Does the Bible
forbid us to eat meat?
Q. Does the Bible teach we are not to kill animals for food? Are we permitted to eat MEAT or does God want us to just eat vegetables?
A. The Bible has NEVER clearly commanded vegetarianism. We know that Jesus, when He appeared to his disciples after His resurrection, was willing to eat fish:
"But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, 'Have you any food here?' So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence." (Luke 24:41-43, NKJV throughout)
We know that under the law of Moses an enormous number of animals were ritualistically slaughtered and offered to God by various burnt sacrifices (See Leviticus 1, 3-7). The priests were allowed to eat from what they offered to God for others under certain limitations (Leviticus 7:31-35). So it can't be a sin to kill an animal intrinsically, for God had the priests kill thousands of animals over the centuries for these animal sacrifices. They represented the sacrifice of Jesus for humanity's sins in advance symbolically. The most direct case of this comes from the Passover. Each Israelite family (maybe with the neighbors included) was to take a lamb or goat, kill it, and (in the first Passover before Egypt) put its blood on the door posts and lintel overhead the threshold of the door. They were to eat it by morning, and burn the leftovers before daybreak. This is described in Exodus 12. Many centuries later, John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus was the lamb of God offered to take away the world's sins (John 1:29, 36).
Abraham and Noah also had to kill animals in order to make sacrifices to God, which was LONG BEFORE the time of Moses and the establishment of the Levitical priesthood (Genesis 8:20; 22:7-8, 13). Under the law of clean and unclean foods, Israelites were allowed to eat cows, sheep, and goats, but weren't allowed to eat pigs, camels, and rabbits (Numbers 11, Deuteronomy 14:3-21). These general rules are the greatest proof God DOES NOT require vegetarianism of his people.
Although God didn't like how Israel in the wilderness demanded meat to eat when they had a bad attitude, and punished them for it, He was still willing to provide them with a huge number of quail to eat in one special situation (Numbers 11:4, 13, 31-33). Obviously, it can't be said that eating meat is deliberately sinful, or God wouldn't have sent them all these quail.
There is one interesting counter argument worth examining. The argument is that Adam and Eve, when they were created, were not directly told they could eat meat. Although this may be true the Bible DOES state that God gave man authority over the animals:
"Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion (authority) over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'
"And God said, 'See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food'; and it was so." (Genesis 1:28-30)
The Bible explicitly states, however, that after the great flood humanity was given permission directly by God to eat meat (after the meat has blood drained away):
"Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. " (Genesis 9:3-4)
We know that animals will not eat each other during the millennium (e.g. lions will not eat calves, see Isaiah 11:6-9). But since there will animal sacrifices in the millennium (Ezekiel 40:39; 42:13; 45:15-25), after Jesus' return, we can't say those restrictions will apply to people also.
Even though God has given us authority over animals and allow us to eat them we should not ABUSE them. Balaam was criticized by his (miraculously) talking donkey and by the Angel (Messenger) for beating his donkey when he (the animal) saw the Angel (Messenger) of God with a drawn sword in front of him and would not move (Numbers 22:22-35).
In conclusion, the Bible teaches that eating meat is permitted:
"When the Lord your God enlarges your border as He has promised you, and you say, 'Let me eat meat,' because you long to eat meat, you may eat as much meat as your heart desires. " (Deuteronomy 12:20)