This month marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, when many Christians abstain from animal foods in remembrance of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert before launching his ministry.

But meat-free Lent is much more than a symbol of religious devotion to Christ. It helps reduce the risk of chronic disease, environmental degradation and animal abuse. Dozens of medical reports have linked consumption of animal products with elevated risk of heart failure, stroke, cancer and other killer diseases. A 2007 U.N. report named meat production as the largest source of greenhouse gases and water pollution. Undercover investigations have documented farm animals being beaten, caged, crowded, deprived, mutilated and shocked.

Lent offers a superb opportunity to honor Christ’s powerful message of compassion and love by adopting a meat-free diet for Lent an beyond. After all, it’s the diet mandated in Genesis 1:29 and observed in the Garden of Eden.

Our supermarket offers a rich array of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, as well as the more traditional vegetables, fruits and grains. Entering “vegan recipes” in our favorite search engine offers more products, recipes and transition tips than we can use.

Benjamin Bender

consultant

Baton Rouge