By Russell Thornberry
A billboard along Interstate 27 near Amarillo, Texas, boldly proclaimed, “Jesus was a vegetarian. Show respect for God’s creatures — follow Him.” It caused such uproar that the advertising company that hoisted the astounding proclamation removed the controversial message. Guess who was behind that billboard and others in Tulsa, Atlanta, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, with similar campaigns planned for Dallas, Colorado Springs and Omaha? PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), of course.
Amazingly, in taking the liberty of using Jesus as a campaign figurehead against the killing of animals and billboarding Him as a vegetarian, they missed one important issue: the truth!
PETA’s billboard message is incorrect on two fronts: (1) that Jesus was a vegetarian, and (2) that showing respect for God’s creatures precludes killing animals or eating meat. To adopt these assumptions, one would have to abandon the Bible as objective truth and God as the Supreme Being and Creator of the universe. If one is willing to abandon a biblical definition of truth, Jesus has also to be abandoned, making what He did or didn’t eat a non issue.
While I am not surprised at any attempt by PETA to cloud the truth, nor do I expect to change their point of view, I am compelled to offer a biblical rebuttal to PETA’s billboard campaign for the clarity of Christians who might be confused about God’s position on the killing and eating of animals, or even hunting.
First, understand that God and Jesus are of one accord on every matter without exception, and they always have been — even before man existed. The Bible states that God made man in His image. In fact, in Genesis 1:26, God says: “Let us make man in our image and in our likeness ... ” The word “our” notes the plurality of the Godhead we commonly refer to as the Holy Trinity — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which existed collectively before man was created. Therefore, man was created in the image of both God and of Jesus. Jesus and God are indivisible in terms of their nature and character (John 14:9 — Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” —NIV)
So when God gave animals to man for food, Jesus was not (could not be) in opposition to that decision, since He and God are one. And since God cannot sin, in keeping with His sinless character and nature, He could not ordain anything for man that would be sinful. Therefore, God’s provision that animals would be provided for man to eat was neither wrong nor sinful, creating no mandate or benefit for Jesus to abstain from eating meat.
Furthermore, Jesus was a Jew, and, according to Jewish tradition, the Passover meal included lamb. According to the Bible, Jesus participated in the Passover meal as is evidenced by several passages of scripture, including Luke 22:7-8 and Luke 22:15.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
The perfect lamb sacrificed and served in the Jewish Passover meal was symbolic of Jesus himself, the perfect Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for the sins of mankind. For that reason, it would have been unthinkable for Jesus to refuse to eat the lamb served in the Passover meal.
The commandment not to kill must also be understood in view of this context. The commandment directed man not to take the life of another human being. Otherwise, God would have contradicted Himself by directing animals to be killed as sacrifices in the Old Testament.
If it were wrong or sinful to eat meat, then when Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves to feed the hungry multitudes, he would have been leading them into sin. Perhaps he could have set the fish aside and just multiplied the loaves, but he didn’t. Does that mean that by offering fish as part of a meal to the multitudes that Jesus lacked “respect” for fish as a creation of God (Himself)? Of course not. Jesus understood what He ordained in the creation process as part of the Godhead, that animals were placed in man’s stewardship to the glory of God and the benefit of the earth, which included being used as a source of food for mankind.
Divine Life is the Issue
At the heart of the animal rights campaign is the pivotal issue of divine life. When we fail to recognize the distinctions that were made by God, we (human beings) are left to determine what is of ultimate value. When man is considered just a more highly developed form of biological life, he/she has no more intrinsic value than a lower developed form of biological life. Thus, God equals biological life. When God is reduced to nothing more than biological life, then all biological life must be protected equally.
However, the Bible teaches that man was created by God in His own image and given the responsibility to manage all other forms of life for the glory of God and the benefit of the earth. For example: Noah was instructed to preserve the animals. Some were for reproduction and others were for sacrifice. When God is dismissed as Creator, all kinds of things go awry. Man’s dignity is derived from having been created in God’s image, not in his being further developed than a jackrabbit. God alone reserves the right to determine what life will or will not be divine. According to His determination, animal life is not.
What is little understood is that this battle against hunting and the taking of animal life is not simply being waged by over zealous people whose common sense has been overridden by their emotions. This is very much a religious issue, based on the misconception that animal and human life are of equal value in God’s eyes. Some Eastern religions (that do not acknowledge biblical truth) actually worship animals while their populations starve. In such cases, the “sacred cow” is a god to be worshipped and held in higher esteem than human life. Animal rights activists who would deny medical science the use of animals for medical advancement to heal human suffering clearly embrace the “God equals biology” ideology. This was made clearly evident when PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk said: “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” So the assault by animal rights campaigners is aimed at much more than your hunting rights. It’s aimed at the very heart of Christian doctrine.
PETA is either unacquainted with the Bible’s (God’s) position on this matter or they are intentionally misrepresenting it. Whichever the case, I offer the following chronological passages of scripture from both the Old and New Testaments, which not only prove that Jesus was not a vegetarian, but also that God put animals on the planet for man’s use (including food).
Interestingly, though there are numerous Biblical references to hunting, none of them are negative. The assault on hunting is a very modern product of the political correctness movement, which also deems God Himself as politically incorrect. Regulated hunting as a means of controlling game populations fits God’s stewardship mandate for man because it allows game animals to thrive in balance with nature. Poaching and illegal market hunting certainly do not fit God’s stewardship mandate because these acts represent shameful stewardship of the resource. Though I am likely preaching to the choir, I remind readers that the diminishing habitat base for wildlife, due to man’s greed and poor stewardship, is the greatest threat to the future of wildlife, not regulated hunting.
The following scriptures demonstrate that God ordained that man would eat meat and also make reference to man’s involvement in hunting. I will make occasional parenthetical notes for the sake of clarity of context in the following passages of scripture. All passages of scripture noted are from the New International Version of the Bible.
God First Granted Permission to Eat Meat
“Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”
“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.”
(God wanted the blood removed from meat before consumption.)
In Exodus 16:10-13 God provided meat for the Israelites:
While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.  The Lord said to Moses,  “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”
 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.
Biblical References to Hunters
He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.”
The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents.
Hunting Regulations Found in the Bible Offer Insight into the Reality of Hunting
“ ‘Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth,  because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.”
(The eating of the game was obviously permissible, pending the removal of blood as noted.)
Old Testament List of Animals God Permitted Man to Eat
“These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat,  the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep.”
(Considering that the deer, gazelle, roe deer, wild goat, ibex and mountain sheep were all wild animals, though they were permissible for food, they would first have to be hunted or trapped before they could be eaten. God would certainly not have approved them for human consumption if He were opposed to hunting.)
“Nevertheless, you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want, as if it were gazelle or deer, according to the blessing the Lord your God gives you. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it.”
In I Corinthians 10:25-26, the Apostle Paul says: “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience,  for the Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
Hunting Language Included in the Bible Indicates a Common Knowledge of Hunting
1 Samuel 26:20
“Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the Lord. The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea — as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”
“With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk.  All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose  ‘till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.”
“Those who were my enemies without cause hunted me like a bird.”
“Your sons have fainted, they lie at the head of every street, like antelope caught in a net...”
“Now then, get your weapons — your quiver and bow — and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me.”
How useless to spread a net in full view of all the birds!
Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground where no snare has been set?
Does a trap spring up from the Earth when there is nothing to catch?
Bible Notes that Animals Were Used for More Than Food Clothing:
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Material for the Tabernacle:
These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood;
Make for the tent a covering of ram skins dyed red, and over that a covering of hides of sea cows.
As Sacrifices for Worship:
“Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.”
He is to slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.
God Gave Man Dominion Over the Earth
and Its Creatures
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the Earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
(Parts of the dominion that God gave man were accountability and responsibility. That remains as God’s plan for man today. Man is intended to be a good steward of the Earth’s resources, but stewardship does not preclude the necessity of harvesting animals any more than it would preclude the harvesting of wheat or corn. God’s mandate to man is to be a good manager of all that has been given to him to manage.)
Jesus Feeds the Multitudes Fish and Bread
Matthew 14:17-20 (5,000 fed)
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
 “Bring them here to me,” He said.  And He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Matthew 15:35-37 (4,000 fed)
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.  Then He took the seven loaves and the fish, and when He had given thanks, He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Jesus Cooked Fish For Himself and His Disciples
When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”  Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.  Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
(Here Jesus is cooking fish for breakfast and invites His disciples to bring some of their own fish and join Him, hardly the act of a devout vegetarian.)
God Warns Against Worshipping Creation Instead of the Creator
 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things (including animals) rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.
PETA has the right to express its beliefs both privately and publicly, including its view that animals are sacred. But let’s keep our gods straight. Jesus Christ was not a vegetarian. That must have been an entirely different god.
To the confused on this issue, I offer Deuteronomy 5:8-9, the second of the Ten Commandments:
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them ... (And this includes animals.)
The God of the Bible also addressed truth in advertising (which includes billboards) when he commanded us not to lie or bring false witness against anyone.