Friday, April 3, 2009

Ellen White's "PETA" Agenda

One of the unfortunate realities of Seventh-day Adventist's emphasis on health is that we, far too often, approach it from an egocentric agenda. This manifests itself in a number of different ways, but the net result is that we speak out very little against the cruelty that is inflicted upon animals for the sake of a good meal.

This should not be the case. Adventists should be at the forefront of the movement that urges proper treatment of animals. Though we should not partake in some of the unethical methods of PETA, we should certainly do all we can in our power to promote the wellbeing of all of God's creatures. This alone, I believe, is reason enough to eliminate meat from our diets.

Certainly Ellen White thought so. And this is probably lost far too often when we examine her writings in relation to flesh foods. Notice what she says, for example, in The Ministry of Healing:
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. . . .

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 wich we should regard these creatures of God!

The intelligence displayed by many dumb animals [dumb, in her day, did not have the same connotation it does today. She simply meant "mute, silent; not speaking"] approaches so closely to human intelligence that it is a mystery. The animls see and hear and love and fear and suffer. They use their organs far more faithfully than many human being 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 superioer 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? (pp. 314, 315-316)
No, Ellen White probably wouldn't be a part of PETA today, or condone their behavior in lot of situations, but she would certainly do all that she could to promote the ethical treatment of these creatures. And we should do the same - even if she had never said anything to that end.


Mithun said...

Awesome find! PETA has done much good work at exposing animal cruelty, and I'm continued to be amazed at how ahead of her time Ellen White was.

How does this reconcile with 1 Corinthians 9:9?

Anonymous said...


Concerning 1 Cor 9:9, here's a thought which may help. Paul is picking up on the fact that the [spirit of] law of Moses is not simply the letter [help ox period, full stop] but also the deep principle of don't be unfair and fail to reward those (animal or human) who have worked faithfully. Paul is not denying the care for animals he is simply denying any mindset which would restrict the care only to ox and not also have it spill over into our interpersonal relationships.

At least that's my perspective (tapping into the spirit and letter principle of Scripture)


Anonymous said...


Very good post. Like you say, too many Adventists have a restrictive, individualistic, approach to moral/ethical issues ["I', 'me' and 'my' sanctification is the central thing].

Whereas, our sanctification takes place within God's wider concern for all of his creation.

Ellen Whites broad and wholistic vision is dwarfed and stunted by some versions of Adventism.


Mithun said...


While I see your point on the spirit (and indeed Paul's main emphasis is on human relations), the frame of the question is clear (μή τῶν βοῶν μέλει τῷ θεῷ) that Paul is saying "God doesn't care about oxen, does He?" A simple Greek "μόνον" thrown into the sentence would make your interpretation right ("God doesn't care only about oxen, does He?"), but it's not there. But then again, maybe the Spirit of Prophecy in this case, as well as other Biblical examples about God caring for Creation (e.g. Exodus 23:12; Psalm 145:9, 13; Hosea 2:18; Luke 12:6; Revelation 11:18), clears up the ambiguity.

Brent Buttler said...

"that human beings may feast on the carcasses" "devour their flesh as a sweet morsel" Well put. The last one reminds me of a travel show that I have seen a few times. The host takes great pleasure in devouring flesh as sweet morsels, but is extremely squeamish when it comes to witnessing the suffering of animals.

An episode that sticks in my mind is one in which he spent some time at an Argentinian cattle ranch. He made note of the plaintive cries of the mothers as their calves were separated to be branded. He also commented that the rough treatment of the calves made him very uneasy, and that the ordeal moved one of his producers to tears. He said that he will definitely not be eating at the Sizzler that night, and that overall it was not a good day for the show's crew.

People are often so caught up in their bloodlust that they cannot see the negative affects their desires have on these relatively defenseless creatures. Even the consumption of non-meat substances such as eggs and dairy have negative effects. Cows have to be constantly pregnant, and chickens kept in pens so that we can enjoy as sweet morsels the substances that come from their bodies.

Maybe it's the fear of being associated with such extremists as PETA that SDAs don't take a stand on such issues, or maybe it is something else. Maybe we don't want to be hypocrites by speaking out against the very things that we continue to enjoy so much. We chose silence over sacrifice.