Peace Begins On Our Plates

by Sarah Withrow King

At least three times a day, we have the opportunity to choose nonviolence. We don’t have to face down an enemy carrying a gun, brave counter-protestors, or venture into danger to do so. We can simply pick plants over animals.

At least three times a day, we have the opportunity to choose mercy over suffering. While we’re praying and striving for peace, pursuing reconciliation, confessing our many shortcomings, and drowning in the midst of a million things that we can’t control, we can choose chick peas instead of chicken.

At least three times a day, we can exercise holy dominion, instead of human dominion. Human dominion is power over, for selfish gain. God’s dominion is reconciliation with, for wholeness and peace. We can choose tofu instead of turkey.

At least three times a day, we can use our whole bodies to promote peace. Because how much sense does it make to speak and work for the Prince of Peace in one breath and gnaw on the corpse of a tortured, mutilated animal in the other? We can choose peanut butter instead of pigs.

At least three times a day, we can live out our love of neighbor. Because why should our idea of neighbor end at our block, our city, our nation, our faith, our species? We can choose barley over bacon.

At least three times a day, we can choose empathy, compassion, and justice, qualities that are set aside when we nonhuman animals dehumanize one another to justify war, violence, and oppression. Evangelicals point to William Wilberforce as a peacemaking hero, one who worked doggedly to end the slave trade in England as a direct outpouring of his love for God and his faith. We rarely mention that Wilberforce was also deeply concerned with the humane treatment of nonhuman animals and was a founding member of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals. When we choose wheat instead of meat, we fully embody the qualities that allow us to stand in solidarity with and care for those who are weak and persecuted.

The violence endured by nonhuman animals is systemic, sustained, and on a scale that is nearly impossible to comprehend. In the US alone, 27 billion nonhuman animals are killed each year for food. They are bred, born, and raised in conditions that deny every God-given natural instinct. Chickens and turkeys have their beaks seared off when they are days old. Cows and pigs have their teeth cut out, their tails cut off, and are castrated without pain relief. Cows’ horns are gouged out of their heads. After living cramped in mud, feces, and filth, they are thrown
into crates or prodded onto trucks for a long and terrifying trip to a slaughterhouse, where they are hung upside down and their throats are slit. Many are still alive and able to feel pain when slaughterhouse workers begin to rip the skin or feathers from their bodies. Every minute of their miserable lives is marked by violence.

At least three times a day, we can remind ourselves that the kingdom of God has been here, is here now manifested in the Holy Spirit, and will be here again. We live in the tension of the already and the not yet. While evangelicals are increasingly abandoning the idea that “this world is not my home” and instead working in any small capacity to make this home more accurately reflect that kingdom ideal, let’s remember that our image of what the world should and, more importantly, can look like is found in Genesis 1 and 2. It is peaceful. It is nonviolent. It is the whole of creation fully reconciled to God and one another. It is a world without death, including the death of nonhuman animals. It is a vegetarian world.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of PRISM Magazine.

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