[Originally published as Vegan Adam & Eve]
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. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. Genesis 1:29-30
This week a young woman that looked to be in her early to mid-thirties asked me if Adam and Eve were vegans. She was slender and attractive, giving me the impression that she wanted to justify her vegan lifestyle from Scripture. Personally, I do not care what one chooses to eat as long as they do not try to impose their diet on me (see Romans 14:16-230.
Veganism, like most belief systems, can get rather complicated. For starters, vegans are vegetarian, and one can be a vegetarian without being a vegan. Vegans go beyond simple vegetarianism. Wikipedia says:
Distinctions may be made between several categories of veganism.
- Dietary vegans (also known as strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances.
- The term ethical vegan (also known as moral vegetarian) is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet but extend the philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals for any purpose.
- Another term is environmental veganism, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
Whether or not Adam and Eve were vegans cannot be determined by the creation account recorded in Scripture. Certainly, Adam and Eve were vegetarians as were all the animals. Genesis 1:30 tells us God gave all these creatures: “every green herb for [food].”
However, were Adam and Eve required to abstain from drinking milk from cows or goats? Did they make cheese from the milk of other animals? Were they allowed to eat chicken eggs? One might argue that infertile eggs have no potential of producing a living bird, so maybe eggs would be allowed.
Scripture is silent on the matter. Let us assume, however, that initially, they were strict vegetarians, i.e., vegans, and that they only ate vegetable matter and nothing from animals. We might assume so since they were naked in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:7), and they made clothes of plant material—fig leaves—when they discovered their nakedness.
Their stay in the garden was short-lived. They soon sinned and their ethical veganism would have ended at that point.
The shame of their nakedness and sin required the slaughter of an innocent animal for covering, and God Himself performed the sacrifice to clothe them in animal skins (Genesis 3:21). After that, the practice of animal sacrifice continued, as we find Abel offering an animal sacrifice in Genesis 4:4. However, it is hard to imagine that they would find domesticated animals useful only for sacrifice and not for any other purpose like wool, milk, cheese, eggs, etc. Scripture is silent on this, so we should not be dogmatic.
After the flood, God sanctioned the eating of animal flesh.
Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things (Genesis 9:3).
If humans were vegans before, all that ended after the flood. The lady that raised the question was not satisfied with my answer, but since I had answered from Scripture, she could raise no further objection.