There are a lot of great reasons not to eat meat, whether you’re concerned about your health, environmental sustainability, global human rights, or the commoditization and exploitation of living beings. Or maybe it’s Lent and you’ve decided that for these 40 days of reflection, you’re going to go meat-free. Whether it’s your first vegan Lent or your 50th, whether you observe Meatless Monday all year long or the traditional meatless Fridays of Lent, these seven cholesterol- and cruelty-free meals are simple to prepare and delicious, and they will contribute to a healthier, sustainable, more compassionate world.
Fish aren’t swimming vegetables, so let’s leave them off our plates, starting this Lent. These Gardein Fishless Fillets are a tasty and cholesterol-free alternative to eating sea animals — a good thing since commercial fishing methods such as bottom trawling and longlining have nearly emptied millions of square miles of ocean and pushed many marine species to the brink of extinction.
Lauren Lisa Ng points out that in addition to being free of the saturated fat, carcinogens, and pathogens found in meat, red lentils are “affordable, filling, and they cook up fast. … Besides being rich in folate, Vitamin A and potassium, they are also high in fiber and equal to a serving of meat with regards to protein.”
When I was in high school, I tried giving up meat for Lent one year and didn’t make it the whole 40 days. I was doing it for the wrong reasons — trying to impress a boy instead of considering how my actions could make the world a better place. Then, I went through a period of being outraged by every injustice. Going vegan in my early 20s opened my eyes to a new way of living in the world and empowered me to make small changes that reduce suffering. Now, when I talk to folks who are hesitant to take the vegan plunge, I remind them that three times a day, we have the opportunity to choose mercy or cruelty — and it’s an easy choice.
#4 “Fish” Tacos
A major review of all available science, published in the British Medical Journal in 2006, found no compelling evidence that omega-3 fatty acids from fish prevent heart disease, cancer or strokes and even suggested that eating fish could raise the risk of heart disease because of mercury contamination. Rather than getting omega-3s from fish flesh, which can also contain PCBs, DDT, and dioxins, people can get omega-3s from healthy non-animal sources, like walnuts, flax seeds, vegan DHA capsules, and these delicious fishless fillets.
Plus, here’s the thing: When fish and other sea animals are pulled from the water, they undergo painful decompression. The survivors are then slowly suffocated, frozen, hacked apart while they’re still conscious, or crushed by the weight of other fish. Eating fish supports cruelty to animals.
Did you know that humans are the only species to drink the milk of another species on a regular basis? And the only species to drink milk after infancy? Yeah, I’m not sure that sets us apart in a good way. Cows make milk for the same reasons humans do: to feed their babies! But we take those babies and either turn them into more milk machines or sell them off for veal or beef. Not a merciful system, if you ask me. Plus, it takes about 600 gallons of water to make a single pound of cheese. Talk about wasted resources. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious dairy-free comfort foods that are better for your health (no cholesterol!), better for the environment, and better for cows.
I eventually realized that I was a Jesus person for animals. I love Jesus. I want justice and mercy for animals. The two are not mutually exclusive. When I was in seminary, I learned just how much Christianity emphasizes mercy and respect for life. Our stewardship of animals doesn’t give us license to kill — it’s a charge to protect. A world “on Earth, as it is in heaven” would be a vegan world!
Eating meat is bad for the environment and supports cruelty to animals, two facts to keep in mind as we deepen our Lenten reflection and consider how we can be active participants in the transformation and reconciliation of Creation. We can eat healthfully, sustainably and compassionately on a vegan diet, so why wouldn’t we?
Since Lent is ultimately about preparing to reconcile a broken world with its gracious Creator, why not consider this the first 40 days of your new plant-based life? Your heart, the planet, and God’s other animals will all reap the benefits.