Interview with Bruce Friedrich
from The Humanitarian Church  

Bruce Friedrich is a Catholic from the Midwest who was recently rated No. 5 on Details magazine's 2003 list of "The 50 Most Influential People Under 38" -- ahead of Tiger WoodsLeonardo di Caprio and Justin Timberlake. What has Friedrich done to deserve his high standing? Surprise answer: He's an animal rights activist on the governing board of the Catholic Vegetarian Society and the advisory board of the Christian Vegetarian Society. He is also a founding member of the Society of Religious and Ethical Vegetarians, and he's director of vegan campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). I interviewed him via telephone as he was flying from PETA headquarters in Virginia to an assignment in India. 

Hi, Bruce. Your opinion is that Catholics -- and all other Christians -- should be vegetarians?

Jesus' message is about love and compassion, but there is nothing loving or compassionate at factory farms and slaughterhouses, where billions of animals endure miserable lives and die violent deaths. Jesus mandates kindness and mercy for all God's creatures. He'd be appalled by the suffering that we inflict on animals today to indulge our acquired taste for their flesh. 

Catholics, and all Christians, have a choice. When we sit down to eat, we can add to the violence, misery and death in the world, or we can respect God's creatures with a vegetarian diet. I believe we're obligated to make choices that are as merciful as possible, and we can all do that at the dinner table with a vegetarian diet. There won't be any factory farms and slaughterhouses in heaven. 

So, you think the God of Christians never wanted people to eat meat?

The Garden of Eden, God's perfect world, was vegetarian (Gen. 1:29-30), and God called this nonexploitative relationship "good" (Gen. 1:31). After Eden there were many, many years of fallen humanity, when people held slaves, waged war, ate animals and committed various other violent acts. But the Old Testament prophets tell us that the final, peaceful Kingdom of God will be nonviolent and vegetarian; even "the lion will lie down with the lamb," according to the prophet Isaiah. That is, even the carnivorous animals will go back to the vegetarian state. I find it empowering that we can begin to live that vision now. 

That's all very Old Testament. Is there any more recent church doctrine that supports vegetarianism? Do you think eating meat is a sin?

The catechism says explicitly what we all know to be true in our hearts: Causing animals to suffer needlessly is a sin. Since no one has to eat meat, and in fact we'd all be better off without it, then it is a sin to eat meat. The church has a way to go before it recognizes this fact explicitly, but there it is, an official part of church doctrine. 

The church will have to support a vegan diet eventually, but it may not move to that position quickly. We in the Christian and Catholic Vegetarian Associations are pushing, though! There was a marvelous piece in the Vatican's paper a few years ago, a strong condemnation of factory farming. It pointed out that God designed animals to raise their families, to breathe fresh air, to feel the sun on their backs. Modern farms don't allow animals to do any of these things -- they're playing God, basically, acting like they know better than God. And the mutilations and drugs -- the processes -- are so cruel, merciless and ungodly that I'm convinced that all faiths will come to denounce eating meat as surely as they came to denounce slavery; it's just a matter of time.

 

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