The Skinny On Our Cruelty-Free Diet

There’s a lot of confusion about cruelty free diets, and most websites are not very helpful if you are not vegetarian or vegan. So | will briefly describe our understanding of a Biblical, ethical meat eating diet.

I told you at the beginning of the year about our commitment to a cruelty-free diet in a post called “Righteous Men and Meat”, and that i had brought the subject up (perhaps unwisely) at a briefing for some Foundations who were asking about the Emerging Church. I also told you that last week I had a weak moment, a lapse of judgment, and am now back on track. But there is some confusion as to what it is we are doing. Maybe I am assuming that everyone knows more than they do. Here is the skinny on our cruelty free diet.

I believe God gave us care of the animals (“govern” is a better word than “dominion”) and they, in return, give us food and clothing. We look after each other. It is a contract we have with the animals. under the eye of God. This is why Solomon can say “The righteous man cares for the needs of his animals” Proverbs 12:10

So the question for us is whether we are caring for the needs of the animals that we eat or not. In many cases, particularly in our highly industrialized world, the answer is clearly “NO!” The “acceptable” premature death rate for animals in intensive farming is outrageously high – up to 30% for poultry in intensive broiler houses and up to 15% for pigs. Thats not acceptable for our family. Neither are their living conditions, the food they eat, or their unnaturally rapid rate of growth due to growth stimulants.

“Intensive farming does provide large quantities of relatively cheap food – but often at a cost to the environment or animal welfare.”
(BBC for Schools – Intensive Farming VS. Organic Farming)

If you think this is a non-issue among the emerging generation – then its time to think again. Our kids are finding out what goes into a Chicken McNugget and they are not impressed. Mass-produced meat saves us a few bucks at the Golden Arches but the abuse of the animals that makes possible such a small price, at least for our family, is an ethical compromise. And we would rather pay more for meat, or eat less of it, and keep our consciences clear. So thats why we are taking care to find out the history of the animals we eat, and are buying from butchers rather than supermarkets, and have avoided buying “suspect” meat from fast food outlets all year. We used to take our family to either Burger King or MacDonalds about once a month. Now it is far less frequent than that and when we do go (only once this year). . . we don’t order the chicken.

“Christ of the Wilderness, hear our confession.

We are MacDonald’s, we confess our sin,

This is our temple, where we eat our fast feasts,

We are ready to enjoy a happy meal, but not to eat a meal of sadness for injustice.


From a Grace church service mentioned in “Buffy the Backside Slayer”

Anyway – no judgment or snobbiness flowing out of our family to those who hold to a different ethical stance on their diet. And there are times when we go to eat at other peoples houses where we will “eat what is set before us” (Luke 10) I just wanted to explain where we are coming from, the ethics of our kitchen, and our take on how we are applying the Scriptures to our eating habits.



The Five Freedoms were drawn up by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, set up the UK government and are widely accepted as a standard of animal welfare. The Five Freedoms are:

1. Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

2. Freedom from discomfort – by providing a suitable environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

4. Freedom to express normal behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.

5. Freedom from fear and distress – by ensuring conditions which avoid mental suffering. LINK

Further reading: Compassion in World Farming

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A good book that really helped me was “Meat” by Hugh FW.

An earlier article i wrote about ethics, consumerism and the emerging church is called “Buffy The Backside Slayer


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • [depone] says:

    I really liked your post, Andrew.
    I am trying to live a similar diet.
    Trying to get organic food…
    Very good to see other Christians living this too. Sometimes there is a lot of misunderstanding and “everything is clean” talking…

  • John says:

    Good post. I’ve blogged about HFW’s book myself, and we follow similar principles – eating better meat less often. Indeed, it’s been a revelation to discover what real meat is like, as opposed to the dreadful stuff they peddle in supermarkets. Farmers’ Markets are an excellent source of the real stuff.
    pax et bonum

  • joeturner says:

    We decided to reduce our meat intake by 90% and to try to only buy shot meat. Fortunately we are in an area where you can buy duck, pigeon, rabbit, pheasent etc.
    We’ve lapsed a bit in the last few weeks (weddings and whatnot) but generally holding.
    BTW, I don’t believe organic is necessarily better for animal welfare reasons (but don’t get me started on organic food).

  • andrew says:

    hi Joe
    I agree. Witholding medications from animals makes them far more prone to diseases (we give ourselves medication AND take preventative measures – why not do it for animals) even if it does allow organic status to be attributed.
    Being organic may sometimes be the same as being cruel.
    90% ???? wow.
    The general rule i hear thrown around is to eat half as much, but expect to pay twice as much for it.

  • John says:

    Organic standards don’t withold all medications from animals, they just limit the treatments that may be used (e.g. no routine antibiotic treatment as a “growth promoter”). Indeed, under exceptional circumstances, the Soil Association will permit normally prohibited medicines to be used so that the animals don’t suffer (for example, last summer was dreadful for sheep and the SA allowed strong medications for fly strike). The thing about organic certification is that it does have the highest level of animal welfare mandated by any current certification scheme in the UK. Of course, being able to buy from an ethical small farmer is at least as good as buying from an anonymous “organic” supplier, but “organic” is far better than nothing.
    If anyone’s not read “Not on the Label” by Felicity Lawrence, you really should do – it’s a real eye-opener about the state of the food industry in the UK (and in general).
    As for reducing by 90% – that’s quite something. I’ve gone more for the same kind of figure as Andrew – to reduce meat by about half but being willing (even eager!) to pay more for it.
    pax et bonum

  • andrew says:

    i just ordered it on amazon – thanks john

  • Hi Andrew, living in a ranching, hunting area and pastoring a rural church has taught me a lot about cruelty free diets. (although on my first pastoral visit, I had to reach in a cow to help a calf being born… I was so proud I didn’t pass out)
    Almost all of our meat we eat comes from farmers that we know and we probably have helped with the animals. That being said, we will grab some McDonalds at times. Your post is a great reminder of the consequences.
    BTW, you would enjoy reading “Fast Food Nation”. It has some interesting stuff about the topic.

  • steve says:

    simplest solution is to be vegetarian.
    return to eden/get ready for the new eden. don’t eat meat.

  • Michelle says:

    I’m lacto-ovo vegetarian, but even so am trying to follow very much the kinds of practices you do. Especially when it comes to buying eggs and similar products.
    We’ve got our own veggie garden – there’s nothing like fresh-plucked food (did you know a fresh potato actually “waters” when you cut it open!?), and I know what’s gone into it. OK, so one can’t be cruel to veggies (unless it’s Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber…), but I’d prefer to eat foods that don’t wrestle with the environment or destroy it in their production.
    Bravo for your principles on this one (and many others)!!!

  • scotty says:

    could you blog on eating on a budget or grocery shopping on a budget?
    any recommended cook-books?

  • andrew jones says:

    i am planning on it
    first step is to throw away your microwave

  • andrew jones says:

    i am planning on it
    first step is to throw away your microwave

  • scotty says:

    We actually tried going without the microwave for a couple of weeks after moving down here.
    The hardest part was leftovers. Just the easiest way to reheat for a quick lunch and go go go.

  • John says:

    Microwave is very useful for defrosting stuff from the freezer (which helps the budget thing IME).
    pax et bonum


    Iam Rev pastor in royal generation love international church in ghana,and i want to patispate your coming up programme in uk.

  • If you think this is a non-issue among the emerging generation – then its time to think again. Our kids are finding out what goes into a Chicken McNugget and they are not impressed.

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