College Chaplain Mia Smith explores the ethical and theological implications of plant-based diets in her new book, The Plant-based Diet: A Christian Option?
Thanks to the launch of a vegan sausage roll in January of this year, high-street bakers Gregg’s saw their profits increase by almost 10%. Meanwhile, one in four household evening meals in the UK is meat-free. It is this background of rising media and consumer interest with which Revd Mia Smith opens her new book. In The Plant-based Diet: A Christian Option?, Mia employs findings from recent scientific studies to explore the benefits of a plant-based diet, ranging from concerns about animal welfare and the environment to human health and population growth. Research happening within Oxford University particularly inspired Mia, who engages with the work of Marian Dawkins, Professor of Animal Behaviour at the Department of Zoology, and the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food.
“I became a vegetarian back when I was a student in the 1980s,” says Mia, remembering the impact that LiveAid and the Ethiopian famine had on her. Today, two of her own children have adopted vegan diets in recent years and Mia herself has adapted what she eats as a result of researching the book. This take up of plant-based diets by her family prompted Mia to pitch her idea of veganism and theology to Grove Books – a Christian publishing house where she acts as convener of the ethics series – in the hope of drawing attention to the topic and its implications.
The Judeo-Christian tradition has been concerned with environmental responsibility for millennia, Mia explains. The need to safeguard our fellow creatures is emphasised in the Bible, being defined as the responsibility of the whole human species. It therefore makes sense that Christian theology around the human vocation should intersect with the animal welfare and environmental concerns of veganism.
“I’m frustrated that churches aren’t taking this more seriously,” Mia says, highlighting the conception of creation and responsibility in the Scriptures, which naturally leads to the way we treat our own bodies and those of other creatures. It’s not just how we treat animals and the planet, however. Mia also explores the link between animal welfare and our own health (take farming and antibiotic resistance) as well as our responsibility towards future generations on a densely populated earth to meet increasing food demands – something we won’t be able to do at our current levels of consumption.
Throughout the book, Mia provides ‘questions for reflection’ which help the reader to reflect and make their own dietary choices. So, if you want to find out more or even give a plant-based diet a go, Mia’s book can be purchased for just £3.95 on the Grove Books website.