Ellen G. White Writings

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Life and Health

September 1, 1905

Flesh as Food

Mrs. E. G. White

Those who eat flesh are but eating grains and vegetables at second hand; for the animal receives from these things the nutrition that produces growth. The life that was in the grains and vegetables passes into the eater. We receive it by eating the flesh of the animal. How much better to get it direct, by eating the food that God provided for our use.

Flesh was never the best food; but its use is now doubly objectionable, since disease in animals is rapidly increasing. Those who use flesh foods little know what they are eating. Often if they could see the animals when living, and know the quality of the meat they eat, they would turn from it with loathing. People are continually eating flesh that is filled with tuberculosis and cancerous germs. Tuberculosis, cancer, and other fatal diseases are thus communicated.

The tissues of the swine swarm with parasites. Swine are scavengers, and this is the only use they were intended to serve. Never under any circumstances was their flesh to be eaten by human beings. It is impossible for the flesh of any living creature to be wholesome when filth is its natural element, and when it feeds upon every detestable thing.

Often animals are taken to market, and sold for food, when they are so diseased that their owners fear to keep them longer. The very process of fattening them for market produces disease. Shut away from the light and pure air, breathing the atmosphere of filthy stables, perhaps fattening on decaying food, the entire body soon becomes contaminated with foul matter.

Animals are often transported long distances and subjected to great suffering in reaching market. Taken from the green pastures, and traveling for weary miles over the hot, dusty roads, crowded into filthy cars, often for days deprived of food or water, feverish and exhausted, the poor creatures are driven to their death, that human beings may feast on the carcasses.

When brought to the place of slaughter, some animals seem to realize what is to take place. They become maddened and furious. In this state they are killed, and their flesh is prepared for market. Such flesh is poisonous.

In many places fish become so contaminated by the filth on which they feed as to be a cause of disease. This is especially the case where the fish come in contact with the sewage of large cities. The fish that are fed on the contents of the drains may pass into distant waters, and may be caught where the water is pure and fresh. Thus when used as food, they bring disease and death on those who do not suspect the danger.

The effects of a flesh diet may not be immediately realized; but this is no evidence that it is not harmful. Few can be made to believe that it is the meat they have eaten which has poisoned their blood and caused their suffering. Many die of diseases wholly due to meat eating, while the real cause is not suspected by themselves or by others.

The moral evils of a flesh diet are not less marked than the physical ills. Flesh food is injurious to health, and whatever affects the body has a corresponding effect on the mind and the soul.

Think of the cruelty to animals that meat eating involves, and its effect on those who inflict and those who behold it—how it destroys the tenderness with which we should regard these creatures of God.

The intelligence displayed by many dumb animals approaches so closely to human intelligence that it is a mystery. The animals see and hear and love and fear and suffer. They use their organs far more faithfully than many human beings use theirs. They manifest sympathy and tenderness toward their companions in suffering. Many animals show an affection for those who have charge of them, far superior to the affection shown by some of the human race. They form attachments for man which are not broken without great suffering to them.

What man with a human heart, who has ever cared for domestic animals, could look into their eyes, so full of confidence and affection, and willingly give them over to the butcher's knife? How could he devour their flesh as a sweet morsel?

Changing the Diet

It is a mistake to suppose that muscular strength depends on the use of animal food. The needs of the system can be better supplied, and more vigorous health can be enjoyed, without its use. The grains, with fruits, nuts, and vegetables, contain all the nutritive properties necessary to make good blood. These elements are not so well or so fully supplied by a flesh diet. Had the use of flesh been essential to health and strength, animal food would have been included in the diet appointed man in the beginning.

Yet it might not be best to discard flesh food under all circumstances. In certain cases of illness and exhaustion—as when persons are dying of tuberculosis, or when incurable tumors are wasting the life forces—it may be thought best to use flesh food in small quantities. But great care should be taken to secure the flesh of healthy animals. The danger of contracting disease by eating flesh is increasing. It is a very serious question whether there is safety in using animal food at all. It would be better to discard it under all circumstances than to use that which is diseased.

When the use of flesh food is discontinued, there is often a sense of weakness, a lack of vigor. Many urge this as evidence that flesh food is essential: but it is because foods of this class are stimulating, because they fever the blood and excite the nerves, that they are so missed. Some will find it as difficult to leave off flesh eating as it is for the drunkard to give up his dram; but they will be the better for the change.

When flesh food is discarded, its place should be supplied with a variety of grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits, that will be both nourishing and appetizing. This is especially necessary in the case of those who are weak, or who are taxed with continuous labor. In some countries, where poverty abounds, flesh is the cheapest food. Under these circumstances the change will be made with greater difficulty; but it can be effected. We should, however, consider the situation of the people and the power of lifelong habit, and should be careful not to urge even right ideas unduly. None should be urged to make the change abruptly. The place of meat should be supplied with wholesome foods that are inexpensive. In this matter very much depends on the cook. With care and skill, dishes may be prepared that will be both nutritious and appetizing, and will to a great degree, take the place of flesh food. But if the cooking is done by one whose main dependence is meat, she can encourage its use to an almost unlimited extent.

Educate the conscience, enlist the will, supply good, wholesome food, and the change will be readily made, and the demand for flesh will soon cease.

It is not time that all should aim to dispense with flesh foods? How can those who are seeking to become pure, refined, and holy, that they may have the companionship of heavenly angels, continue to use as food anything that has so harmful an effect on soul and body? How can they take the life of God's creatures that they may consume the flesh as a luxury? Let them, rather, return to the wholesome and delicious food given to man in the beginning, and practise themselves, and teach children to practise, mercy toward the dumb creatures that God has placed under our dominion.

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