethical reasons, for more than 40 years.

Restricting the legitimate defense of religious freedom to rejecting proposals that stop people from practicing their religion makes it possible to resolve many other disputes in which it is claimed that freedom of religion is at stake. For example, allowing men and women to sit in any part of a bus does not violate orthodox Jews’ religious freedom, because Jewish law does not command that one use public transport. It’s just a convenience that one can do without – and orthodox Jews can hardly believe that the laws to which they adhere were intended to make life maximally convenient.

via THE DAILY STAR :: Opinion :: Commentary :: Around the world, the appeal to religious freedom is being misused.

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  • Pax

    And if orthodox Jews want to own and operate a private bus service with separate seating for men and women, should they be allowed?

  • Dan Hauge

    If he’s talking about legal prohibition of ritual slaughter, wouldn’t it be more consistent to ban all kinds of slaughter, religious or non-religious, that one considers ‘inhumane’? This is the quote that jumped out at me: “And that, of course, is what one should do, if one adheres to a religion that requires animals to be slaughtered in a manner less humane than can be achieved by modern techniques.” Perhaps we *can* slaughter more ‘humanely’ with modern technology, but has he seen Food Inc.?

    • @Dan et al- The argument is not as hypothetical as it seems. In nations like Norway, Muslims who choose to eat meat have to import it because they have very strict laws about humane slaughter that preclude Halal practice. In the US, there are very few standards, but western Europe is moving toward higher legal standards for animal ethics.

  • Lee

    Of course, Peter Singer thinks pretty much *everyone* (at least in the affluent West) should be a vegetarian.

    • Victoria

      I don’t think it is forced vegetarianism and why do people become heated over it, there are billions of dollars spent subsidising the meat/dairy intensive farming industry and multiple times the advertisng budget spent on meat products than vegetarian ones, if anything cheap brutally produced fast food is being rammed down our throats without regard to human cancers/diabetes/heart disease or animal cruelty? Many religions have promoted vegetarianism but in the modern interpretation meat has to be over consumed the compassionate parts of religious texts towards animals have often been sidelined for people’s own motives just as women and other nationalities have often been considered from a certain aspect http://www.animalsvoice.com/regan/

  • Craig

    Are their any vegetarian or vegan Christian churches? Has anyone ever heard a pro-vegetarian/vegan Christian sermon?

  • Carl

    So he wants us to be vegetarians, but he also thinks the disabled and little kids should be allowed to be killed? Yep, sounds like someone we should listen to.

    • @Carl,

      Exactly what I was thinking!!

  • DRT

    People, of course it would be better to be a vegetarian or at least cut way down on eating meat. I’m not going to comment on Peter in particular, but it is patently obvious that it would be better for us to move toward vegetarianism.

    It reminds me of the narrow minded people in my local church that would not serve a vegetarian dinner at church events, and laughed at those that wanted them.

    Do you folks really think it is actually good to go around killing animals and eating them?

  • Rich

    DRT, God said we could, and never said anything against it, so I feel comfortable doing it. Animals know how to procreate, so they should be fine.

    • Maybe *your* god said you could, but mine definitely doesn’t….

  • Lee

    If folks are interested in the relationship between Christianity, vegetarianism, and animal rights, there are lots of good works on the subject. Andrew Linzey, Richard Alan Young, Stephen Webb, and others have written entire books on the subject. From a more evangelical perspective, this pamphlet from Matthew Halteman, a professor at Calvin College, may be of interest: http://www.humanesociety.org/about/departments/faith/compassionate_eating_as_care_.html

    • Jade

      The only religion which promotes equality for all animals (humans are animals, lest we forget) is Hinduism. There is nothing in Christianity’s scriptures (bible) that states equality.

  • Pingback: Animal rights is more than Peter Singer | A Thinking Reed()

  • Charlie
  • Matt Halteman

    I attend a Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called Square Inch Community. Each Sunday after worship, we share a vegan communal meal as a means of making our hospitality and our fellowship as inclusive and inviting as possible to anyone who may wish to break bread with us. In a world where omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans are coming together in fellowship, well-planned plant-based eating is one of the most healthful, inclusive ways to do church meals. A table filled with animal products is one at which more and more people every day feel increasingly uncomfortable, whether for reasons of theological or moral conscience, environmental concern, health consciousness, or all of the above. A table filled with plant-based foods, on the other hand, is accessible to everyone. Given that omnivores already enjoy lots of nutrient-dense, plant-based foods such as beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables as a part of their omnivorous diets, it is hardly a sacrifice to have the opportunity to try a few exciting new plant-based soups, salads, and desserts for one communal meal a week. Meanwhile, vegetarians and vegans–folks who often feel excluded from community meals at church–are able to enjoy everything that is on offer without having to ask or to field all the usual awkward questions that can be divisive to the body. The result, at least at our church, is a community that very much enjoys breaking bread and having fellowship together, regardless of our different outlooks on what constitutes “ethical eating”. It is tempting to think that our approach to food might result in a church where everyone is discussing the ethics of eating all the time, but in fact, the opposite is the case: because everyone feels included, and because the plant-based food is so delicious, there isn’t any tension or division around the issue (at least, none that I am personally aware of at present). To read more about Square Inch Community and its commitments, visit http://squareinchcommunity.tumblr.com. I should add that Square Inch is not alone in turning to vegan meals as a hospitality measure. I believe that there is a list of churches that have similar practices at allcreatures.org.