Were Animals Designed Vegetarian?

Were animals designed by God to be vegetarian? That’s what is implied in Genesis 1:29-30 which records, “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb producing seed that is on the whole earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree producing seed: it shall be food for you; and to every animal of the earth, and to every fowl of the heavens, and to everything that creepeth on the earth, in which is a living soul, every green herb for food. And it was so.” That seems pretty specific, but there are ways to avoid the obvious conclusion. For example, you could say that just because God intended it doesn’t mean that all the animals conformed.Nevertheless, the use of terms like “every” and “everything” sounds universal.
We have anecdotal evidence from our own experience that supports the concept that plants were meant for food. My dad used to tell me a story about how my older siblings raised a turkey for a Thanksgiving feast, but then couldn’t bring themselves to eat it after it had been killed and prepared. I also read a Native American “prayer of remorse” that a hunter would pray when he killed an animal for food, expressing sorrow that he had to take a life. Plants however, are a different story. Almost nobody feels any remorse when eating a carrot or a lettuce. It’s as if God has imprinted in our minds that it’s OK.

We also have anecdotal evidence from science that even the most ferocious carnivores develop a liking for vegetation. A story from John Mackay relates the tale of a shark gone vegan.  A tropical nurse shark in Birmingham’s National Sea Life Centre developed a preference for lettuce, cucumbers and other green vegetables over fish. When the shark first arrived it was not eating and an ultrasound revealed it had a fish hook embedded deep in its mouth. Vets operated and removed the hook. Following the operation the shark, which has been named Florence, was seen to be eating the vegetable food provided for a turtle housed in the same tank. According to Marketing Birmingham, “Florence’s mouth is filled with razor-sharp, serrated teeth designed for demolishing fish and crustaceans. Instead she uses them for pulping broccoli and cabbage and any other greens she can steal from fellow ocean tank resident Molokai the green turtle”. The shark has such a strong preference for greens that the keepers at the Sea Life Centre hide pieces of fish inside cucumbers to give it extra protein. Graham Burrows, a curator at the Sea Life Centre commented that the fish “has to be well hidden, because if she realizes it’s there, she’ll ignore the offering and wait for the strictly vegetarian option”. Burrows also commented: “Nurse sharks do occasionally graze on algae in the wild, and we weren’t surprised when Florence first stole some of Molokai’s greens. We just weren’t expecting her to go completely veggie. We wouldn’t want her to be an embarrassment to the other flesh-eating hammerheads and black-tipped reef sharks in the ocean tank”.

The lesson is not to judge by appearance the intended nature of an animal and not to be so doubtful of the scientific clues we read in Genesis. The Creator could have intended all creatures to live in peace with other animals and their nature could have been corrupted by the introduction of sin into the original creation.