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THE LAMB OF GOD: Can you be a good Christian and eat meat?

Humans have left the Garden of Eden, but animals have not. They are still innocent and have not lost the presence of God. When we are in the presence of animals, we are in the presence of God. Their actions come straight from God. AMEN.

DW: On the outskirts of Münster lies the Institute for Theological Zoology. It is run by… Rainer Hagencord and is home to several animals, including two donkeys called Frederik and Fridolin. People who come here get to hear the Gospel and connect with the animals at the same time. According to Rainer Hagencord, this experience is crucial to his work because it allows his flock to reconnect with nature and God — a presence that he says has been all but lost amid the countless factory farms and meat processing plants that dominate this region… Rainer Hagencord is a Catholic priest based in the heart of Germany’s meat industry. His sermons are dividing his flock — and plunging some into existential crisis. Why? Because he’s a vegetarian. DW spoke with Rainer Hagencord about meat, guilt and morality…

DW: We slaughter over 750 million animals in Germany every year. How do you feel about that?

As a theologian, I say that our system of industrial meat production is based on structural sin. We must move away from blaming each individual and focus our attention on the system that generates the guilt. In this system, everybody loses: Our earth, the air, animals, water sources, biodiversity, the Global South, the workers. The only ones who win are the meat and pharmaceutical industries…

DW: Which system do you mean?

This entire area is a major producer of industrial meat. But it’s not only the animals that are suffering. It’s the misery of the human beings working here like slaves that I’ve been addressing in my sermons. I know of many people who are suffering mental health problems because of their work in the slaughterhouses. If you treat animals like objects, you will become a savage. Something inside you dies. And for many attending my sermons, this has been the first time they have ever been confronted with the question: What does eating meat have to do with my Christianity?

DW: And how do you address that question?

This is where the donkeys are essential for my work: Through the experience with Freddy and Fridolin, people are able to remember their first experiences with animals as they ponder the question of meat consumption, and suddenly they have a theological understanding of their kinship with animals. This is often very moving for them, and they tell me, “Father, you haven’t said a word about vegetarianism … But you didn’t have to! I’m not going to eat meat anymore”…

DW: We love animals and yet we kill them for food? How do we resolve this paradox?

The Bible has a really nice story that might help us answer this fundamental question: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This story tells us that we cannot live as humans without the experience of guilt. We have left the Garden. But animals have not. In other words, they are still innocent and have not lost the presence of God. When we are in the presence of animals, we are in the presence of God. Their actions come straight from God. Humans are the only beings forced to decide: Are my actions from God, or are they the product of my own egoism?…

DW: Jesus Christ stands for this religion. Do we know whether he ate meat or not?

We know he took part in the marriage feast at Cana. Also, according to scripture, after the Resurrection, he and his disciples caught and ate fish. So there is no evidence from the Bible that Jesus was vegetarian. However, what did Jesus eat at the last supper before he was crucified? Keep in mind that it was during Passover, where all households were bound by law to slaughter a lamb — not for food, but as a religious act. He ate bread. Not meat.

By refusing to eat lamb at Passover, Jesus takes his place in the line of the great prophets and says: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” But the significance of this is more than just symbolic — it’s also historical. Back then, the Temple in Jerusalem during religious festivities was a like a modern-day slaughterhouse. And business was booming. All of Jerusalem lived from the wealth provided by ceremonial slaughter. So it’s no big surprise that when a man from Nazareth showed up and said, “What you’re doing here is blasphemy. I don’t believe in a god who is pleased with such sacrifices,” he had to go. SOURCE…


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