Are strict vegetarians acting morally?


After studying the concept of vegetarianism for quite some time, and having the opportunity to talk to several vegetarians, I have come to the conclusion that not only is it OK to eat animals; it is the good and moral thing to do so. I saw a bumper sticker several years ago that perhaps oversimplified this concept, but nonetheless rang true. “If God did not want us eating the animals, why did he make them out of meat?”

‘Strict vegetarianism’ would seem to be rejecting one of God’s gifts, and to be entertaining the heresy that mankind is not much more beautiful and meaningful to God than the animals. It seems difficult to raise animals up to near the value of mankind without the value of mankind being lowered to that near an animal as a result. Since rejecting God’s gifts and promulgating heresy are serious issues, this is a topic I would like to increase my understanding of.

I’d like to pose one of the many questions that I have been unable to have adequately answered to date: (please feel free to post, of course, but if you post, please do me the courtesy of trying to answer this very important question for me)

Why do strict vegetarians believe that it is OK to eat plants but not animals?

Plants are living things that were created by God as part of his Creation. The plants do not choose to be eaten. They have no free will to choose, just like the animals. We take them by force and eat them. They can’t even run away, they are so helpless. They die in the process of being harvested and eaten; their life is taken for our needs.

And yet, vegetarians must believe that there is something inherently different between eating God’s living creatures we have classified as plants, versus eating God’s living creatures we have classified as animals. And it gets a bit sticky, because plant versus animal is man’s classification system, not God’s. We invented that classification system. And biologists know that it is an imperfect classification system. Some species have attributes we associate with plants and animals both. It’s impossible to accurately classify them.

Anyone have the answer (one that makes sense)?



It depends on the motivation. Equating animals with humans is immoral. Likewise, it is wrong to say eating animals is immoral. But, if one wants to abstain from meat as penance for sins or for the good of others or even their own health or even their own taste, there is nothing wrong with it.



However, I have met and questioned several ‘strict vegetarians’. And none of them have had the motivations that you suggest. Some may claim that they do it for health reasons, but that is bogus. An examination of web knowledge shows that moderate consumption of meat makes for the healthiest diet. Totally eradicating meat is not naturally healthy. Special dietary considerations are necessary if trying to abstain from meat entirely. So the question would be; Why go to the that trouble, for no health benefit?



In Gensis, we can see that eating meat was apparently not part of God’s original plan (cf. Gen. 1:29-30). Consequently, many religious orders have adopted the practice of eating no or very little meat, and the Church has long approved of what is essentially vegetarianism (sometimes in a limited form) as a more perfect way of living.

Additionally, many vegetarians don’t eat meat, not because they believe that eating meat is wrong, but because of they way animals are treated (or how they think animals are treated inhumanely).


Those vegetarians who believe it is morally wrong to eat animals typically isolate physical suffering as the moral evil. By that is meant the conscious perception of pain, which plants, lacking nervous systems as they are, are incapable of experiencing. So, according to the “moral” vegetarian ethic: by eating animals when he could eat plants, man is causing unnecessary suffering, whereas if he only ate plants he would cause no such suffering.

In my opinion, the utilitarian arguments for vegetarianism are much stronger, but since that was not your question, I won’t go into them here.


Thank you for responding. What you reference is helpful to study.

Using Genesis I do not find it clear what God’s original plan was for food for mankind. There is no prohibition against eating an animal, but it seems, God did not give them explicit permission to do so either. Just before the verses you reference, he says twice that man is granted dominion over the animals. I looked up dominion in the dictionary. “1. the power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority.” That would indicate that we could do anything we want to with them, as long as God did not specifically outlaw it. Since God did not specifically say thou shalt not eat my animals, how could we have true dominion over them if we couldn’t eat them. Our authority would be nowhere near soveregn. We’d have no authority (therefore no dominion) at all.

So, I conclude that Genesis is not at all clear concerning whehter it is moral to eat the animals.

I agree, that if vegetarianism is done as a corporal sacrifice, it carries the same merits/responsbilities that any corporal sacrifice carries.

And I agree that the motivation referenced by many vegetarians is in protest of the way animals are treated. However, if that were the real reason, I conclude that they would not be vegetarians, they would instead be ‘moral meat eaters’; they would restrict their meat to that which was humanely raised and slaughtered.

Thanks again!



Thank you for your valuable post. Some more things to contemplate.

Is suffering incurred during fulfillment of natural purpose a moral crime? Women suffer during childbirth (greatly, I’ve been told). But having children is not considered immoral as a result. The suffering is actually considered a blessing by some, a testament to the good of what they do. (Others, I guess, just scream for the epidural).

Most of us ‘suffer’ during lent, on purpose. I coming to the conclusion that suffering is not inherently immoral, if the suffering is connected to a moral purpose. Feeding mankind is certainly moral. Animals are certainly nutritious. Therefore I would suggest that the suffering incurred is not inhernetly immoral, only made so if the suffering is inflicted without good purpose. Nutrition being a good purpose.

And do plants not suffer? Maybe its been proven. God certainly has not told us. But considering the controversy around whether newborns suffer during birth, or whether a fetus suffers during an abortion, I’m not sure we really know. I know if you abuse plants enough they die. When they don’t have water, don’t they thirst? This would be a form of suffering, would it not?

Thanks again for the post.



One arguement that does make sense is the one I read in a book called Diet for a Small Planet. It argues that the modern methods of raising meat take cereal foods, that could be used to feed many, and feeds them to cattle, which produces less food per acre. Her research and statistics are scientific. She’s not neccessarily a proponent of strict vegetarianism though. She says that in the old ways, grazing animals were able to turn unusable land into quality protein, but modern methods are aimed at producing marbled meat, so alot of good grain and legumes are fed to cattle. So she says it’s more ethical to eat less meat.


This makes sense but as you indicate, it is not a suggestion that vegetarianism is morally correct. Rather than it being ethical to eat less meat, wouldn’t it be most ethical to eat just pasture raised meat?



I suppose, as long as the pasture couldn’t be used for farmland. I think moderate meat intake is the key. Americans do over consume animal products, which leads to many chronic diseases such as hardening of the arteries and such.


Agreed. There is much ‘farmland’ that is too hilly or rocky to be used to grow crops but will natrually grow grass. And I agree with you that Americans do consume to much meat. Moderation is important.

And there is fish. Unless they are farm raised, they are ‘eatin off the land’ (er, the sea) as well and are not using grain resources.



I am vegan for health reasons, not because I feel it is “wrong” to eat meat/animals. I don’t care if you choose to eat meat/animals. I won’t preach to you. It is a choice I made for me. But it in no way makes me one of “those crazy PETA people”



Yes, I agree that Genesis isn’t 100% clear about whether eating animals was contrary to God’s original plan. Even if it is, I don’t think we could conclude that eating meat was immoral so much as we could say that not eating meat might be somehow preferable. Either way, it’s not entirely clear from Genesis.


Hi Katie,
You are a strict vegan? How do you manage that lifestyle? It would interfere with so many social occasions. Just curious.


I have no problem “managing that lifestyle”. I don’t "socialize a whole lot and when I do, I always manage to find something I can eat. I more of a homebody than a party animal.
My choice to be vegan came after a good hard look at my family history. It isn’t a pretty one and I felt I had to take charge of my health.
I don’t preach and I liken it to when I smoked. I didn’t want to be preached to. So when I adopted a vegan lifestyle, I didn’t preach either. And by the way, I wear leather shoes. …and have no problem doing it either. Also, I don’t like cats. :smiley:


I really love dairy products, it would be very difficult for me to give them up. I do like soy milk though. I read somewhere that soy is bad. Then some people say it’s good. I like soy products. But nothing like whipped cream on strawberries!:thumbsup:


Agreed. There is much ‘farmland’ that is too hilly or rocky to be used to grow crops but will natrually grow grass. And I agree with you that Americans do consume to much meat. Moderation is important.

And there is fish. Unless they are farm raised, they are ‘eatin off the land’ (er, the sea) as well and are not using grain resources.

Go to the NRCS website and search for Land Capability Classification. They have a map of the U.S. that shows pie graphs of the percent of land suitable for cultivation, and the percent of land not suitable for cultivation.

There is a lot of land for which the best use is grazing. That’s because grass cover prevents erosion and grass is resistant to frost and short growing seasons etc. But you can’t feed a single human being on grass…unless you feed the grass to an animal first, then eat the animal.

Meat is not just pleasurable to eat, it is WISE to eat, for you can make use of land in a more environmentally sound way.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t mess up the environment when raising and feeding meat stock. But we can mess up the environment by growing vegetable crops too. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things.

You can enjoy meat in your diet, but does it have to be Grade A, highly marbled T-bone steaks every time? What if you ate grass-finished beef? You would get leaner, healthier meat, it just might be a tad tougher. The American pallate has become very whimpy and self-indulgent. THAT’s the part that causes environmental/social problems.

It’s not that we eat meat. It’s that we insist that the meat be oh-so tender all the time.

My family eats a lot of venison. Nothing environmentally or ethically wrong with that. Except that there’s not enough deer to keep the entire populations larder full.


Very good points Black Jaque. :thumbsup:


Thank you for your words of wisdom.

Please come to Missouri to get more venison! There are more than enough to go around, here. As long as you promise to eat it and not let it go to waste. :slight_smile:



Hey, Black, ignore that fellow from Gladstone, Mo. Come to Southern Missouri where there are a LOT more deer than there are in Northern Missouri where he is. Here, you have to shoo the other deer out of the way to shoot the one you really want. (Sorry Dan, but we’re getting overrun, and I need to recruit hunters.)

On the subject of the highly marbled stuff. You almost certainly won’t believe this, but I find that the tastiest beef is actually that of a grass-fed bull between 12 and 18 months old. There is almost no difference in the tenderness of the meat itself. (High fat content only makes the meat SEEM tender because you’re squishing through all that fat.) The fat content of a young bull is extremely low (you actually have to grease the pan to cook hamburgers, or they’ll stick) but the flavor is substantially superior to that of a corn-fed steer.

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