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“You’re not becoming a vegetarian, are you?” said a friend who was actually scowling at me, when I ordered a salad at lunch. I wasn’t, as it happened, but only eating lightly because we were going to a banquet in the evening and I wanted to take full advantage of the free food.

But the vegetarian case is one that pokes at me, at least the moral one. Not, in other words, that we shouldn’t eat meat, but that perhaps we shouldn’t eat most of the eat offered to us. As Mary Eberstadt writes in her introduction to Catholic theologian Charles Camosy’s new book  For the Love of Animals ,

One wonders, for example, whether vegetarianism for some believers might be a unique “sign of contradiction” in its own right — particularly in a time of relative plenty marked by rampant consumerism, and particularly given what Blessed John Paul II decried as an accompanying “culture of death.” Wanton cruelty to animals, of the sort that is now pitiably routine, is arguably part and parcel of that same culture, and it further deadens the general moral sense at a time when it’s needed most.

The welfare of animals is not a matter we (generally conservative religious believers) usually think about, partly because so many obviously urgent issues require our attention. But it seems to me that it is one of those matters, the not taking up of which affects how we think and what we do about the issues we do take up.

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