An article in the current edition of American Scholar examines the idea that it makes no logical or moral sense to invest in “humanely” raising animals which are then slaughtered for our consumption, especially when vegetarianism is such a realistic alternative.
I disagree. Raising animals in such a way that they do not suffer is a good thing. Killing them for food, if also done in a way that causes no suffering, is simply not a moral issue at all unless one considers death itself a moral evil.
When questions like this are raised — and especially when they are taken seriously — it is just another sign that our culture is losing its theological foundations. We seek to remind one another in a thousand ways of the importance of human dignity, a dignity grounded in the fact that we are not mere animals but are spiritually created in the image of our Creator. When we fail to distinguish between the death of an animal and the death of a human, we are either denigrating the human or elevating the animal to the level of imago dei.
The death of a human is meaningful while the death of an animal is not. Suffering is meaningful for human and animal alike, but death is given meaning by the depth of human dignity. Physical death, human and animal alike, is simply a part of the reality of life on earth. We may be saddened at the loss of a friend or a pet but that is the problem of the living, not of the dead.
Spiritual death, however — which is not a dimension of animal death because spirituality is not a part of animal life — is truly a tragedy because it is a violation of the intent of our Creator.
Spiritual death is a profoundly serious problem for us. The Gospel message is that Jesus Christ has so identified with us at the very point of our spiritual death that in his Resurrection he calls us to return to life with him. “If we are united with Christ in a death like his,” wrote Paul to the Romans, “we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” To entrust ourselves into the loving care, into the very heart of Jesus, is to so give ourselves over to him that his life becomes ours.
To the Galatians, Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Now that really is Good News!