Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion

FROM Ciyadh Wells, CreatureKind
December 2020

Finding CreatureKind was like finding a home. A home where I could bring my Christ loving, Black, Queer, and plant-based eating self to the table and receive celebration without judgement.


Faith. Growing up, it never failed that I found myself in a church of some kind every Sunday morning. My grandmother, a leader of our church, used to sit in the exact same pew week after week. She loved me and our family. For many of us, she was home and she never met someone she did not care for like her own kin. Even more, she loved God and proudly proclaimed her faith. When I think of a Christian, I think of my grandmother. Her love of the Lord has taught me what means to follow Christ. She has instilled in me a belief to be faithful in all things, even beyond that which I can see. She was faith, and that faith also she instilled in me and my family.

Family. I’m so incredibly privileged to be part of such a wonderful family. I can’t stress this enough. My family is able to love each other, to grow aside one another, and ultimately support each other without giving it second thought or question. We gather with food, we gather because of each our bond, and we also gather because of our faith. No meal goes without a proper blessing to acknowledge our continued faith and belief in the grace that God has given us for that meal. There is a rhythm to the meal and a way in which the conversations always lead back to the heart of it: our continued belief in God who makes sure we never had to go without, or at least not for long.

Food. More than anything else, all creatures of God gather around food. Food is for all; humans and non-humans alike. As food is central to the nourishment and sustaining of life, it is essential for healthy hearts and minds. Food—how it is produced, accessed, or consumed—brings an impact on God’s earth and the lives of its inhabitants. We, human creatures, at the very least owe it to the Body of Christ, including our non-human siblings, to understand how the food on our tables impact their lives. How does our communal plate affect the real lives of created beings near and far?

Holidays. Gathering around special dates is important to many of us. These times provide humans ways to consider our connections to each other and to the rest of the world. These times of celebration and sometimes of grief provide us essential opportunities for considering how human and non human animals come together around the communal table. How might we be connected to each other and to God via the food we eat when we gather? How might the food that connects and comforts us also be sources of comfort for non-human animals? For many people, food is comfort and food is home. The bread of the body and the spirit of life, it is home in a way that only home can be. How can food be home and shelter and comfort to those with whom we are entrusted with care?

How are we able to know that change is possible if we have never experienced change for ourselves?

When my family gathers for holidays, faith, food, and family come together. There is always a rhythm and a pattern that, as I grew up, began to bring a source of comfort in an ever-chaotic world. On Mother’s Day we would often have a specific, but not so dissimilar, meal than what we would have during the big holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas). Those holidays brought an extra special meal following the traditional American meals while adding in touches of our lived experiences as Black people, who like many, live on Indigenous lands. Central to all of these meals, though, was some sort of meat. Yes, veggies and fixings dressed the meat, but meat was always the center of it. For many years I failed to question the presence of meat because I thought that it had to be that way. How are we able to know that change is possible if we have never experienced change for ourselves?

In the last several years though, I began to reexamine my own relationship with food, mainly around what the continued consumption of animals means not only for me but for others as well. Who suffers alongside our animal friends before they become holiday centerpieces? I came to understand that no life—human or non-human—enters or leaves this world without a great cost. When any class of living being (plant, animal, or human) no longer lives, there is an impact on all of us. Nothing is perfect, but I am not striving to create a society that is perfect. I am striving to work with others to create a society that is just when it comes to the lives of animals.

There are opportunities for us all here. Traditions are traditions because we have made them so, but change and innovation are necessary for us all if humans and non-human animals want to continue to exist on God’s created Earth. Traditions at gatherings will need to change as care and concern for those most impacted by animal agriculture, BIPOC growers and climate refugees, come to the forefront. Change can start at the center of our tables.

Food. It all means something different for me now. I want to eat in a way that causes as little harm as possible to animals and even less harm to those whose jobs and livelihoods depend on farmed animal agriculture. During holidays, this means choosing to create, in abundance and without waste, a meal that I can feel good about consuming. Change is imminent and that is okay.

Family. My work as an advocate on behalf of all life, human or not, begins and yet does not end with my family. It might be throughout our lives that those closest to us may never truly understand our decisions and we may never understand theirs. That is okay. I am hoping, though, to continue to have the conversation about what it means to be a person of faith who takes great care and shows great concern for non-human life. It is well within the bounds of our faith to want to care for all living creatures. After all, they were here first.

Faith. Faith can and will always be at the center of this for me. Finding CreatureKind was like finding a home. A home where I could bring my Christ loving, Black, Queer, and plant-based eating self to the table and receive celebration without judgement. We are in a disciplined pursuit of less. Consuming fewer of our animal kin and their products, creating less harm. Living lives that by producing less helps all of us to create more. That is what I am hoping for. I am hoping that we as people of deep faith can continue to have conversations and engage with one another about how our ethics for animals start with our faith and can and should be guided by such.

Ciyadh currently lives in Austin, Texas. She is a graduate student at the University of Georgia. Ciyadh was raised in the Baptist church and still identifies as such. During her CreatureKind Fellowship, she is working on a podcast about Christians and how their faith supports their animal advocacy work.

Return to Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion
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