A Theological Defence of the Carnivore Movement


THE 1ST JANUARY WILL SEE the second annual World Carnivore month where the Carnivore movement challenges people to exclusive carnivory for one month. At the end of the month people are to judge the impact this has upon their health and decide whether this is something they want to continue. 

Vegetarians do the same thing through the month of October.

What I hope to do here is address the Carnivore movement from a Christian perspective and to answer questions and concerns that curious Christians might have about the movement as well as help Carnivores (regardless of faith background) to understand how their lifestyle is seen Biblically.

Disclaimer 
I am not an exclusive carnivore. I toy around with vegetables sometimes. I flirt with carbs on special occasions. But I will be writing about the Carnivore movement from a sympathetic perspective. I do this for two reasons. First of all, twelve years ago I followed my doctor's advice and ate a high-carb, low animal fat diet to help improve my health. I followed his guidance for three years, hardly ever touching red meat or dairy (except skimmed milk), but my health only got worse. When I switched to a low-carb, high animal fat lifestyle I had vast improvements in a short period of time. 

My second reason for addressing this issue is because I have seen a lot of guilt being aimed at meat and dairy eaters lately. As a Christian, it would wrong to not defend the eating of foods that the Bible celebrates the consumption from those overly eager activists. They are the few, the proud, the more or less appalled at everyone else.

What is the Carnivore Diet Movement?
It’s not a ‘diet’ in sense of counting calories. It simply means the elimination of all non-animal based foods. The movement is not huge, but it is not tiny either. And it is growing quickly. There are 23,000 members on the 'World Carnivore Tribe' Facebook page and they are active on Instagram and Twitter as well. There are various websites: MeatHeals.Com is one of the ore popular ones and is filled with testimonials.

Within this movement, there is a spectrum of adherence with those on the more fundamentalist end eating nothing but beef, salt, and water. Dr. Jordan Peterson is probably the most famous of these.

On the more liberal end, Carnivores eat any animal product: bacon, cream, (usually raw) whole milk, eggs, steak, cheese, etc. Probably the most controversial animal product would be honey as it is technically an animal product but is high in carbsand many Carnivores like to see their movement as a zero-carb movement.

Many in the movement are concerned about animal welfare and oppose industrialised farming practices in favour of more humane, grass-pastured ways of raising livestock.
Participants come from a variety of backgrounds from and are not tied to any religion. Most embrace this lifestyle for health reasons.

What does the Bible teach about eating meat?
Whereas many religions restrict the consumption of meat, Christianity does no such thing. The Bible actually celebrates carnivory (though not exclusively). Previous to the arrival of Christ, Israel was given laws forbidding certain types of meat (pork), but meat as such was celebrated and was very central to their worship and way of life.

With the coming of Christ, even the limitations against certain types of carnivory are removed. In fact, in when God speaks to the early, Jewish church leaders about the necessary inclusion of non-Jews into the movement, He does so through a vision of meat. Acts 11 reads:

‘Peter saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.
Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”’ -Acts 11

The theological message is that all foods are now clean because Jesus has come to make unclean things clean again. The only regulations that God gives to us concerning what we eat are:
1.    Eat with gratitude to God for your food.
2.    Don’t judge others or be divisive over your choice of diet. Don’t be a food pharisee.
3.    Don’t give yourself to gluttony (think emotional eating or over-eating.)

How is Carnivory Celebrated in Scripture?
In many ways. Just to name a few:


·        When God leads Israel through the desert, he promises them ‘a land of milk and honey’. Both of these are animal products (especially beneficial in their raw, untreated forms).

·        After their time as slaves in Egypt, God promises Israel that when they get to the promised land they will ‘eat the fat of the of the land’. Israel understood that eating animal fats was central to nutrition and good health.

·        In Genesis chapter four when the first sacrifices are recorded, YHWH rejects the vegetable offering of Cain but accepts the meat sacrifice of Abel.

·        Much is made of made of offering up the fat of animals in the sacrificial system of ancient Israel. Little is made of vegetables, though there is some mention of grain offerings as well (which some think could be beer).

·        After leaving the arc, God specifically gave all animals to Noah as food.

·        The Passover meal, which centred around a lamb to be eaten, was a key religious observance given to Israel. No one was allowed to refuse this meat and still be part of the community. 

·        There is no limit to the amount of meat that the Israelis should eat: ‘you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want.’ Deuteronomy 12.15

·        When John the Baptist came, he was reported to a man who never ate bread, only a carnivorous diet of insects and wild honey.

How Does the Bible Speak of the treatment of Animals?
The Bible speaks of the humane treatment of animals. Trying to source meat and dairy from ethical farmers who raise pastured animals can be a shared commonality between Christians and Carnivores (and those who identify as both). ‘The righteous cares about his animal's health, but even the merciful acts of the wicked are cruel.’ Proverbs 12.10.

Will there be meat in Heaven?
Christian teachers can’t say definitively. But we do get material for speculation. Those who would say ‘no’ point to the fact that there is no death in heaven. If we take Isaiah literally not even carnivorous animals will eat other animals as he describes a future where ‘the lion will lay down with the lamb.’ (11.6, 65.25)

But in other passages, meat is described as being on the menu (again, Christians understand that the Bible uses poetic language to describe heaven as an unimaginably wonderful place so we caution against over literal readings of such passages). Isaiah says that there will be ‘choice meats and well-aged wine’ in the age to come (25.6).

Perhaps the strongest argument for meat eating in heaven is that Jesus ate meat after His personal resurrection. Some may say that Jesus had to eat meat during his earthly incarnation just in order to get the nutrients his body would’ve needed. But what about with a glorified body that can walk through walls and ascend to heaven? In both John and Luke’s account it’s recorded that he ate fish after coming back from death. If Jesus is eating meat after his resurrection (with an immortal body that can never die) shouldn’t we expect to do the same? Didn’t Jesus say that when He returns in power that He will eat the Passover again with His followers (a meal centred on lamb)?

In short, the Biblical evidence does not demand that we see Heaven as a squalid Kingdom of veganism where we sit around and nibble on celery everyday. If you believe that, you really need to go pet your unicorn and think things over.

What about Daniel?
The commentators are all over the place in regards to Daniel chapter one where Daniel and his friends eat only vegetables for only 10 days. Some write about how the meat at the Babylonian king’s table was probably offered up to idols. Whatever the understanding might be, there are a couple of things that are clear:
·      Like in the rest of the book of Daniel, supernatural powers were at work. No diet (vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, keto, etc) can build muscles and make you much smarter in only ten days.
·        The official who was responsible for Daniel understood that, in the natural, forgoing meat and eating only vegetables for ten days would make one weaker, not stronger. These were not stupid people. As a man in charge of feeding royalty, he knows what would strengthen the human body.

My understanding is that the meat was somehow religiously defiled and that Daniel and his friends chose a temporary (ten days only) position of weakness so that God could show his strength in this particular situation. Later in the book, Daniel is recorded as eating meat in a normal way like everyone else.

But human’s didn’t eat meat before the fall. 
Doesn’t that mean we should seek to avoid it?
The first two chapters of the Bible describe the first man and woman in paradise. Some think that in these two chapters we are told the mankind wasn’t originally meant to eat meat. In them God clearly states that all plants (except one) can be used as food.

Though this is a possible interpretation, it is not solid. There is a difference between allowing mankind to eat of any plant (except one) and actually forbidding the eating of meat. Only one food is forbidden, and it is a piece of fruitnot meat. We are not actually told what the view of meat would’ve been if sin had not entered the world. If God had not intended us to eat animals, it sure is strange that He made them out of a substance that is both nutrient dense and delicious. 

We do not live in the garden. We have reason to be doubtful that eating meat is a direct result of sin. But wearing clothes sure seems to beat least as its indicated by the text. One could make a far stronger case that Christians should walk around naked than that we should be vegan.

Shouldn’t Christians be good stewards of the environment? And isn’t meat eating harming the planet?
Some think that the Earth is becoming over-populated and that we all need to reduce the amount of meat we eat for the good of the planet. They argue that by eating less meat, Christians would be good moral examples. 

This is a controversial proposition and some very educated people disagree over this. Not everyone who is literate is fully persuaded by the 'cowspiracy' theory that livestock is primarily responsible for blasting a huge farting hole in our atmosphere. Such theories are often put forward by partially-informed activists who are always in such a hurry to denounce so much. Slow down. It's complicated.

But the fact that this is complicated doesn't mean we have nothing to say on the matter.

Usually when people discuss the possible impact of the meat industry on the climate, they make no distinction between pasture farmed animals and industrial farming. They make overly broad assertions, as if all forms of animal farming were the same, in order to make their conclusions seem simple and obvious. But these matters are anything but simple.

Most in the Carnivore movement think industrial farming is bad for both health and the environment (though this negative impact is often exaggerated by vegan groups). But they would argue that meat raised the traditional, pastured way is good for the soil and the environment. Most Carnivores want, and some actively work for, reform in the meat industry. 

Part of the academic work (for those interested) can be found online and is pioneered by Nicolette Hahn Nimana lawyer and former vegetarian who has now given herself to defending ranched cattle from anti-meat libel. Google her for details. 

From a theological point of view, we must ask ourselves: Why would the same God who calls us to be fruitful and multiply also commend to us the eating of meat if these two things are incompatible? Do we need to choose between obeying his command to multiply on the one hand and eat a healthy diet (in line with foods that His word exalts) on the other?

My own view is that this is an issue of resource management. We have the resources to feed everyone a healthy diet centred on pastured meats. We are simply not using our resources wise enough and selflessly enough to do so.

Daily Bread?
Doesn’t Jesus teach us to pray ‘give us today our daily bread’? Didn't he multiply loaves as well as fishes? Isn’t this a clear endorsement of non-animal, carb-based eating?

Well, yes. It’s hard to get around the fact that even though meat is central to the diet of God's people in the Bible, fresh bread was often celebrated as a great accompaniment. Vegetables don’t get much good press in the Bible. Fresh bread does.

As I said at the beginning of this blog, I’m not an exclusive carnivore. I eat small amounts of carbs, veggies, and, yes, even fruit on occasion. Those carbs are probably offset by the fact that I'm strongly given over to intermittent fasting as well.

One of the reasons I still eat carbs is that my wife makes incredible bread. This is not like the loaf you get as ASDA or Wal-Mart. Now all homemade bread is far better than the industrial stuff. But my wife is extra-hardcore. She gets whole grains from the farmer, grinds them in a stone grinder, and then leaves them out to ferment naturally without the standard yeast. 

I know, she's a beast. 

The result is a bread very similar to the type of celebrated in the Bible and far more nutritious than what most people now know as (sandwich) bread. I love that bread fresh out of the oven. Ahhhh, the smell. 

I then cover it in butter and honey for a carnivore kick. 

The Bible does give us the liberty to eat carbs and vegetables with thankful heart.  God's acceptance of us is not based upon what we eat, but upon what Christ has done for us. This grace also gives Carnivores the moral liberty to pursue their diet free of any guilt. If someone’s health is improving on the Carnivore lifestyle and they are grateful to God for the meat and dairy they eat, we should rejoice with and not condemn them. 

Perhaps giving it a try for a month might even improve your health. Want to see?

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