Living Toward the Peaceable Kingdom:
Compassionate Eating as Care of Creation

By Matthew C. Halteman

Though stewardship of the non-human animal kingdom is one of the primary responsibilities accorded to human beings in the Christian creation narrative, the question of how best to respect and to honor the creatures under our care is one that Christians too often neglect to ask. This omission is especially tragic, given the overwhelming evidence of fallenness in the social and commercial practices that presently govern our relationships to animals. The most egregious of these practices is industrial agriculture or "factory farming"—an industry that Pope Benedict XVI has condemned as the "degrading of living creatures to a commodity."

While many have elected to boycott factory-farmed meat as a response to the injustices of modern agribusiness, there are serious questions as to whether one can consistently uphold the principles that motivate this boycott merely by abstaining from eating animals’ bodies. After all, the commodification of animals by factory agribusiness is hardly limited to the production of meat; to be sure, the conditions under which confined laying hens produce eggs, and factory dairy cows produce milk are very often worse than those in which "meat" animals are raised.

In addition to the suffering of laying hens and milking cows, moreover, the egg and dairy industries are responsible for the suffering of untold millions of sentient creatures who are the unwanted byproducts of their endeavors. Male chicks, since they will never produce eggs, are ground up alive, or discarded in dumpsters and left to starve or suffocate. Male calves, since they will never produce milk, are sold into feed lots where they await the fate of becoming low-grade ground beef, or peddled to the veal industry, where they will be confined in tiny stalls and deprived of exercise and a proper diet.

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