The title is a little weird. Hopefully, it intrigues you. At the outset, let me be totally transparent. What you eat is your business (unless it’s the last donut from the break room. Then we might have issues). Even if you like lima beans, we can still be friends—just don’t force your views on me.
When it comes to vegetarianism, I don’t really have a dog in the fight. Unless it’s a hotdog. I have a friend who gags at the thought. I don’t do hotdogs often, but when I do, I prefer Hebrew National (they are 100% Kosher Beef). Their slogan used to be, “We answer to a higher authority”.
I enjoy a good hotdog about 2 or 3 times a year. By “good”, I generally like them fried in bacon grease and topped with bacon, cheese, catsup, onions, and relish (I won’t force my views on you).
I realize I need to define a couple of terms. First, vegetarianism. To paint a broad stroke, vegetarians do not eat meat. This term should not be confused with the term, vegan. These folks choose not to consume any animal products whatsoever. For the sake of this article, I’ll just use the term vegetarianism for simplicity.
The other term that needs definition is anthropomorphism. This is the practice of giving human traits to non-humans. For the purpose of this article, I specifically mean animals.
For example, consider Mickey Mouse. Mickey has a humanlike face, arms, walks on two legs, talks, has intelligence, emotion, owns a dog, and wears clothes. He’s kind of like us, but his ears are a little bigger.
Mickey goes down in history as the first talking animal on screen. Although in earlier films he whistled, laughed, and cried, it wasn’t until the 1929 film, “The Karnival Kid,” that Mickey uttered his first words. He was selling hotdogs at a carnival and shouted, “hot dogs, hot dogs.” Perhaps, now you understand why Mickey likes the phrase, “hotdog!” and does, “the hotdog dance.”
Back to my theme. Some vegetarians choose the lifestyle because they believe it is a healthier option. It’s forks over knives for them. Those who adhere to this eating pattern claim to have lost weight and to be happier and healthier. I have several great friends who choose this lifestyle and it works really well for them.
There is such a thing as the carnivore diet. As you would have guessed, these people eat only meat and animal-based products. No veggies or tofu. It’s knives over forks for them. Those who adhere to this diet claim to have lost weight and to be happier and healthier.
While some vegetarians choose the lifestyle for health reasons, there are some who choose it because of their sympathy for animals. Some just believe it is wrong for humans to eat other animals.
I love animals of all kinds (although I prefer dogs). I also believe in respecting and, at times, protecting animals. In addition, I believe that some of the ways that animals are raised and harvested for food is just downright shameful. But, I do not believe it is “wrong” to hunt or eat animals—even if you do most of your hunting at Price Chopper.
Here’s where my Christian worldview affects my eating habits. Initially, God created all creatures to be vegetarians. He wrote, “And to every beast of the earth…I have given every green plant for food” (Gen 1:30). However, after the flood, man was given the other animals to eat. He wrote, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything” (Gen 9:3).
You could even say that God, Himself, enjoys a good steak. Or, at least meat on the grill. Throughout the Old Testament, sacrifices of meat were given as a sacrifice. God commanded this saying, “you shall offer a burnt offering, for a pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Num 29:2). The concept was, the animal was consumed on earth and, kind of like on Star Trek, rematerialized in heaven.
So, for me, it’s not wrong to eat meat, but it may not be healthy for me to eat too much of it. Also, it’s not wrong for you not to eat meat. It’s personal preference. Eat what you want.
Now, back to anthropomorphism. I was watching a TV show with my young grandson some time ago. Like many other kid’s programs on TV, it had creatures that talked. We’ve all become accustomed to talking dogs, cats, horses, cows, and even turtles on the half shell.
In these shows, these animals refer to each other by name. They talk, wear clothes, have human features, emotions, and, for the most part, they get along. For example, on Disney’s, “The Lion Guard,” a group of animals bond together to form a protective group that combines their efforts to create harmony in the circle of life. They, of course, are led by a young lion.
These various animals talk, play, work, and eat together—just not each other. The animals that eat other animals, like the hyenas, are painted as “dark” characters from the wasteland. They’re the bad guys who want to disrupt harmony in the circle of life.
On Disney Junior’s show, “Giganotosaurus,” there are a number of different dinosaurs with anthropomorphic characteristics. However, there is one creature that is different from the rest. The character, Giganotosaurus. He is modeled after the T-Rex and is a ferocious beast who is always hungry—and eats meat.
The interesting thing about Giganotosaurus is that, unlike the other creatures, he does not speak. He appears to be more of a vicious beast that is more animal that human. Thankfully, the other dinosaurs are working on him and he has a soft side.
The topic of anthropomorphism has fascinated me for some time, but to be honest, I’ve never done any “serious” research. All I offer is observation and speculation.
There is no doubt that we have been affected by anthropomorphism. I did feel sorry for Bambi. And, personally, I believe that a rise in vegetarianism could be linked to a rise in anthropomorphism. When kids see talking animals on television that have families, emotions, hurts, pains, and common struggles, they identify with them.
In addition, they are indoctrinated with phrases like the one from Bruce, the great white shark in “Finding Nemo” who said, “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.”
After being traumatized by the movie Jaws as a kid, I certainly hope Bruce (which interestingly enough was the name of the shark in Jaws) can convince his friends to follow suit. Perhaps we can enjoy some lima beans together.
I place a firm line between animals and humans. We are different. They ain’t like us. They do not have the same worth or value.
I say this because of my biblical worldview. Only humans were created in the image of God. The animals, and rodents who wear pants and drive cars, were not.
In closing, eat what you want. That’s not the issue. But, I do think it’s important to think about these things. Also, I wonder if when Mickey and his friends enjoy hotdogs together if they are Hebrew National? And, why is it that their friend Claribel (the cow) is strangely absent when they partake?
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.