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Vegetarianism: Past and Future

Watchtower teaches that God created humans and all animals as vegetarians, changing them only after Noah's flood, and vegetarianism is destined again for Paradise earth. This is despite scientific evidence that animals were meat eaters well before the existence of humans.


Watchtower doctrine explains that humans and animals were created vegetarian. It was not until 1600 years after Adam's sin that humans and animals started to eat meat, at the end of the Global flood of Noah. It is not explained why animals commenced preying upon each other at this point less than 4500 years ago, or why some animals are so suited to being predators. This is a significant concept, when considering how integral the food chain is to all life around us.

At Creation - Vegetarian

Watchtower teaches that animals and humans were originally vegetarian.

“Also, the Bible says that in the garden of Eden the diet of the animals was vegetation.” Happiness pg. 188 1980
“But it is evident that God set the perfect man and woman on a vegetarian diet, without suggesting even dairy products.” Watchtower 1961 Dec 15 p.766
“When God created humans and animals to live on this earth, he did not purpose for them to be killers. They were created to have peaceful relations with one another... ...None of the animals in the garden of Eden were killers. They were not a threat to man, nor was man a threat to any animal... ...no violence or killing for food among animals or man.... ...The animals - who had a vegetarian diet in Eden, as did humans - began to live off one another, some even eating humans when possible.” Awake! 1982 Oct 8
"Then will begin the restoration of Edenic conditions—of Paradise. (Luke 23:43) That will mean the restoring of peace and harmony between humans and animals, they no longer using one another for food. The Bible states at Isaiah 11:6-9: “The wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them. And the cow and the bear themselves will feed; together their young ones will lie down. And even the lion will eat straw just like the bull. And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra; and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually put his own hand. They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain.” Awake! 1982 Oct 8 p.13

Watchtower cannot say humans and animals were vegetarian due to any rules against hunting, as Jehovah allowed humans to kill animals for use in sacrifice and for clothing. 

“One day Cain and Abel bring a gift to God. Cain brings some food he has grown. And Abel brings the very best sheep he has. Jehovah is pleased with Abel and his gift. But he is not pleased with Cain and his gift.” My Book of Bible Stories story 6
“Already prior to the Flood, animals were killed to provide clothing for man and for sacrificial purposes. (Ge 3:21; 4:4) However, not until after the Deluge did Noah and his family receive permission from Jehovah to add flesh to their diet, with the stipulation that it must be drained of its blood.” Insight on the Scriptures - Vol 1 p.110

Post Flood - Meat eaters

The addition of meat to the diet of humans and animals is said to have commenced just 4500 years ago, after Noah left the ark.

“Originally, God provided only vegetation as food for man. But more than 1,600 years later—after the Flood of Noah’s day—God said: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you.” (Genesis 1:29; 9:3)“ Awake! 2004 Feb 22 p.7
“After the flood of Noah’s day, God set out a change from the vegetarian diet that he had outlined for animals and humans in the garden of Eden.” Watchtower 1982 Jun 15

New System - Vegetarian

Watchtower’s official teaching is that animals will revert back to eating only vegetation in the New System. Humans will also revert to vegetarianism, though there is little definitively written about this, and it is more by discussion of peace between humans and animals that this is implied.

“It appears that men will not kill them for food, nor will animals prey upon one another. In the new world Jehovah’s original purpose relative to food supplies will be realized, as stated to Adam and Eve: “See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are found all over the earth, and all the trees which have seed-bearing fruit; it shall be yours to eat. To all the wild beasts of the earth, to all the birds of the air, and to all the land reptiles, in which there is a living spirit, I give all the green plants for food.” (Gen. 1:29, 30, AT) If that outstanding carnivorous animal, the lion, is to “eat straw like the ox”, surely no others will be meat-eaters.” Watchtower 1950 Oct 15 p.399
“In that new world, man and animals will be forever at peace with one another, and Jehovah will ‘satisfy the desire of every living thing.’” Awake! 1997 Aug 8 p.20
“Adam and Eve were at peace with the animals in Eden—content with vegetation as the food for all.
God will soon restore Edenic conditions in an earth that will be made a paradise.” Awake! 1982 Oct 8 [Pictures on page 12]
“In time, God’s Kingdom will even restore the peaceful relations that existed in the garden of Eden between animals, and between animals and humans. The Scriptures say: “The wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them.”” A Peaceful New World — Will It Come?
“Even the animals are peaceful. See the child playing with the lion. But there is no cause for fear. In this regard the Creator declares: “With the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them. . . . And even the lion will eat straw just like the bull. And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra.”—Isaiah 11:6-9.” You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth pp.12-13
“And what would happen if a leopard were with a little goat?— That little goat would become dinner for the leopard. But the Bible says that is going to change. God is going to make those animals eat straw, instead of eating one another. When the animals are all friendly, it will be fun to have a lion for a pet, won’t it?— That is going to happen in Paradise.” Listening to the Great Teacher 1971 p.179
"The whole earth will be transformed into a secure, peaceful paradise, according to God’s original purpose. No creature, whether human or animal, will pose any threat" OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE AND MINISTRY–MEETING WORKBOOK DECEMBER 2016
A child in paradise - image from jw.org video 2014

Isaiah 65 is accepted to be descriptive of the Jewish conditions when they returned from Babylon, both by scholars and Watchtower. Watchtower however imposes upon this passage a future secondary fulfilment, drawing heavily upon it for its doctrine of vegetarianism in an earthly new system.

"At the time the Israelites returned to their homeland in 537 B.C.E., Jehovah evidently protected them from lions and other rapacious beasts along the way. (Isa 35:8-10) In the land itself lions and other predators doubtless had increased during the 70 years of its desolation. (Compare Ex 23:29.) But, evidently because of Jehovah’s watch care over his people, the Israelites and their domestic animals apparently did not fall prey to lions as had the foreign peoples whom the king of Assyria settled in the cities of Samaria. (2Ki 17:25, 26) Therefore, from the standpoint of the Israelites, the lion was, in effect, eating straw like a bull, that is, doing no harm to them or their domestic animals. (Isa 65:18, 19, 25) Under Messiah’s rulership, however, there comes to be a greater fulfillment of the restoration prophecies. Persons who may at one time have been of a beastly, animalistic, vicious disposition come to be at peace with more docile fellow humans and do not seek to do them harm or injury. Both in a literal and a figurative sense, peace will come to exist between lions and domestic animals.” Insight on the Scriptures - Vol 2 pp.256-257

My father loved meat, and did not look forward to being vegetarian in the new system. I remember a circuit overseer joking that Satan's test on my father at the end of the thousand years would be tempting him with the smell of meat from a smokey barbecue.

Carnivorous Animals

Predators existed for at least thousands, if not millions, of years before humans. Evidence for an omnivore or carnivore diet comes from examining body shape, teeth, fossilised stomach contents and coprolites (faeces).  Whilst Watchtower may disagree on the million year ages given for these fossils, there is no doubt from where they exist in rock strata levels that they predate humans by lengthy periods of time.

Following evidence from the fossil record show ancient carnivores in the act of consuming other animals.

Mioplosus caught in the act of consuming prey.
 "Fossil of Repenomamus robustus with the remains of Psittacosaurus in its stomach” livescience.com (18 Apr 2016)
 46-million-year-old mosquito fossil with blood in its stomach dailymail.co.uk (18 Apr 2016)
 "A nonavian theropod Microraptor gui with remains of an adult enantiornithine bird in its abdomen." news.discovery.com (18 Apr 2016)

We know the diet of the Oviraptor included lizards from finding the fossilised bones of a lizard near ones stomach cavity. (Discovering Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Lessons of Prehistory (1995) U. of California Press Mark Norell, Eugene S. Gaffney, Lowell Dingus p.125)

Dung shows Tyrannosaur ate animals, with Paleontologist Dr. Karen Chin documenting a large tyrannosaur coprolite containing “a high proportion (30–50%) of bone fragments, ... rare tangible evidence of theropod diet and digestive processes. (Nature 393, 680-682 (18 June 1998))

Predator/Anti-predator Adaptation

Animals show a remarkable range of features that assist them as predators, such as powerful jaws, and poisons, or conversely assist in evading predators with features such as camouflage. (See Anti-predator Adaption.)

Watchtower documents a range of animals that display incredible design elements to assist in capturing and killing prey, in complete contradiction to its doctrine that all animals were designed to eat vegetation.

The crocodile, cobra, anaconda and eagle are remarkably well adapted as carnivores.

"WAS IT DESIGNED? The Crocodile’s Jaw THE crocodile has the most powerful bite ever measured for animals that are now living. For example, the saltwater crocodile, found near Australia, can bite nearly three times as hard as a lion or a tiger." Awake! 2015 Jul p.16
"Carnivorous, they [crocodiles] eat rats, frogs, fish, snakes, crabs, turtles, and deer …" Awake! 2005 Mar 8 pp.11-13
"The anaconda is not poisonous. It kills by wrapping its coils tightly around its prey. It does not crush its prey, but each time the victim exhales, the snake tightens its coils until the helpless victim suffocates. Almost anything—from ducks to deer—is considered fair game. However, reliable reports of people being eaten by anacondas are rare. Since snakes cannot chew or tear their food, the anaconda has no choice but to swallow its dead prey whole—even if the prey is considerably bulkier than the snake itself." Awake! 2000 May 22 pp.24-27
When biting, the cobra’s jaw grasps the object tenaciously and then begins a peculiar chewing motion to assure that ample poison enters the wound. Because of this and the extreme toxicity of the venom, cobras are among the most dangerous of all creatures.
Moses, in addressing the Israelites in the wilderness, referred to the cobra’s venom, “the cruel poison of cobras.” (De 32:33) The term “cruel” aptly describes the effect of the cobra’s venom...symptoms begin with drooping eyelids, and this may be followed by difficulty in breathing, paralysis of the eyes, the tongue, and the throat and may possibly include even convulsions and cardiac arrest.
The cobra’s poison acts on the nerves, causes a paralysis of the respiratory system." Cobra Insight, Volume 1
"“Under ideal conditions a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) can detect the slight movements of a rabbit from more than [1 1⁄4 miles] [2 km] away,” explains The Guinness Book of Animal Records. … Who gave these birds such attributes?" Awake! 2002 Dec 22 p.24

"Who gave these birds such attributes?" The question Jehovah’s Witnesses should really be asking is why was the crocodiles jaw designed to crush and devour animals, or an eagles eye to spot the slight movements of a rabbit, if God created them vegetarian. Why is the cobra equiped with lethal poison, and the anaconda designed to swallow prey, not chew on straw.

Camouflage is particularly problematic to explain away in a vegetarian world.

"Insects are tempting morsels for birds, frogs, and lizards. For many insects, survival depends on blending into their surroundings.
To achieve this disappearing act, a number of insect species display remarkable camouflage." Awake! 2005 Jul 22 pp.22-23
"The bittern [heron] ... characteristically has plumage streaked with black, buff, and white; the underparts are a pale buff color with brown stripes, and the legs are yellowish green. This color combination harmonizes exactly with the marsh grass it inhabits, and when in danger, the bird stands motionless with neck and bill pointed upward. This, together with the vertical stripes, causes it to blend in perfectly with its surroundings in effective camouflage." it-1 pp. 1100-1101
"Leafy sea dragons are slow moving and rely heavily on camouflage to avoid hungry predator fish. Their yellow-green body striping and bizarre array of leafy appendages allow them to blend almost invisibly into their sea grass surroundings. They even swim in a rhythmic, rocking motion, perfectly mimicking the movement of drifting seaweed.
This sophisticated camouflage allows them to sneak up on their favorite food, tiny mysid shrimps. ... Truly, these delightful creatures are yet another example of Jehovah God’s creative genius and artistry!" Awake! Dec 2009 pp.15-17

Camouflage is for a world of predator and prey. Was "Jehovah God's creative genius" in the design of camouflage simply in expectation of its usefulness during the short period of time between the flood and the new system?

Watchtower justification of animals with predatory features has been quite simplistic, with a dismissal that these features have multiple uses. For example, it was presented that a tiger could use its fangs and claws on shells and husks, which seems to be alluding to tigers feasting off coconuts.

"Another thing, is one justified in concluding that the way an animal uses its body today is the only possible way? As an example, a tiger uses its fangs and claws to catch, kill and tear apart other animals. Yet, could not these same fangs and claws be used in tearing apart heavy vegetation and ripping off husks and shells?" Watchtower 1969 Sep 1 p.543


In its attempt to have a literal interpretation of Scripture, Watchtower claims all animal life was vegetarian until just a few thousand years ago, defying logic and all available evidence. It is well proven that there were omnivores and carnivores roving the earth well before humans came into existence.

Ironically, Watchtower teaches animals commenced preying upon each other at just that point in time when animal life was at it lowest level, as the few surviving stock of animals exited Noah's ark. As shown at the Global flood of Noah, there is no Watchtower doctrine with more evidence against it than that of a Global flood, and so the doctrine of vegetarianism is further undermined by tying it to the doctrine of a global flood.

Further Reading

See also Animal Suffering.

Written Apr 2016. Latest update Dec 2016

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