One of the most popular and strongest arguments for veganism is what I would call the 'animal cruelty' argument, namely, that non-vegan diets--including vegetarian ones that tolerate dairy and egg consumption--promote a food industry that inflicts tremendous suffering on animals such as chickens, cows and pigs, which are perpetually raised and killed by the millions in factory farms, in order to meet the demands of an insatiable non-vegan population.

For example, this site summarizes the argument as follows:

Going vegan is one of the best things you can do to help stop animal cruelty. By refusing to pay for animal products, you reduce the demand for them, which ensures fewer animals are bred to suffer and die on farms and in slaughterhouses.

Alex O'Connor, popularly known for his YouTube Channel CosmicSkeptic, published a video clip of an interview titled "I Like How it Sounds to Kill Dogs" | Veganism Explained that makes a great use of the rhetorical device of analogy to get the point across in a different way. Below the transcript:

The person who is paying for animal products is implicitly accepting the ideology that is morally permissible to kill an animal because of the way it tastes. Not everybody does, but the vast, VAST majority of people who do that are doing it for taste pleasure. If you are doing that, then what you are doing is you are paying for an animal to be tortured for the appeasement of your sense pleasure. Just to make this easier to understand how it feels like to be told that I shouldn't be telling people not to do that, just swap out the variables, take a different sense pleasure. I'll take a different non-human animal. Let's say somebody was killing dogs or paying for someone to torture dogs and put them into a gas chamber because they really like the way that it sounded when the dog squealed. Like I'm gonna pay you to put a dog into a gas chamber because I just love the way that it sounds. You don't understand it. It sounds so amazing to me when they squeal for their life and desperately try to escape, right? You would think that I am the most disgusting human being you'd ever come across. But that is exactly what we are doing when we justify the torture of a pig because of the appeasement of our taste pleasure. But because it's become so normalized, we don't even see it as a choice. We don't even see it as us making a decision or making an action, because it's just buying a burger, right? It's not buying a burger. It's demanding with your money, economically speaking, for an animal to be forced into a gas chamber to have its throat cut, to have its child separated from its mother, right? And so people call me extreme for wanting this to end? If you want extremity, look no further than what we're doing to animals.

Intuitively, I think the argument seems to make sense: if there are alternative meal plans that are equally or more healthy than a normal meat-based diet that also avoid causing unnecessary suffering to animals, and given that Christianity's most exalted virtue is love (for God and others), then I see no obvious reason for a Christian not to go vegan out of love for animals.

What is an overview of Christian viewpoints on the 'animal cruelty' argument for veganism? Is this a compelling or at least reasonable argument for most Christians? To what extent do born-again Christians have ethical responsibilities toward animals, and if they have any, do these ethical responsibilities have any bearing on the way Christians are to eat?

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    @Lesley - Does Christianity have anything to say about the suffering of animals (doctrinally speaking)? Do Christians have ethical responsibilities toward animals?
    – user50422
    Aug 18, 2021 at 16:54
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator "Do Christians have ethical responsibilities toward animals?" They certainly do. C.S. Lewis has a strong view about experimenting on animals (good paper on it), but I don't think he advocates veganism, nor would he support PETA activities. Expect the varying viewpoints on animal use to be weighted more heavily on philosophical grounds rather than Biblical; a case of making their Bible interpretation to fit their philosophical position rather than vice versa. Aug 18, 2021 at 17:21
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    "you are paying for an animal to be tortured" O'Connor's a very smart guy, so I'm surprised at how weak this argument is. I know people who raise cows. The cows have an almost idyllic cow life - fed, warm, protected from natural predators, and so on. Their deaths are (almost always) brief and involve little suffering. Contrast that with animals in the wild. Aug 18, 2021 at 17:29
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    @OneGodtheFather Completely agree with "Contrast that with animals in the wild". Just came across this recent Atlantic article Near-Death Experiences Can Scar Animals for Life -- Humans may not be the only creatures who get PTSD. Aug 18, 2021 at 17:38
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    @OneGodtheFather "That meat tastes so good ... health benefits". Yet another article I recently came across from Psychology Today: A Little-Known Cause of Depression -- Feeling down? Try this recipe. Aug 18, 2021 at 17:51

3 Answers 3


What is an overview of Christian viewpoints on the 'animal cruelty' argument for veganism?

I find it hard to imagine that any Christian denomination would take such a stand as defending veganism because of the cruelty to animals issues. Individuals may, but not any Christian denomination as a whole.

Deliberate cruelty to animals for that reason only is immoral in the eyes of all Christians. How Scriptures abounds in examples of individuals slaughtering animals for food and/or sacrifice to God. Killing of any animal for food must be done in the most humane manner possible.

Let me explain where I am going.

Veganism is not quite the same thing as vegetarianism.

There are many ways to embrace vegan living. Yet one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey - as well as avoiding animal-derived materials, products tested on animals and places that use animals for entertainment.

"Veganism is 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."


Although the vegan diet was defined early on in The Vegan Society's beginnings in 1944, it was as late as 1949 before Leslie J Cross pointed out that the society lacked a definition of veganism. He suggested “[t]he principle of the emancipation of animals from exploitation by man”. This is later clarified as “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man”.

The society was first registered as a charity in August 1964 but its assets were later transferred to a new charity when it also became a limited company in December 1979. The definition of veganism and the charitable objects of the society were amended and refined over the years. By winter 1988 the current definition was in use - although the phrasing has changed slightly over the years.

Definition of veganism

So strictly speaking true vegans abstain from all animal derived products. It not so much simply a question of cruelty to animal issue, but that also takes into the rational within their philosophical reasoning.

Biblically speaking it would be hard to back up.

Again, I am dealing with true veganism and not simply vegetarianism.

In the beginning of mankind, vegetarianism was the norm. So, perhaps the portion of the Genesis creation narrative most relevant to this topic can be found in Genesis 1:29-30:

God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so.

Once again we are dealing how vegans can see things on a personal and philosophical level and not on a theological and denominational level.

The “animal cruelty” argument for veganism is a minor argument to this issue at hand, since veganism justifications engulf so many more principles. How is eating honey “cruelty to animals”!

Many Christians may choose to practice vegetarianism or veganism as their Lenten sacrifice during Lent.

Christian vegetarianism has not been a common dietary choice throughout Church history. Some have argued, however, that "there is a long-standing tradition of vegetarianism in Christian history." The two most prominent forms are a spirituality-based vegetarianism (where vegetarianism is adopted as an ascetic practice, or as a way of opposing the sin of gluttony, in the hope it will draw the person to God) and an ethically-based vegetarianism (where it is adopted for ethical reasons; for example, those to do with the treatment of non-human animals). Christian ethical vegetarianism (or veganism) usually carries with it a commitment to the normative claim that (at least some) Christians should be vegetarians. For this reason, Christian ethical vegetarians often give a scriptural justification for their position. While there are biblical passages which provide support for ethical vegetarianism, there are also passages which seem to imply that eating animals is morally permissible.

For those interested, the following articles may be of interest:

  • What does the Bible say about Veganism?
  • 8 Times Christians Were Wrong About Vegans - “Regardless of whether Jesus ate fish or not, we have no justification for eating the flesh of a dead animal today. We know for a fact that fish feel pain just as humans and all other animals do. We also know that eating them is not good for us. Many wild and farmed fish live in polluted waters, and their flesh rapidly accumulates high levels of dangerous toxins.“
  • FWIW, I would really hope Vegans aren't opposed to breastfeeding. I would expect them to oppose using milk from non-humans to feed babies, but opposing all lactation — a defining characteristic of all mammals, including humans — would seem absurd. That said, it does seem quite hard to argue that the Bible is categorically opposed to use of animal products. There might, however, be an argument against "factory farming"; there's a big difference between how the Apostles would have obtained animal products and how they are often obtained today.
    – Matthew
    Aug 20, 2021 at 19:14
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    An interesting counterpoint would be to ask about references to milk and honey — animal byproducts that can be collected without harming the animal — in heaven. I'm pretty sure if The Fall hadn't happened, mammals would still lactate, and human babies would still be suckled on milk.
    – Matthew
    Aug 20, 2021 at 19:18

I am fairly confident you will not find an argument for veganism as such.

On the one hand, it is worth noting that animals and humans were created to be vegetarian (Genesis 1:29) and that the New Creation will apparently see a return to this state (Isaiah 11:6-9).

On the other hand, God does not prohibit carnivory in this world (Genesis 9:3, Acts 10:13). Peter's vision is a bit of a gray area in that the main point appears to be a relaxation of the laws regarding clean and unclean animals, but could be taken as an explicit command to eat animals. While I, personally, would find such an argument dubious, particularly in light of Romans 14:2-3, I could imagine someone making a case that vegetarianism is sinful.

With that said...

Going vegan is one of the best things you can do to help stop animal cruelty.

This here goes straight to the heart of the question; namely, that you will not find any biblical argument for veganism as such. Rather, at best it could be seen as a means to an end, namely, a way of reducing animal suffering. God has charged humans with being good stewards of His Creation.

On the other hand, animals exist for our benefit and we have dominion over them (Genesis 1:28). Humans are uniquely made in the image of God and are more valuable than animals. While I don't necessarily agree, I've seen this used to argue that humans should do what we want and that animals are a strictly secondary concern. Given such attitudes, it may be difficult to find the biblical support you are seeking, and you may find that some people feel it is our divine mandate to exploit animals for our benefit. (Similar arguments can be made with respect to climate change.)

At the very least, it is certainly not biblical to hold animal lives as being equally or more valuable than human lives, as is sometimes done by PETA and Evolutionists. (Evolutionism, of course, lacks the theological basis in which humans are uniquely made in the image of God. To an Evolutionist, humans must not be greater in any way than any other animal, except perhaps greater in ability to survive, because any such assertion would be anathema. This in turn leads to racism, eugenics, and other such nastiness...)

Personally I am not in favor of animal cruelty, I think extinctions are almost always bad, I think humans don't pay enough attention to being good stewards, and I believe "fill the Earth" doesn't mean "until the ecosystem collapses and everything dies". However, it is my experience that views on these matters will vary.


God is fine with eating meat.

For instance, look at the story of Cain and Abel:

Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

Genesis 4:2-5

Now, Christian denominations debate exactly why God rejected Cain's offering of plants and accepted Abel's offering of meat - some argue that God has a preference for meat over plants, some that Cain offered some random portion of his harvest while Abel offered the very best parts of his, or that Abel was making a proportionally larger sacrifice - but regardless of the specific reasons, it's clear that God is okay with the consumption of meat.

Additionally, later on in the Bible, we can see God repeatedly demanding animal sacrifice being conducted for Him, ultimately culminating in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for humanity's sins. It certainly appears that God has no issue with animals suffering for human gain.

However, humanity is called out to be good husbands over the animals of the Earth that we have been given dominion over, so we should avoid pointless or greedy cruelty; for instance, the Law of Moses commanded that oxen were to be allowed to eat a portion of the grain they helped harvest while they worked.

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