Religious Groups Are Giving Plant-Based Eating a Boost


Brian Kateman, Contributor, Forbes 

Sep 13, 2019


Kateman is cofounder and president of the Reducetarian Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing consumption of animal products.


As we become increasingly aware of how factory farmed meat consumption impacts the planet, animal well-being and our own health, more and more people are seeing the benefits of transitioning to a plant-based diet.


The number of plant-based food and drink products in the US more than doubled between 2012 and 2018, according to consumer research company Mintel. Fast food chains are introducing more and more new plant-based products, including Burger King’s Impossible Burger.


Raised awareness of plant-based eating has been encouraging discussions around what exactly religious texts say about eating meat. David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester, for example, has argued for reduced consumption of meat and improved welfare for farmed animals. He writes: “It seems to me that our use of animals for food is an urgent ethical challenge that Christians have particular faith-based reasons for taking note of.”


This argument isn’t new; Pope Benedict XVI said in 2002 that “degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.”


However, the conversation is new in relation to the mounting pressures on populations to cut their meat and dairy intake for the sake of their health, animal welfare and the future of the planet.


And now, conversation is moving towards action, and religious groups are stepping up as an ally in the fight against factory farming – whose vested interests are driving the current debate on labelling plant-based alternatives – and are seeing the moral imperative of playing a part.


Vegetarianism has long had associations with a variety of spiritual and religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and some Christian monastic orders. But now, there are movements within many of these groups to move even closer towards a fully plant-based diet.


In June this year, the world's first vegan Jewish center opened in London. The center aims to service an “ever-increasing demand for and interest in Jewish veganism,” while two years ago, dozens of rabbis from around the world signed a declaration calling on Jewish people to adopt a plant-based diet.


Earlier this year, there was mounting pressure on Pope Francis to adopt a plant-based diet for Lent (initiated by Million Dollar Vegan in collaboration with the Blue Horizon International Foundation, a US non-profit that aims to "accelerate the removal of animals from the global food chain"), since many practicing Catholics abstain from meat on all Fridays, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday during Lent. This follows a tweet Pope Francis in 2015, when he wrote: “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”


For several years already, a growing number of Muslims have celebrated “veganadan” or “Green Ramadan,” wherein observers adopt a 100% plant-based diet for the four weeks of Ramadan (the holy month of the Islamic calendar, characterized by daily fasting, prayer, reflection and community).


Another example of this movement gaining momentum is Living the Change, an international, multi-faith initiative which helps people representing diverse traditions change their consumption habits in response to climate change. This Fall, religious and spiritual groups around the world will be holding plant-based suppers, where members can talk about how their traditions relate to the challenges of climate change, and what they can do personally to help make a difference...


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