Does Genesis Prescribe a Vegan Diet or a Meat Diet? By Chapman Chen

In Genesis, God initially required humans to be vegan, but subsequently, He seemingly permitted them to eat meat. Many people have found this puzzling.  

“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” (Genesis 1: 29 KJV)

“Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” (Genesis 9:3, KJV)

British top theologian Prof. Rev. Andrews Linzey (1993), in his article, “The Bible and Killing for Food”, pointed out that it’s not accidental that Genesis 9 should immediately follow humankind’s deeper and deeper plunge into sin and violence.

For Linzey, “It is in this context – subsequent to the Fall and the Flood – that we need to understand the permission to kill for food in Genesis 9.” The interpretive significance of this is:- In order to comprehend the apparent contradiction between the vegan diet as prescribed in Genesis 1:29 and the permission to consume meat in Genesis 9:3, one has to recognize that veganism signifies that humanity has not yet fallen into sin and violence, while the liberty to eat animals represents that God’s reluctant tolerance of a fallen human world and His attempt to make the best of it.

Nonetheless, as explained by Linzey, the permission to kill for food in Genesis 9 is by no means unconditional or absolute; God forbids humans from consuming the blood of the animals they kill [Genesis 9:4]!

“At first sight these qualificatory lines might be seen as obliterating the permission itself. After all, who can take animal life without the shedding of blood? Who can kill without the taking of blood, that is the life itself? In asking these questions we move to the heart of the problem. For the early Hebrews life was symbolized by, and even constituted by, blood itself. To kill was to take blood. And yet it is precisely this permission which is denied,” wrote Linzey.

In other words, God ostensibly allows people to eat meat but in reality sets a unsatisfiable prerequisite with a view to pulling a prank on those greedy, gluttonous, depraved human beings.

Ellen G. White (2012), in referring to Genesis 6:3, lays bare the hidden agenda of Genesis 9 with one remark:- God’s permitting humans to eat meat after the Noah’s Ark event was “a divine judgment against sinful humanity by cutting their days short with a[n unhealthy] meat-eating diet” (Young 59). Later Adventists insisted that this was indeed an act of mercy: Through shortening meat-eating people’s lifespan on earth, God was efficaciously restricting the amount of harm and pain they could cause.

An even more popular interpretation is that since the deluge described in Genesis 7 and 8, the earth had become desolated, so much so that it was very difficult to find enough plants to eat. God could then only compromise and permit humans to eat animals as a contingency plan. This line of reasoning was put forth by scholars like Chairperson and Professor of Philosophy at Indiana State University Judith Barad (2012).

Similarly, Tyler M John from the State University of New Jersey thinks that obviously, God created animals NOT for us to eat and abuse. This is evidenced by the plentiful variety of living things created by Him. God rescued a number of species by way of the Ark. It was not until the deluge was over that God reluctantly allowed humans to eat meat, for the deluge had then rendered the whole earth so barren and so deforested that people could not find enough plants as food, and they needed to eat animals in order to get enough nourishment. The Genesis-Deluge narrative clearly indicates that right from the very beginning, God did not want humans to slaughter sentient beings and eat their flesh; permitting the clan of Noah to eat flesh was just a provisional “concession” for sustaining humanity during a period of “malnourishment”.


Barad, Judith (2012). “What about the Covenant with Noah?”, Tripp York (20120, ed., A Faith Embracing All Creatures.

John, M. Tyler (n.d.). “Toward a Theologically-motivated Vegetarianism”, Academia. edu.

Linzey, Andrew (1993). “The Bible and Killing for Food”, Between the Species: Vol. 9: Iss. 1, Article 8.

Young, Richard Alan (1999). Is God a Vegetarian? Christianity, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights.


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