Flesh As Food
by Ellen G. White
From The Ministry of Healing,
by Ellen G. White. (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing
Association, 1974, pages 205-209; first published in 1905.)
THE diet appointed man in the beginning did not include animal food. Not till
after the Flood, when every green thing on the earth had been destroyed, did man
receive permission to eat flesh.
In choosing man's food in Eden, the Lord showed what was the best diet; in
the choice made for Israel He taught the same lesson. He brought the Israelites
out of Egypt and undertook their training, that they might be a people for His
own possession. Through them He desired to bless and teach the world. He
provided them with the food best adapted for this purpose, not flesh, but manna,
"the bread of heaven." It was only because of their discontent and
their murmuring for the fleshpots of Egypt that animal food was granted them,
and this only for a short time. Its use brought disease and death to thousands.
Yet the restriction to a nonflesh diet was never heartily accepted. It continued
to be the cause of discontent and murmuring, open or secret, and it was not made
Upon their settlement in Canaan, the Israelites were permitted the use of
animal food, but under careful restrictions which tended to lessen the evil
results. The use of swine's flesh was prohibited, as also of other animals and
of birds and fish whose flesh was pronounced unclean. Of the meats permitted,
the eating of the fat and the blood was strictly forbidden.
Only such animals could be used for food as were in condition. No creature
that was torn, that had died itself, or from which the blood had not been
carefully drained could be used as food.
By departing from the plan divinely appointed for their diet the Israelites
suffered great loss. They desired a flesh diet, and they reaped its results.
They did not reach God's ideal of character or fulfill His purpose. The Lord
"gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul." Psalm
106:15. They valued the earthly above the spiritual, and the sacred pre-eminence
which was His purpose for them they did not attain.
Reasons for Discarding Flesh Foods
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 so 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 tuberculous and
cancerous germs. Tuberculosis, cancer, and other fatal diseases are thus
The tissues of the swine swarm with parasites. Of the swine God said,
"It is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their
dead carcass." Deuteronomy 14:8. This command was given because swine's
flesh is unfit for food. 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
Often animals are taken to market and sold for food when they are so diseased
that their owners fear to keep them longer. And some of the processes of
fattening them for market produce 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 a market. Taken from the green pastures, and traveling for weary
miles over the hot, dusty roads, or crowded into filthy cars, feverish and
exhausted, often for many hours deprived of food and water, the poor creatures
are driven to their death, that human beings may feast on the carcasses.
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 are 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
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.
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.
In all cases educate the conscience, enlist the will, supply good, wholesome
food, and the change will be readily made, and the demand for flesh will soon
Is it 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 themselves
practice, and teach their children to practice, mercy toward the dumb creatures
that God has made and has placed under our dominion.